The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's "Keep and Bare Arms" not "Threaten Hikers"

Looking through the field notes for a recent project, I came across notes reminding me of an odd incident that occurred while in the field.

My crew was split into to teams. I was on the southern part of the project area, while the other team was on the northern portion. When the team leader for the northern team turned his notes and forms into me that evening, he told me that young woman had walked out to where the archaeologists were walking in the field. She asked who they were, and they explained that they were working for our client, one of the major utility companies in Southern California, and that they were working on a well-known project out in the area.

She knew about the project, and said that she had no problem with my crew being there. But she warned them to be wary of one of her neighbors. The fellow is, she claimed, upset that there is a trail maintained by the National Park Service going through his land (to be fair, it had been there when he bought the land, and he was apparently aware of it at the time, he just doesn't like it), and he has been known to take shots at hikers with his shotgun. The young woman stated that he has expanded his ire to include utility workers as well as hikers.

My crew thanked her, and continued on their way. Stories of archaeologists (and biologists, and geologists, etc.) being confronted by gun-wielding landowners are common. Most of the time it occurs in areas where there is frequent trespassing and vandalism, and the ranchers or farmers carry the gun legitimately for their own protection. Once they ascertain that you are there for a legitimate reason, they are typically friendly, sometimes even helpful. I've met armed ranchers in the field, but never been threatened by them.

There are a few stories about some of the more unhinged landowners (or dwellers, they aren't always the owners) actively threatening fieldworkers with firearms - but even in these cases it's "get off my land, or I'll shoot" while brandishing a weapon, and no shots are fired.

But a guy who actively and routinely fires at hikers? I have a hard time buying this. How has this guy not been carted off to prison? I have to wonder if the young woman objected to our presence and decided to try to scare us off, if she was honestly confused, or if she had some sort of axe to grind with her neighbor.

Ahhh, yet more joys of fieldwork.

No comments: