Two disheveled men were walking down the road with what looked like sticks. But they weren’t sticks…as they walked closer we saw they were rifles. Our hearts were racing.
My husband and I were taking an afternoon ride with our biking buddies along the back roads of pristine northwest Connecticut – not exactly Montana. We were lost, but gleeful, as some wrong turn had landed us on a stellar country road circling a gorgeous lake. We had not been able to find the rail trail we had set out to ride.
As veteran road bikers, we knew how important it was to stay 100 percent focused. Sadly, we’ve seen our fare share of bad drivers and rough roads and knew that pedaling around at 17 mph could be risky. That said, we loved being out in nature, touring new neighborhoods, pushing through climbs and flying down hills like kids. It’s all good fun, but every so often sh*t happens.
In the midst of our bliss, a deer bolted across the road in front of our friend. I was in the back, my husband in front of me, my girlfriend next and her husband leading. The deer leapt and seemed to graze her handlebars. Simultaneously, the group gasped. We watched the deer leap right in front of her path, then it went bounding off the road into the field beyond in a split second. WHOAH!
Shocked and exhilarated, frightened and grateful to be upright, we continued on, knowing how lucky we were to have brushed a little too closely against the power of nature and to have survived it. We were safe and that was what mattered, safe from the randomness of the fine line we walk (or ride) as we live fully.
We pulled over onto the roadside to regroup, replayed what had just happened, caught our breath and checked our GPS.
And, that’s when we saw them.
There were two scraggly men walking toward us with what looked like sticks. My girlfriend gasped and I heard her whisper, “OH NO, this is creepy.” As the men approached the sticks became to take form. They were rifles – real rifles. One man looked to be in his 50’s, unshaven with spiked white hair (an ex-marine gone rogue to my mind) and a younger man who was also unshaven and gruff looking.
I faux cheerily (read: nervously) greeted them with “Hi guys, is it hunting season?”
“Nope, not for another month.”
My girlfriend also feigned cheerfulness adding “Oh, well we just saw a deer cross the road, almost hit my handle bars, thought it might be deer hunting season.”
“Nope, we just bought these guns.”
They must have bought them from someone’s home nearby because they were on foot with no store in sight.
Images of escaped convicts from a nearby prison in upstate New York crossed my mind. I searched their eyes for unsteady shiftiness. I felt frightened, exposed and very much a potential victim. I thought about the drive by shootings in Tucson – where people were being randomly shot at from the highway. I saw those guns, and I was scared and felt vulnerable.
I thought about mental illness and how easy it is for crazy people to buy guns. I looked at their rifles and they looked big. They did not look recreational. They looked purposeful in a way that didn’t feel playful.
We all felt the need to engage them in conversation – to have them like us and not see us as sitting ducks at a carnival. My girlfriend and I felt threatened and uncomfortable, but our husbands did not feel nearly as concerned.
We were not deep in the countryside. We were riding on roads where there were double yellow lines. There were school buses everywhere. It seems contradictory to have school children unloading from buses on one side of the road and men walking with rifles on the other.
Maybe it feels really normal if you grow up in the countryside to see people walking with shotguns or rifles. But not for me having grown up in the suburbs.
I personally don’t understand the whole gun thing for sport, hobby or in any capacity except for uniformed officials.
Why can two men walk down a paved double yellow line road with rifles when it isn’t hunting season with school buses coming and going? Why is this ok?
And, I want to know if someone can explain why this is ok because I just don’t get it.