Today I was nearly shot twice.
I was on the edge of National Forest Service land. I wasn’t even hiking; I was walking along the road taking photos.
I could hear someone(s) shooting rounds when I arrived, which continued over the thirty minutes I was lingering, playing with my camera. In the past when I’ve been on established trails and have heard gunshots, I wondered at the precautions of the shooter, did they know I was here, was there a secured shooting range around the corner that I could not see. Today I found out: I always need to be untrusting whenever I hear shooting.
The one-third mile of road I was on was cleared; it had been logged in the last year or so. The cut land extended on both the south and north sides of the two lane road. The field of stumps was narrower on the north side, and bordered by forest. It was behind here the rounds of shooting was going on. On my way back to my motorcycle, I had just crossed back to the north side of the street, near where this stump is.
From that forest behind the stump, the bullets came. The only indication of the bullets’ presence were the low angle, sharp displacement of dirt upon impact; two, in succession, to my right. They landed on the edge of the asphalt road, about fifteen feet from me. If I had been a couple of feet ahead, they would have landed instead in me.
I yelled to identify my location and presence. The shooting continued; the shooters were probably wearing ear protection and couldn’t hear me; everything around me heard my yells and responded, sending my own voice back to me. Then I realized that more bullets could come at any moment (odd how being in a novel situation, it takes a moment to process and respond) – and I ran. Once I felt I was somewhat safe, I called 911. There were vehicles driving along that road every few minutes in the line of potential stray bullets.
If Google Maps satellite view is current, the forest bordering the field I was by was quite thin itself, with a large swath of treeless tract behind it. There indeed was a road on the other side.
To be in the aim of fire, not knowing when or from where the bullets are coming, until the visual impact indicates (too late) – is frightening. At least I knew I wasn’t an intentional target; that would be terrifying. But stray bullets can still have recipients. Even being in this situation, I still do not know how the communities in Gaza or areas of civil or other war deal daily, mentally and emotionally, with being the intentional or accidental targets of the violent conflicts.
Gun laws in America? Let’s talk about the logical intelligence of the people handling the guns. Maybe there should be required classes or safety tests one has to pass in order to own guns, like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, which has to be passed (or a riding test taken) in order to earn a motorcycle license. In these courses, one learns basic, appropriate handling of the mechanism, discusses and practices different scenarios and the safest way to address those scenarios. These courses teach a logic that apparently people do not possess or do not take the time to consider.
That was my morning. And here I thought the dangerous part of my trip to the woods would be the ride, being on my motorcycle around other drivers.