Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It happened to me.

An encounter with the bad people (there is no dramatic shoot out or heroes in this story). Here is some background. This goes back to my pre driving mid teenage years, the Vietnam War was ending and Richard Nixon was just reelected President of the United States. In attitudes and actions it was a different world than what we have today. I lived on my parents’ cattle ranch in a large rural county (the kind where law enforcement took at least an hour to arrive if called). It was modest, working cattle ranch, with large open spaces, where I could roam, and hunt. I had a list of daily chores after school that included feeding animals, repairing fences, and other maintenance tasks.
My parents were in town with my younger brother and my older brother was due back from college late that evening. In this low crime environment, being on the ranch by myself for a few hours was not a big deal. I usually hunted birds, squirrels, or just plinked in the afternoons after the chores were done.
One fall day after school, I was repairing an irrigation ditch next to the county road, a simple but, wet and muddy task. Due to the nature of the work, I didn’t have my usual companion, a lever action .22 rifle with me. I frequently carried my .22 rifle in the afternoon for snakes, or squirrels. But when in the mud, the .22 was left in the house.
While finishing the work in the muddy ditch, I heard the unmistakable sound of crack!, crack!, crack!, from a .22 rifle. I looked in the direction of the sound and about 200 yards away was a car on the county road and one man was shooting at some of our cattle in the pasture. This is a very big deal in cattle country, cows and calves represent significant value and economic investment. In a flash the car was heading down the county road towards me at high speed. I was separated from the concealment of trees and safety of the house by two fences and the road. I crossed these but the car was so fast that I was only 20 feet from the road as the car arrived. I could not get away fast enough. I looked back as it slowed down, three men (late teens early 20s) were inside looking at me grinning and yelling something like “-------be back” and pointing their fingers at me like hand guns (index fingers as barrels and thumbs like hammers) the way a child would. They speeded away and I got a partial license number.
I ran back to the house, not really knowing what to do first, our telephone line was actually a “party Line” in which every house on our road shared the same line. It was busy so I had to break in and get everyone off before I could call the sheriff’s office. I called the sheriff office, described the incident, gave them a partial plate and described the perpetrators, and was met with complete indifference. It was not until over an hour later when my parents called the sheriff that the incident was taken seriously.
Here is what went through my mind at that point. The perpetrators were armed, I was the only witness to their crimes. They had threatened me (with fingers, not guns), and I heard them yell “be back”. I had access to three guns at the time, a single shot .410 (useless for defense) a Browning .22 Lever action, and a Winchester 94 30-30. I grabbed the 94 and loaded it and put the rest of the box in my pocket. Not wanting to be cornered in the house, I went outside and moved into the trees. I had a green plastic trash bag (a ranch hand had shown me how to make a rain poncho out of this) I made a poncho as a form of primitive camouflage. And I waited. The perps never came back (fortunately!), my parents dealt with the authorities. Life returned to normal. Shortly after this incident, the perpetrators were arrested on several charges including drugs and alcohol. They were, in fact, out of ammunition (a rifle and shell casings were in the car) when they passed me on the road but were too drunk and high to return. While they may have just been “joy riding and hell-raising”, I feel fortunate they were out of ammo when they passed me on the road.
Things I learned that day. Expect the unexpected, don’t trust the law enforcement can or will respond in rural areas, always have the means to escape or of defense from multiple assailants. Have a tool kit of weapons that facilitates security and defense. I was lucky to have a Winchester model 94. While Winchester model 94s are great rifles, a 7.62 NATO battle rifle (like my M1A) with a 20 round magazine or a 30-06 M1 Garand, would have shredded their car and the people in it. Even low crime “sleepy” rural places have crime, just not as often.
Things are more dangerous today than, nearly 40 years ago. Having a good, reliable, and powerful, rifle or handgun in the country is important. Just as important are situational awareness and contingency plans.

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