What’s the worst trouble that you got into when you were younger?
Most of my troubles have been near misses, situations which could have turned out far worse. The following is one of those.
At Oregon State University, I took up residence with Alan and Neil, Norwegian guys from Petersburg, Alaska. They were both exuberant storytellers and the topic of conversation often turned to fishing and hunting. One week in the fall of 1968, we were talking about bird hunting for pheasants, ducks, geese, and the like. The more we talked, the more fun this sounded, so much fun we decided to go hunting the following Saturday.
None of us actually knew anything about bird hunting in Oregon. Apparently the guys brought extra shotguns from home because the very next Saturday, four of us “bird hunters” loaded into my Ford Falcon and we went north up the Willamette Valley. We didn’t have a destination in mind; we were looking for fields that looked promising for bird hunting.
Gradually we realized that all of the land in the Willamette Valley belongs to somebody, and that fields are NOT posted with “public hunting allowed” signs. We saw several promising fields, but they signed “No Trespassing,” “No Hunting,” or both.
Driving by one promising field, one of us spotted a rooster pheasant taking flight, and our impulse control was overwhelmed. Rationalizing that the owner was not around, or wouldn’t notice, we parked the car, climbed the fence and began walking the perimeter of the field. Sure enough, it was only five minutes when one of the Norwegians flushed quail out of the fence row, and shots rang out.
“Uh-oh, shotguns are really loud,” I said to myself.
For the owner, shots were an infuriating call to action, and he roared into the field in his big four-wheel-drive pickup. Within a couple of minutes he was raging at us. He apparently was not armed, and we didn’t fear for our lives. He was very angry and I was plenty scared.
We had not paid attention to the cattle at the opposite side of the large field and he went on about the danger to his animals. I tried to be reassuring saying, yes I grew up on a farm and we run cattle too. He seemed to think this was even worse, since anyone who grew up on a farm should know that cattle don’t like guns.
I mustered my hangdog look and said, “We are very sorry, and we will leave immediately.”
“OK, but I’ll be recording your license number and reporting this to the police,” he replied.
As I was cleaning up the Ford Falcon, washing the grit from exterior and mud off the floor mats, I tried to comfort myself with the thought that the farmer would think twice about the work involved in reporting the four armed trespassers from Oregon State University who were shooting up his cattle paddock. Fortunately for me, this apparently was the case because the authorities never called.
I never went bird hunting again following that experience.