By Tom in Oregon
Having reached over 20 years as a police officer without needing to fire my gun, I was about as secure in my career as I could be. Comfortable in the patrol unit, teaching survival skills, mostly gun-fighting. Using some earned vacation time, two workmates and I decided to try a new fishing spot closer to home. Normally, we’d take a 10-hour drive to the Snake River. This trip would be a 2-hour drive to the John Day River for four days of relaxation . . .
After three days in that location, I decided to take the guys out to the Columbia River to wrestle a big sturgeon or two. As it was a short drive to the boat ramp, I pre-loaded my Ruger MK II in a gun rug and put it on the dash of my boat. It’s an all-around great boat gun.
My buddy “Mark” was in the front passenger seat. He also taught at work and at the state police academy. My other buddy “Tim” was in the back right hand seat.
We made the five-minute drive to the general area of the boat ramp, but were having trouble finding it. I finally noticed the driveway and had to turn the land-yacht-towing-a-boat around on a wide spot on the gravel road. As I started to cross the road, I saw a blue car coming. A quick glance and I knew I could make the entrance without causing him to brake.
As we entered the ramp area, we discovered that it was about the crappiest boat ramp we’d seen and pretty cramped for our setup. Then we noticed the nicer ramp next door wasn’t fenced and was wide open. On to the next driveway.
As we had been looking backwards, I failed to notice the car that was on the road earlier was now parked at the gated opening. A really big dude was waving his arms and walking towards us and it looked like there were two others in the parked car about 50 yards away.
The unkempt, sour looking, staggering, 6’4″, 350+ pound dude was in baggy shorts and a t-shirt. He got to my window and introduced himself. He said his name is “Chief Muckleduck (insert two unintelligible clicking noises) something, something.”
He then informed us that we were trespassing on Indian land, and for that infraction we had to pay a $10.00 fine or he and his friends were going to get their guns and “rock-and-roll” on us.
This dude was loaded up with jail house tats. He had burn marks on his forearms from doing the cigarette burn game. His eyes were so bloodshot he could cry hemoglobin. Then I noticed the U.S. Government property signs on the fencing surrounding the parking lot.
Inner voice: Keep calm, talk him down.
Other inner voice: Holy sh!t.
The first inner voice won. I spent the next 10 minuntes – the longest of my life – talking to the guy. Everything from the salmon run to salmon for sale, to giving in to his demand for a cigarette. Then he made the comment about he and his friends and their guns “rock and rolling” on us again.
During all this, some subtle communication had taken place inside the truck. I checked with Mark and he had his GLOCK 26 on his belt. Tim left his gat in the camper back at the camp site.
Mark had been staring at the blue car the whole time. He was as focused as I’ve seen him. I knew he’d computed the bullet drop, windshield deflection, and round count to put down those two.
Meanwhile, I kept talking to the “chief.” He was adamant that we pay the fine. NO. Then the fine was handing over all of our beer. NO.
I was sick that I left my gun on the dash in the boat. I was thinking…20+ years on the job. Never had to shoot anybody. Had a few close scrapes. I was about to be in a gunfight. My gun was 25 feet away. I was off duty. I was on Indian land. I…we are so screwed.
Then my thoughts turned to the tribal court. White guy shoots Indian. On Indian land. While violating Indian trespass laws. It was getting uglier by the minute.
As I confessed during the Grand Jury inquest later, if my gun had been between the seats as it normally was, I would have put two in his face at his parting comment. Chief Muckluckfuckaduck made his final demand, “So, are you going to pay the fine?”
He said, and I quote, “OK, I guess it’s rock n roll time”. And he started walking to his car. I let him get about five steps from my door and I got out and ran to the boat.
I jump in. Open rug. Check mag.
Then I heard screaming. It’s Mark. Oh sh!t, I was late to my own gunfight!
I rack a round and come up, gun pointed, safety off. I was going into a gunfight with a .22. I was thinking, make ’em count.
As I looked toward my truck, I noticed the exit-blocking car had driven down into the parking area. Chief Toomanyvowels was still walking toward it. Mark was leaning out the driver’s door, yelling “let’s go!“
I jumped out of the boat, gun in hand, and make a run for the drivers seat. Mark’s still yelling, “let’s go!“
I floored it and we split. Fast. As we passed the car, my gun was in my hand below window level, pointed at the three. Mark’s is un-holstered at a low ready. I was ready to go full-on ramming speed if I saw anything that looked like a gun.
We made it out of the parking lot, no shots fired. I told the guys, “Well, that screws us out of sturgeon fishing. I’m not parking near there so some pissed off, sobering-up-drunk idiots can trash my truck.” So we drove back toward camp.
Tim then said, “Hey, that guy just committed a bunch of felonies on us.” A dialogue ensued. Do nothing and fish, or shorten the vacation and type up reports. But what about the next victim? Some 80 year-old great grandpa gets a heart attack from this guy’s threats? NO.
We call 9-1-1, explained things and in about 15 minutes, they caught the guy. Turns out he was a four-state felon. Not only that, his name was Troy Walker. He wasn’t even Indian. And the boat ramp? It belonged to the Army Corps of Engineers for dam maintenance.
During the Grand Jury appearance, I learned that rural folks are indeed, the salt of the earth. They wondered why we didn’t just shoot the guy and avoid the trip and jail time. Mr. Walker never made it to trial. He pled guilty to a few felonies and some misdemeanors, did a few months and was released. Again.
If your gun is not on your body, within reach or in your hand, it’s useless.
While a gun was not used in this instance, the presence of one may have diffused the situation.
If the bad guys did have guns, at least the gunfight would not have started off one-sided.
Calling 9-1-1 from where we were, the call went to Washington state, transferred to Sherman County, Oregon, then on to the state police, since we were on the interstate and the nearest deputy wasn’t available.
How many times has it been said here? “You, are your own first responder.”