The Time Gregory Shot Himself!
(A story of family)
Just another average Idaho summer evening. I don’t remember any details of the day before I left the house to go fishing. I may have been on the flight line at the airport a few hours earlier, or maybe I was watching a race on television who knows? I think I remember it was very hot.
I also don’t recall what we called the location I chose to fish at. It was a good one though because it was close to town, and hard to find and get to. It was in one of the many (probably hundreds, and may be thousands) deep steep walled canyons the Snake River has cut out of the rock over the last several hundred thousand years. You could get to it in a car, but you risked undercarriage damage doing so. It also offered seclusion due to the lay of the land near the river. The only area near the bank you could drive a truck to was a narrow strip of ground about one hundred yards in length running along the river. It was not uncommon to spend an hour getting there and discovering all the spots were taken. And because the spots were isolated from each other you were guarantied privacy. It was a very good place to camp with a friendly girl.
The fishing at this location was not the most productive. It was fairly typical river bank fishing; you might not catch anything, you might catch carp, or you might catch a real nice brown or maybe even a sturgeon. And there were a lot of one to three pound rainbows taken from this spot. It was either going to be very good, but most likely…well hope you brought other things to do. This overnight fishing trip turned out to be the latter.
In the mountains of the American west it is never very smart to go into the wilderness without firearms. I have been scoped out by large animals three times. The first time I have no idea what it was I only heard it as it moved about right outside the tent. I stayed quiet and it left.
The second time mountain lions had been seen in the area within days. A small girl had been killed by one in the area several months earlier. That night I was awaken by the sound of a very pissed off large dog. It was very focused on something it perceived as a serious threat. The sounds were occurring several hundred yards away, so other than preparing my handgun for action (the same one from this story) I merely calmed the boys and watched my area.
This racket went on for several more minutes, and then the attitude of the dog changed. The sounds it made became vicious fighting, then fearful defense, then painful desperation, and finally crying and whimpering surrender until they stopped. There had clearly been a big fight and the dog lost. I did not hear the voice of the other animal so I have no idea what it was. However it did scare me and if I could have I would’ve loaded up my boys and left. But we had flown into that canyon and landed on a short rough one way strip. We weren’t going anywhere till day break. I went to the airplane and upgraded my firepower with my 30-30 lever gun, and stood guard the rest of the night. My third encounter with big critters had to be a large black bear that approach our camp.
Again I was out with two of my boys and a friend of theirs. We were there to test fire an experimental rocket engine I had fabricated in my shop; didn’t want to blow up the house if it didn’t work. We arrived a few hours before dark, and made camp anticipating the big show the following morning.
As the sky began to grow dark three of us were sitting around the fire preparing super. My youngest one was in the tent playing a hand held video game. Suddenly my middle son said quietly to me “Dad there’s a bear over there.” I asked him where and he pointed down the slope to the edge of the roughly fifty foot wide clearing. I looked in that direction and saw and heard nothing. I again asked him where and he repeated his statement and gestures.
I was instantly concerned due to my earlier experiences, and I grabbed a flashlight and lit up the tree line. I still didn’t see it but I didn’t have to to know we were at elevated risk. The light scared it, and it ran…ran is not the right word…it crashed through the trees with abandon. We could hear it continue away for some distance. I never saw it, but I believe it was a bear just as my son had said.
I have heard deer run though forest. They are quiet, and a smart one is down by this time of night. Cats live at night. If it had been a lion it would have made noise running through the trees at night sure. But it would have been coordinated movement that would not have continued for long. I’m kind of a pro at noise. I make a lot and I’ve heard lots more. It was a big brut of a thing that ran over little trees running off. It was a black bear hungry from hibernation. He was after our cooking food. I was pissed at myself.
As this animal crashes off I reach for my gun and it ain’t there! (same gun) It’s over in the tent with my baby who is between me and a bear! Shit. Here in PC Washington state I’ve taken to not wearing my gun during daylight ours so I don’t scare the greeny joggers that get ate by the critters. I figured the critters don’t start moving till full dark, and I hadn’t put it on. I rush to the tent, and dragged the boy out; who has no clue what’s going on. I snagged the gun and Shepard all the boys into the car.
I’m pretty big time scared, and I am holding the gun fire ready. I couldn’t hear the sounds anymore, and they had all been away from us. I was pretty sure we were OK, but I put a round into the air anyway to give him another push. Because that made me feel a little better I put up another one. I got in the car and started it because that would make people noise to. I stood guard a few minutes trying to decide what to do. That decision was made for me by the kids.
We were going home right now. I agreed with them one hundred percent, and broke camp in record time. Because we were so far back in the woods I stopped at the only other camp out there and explained the gunfire giving them warning there was a hungry bear about. They were armed, drunk, and prepared. On the way out of Darington I saw a sheriff’s deputy and a highway patrolman shooting the shit.
Around here we live with critters. There was a lion in a park smack dab in the middle of Seattle last summer. We tell the cops about them, and they take notice. I stopped to tell the cops there was a hungry bear that just entered a camp. Turns out it was the sheriff’s job and he took my statement.
As I was turning to leave he said to me, “You need a bigger gun.” I turned and asked him why he would say that. He pointed to the AR-15 over his shoulder and said, “See that? Last summer I had to shoot one nine times to stop it.” He continued, “You need a bigger gun.” That has really bothered me because the gun I shot myself with is a .357 magnum!
On with the tail.
The fishing was bad that night, but the beer was great. I drank a bunch and was stumbling drunk. I also got very bored. So I decided to do some shooting. The gun is a copy of the 1873 Colt six shooter chambered in .357 Remington magnum. It’s an Arminius ARM 357 made in Germany by H. Weihrauch. It’s a great gun that has performed beyond original expectations. It’s fun because like my Winchester 94 it’s a cowboy gun, and it is very accurate. It’s been a very reliable and comforting sidearm.
I had left home with the intention of doing some target shooting. While in Idaho I never went outdoors living without guns. There were no greenies there, and only a fool went far out into that desert without guns. I shot damn near every time I went out. I got pretty fair with my cowboy guns. On this night there was a rock about fifteen yards away, and I got the wild idea I could shoot it apart if I hit the same spot over and over.
That “little” gun was performing great, and two handed shots while sitting were too easy. So I stood and began one handed fire. BANG! BANG! BANG! That pistol is very accurate and I was chipping away the center of that rock. I’ve learned over time a style of handling and using guns that works for me. I use a moderately tight grip on all weapons. It better controls recoil, which gets you back on target faster, and I get better sight control than with any other grip. I cocked that bad boy, lined up the spot on the rock, and let another one rip. However this one came back!
“OUCH! THAT HURT!” I knew I had been hit because it felt like someone jabbed me with a broom stick in my chest just left of my sternum. I also knew I would survive because as quickly as I felt the jab I felt the bullet hit the top of my left foot. I looked on the ground and there it was laying between my feet. I picked it up, put in my pocket as a souvenir, and thought about my dad.
I’ve had a few close calls with firearms. However that one was the only one that was clearly due to recklessness. I was raised by a small town cop in Kansas. I don’t remember the first time I shot a gun. I do however remember the gun because my father still has it. Combined with years of military arms training I know and obey the damn rules…well except for this time.
One of the big rules is, “Never shoot at rocks or water, the rounds can come back.” I had to shoot at rocks once because the rattler was right under my feet, and I was standing on the side of a rock cliff. I shot him he died not me. After that incident I was less cautious about that rule.
This was one of the first times I could hear my dad say in my head,
“I told ya so.”
I’ve heard it hundreds of times since.
Greg Lyle, Feb. 2010
Publication Date: 02-24-2010
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