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

More Thoughts On Dealing With Hostile Behavior

©Bert Gildart:  What follows is advice provided by Bill D, a fellow Airstream owner and a gentleman I met this winter in Anza Borrego. Bill and his partner Larry are well educated, and have enjoyed successful medical careers. Bill worked as a charge RN for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. (To understand why he has contributed his thoughts, scroll down and read my three previous posts.)


Janie and I have sought out America's most remote areas, and 99.9 percent of the time have ALMOST always felt secure. We'd like to think it has something to do with prepardness.

Now retired, both have developed an interest in history, much being devoted to the highly unusual life style of Marshall South, a man who took his family into the wilderness for 17 years. Bill, who shares my enthusiasm for South, has helped me with research, and  I count him among my friends.

From his home at Yaquitepec, South wrote hundreds of magazine stories and penned several novels, and Janie and I have written about the family in several blogs (Post1…Forerunners of the Hippies?, Post 2, Lessons from Yaquitepec). Magazine stories will soon follow.

I have also reported on the life of Bill and Larry, and did so this past February (”Ghost Mountain or Brokeback Mountain? Maybe There Is No Choice” ). Because of their lifestyle they are in a particularly good situation to offer advice about violence, for they’ve experienced their share of hostility and have given much thought to defending themselves and to defusing hostile situations. Provided here are Bill’s suggestions on dealing with aggressive behavior, and the important thing is that his techniques seemed to have worked, as follows:

By Bill D: Your recent article, “When To Consider Protective Measures Against Hostility“, struck a chord with us (I think we touched on that topic briefly when you visited us at our campsite at Vallecito County Park).  During the past two years of camping, we have experienced that just having an Airstream trailer is an attention getter, and the image of two men living in it kicks it up a notch.  So our “antennas” are always on alert to detect any attitudes of prejudice and/or hate, which could also lead to violence, as was the case of Satendar Singh in a California state park.

We take preemptive measures such as saying “Hi” to our neighbors as we walk our dogs and take time to talk to those who appear approachable.  We have found that flying the United States Flag seems to have a pacifying effect on any nearby “rednecks” or potential troublemakers. Below are two incidents that we experienced that could have resulted in violence:


As a former service man, Bill is patriotic, but also knows the American flag generates good will among some campers.

We were camping in the middle of the week in an almost empty, quiet wooded park near Julian, CA.  Late in the afternoon, several vehicles with men arrived across the park road from us and started to set up a tent while music was blaring out from their opened car door.  They started drinking and whooping it up with very loud talking, swearing and ugly laughing. Our Airstream was somewhat screened by thick bushes and we were flying the Earth Flag.  We contemplated the possibility of moving or returning home.

The next morning we raised the United States Flag on our high flagpole.  We were pleasantly surprised when one of the offending men walked over and thanked us for flying the flag. He said he was a Vietnam War veteran and appreciated it, and went on to apologize for their noisy behavior the night before.

On another trip, we were camping at the beach, which often attracts partying campers.  At first we thought we were lucky to have quiet neighbors, but when the neighbors of the site just on the other side of the bushes returned to their RV late in the evening after eating dinner in town, they proceeded to turn on very loud music that pulsated through our closed Airstream.

We contacted the Camp Host who talked to them.  They turned down the volume at 10 p.m. but I heard them laughing and talking loudly.  The music then returned and park rangers drove by and agreed that the music was too loud and they talked to the offending party. The music stopped and after the rangers left I heard them talk loudly about “those fags”.

I feared for our safety and the safety of our trailer.  So Larry stayed inside the trailer with the dogs while I stayed out in the dark near our Airstream and kept an eye on the trailer and any suspicious activity (I had an iron fire poker and ax nearby).  Around midnight I heard our neighbor’s footsteps approach and stop on the roadside of our truck. He shined a flashlight into our site, saw me, and he then returned to his RV. By 2 a.m. all was quiet and I retired.

The next morning I raised the American Flag high on our flagpole and we had no further problems with our neighbors, except for an occasional scowl from them as they walked by.  What I learned from this incident is that it is better to not complain or draw negative attention to a neighbor’s offending behavior (I’m sure it spoiled both of our evenings.)

As a preventive measure I try to find something neutral to say, an “icebreaker”, such as “Hi!” or “sorry for the diesel truck noise as I was getting the trailer in the right place”.  I am often pleasantly surprised when they say, “no problem” or “I didn’t even hear it”. That initial face-to-face neutral verbal exchange almost always seems to go a long way in reducing the apprehension that both parties undoubtedly experience when first moving in.  And, as mentioned above, flying the American Flag seems to help.  But if I felt we were in danger of violence, I would hitch up the trailer and put the outside gear back into the truck incase we needed to move early and quickly. Larry reports that people are not as receptive to him once they see that he is an Asian-American.

I agree with your assessment in your article, “Routine Ranger Patrol Turned Violent”, that economic hard times increase the likelihood of violence. I prefer to use the phrase, “potential perpetrators of violence”, rather than “Fringe Dwellers” (Marshal South was probably thought of as a “Fringe Dweller” by the community of Julian).  This morning I found an excellent book on this subject: Violence: The Enduring Problem, by Alex Alvarez and Ronet Bachman, Sage Publications, Inc., November 2, 2007.  The authors state that all violence, at some level, is the result of an “us” versus “them” mentality, and xenophobia, the tendency to have contempt for foreigners and other strangers, is particularly likely in times of economic hardship, increasing the likelihood that hate crimes and other forms of violence will occur.

The new law allowing guns in our national parks and wildlife refuges could increase the level of violence and could result in a war zone.

Bert, after my articles in my History Safari Express column about our trip to Julian and photographing the Marshal South frieze and unraveling the Marshal South story, I have posted subsequent articles that contain references to Marshal South and quotes from his writings (now that I have blanket permission from Diana Lindsay (Sunbelt Publishers), editor of Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles):

Ghost Mountain spring hikes“, April 5, 2009, ”Yaquitepec Spring“, April 29, 2009, ”Desert heat“, May 7, 2009, ”Ocean breeze“, May 16, 2009. (My annual trailer wash, wax & treat article will be posted this Saturday.)

As you might have heard in the news, we are happy that our marriage status, along with 18,000 other same-sex marriages, has been upheld by the California Supreme Court, and we look forward to the day that all people have equal rights.


Dont' let that rare incident spook you from exploring--and enjoying!--America's hinterlands. Just take a little caution, and be prepared! And now, SALUD to all out there on the road; your're welcome to join us. Just BYO.

Bill closes his article by expressing his thanks for my postings on violence, offering his permission to quote him.  And now I would like to offer others who might have thoughts on the subject of violence to provide their comments.



*By Their Beaks Shall Ye Know Them


2 Responses to “More Thoughts On Dealing With Hostile Behavior”

  1. Caryl Purdue Says:

    Bert, thanks so much for this series. I am just beginning to venture out on my own in my Airstream because my husband is still working and can’t get away as much as I can. I do the drive to the campsite and he joins me later, sometimes flying in to a near by airport. that means that I may be staying alone overnight. As a single, older female, I do feel vulnerable. Your articles and Bill’s contribution have been enlightening and got me thinking.

    Back in the day as a fresh-out-of-college 20 year old, I went on a tent camping trip into Arkansas with several friends. We pitched our tents on a creek and were not a rowdy crew, just having good food, conversations, guitars and banjos. A young man on a motorcycle came to camp next to us and joined our campfire. He was recently divorced and down as he could be.

    The group eventually broke up after good talk and listening to the young man’s sad marital tale and went to our respective tents. One of those awful Midwest lightening storms erupted with sheets of rain. The thunder exploded and the creek rose. My tent mates and I grabbed our instruments and headed to the car to spend the night. The sky was lit up and I had never experienced such loud thunder. As day broke we learned that during the storm that one of our tents was too close to the rising stream and those occupants had a great adventure moving in the middle of the nights without harm. The young man fueled by Jack Daniels had covered his motorcycle and his belongings with gas and set everything on fire. Much of the “thunder” we heard was his motorcycle exploding.
    He had decided to get rid of everything he owned to reach total rock bottom. In the process, he was badly burned on his arms. And we had motorcycle shrapnel around our campsite. We were so lucky that none of the tents were hit. The rain had masked everything. Rangers were summoned and the young man got the medical help he needed.

    Ever since that adventure, I have been more alert to carelessness and individuals who seem depressed, disturbed or aggressive. I have never carried a gun and don’t know how to use one. My husband talks about getting one and getting us both lessons. I am reluctant for several reasons. One reason is that I am a klutz with arthritic hands and don’t want to shoot myself! I am interested in the bear spray but worry that in an emergency, I might spray myself. Any thoughts on pepper spray and gun safety for novices like myself?

    All the best,

  2. tom palesch Says:

    Good series Bert and Janie. Bill and Larry tell quite a story and I think their flag raising offers an excellent “ice-breaker” when moving into the neighborhood. It’s a reminder to us all, that we are all equal.

    The anti-social seem to not want attention called to themselves AS they practice their dysfunction. They may like attention from their peer group, but not from others. As fire helped primitive man keep creatures away so too could light. The panic-button on your tow vehicle pointed towards your trailer sounds like one way to divert their attention from you. It could get other campers to rally to you need.

    Another idea for people concerned about carrying a firearm would be to investigate carrying a tazer. I once talked to a police officer about it and he said it was “great” as it gave him another option. A tazer could help him keep from being injured if somebody was aggressive towards him whereas a firearm raises the level of the game to lethal warfare. He said “if a gun is pulled on me I shoot. I could only assume the same from others if I pull a gun on them and they had one.”

    It’s rare we hear of fatal violence in campgrounds. I guess most of us are law abiding, but sometimes noisy. What to do about the off-balanced person that picks us out of the crowd, I don’t know other than be alert, be ready to move and don’t worry about your material things….. get away!

Leave a Reply