Here is another encounter where having a firearm at hand supported the wellbeing of yours truly. This one comes under the heading of a bona fide road rage incident. The scene is a not-well-known to me city I had driven to for a Show. In another state. I am attempting to get to the Show in a raging rainstorm. Threading my way through the inevitable freeway maze I almost missed the ramp for the freeway that took me to the event. Almost. Concerned that I would be late to the event if I had to figure out how to get back on course (this was in the early 90’s, before GPS) I halted in the lane just to the left of the exit ramp…right at the apron if that’s the right term, and waited for the stream of drivers that did get the right lane to pass so that I could exit onto the ramp myself. That halt blocked the vehicles behind me in my lane momentarily. My blinker was on, the tags on my vehicle clearly showed I was an out-of-towner; under civil circumstances the motorists behind me would cut the poor guy in my situation some slack. Not so with the two tough guys in the pickup truck immediately behind me! The driver laid on his horn in that prolonged way of all such bullies of the roadways. After not much time at all the exit cleared and I was able to get onto the ramp. Rather than proceeding to wherever they were headed in their lane the two tough guys pursued me onto the ramp, roared around me and stopped, blocking my path. Both were vigorously giving me the finger in the back window. This was an unmistakable Road Rage episode. The fellows could have continued straight ahead, if they were in such a hurry that would be the sensible course. But, nope, they were going to delay their hurry to beat hell out this oaf who caused the delay. That would be me. Their doors opened as I fetched my trusty .45 from beneath the seat, and first showed it sideways so they could see it, then pointed that big hole in the barrel at them. The doors closed. The passenger crouched down out of the line of fire while the driver continued his harangue and gestures. Reading his lips, I could tell he was belowing “Go ahead, shoot me”! while alternately gesturing to his head and jabbing his middle finger at me. All this went on while cars stacked up behind this sorry scene. I just kept the .45 levelled at him. After venting like this a while the imbecile slammed his truck in gear and sped off. I made it to the Show on time. Without enduring a two-against-one street brawl. In the rain. By the way, I was fiftyish at the time. The two tough guys were twenty-something
Encounters like the three I’ve recounted are extremely rare. Nevertheless, they can and do occur. If only the world was as peaceful and “safe” as those who would deny citizens the right to self-defense! But we realists know that it isn’t. Having a firearm at hand very likely saved me from loss of property and perhaps serious bodily harm in these three instances. Interestingly, NOBODY was injured, including the bad guys. Having a game-changing weapon usually results in that outcome. Guns can be exceedingly useful, and should be prized by peaceable, and sensible, citizens, not condemned. Evil exists, whether we like it or not. Whether we deny it or not.
DANGEROUS GAME ENCOUNTERS:
Mid-90’s, Alaska. I had been on several Alaskan hunts by the nineties, usually associated with Rambles as well. Had driven every contiguous road in the state. Had Mountainsmith dealers in Anchorage and Fairbanks. So I knew some folks in Alaska. Had some connections. An aspiring hunting guide of great experience decided to hang his own shingle as an Outfitter. He needed some action photos quickly, as he was about to print his first brochure. The photos needed a “client”. Hearing through the AK grapevine that I owned Mountainsmith and was afield anytime the mood struck he called me to come up immediately and be “The Client”. What a deal. I flew up, needless to say. His area was the vast expanse between the Alaska Range and the Kuskokwim Mountains. We would hunt for a prize Interior Grizzly. As long as it took. Again, what a deal. We would hunt from a Super Cub, as there are no roads out there.
The man was a backpacker (hooray!) and we put in a heap of packing. Drainage after drainage after drainage we walked, flying between them, looking for the Big One. The hunt is one of my finest memories. And physically among the toughest.
Scene: The tipi is pitched in the northernmost drainage. We are glassing across the wide gravel bar typical of Alaskan streams. And, suddenly, there he is: The Big One! He is cruising along the other side of the stream. We scramble down the bluff we’re glassing from and race across the gravel hoping to get a shot before he disappears into the willows again. This poke would have to be quick. He was headed for a spur of willows. Even though the range was fairly long for grizzly I had to go for it, and quickly. The .338 slid out of the GunBearer, the pack dropped at my feet and I set up to take the shot, prone, from off the pack. He was moving at a good clip. From left to right. I led him a bit and…BOOM/SLAP!. And that big old boy filled the valley with a roar I will never, ever, forget. Coming down from the recoil I heard the Guide yell “Here he comes!”. Cycling the bolt, I rose to one knee, got on him as he came—fast!—and let fly again…there was nothing else to do. (It is amazing how rapidly one’s brain moves in life-or-death emergencies. Running was dismissed in a nano second, as was hunkering down and hoping for the best. Nope. I had initiated this scenario and had to deal with, decisively!) BOOM/SLAP! And down he went. For good. In the damn stream.
So we had to shove/drag/try to roll him to the edge of the water. We were soaked. And so was the hide. Which we had to remove even though it was soaked and filled with knife-dulling glacial sand. THAT was the most onerous skinning job I have ever experienced. It took forever. The hide was incredibly heavy; getting it back to camp was backbreaking. He squared 8 ½ feet—quite big for Interior bears, and the skull made the record books. My new Outfitter had his glamor photos. And I had a fine trophy. Also the memory of standing my ground in the head-on charge of the continent’s most fearsome carnivore, and prevailing. The first shot took him in the liver; his speed and a cross-wind (and likely some running-induced panting on my part) resulted in the shot being a little too far back for a drop-right-there kill. He would die rather quickly but not so quickly as to preclude mangling the both of us if I hadn’t finished him off with the second shot as he made his charge. The entire episode consumed seconds. It seemed much longer. I shall remember every single detail. Forever. If there is a pinnacle of Big Game hunting this was it.
We backpacked out to the Super Cub, processed the hide and skull for two days, flew back to Anchorage and parted with memories to last us both the rest of our lives.
Next: From Alaska to Africa…Tracking a Wounded Lion….