Monday, November 19, 2012

Tacklebox Gun

Tacklebox Gun

Based on an incident that actually happened to me way back when.


Jay Agan

The rod’s end snapped, letting fly a long, arcing cast toward a tall,mossy stump poking above the water. Sure of a huge bass lurking in the weed choked roots, Bill Strickland hoped to winkle it out. A shiny brass spoon in the waning ochre light of pre-dusk made for a good bet in catching the fish’s interest.

Stooging through nearby shallows, dorsals above the surface, a pair of orange-brown carp foraged lazily. The angler paid scant attention to the "trash fish" as he reeled the line slowly in. Bass and panfish were his forte. A medium sized smallmouth, two crappie, and a large pumpkinseed lay slipped on a stringer. Four in a half hour was more than promising. When the sun started its set, the fish would really get to biting.

Bill straightened and stretched his five foot nine frame, relieving tension in the middle-aged limbs and back. Scanning his mid-west idyll, he noticed the coloration of the trees on the shore, opposite. The fast change, started in late August, meant a short fall and early winter, to his way of thinking.

Reflections on the waters at the far bank gave the illusion of the forest growing down into the depths of Howland Reservior. Rustling breezes, through field and wood, conveyed the impression of "both" forests being a single breathing entity.

Sweeping a dark lock from his face, the man pondered. Though lean times were ahead in this late seventies recession, he was much at peace. Unemployment, never easy to take anywhere, was always doubly worse in Millard County. In an area of scarce jobs, periods of inactivity could be months long. He had seen it coming weeks before the plant layoffs and resolved not to pass the time vegetating.

He’d make real use of his time and planned accordingly. Outdoor recreation was a big part in the order of the day. Any friends not receptive to hunting, fishing, and just plain walking in the woods, were free to go to seed at the various town watering holes or decay in front of the idiot box.

A grimace cut the thin face on a remembered layoff, years past. Months of "going to hell with himself" wasn’t on the new agenda. An unpaid vacation suited him better. Non-existant escape through the tube or alcohol was no substitute for an extended holiday.

He gave silent thanks in avoiding a "fate worse than ‘life’."

A throaty, staccato rumble to the left turned his attention outward. No sooner had he pinpointed the area of the source, a twenty-five yard distant tangle of scrub and trees, the bike and rider trundled out.

As "man" and bike lumbered past, heading for the chuck-holed road leading from the lake’s edge, Strickland made some quick observations.

The black, stripped down, FL-model Harley was no off road machine. Faded leathers (no "colors"), worn jeans, and engineer boots weren’t the usual attire of a dirt biker, either. The heavy individual displayed a less than pleasant look on a brutish, neanderthal mug: a dark, greasy, smear of unkempt fur and beard. The nose had to have been broken at least once.

Stopping on a small rise overlooking the reservoir, the rider stole a quick glance back before kicking in gear and taking off up the road.

The angler filed the "incident" as a minor distraction from his "blue heaven." No harm done. Casting the spoon, he attemped to shove the encounter from his thoughts.

Something nagged: "Almost a half hour fishing here, the biker was in that thicket the whole time. What was he..."

Though a paragon of mid-west, rural, America, Millard County had more than it’s "fair share" of crime. The "boonies" weren’t known easy availability of peace officers.

Several years back, a passing acquaintance was murdered while fishing this very same body of water. Investigators found the body in sad shape and no suspects, concluding he ran afoul of a passing tramp. Stories of beaten and robbed fishermen, occult activity, and other goings-on flashed through his mind.

A now familiar rumble of a V-twin engine edged back into listening range.

Rider and bike topped the rise going into a slow, easy, descent.

From the corner of his eye, Bill saw he was getting more than a quick once-over as before. The mutant was sizing him up. An intense feral look bespoke of contempt and hostility under the low, narrow, forehead.

The angler played dumb, feigning ignorance of what he saw as a quickly deteriorating situation.

For most of his adult life, Strickland usually had steel of some kind handy. On his left hip, obscured by the light jacket tied around his waist, hung the holstered Ruger .22 Standard-Auto in a cross draw. His "tacklebox gun."

Not totally sure of hostile intent at this point, Bill suppressed the urge to draw the pistol. One didn’t pull a gun on someone looking nasty at you from a distance. The biker’s gaze could mean anything, from disgust to malice.

Bill had often thought of how he would handle a dangerous situation and the outcome. He concluded knees would turn rubbery, the shakes would hit full force...maybe run...or not be able to.

Neither running or shaking, he felt calm and ready. Resultant confidence, from range time, reading, self training/study, surfaced, suppressing the fear of moments before. Only a low level apprehension was left to work its feeble subversion. Resolved, he would handle it. Under no illusions, he would use the gun.

Mind organized, he thought clearly. The best way to win a fight is to avoid it. Problem: Keep predator at a distance without escalating situation. Solution ...

The biker, but thirty yards away, Strickland made his move. As if to make a cast to his left, he turned his gun side to the oncoming rider. Feigning an itch in his side, Bill reached down to scratch, swept the jacket aside, revealing the pistol.

Pulling up short, the biker’s face ran the spectrum from hostility to amazement, then fear. The expressionless face of the angler revealed nothing while scanning the rider in his peripheral vision.

It was the anthropoid’s turn to be sized up, and the creature more than knew it. Even the dumbest of scooter-trash could see this was no easy mark.

Wheels turned smartly about, a then sober faced biker tooled conservatively up and over the rise with many a look back.

Strickland heaved a welcome sigh of relief. He would always wonder as to how nasty a situation had been averted.

He eyed the thicket his would-be antagonist originated from. A look-see was in order. Gun out, he crept slowly to the side of the tangle and peered in.

Nothing. Almost. He bent down, reaching for a shiny object in a muddy rut left by the bikes' wheels. He backed out, plastic bag in hand. The few green stems and seeds contained testified to the thorough use of the bag’s former contents. Another glance in revealed nothing else.

The possibility of a return performance prompted Bill to pack and leave for the car a quarter mile distant. Another fishing spot could always be had another day ...

Cleaned and oiled, the Ruger auto lay in the night stand drawer, slick sheen reflecting the light. Bill’s appreciation of such mass-produced "art" went up more than a few points that day.

As earlier in the day, he felt at peace. He faced a snake in Eden, coming out the better for it. Any future serpents ... He would be ready.

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