Ok, it wasn't the old west that most would associate a story with. I moved to Oregon in the summer of '74 and I think it was the following fall, in '75 that I went out deer hunting.
But first, a little history. My Dad bought this rifle for me in
It's a Winchester model 1894 30-30. The gun that won the west. For those that like more detailed info, it was/is (I still own it) a pre-64, meaning made before 1964. After '64 Winchester stamped out the parts versus pre-64 when they were machined, or "hand made" from forged steel. They did this after '64 to try to keep the price down, eventually making pre-64's collectors items.
Dad paid $50 for it and a box of shells. The following year he bought the same rifle in the .32 Winchester Special caliber for my younger brother. Dad might have paid $75 or $100 for it. Keeping the shells straight at that age was a job. My brother could shoot mine, as they were smaller in diameter, but I couldn't shoot his. If I accidentally got a cartridge of his in my rifle and shot it, it could have blown the 30-30 up as the bullet tried to make it's way down the barrel that was too small for it.
I bought my 2 sons that hunt the same rifle for them when they started. One a pre-'64 the other not, but it was bought off my Dad before he died a few years ago, so it has a different heritage.
To this day I own 4 other deer rifles I and my 2 boys use for deer hunting. ALL .308 caliber, no chance of mixing shells now as long as we don't take the 30-30's with us. Learned my lesson on that one.
Anyway, back to Oregon. That fall I was out deer hunting on some public land. After a few hours with no success I was driving home on a somewhat narrow
So, before leaping across the ditch I slid a few shells in the receiver of the 30-30. After the ditch was a thigh high old barbed wire fence I had to get over before I stepped into the trees. I remember thinking that even with no signs I was now trespassing. I knew the law.
After the fence, I slowed down to a slow walk and after a few steps stopped to see if I could see any of the deer. After a minute or so, I continued on, still hunting (taking a few steps and stopping for 30 seconds or so to try catch some movement of the deer or spot them froze trying not to be seen).
After about 20-25 minutes of this, I was maybe 75 yards off the road and no deer.
So, I headed back out to the truck. Once I got there, I decided to not unload my rifle, but to drive down the road some and risk breaking the law to maybe get a shot at a deer in case any more were around. I figured to only drive a few hundred yards or so then unload and be legal once again. Back then, more guns were loaded than unloaded in vehicles, anyway, especially during deer season. Not much risk of getting caught on a
Hummm.....no keys. I looked on the floorboards, outside the door, in front of the truck where I had previously loaded my rifle, etc. Nothing.
I never take my keys out, but checked my pockets anyway, empty except for a few more 30-30 rounds. Back then in rural OR there was no need to lock up you vehicle, besides, who'd be around and who would take just the keys? Unless it was someone who didn't want me to go anywhere. Interesting. At 19 years old this was all new to me.
I looked closer on the moist
Leaning against my truck, I cradled my rifle in my left arm keeping my right hand near the trigger. After 5-10 minutes, a car pulled up beside me and guy a few years older than myself started getting out rather slowly then with a snap, straightened up with a rifle pointed squarely at me.
I still had mine pointed out to the side as he slowly nodded his head and said something to the effect of "finally caught one of you guys".
The smile on his face was rather disconcerting. I didn't think he'd shoot me, but who knows? I decided to play a little dumb and asked him "what's going on?".
He said I was trespassing and that he had called
And, seeing as how he had the gun pointed at me, I didn't feel I was in any position to negotiate.
I said "fine, we'll wait".
After 10-15 minutes of silence, he seemed to get a little nervous and fidgety. I just changed the foot I was placing most of my weight on leaning against the truck, my right hand still near the action of my rifle, just in case.
After 25-30 minutes it was getting obvious my captor was not happy. That sardonic smile was long gone and it seemed like he was checking his watch every 15 seconds.
After 45 minutes we started talking.
I think I asked him where my keys were. He said in his pocket. He then said something to the effect that "damn, they never come out anymore". I asked him what that meant. He said that I wasn't the first "Trespasser" he'd called the authorities for. I remember thinking that maybe this was a game he liked to play, baiting folks in effect by not having signs up to give him the chance to play cop.
After a pause, I asked, if you don't want people on your land, why not put up a few NO TRESPASSING signs.
He said he didn't have to, the law states just having a fence up is good enough.
I countered with, well maybe so, but most folks out here would assume, like me, with no sign it's not a big deal to the land owner, but that he was right, of course, but I wondered how the authorities would look at it?
He didn't have any comment.
He still had the rifle pointing at me so I didn't want to agitate him too much.
After an hour it was obvious that no one was coming out to gather up the criminal he reported and he said as much.
I then offered the following. That he had no right to "trespass" by going into my vehicle taking my keys. On that point, I felt, we were equal law breakers in the eyes of the law.
I contended that really, he was in much more trouble than I was. He did not have any right to hold me at gun point. All he had the right to do is take my license number off the truck and report me.
After some squinting of his eyes and pursing of his lips, he started to lower the rifle.
I said it's probably a damn good thing for him that the cops DIDN'T show up.
He reached into his pocket and handed me my keys saying that I could go. I said, "naw, just keep them for a bit more, maybe the cops would come after all".
After a few more seconds that seemed like minutes, he rather pleaded for me to take them.
I did. As he handed them over to me he said the most stupid thing I think I ever heard out of anybody.
"My gun wasn't loaded anyway".
I looked at him squarely in the eye and shook my head saying, "well, you damn well knew mine was".
In this day and age, I probably could have turned him in and ended up owning that land. But, back then, suing wasn't the first thing that popped into people's head.