Seeing orange

“Zing, zing, zing.” Leaves, twigs and dirt exploded just a few yards in front of my face. I jumped on the brakes and brought my two-wheeled steed to a halt. It didn’t take a huge mental leap – bullets had just been fired in my general direction.

“So this is it,” I told myself. “Time’s up. This is how you finally meet your maker.” Sinister laughter sounded just around the corner, where I imagined my dark double straddling a four-wheeler watching my every move through the crosshairs. At that moment, I did what any rational animal does when faced with its own extinction – I panicked. “Stop! … Don’t! ... No shoot!” I stammered in the general direction of the gravelly chuckle.

As I rounded the corner, my eyes looked over one of the largest male bellies I’ve ever seen. The enormous vessel was comfortably clad inside an insulated XXXL hunter’s orange jumpsuit and could have easily housed triplets – each fetus surely sporting camouflage, boasting a thick black mustache and slurping a teeny bottle full of red cream soda. Matching orange cowboy hat, mirrored aviator glasses and greasy handlebar filled out the dude’s ensemble. In his hand, the man held a stark, black, semi-automatic pistol. The barrel was practically smoking.

“The hell you think yer doin’?” he yelled at me. “I nearly killed you, you dumb SOB! You got no bidness being out here!”

A wild look then flashed across the man’s leathery jowls as he gazed on my loud neon lycra. I’d hand-picked the gaudy ensemble specifically for the hunting season excursion, and for better or worse, the get-up had been noticed. I could tell he was imagining my scraggly head atop a wooden plaque inside his trophy room.

“I nailed this beauty in the high mountains of Colorado,” he’d regale his compadres over afternoon Shiners. “Damned demanding hunt – little bugger was quick. I’m guessing I tagged ’em during mating season, judging by that flamboyant colorin.’”

But I was in no mood for the trophy room, have never taken kindly to being called a “dumb SOB” and fired off some shots of my own – a flamboyant series of expletives. “What the (bleeping bleep) do you think you’re doing? You nearly dropped me, you (bleeper),” I screamed back. “By the way, just what exactly are you hunting with that (bleeping) machine gun?”

Officially disarmed, the man lowered the barrel, his pudgy finger going slack on the assault pistol’s trigger. He then pointed at a paper bull’s eye he’d placed shockingly close to the trail I was ascending. “Venn-son,” he bellowed, before adding, “Out takin’ a little target practice.”

In retrospect, I should’ve left the lycra in the closet and taken a pass on the trail that day. I’d gotten fair warning when I bumped into one of our loyal Forest Servants mere minutes before dodging those rounds. He reminded me that rifle season was well under way in the San Juans and that visiting sportsmen don’t always take kindly to “colorful gentlemen.”

“Half the state of Texas is camped just a couple miles up the road,” the fatherly figure advised me. “Between you and me, I wouldn’t trust any of them.”

But I shrugged off the advice and pedaled on blindly, thinking I was immune. You see, I happen to be the proud owner of an inner redneck, and we’re bonded for life.

Yep, I’ve taken down a few antlered beauties in my day and have been known to feast on the mixed blessing known as venison – slightly better than carrion, not nearly as tasty as muskrat. Contrary to popular opinion, this “commernist journalist” also owns a few firearms and comes down on the same side of the political coin as Charlton Heston (Rest In Peace Ben-Hur) on certain trigger-related issues.

To prove I’m not simply out gunning for Bubbas, consider this. I once spent a weekend living at a hunt camp just on the other side of the San Juans. My fellow great white hunters had christened the uber-encampment Valhalla (“home of the gods”) and were roughing it with help from a Honda generator and cook/wife/ammo reloader aptly named Madge. The canvas tent also housed a couple of couches, a dart board, approximately 223 cans of Lucky Lager and a good-sized television for when Monday night rolled around. Let’s just say I never went thirsty.

On the flip side, I’ve known enough genuine outdoorsmen – most of whom wield a bow rather than a Tec-9 – to know that blaze orange stereotypes can be dangerous. But sadly, stereotypes can also be spot on, as Bubba was proving on that fateful day.

“I got a good mind to contact the authorities,” Mr. Orange barked as he ambled back toward his personal Valhalla. “You got no bidness being out here. Bicycling’s illegal during huntin’ season.”

Rather than argue with that wall (of flesh), I let him go. Haphazardly firing semi-automatic assault pistols on highly trafficked trails may be illegal, but pedaling in the vicinity of “venn-son” most certainly is not. Sorry, but this dude’s brightest spandex doesn’t go into the closet just because a different flavor of outdoorsmen takes over the region.

And though that was the last I saw of Mr. Orange, I’ve been keeping an eye out for him ever since. The truth is, I’ve had a few peculiar urges since that run-in and might just want to do a little light hunting of my own. That could mean bad news for Bubba. It’s almost always open season on jackass in these parts.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale