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One of those odd and probably meaningless encounters. But …

Wednesday was a heartbreaking end-of-summer day. Beautiful. Perfect. But sad because even without looking at the weather report, you know you might not have another one like it for a long, long time.

So Ava and I took advantage as much as possible. I worked and read and knitted (another dragon) outdoors while she lounged and barked at the neighbors’ invading chickens (which they’ve given up attempting to keep in their hole-y yard).

In the afternoon, we took a long drive, followed by a walk along the river. And there we had one of those odd moments where it’s hard to know what to think of it.

Our walking path began in the city, next to sidewalks and commercial buildings. But it ends, after a short distance, on high riverbank in what feels like country.

We’d taken only a few steps down the path and I’d just let Ava off her leash when I saw a young man seemingly come out of nowhere, behind us on the trail. He looked like another walker. Normal-seeming guy wearing sweats. But as I moved to put Ava back on leash to let him go past us, the man plunged — violently rooted — into what I’d always thought was an impenetrable thicket at the opening of the trail. He made guttural noises as he did so. Well, I’d make noise, too. That’s all brambles and steep slopes in that spot.

A moment later, he was back on the path, again without me being able to observe where he’d come from. Then there he went, rooting into the thicket again. Finally he emerged onto the trail once more and strode determinedly out of sight. I had no way of knowing whether he’d gone off or was just on the other side of all that brush. Never in all this did he appear to notice my existence, though he looked right at me a couple of times.

Now I had a dilemma. This clearly wasn’t Mr. Normal, and whether he was harmless or not I didn’t care to be spending my lovely summer afternoon in his vicinity. But. The trail is on an old, raised railroad right-of-way and has only one exit — back beside that thicket. In a pinch, I could jump off the trail into the river or a muddy wetland. But if I wanted to leave in orderly fashion, I’d have to go right past that spot. Having no idea whether Mr. Strange was still there. Having no idea what Mr. Strange was up to. Maybe he was just a homeless guy with an encampment in the thicket. Maybe he was looking for his lost dog. Maybe he was a psycho lunatic. How would I know?

So I decided to heck with it. I’m armed. I’ll have my walk. Give him a chance to go away. And if he doesn’t go away, but comes down the trail, I’ll be able to see him in plenty of time.

So Ava and I walked to the end of the trail, where I sat on the ruins of an old railroad trestle and she ran circles around the trestle, wading in the river and getting happily muddy. I was never completely at ease, nor should I have been. I kept an eye on that trail. But I was able to enjoy the sun and the fresh aromas of the river, the grasses, and the old cedar tree near where I sat. I was able to stay as long as I liked, feeling reasonably confident because I knew I was equipped to handle the situation if there was any situation to be handled.

After half an hour or so, I put Ava back on leash to make sure she’d be at my side, headed back down the trail (laying my hand on the butt of my gun as we approached the thicket), and we walked uneventfully back to Old Blue. No sign of Mr. Strange. I noticed that somebody had punched an opening into the thicket where none had been before, so possibly there’s a mini-encampment down there now, or maybe a teenage make-out spot, or who knows what else (I’m never stumbling down that steep slope to check it out).

But once again, merely having a firearm and knowing I could defend myself made all the difference between Total Female Freakout and being able to be watchful but calm and happy.

This is the second time within the year that I’ve laid hand on the butt of my gun because a situation seemed hinky. In neither case did the hinkiness develop into anything more and perhaps neither situation ever would have. Both encounters may have been creepy but innocent. I’m glad not to have to trust the mercy of the fates on that issue, though. Even in low-crime small towns, stuff happens.

Don’t plan to use that bit of trail any time in the near future.


  1. Pat
    Pat September 30, 2016 10:34 am

    Wasn’t the same guy as the first time, was it? And Ava wasn’t disturbed by him?

    He could have been vomiting or otherwise indisposed in that thicket.

  2. Joel
    Joel September 30, 2016 10:40 am

    Well done, Claire! David felt safe in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because he was the baddest mofo in the valley.

    I didn’t go to RW’s link but assume it’s some “for the children” hoplophobic law. Screw’em, any law that leaves you open to violence is only a cause to be more sneaky.

  3. Claire
    Claire September 30, 2016 10:59 am

    Pat — no, not the same guy. And Ava didn’t particularly react to him. He was maybe 25 yards away from us and she isn’t terribly reactive to human beings (though I’m sure she would react to an immediate threat — or a Chihuahua).

    I don’t think the guy was physically ill. He actions seemed very purposeful and deliberate, even though I couldn’t discern the purpose.

  4. Claire
    Claire September 30, 2016 11:02 am

    Joel — Thank you (though I am far from being the baddest mofo in any valley).

    RW’s link is to — yet another! — UN anti-gun treaty that will END VIOLENCE forever. Even in places like Congo and Sudan. Because NO BAD PEOPLE WILL EVER BE ABLE TO GET GUNS once governments control the firearms trade. The current Senate probably won’t ratify the silliness, but next year’s Senate might.

  5. Comrade X
    Comrade X September 30, 2016 11:05 am

    Claire, I hope you are doing your dry fire practice, it doesn’t cost anything and makes a world of difference. You need to be practicing the very motion you will be using even to draw your weapon whereas it comes 2nd nature.

    Fear is something we all have to a certain degree, it is in our genes (maybe that is why our genes are still in the live pool too) but confidence relates to practice, the more we do it the more we are gonna to have it when we need it.

    Dry fire practice may be boring but I’ve seen huge differences in myself and others when we do. The main reason I work at training is because I know how much improvement I need, and it’s a bunch!

  6. John
    John September 30, 2016 11:25 am

    So it’s,
    “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for I am mentally alert and situationally aware. Besides, I am the meanest sob in the valley.”?

  7. Claire
    Claire September 30, 2016 11:50 am

    John — LOL! Yeah, that’s more like it. Except that I’d bet, push come to shove, that Ava is a meaner SOB than I am.

  8. Claire
    Claire September 30, 2016 11:56 am

    Comrade X — You caught me. I am, I confess, generally neglectful when it comes to drawing and firing practice.

    And yeah, I need improvement.

  9. Steve
    Steve September 30, 2016 12:29 pm

    As a local cop in my semi-rural semi resort East Coastal town told me after an incident, we’re not living in Kansas anymore.

    And I don’t think the people in Kansas are living in Kansas anymore, that’s where the meth labs are!

    You’re never overdressed with a pistol.

  10. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 30, 2016 2:02 pm

    Dry fire indeed! Mental imaging of possible scenes too, sometimes while you draw and simulate firing. Then take it to the range and verify with a few precious rounds. They work better together. 🙂

  11. M Ryan
    M Ryan September 30, 2016 2:03 pm

    Good for you Clair. I have known and dealt with people who would have freaked out in similar situations I have always maintained t is better to have and not need than to need and not have.

    Over the years I’ve had the “you should not have a gun” argument many times. I’m more convinced now then I ever have been that banning firearms does not prevent violent acts. Banning guns just enables the bullies and thugs on your block, in your town and in your government..

    Clair Wolfe – Forever ready to do bad things to bad people. Kinda has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?

  12. RW
    RW September 30, 2016 2:12 pm

    Re the un small arms treaty, thinking it is new that the sec of state (Kerry) has signed it.
    “The main objective of the treaty is mandatory global gun registration. It does this by requiring signatories to report all firearms transfers, down to the level of “end users.” This is the backstory to the current push for “common sense gun laws” like “universal background checks,” or backdoor registration.”.
    This is not about tanks and cannons, its about us. I wouldn’t put money on this senate not going along, not to mention the usual payoffs, graft, etc.

  13. Comrade X
    Comrade X September 30, 2016 3:10 pm

    ML, I agree completely.

  14. LarryArnold
    LarryArnold September 30, 2016 6:47 pm

    I wouldn’t put money on this senate not going along, not to mention the usual payoffs, graft, etc.

    Well, they haven’t so far. If you check the source story Kerry signed the treaty Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

    Of course the first Dem-majority Senate might be another story. It does, though, take a 2/3rds vote.

  15. Claire
    Claire September 30, 2016 6:51 pm

    “Well, they haven’t so far. If you check the source story Kerry signed the treaty Wednesday, September 25, 2013.”

    Thank you, LarryA. I’ve been looking all evening for anything new that might have happened with the small-arms treaty or any similar new anti-gun treaty and have found nothing. Not sure why that commentary should appear now. Same old. Of course the point that WE are the ultimate target of this is spot on. But it’s not new news.

  16. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 30, 2016 9:12 pm

    Pokemon hunter?

  17. LarryA
    LarryA September 30, 2016 11:19 pm

    “And you didn’t report it to DHS? See something; say something!

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