Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Routine Ranger Patrol Turned Violent

©Bert Gildart: Our society is now in flux and when people find themselves scraping the bottom, violence often results. That might have happened to Janie and me the other day–and that did happen to me 25 years ago when I encountered an element of society I like to call “Fringe Dwellers”. (Helpful if you read Monday’s post before proceeding.)


Often I rode along the flanks of Mad Wolf as part of my patrol work. Finally, in 2006, I climbed to the summit. Mostly the ascent evoked wonderful memories and provided views spanning almost 100 miles.

In 1981 (and for 13 other summers) I worked in Glacier National Park as a  ranger, often in the backcountry. Sometimes my work required that I investigate cattle trespass, which usually required a friendly visit to one of the local ranches. But on one visit, a loose element showed up–a group living on the edge. The men reminded me of the drunks Janie and I encountered and that I reported on in my last posting. My encounter with the Glacier  group turned sour and the result was that I later had to file a “Case Incident Report.” What follows is from my notes and for the sake of brevity and readability, I’ve condensed the report.

Routine Ranger Patrol Turned Violent

On July 19, 1981 at approximately 1200 hours, I rode into Racine Basin in uniform to check on seismic exploration and cattle trespass… At approximately 1630 hrs, I encountered Mr. Salois who was fishing with his daughter. They said they’d just come from a gathering at the Racine’s place and that if I stopped by they might give me a piece of elk steak as well as some information.  As mentioned above, it was my intention to stop.  DR (name abbreviated) has cattle he runs adjacent to the park and occasionally they do stray over into GNP.

Opening the gate, which was necessary to do in order to get to both DR’s cabin, I walked the horse up the road to the cabin which was about 100 yards from the fence.  A number of people waved and invited me to join them.  I inquired about DR.  FW (I’m using initials so as not to call too much attention to the individuals, hoping time has modified their behavior, which actually was never a problem with FW–just her son.), an older Indian lady who works for the  tribe (contiguous with GNP), said that I should join them for potatoes and meat.  Another fellow who worked for the seismic crew said it was his birthday and that he too wanted me to join them and his party of about 30 people, that he’d tell me about his work while I had a quick bite to eat.

Approximately fifteen minutes later (about 1700 hrs) I heard a commotion and turned to see about five or six men harassing my NPS-issued horse “John”.  DW was riding and John was bucking as they’d tied a rope around his tail–a trick used to make a horse buck.  They were also raking the animal’s flanks with their boots.  Running over I grabbed at DW and shouted  to get off my horse.  When I said that, the men involved gathered around me and DW said, “What are you going to do if I don’t stay off?”  I felt threatened and thought they might start shoving me around so my inclination was not to shy away. I stepped to him and in so many words told him that I was a Federal Officer and that he could go to jail.

One of the men to my right said something and when I turned, DW hit me.  [Sucker punch is another term.] He started to hit me again so I stepped back, tripping over some rough ground.  DW started to kick me but I grabbed for his ankle and regained my own footing.

The fight was stopped immediately by several of the 25 to 30 friendly people.  I said to let him go, that the fight wasn’t over.  FW said, “Don’t do that, he’s my son.  Leave him alone and we’ll be friends for life.  Come back and finish your steak.  Everyone wants you to stay.  I promise you there will be no more trouble from my son.”

Shortly after the altercation DW came over and apologized for his actions.  What happened to make him forget the sincerity of his apology awhile later will have to be left to the imagination.

Fifteen minutes later I finished my dinner and turned to see DW again–on John.  Now everyone, including FW, ran over to the five or six “bad” guys.  FW then told her son he was a dumb, ignorant, disobedient —-.”  He told her she as a “–, –, —-.” [These were not polite words like damn and hell.]

I left immediately, walking the horse to the first of two fences.  After opening it I rode a very excited, agitated and still bucking horse toward the next fence.  One mile later I came to a second fence.  Dismounting, I opened the gate which John ran through, jerking me.  I held onto the halter rope, but John kicked me a grazing blow on my leg.  I leaped back, releasing the halter rope.  John bolted.  I tried to catch up to him, but all to no avail.  I walked the eight to 10 miles to Cut Bank Ranger Station, with an eye that was starting to close…

My report continues explaining how another ranger and I retrieved John and then details a follow-up investigation:

On July 23, FBI agent “Gunner” R.W. McCann stopped by my ranger station to investigate possible assault charges on behalf of the NPS and on a uniformed NPS employee.

Whether there exists an “air tight” case is speculative at this point, though he believes that, under the circumstances, he would have acted in precisely the same manner as did I.

NOTE:  Four months after my altercation, one of the young men walked into the Babb Bar, and blew someone’s head off and then emptied the rest of the gun into the lifeless body.  Because it was a “crime of passion,” the man was freed on his own recognizance.

How does all this relate to our RV travels? Because economic times are now hard, society is in a state of flux and there most certainly will be an increase in “Fringe Dwellers,” just like the ones from Glacier and from my last post. What this means is that you want to have some plan of action for those very few times in a person’s life when you are suddenly swept up by the unexpected. On Friday, I’ll post such thoughts supplied from several other RVers.



*They Were Honeyed Up”–A Visit to Cutbank Ranger Station


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