Trouble on Four Feet

The deer hunting season that last month of my Toiyabe National Forest fire prevention guard career didn’t end with the opening weekend rush. It went on through most of October, and so did my fire prevention patrols.

Contacts with the hunters were usually, but not always, pleasant.

One day, not long after opening weekend when Fire Control Officer Marion Hysell and I were patrolling together in Buckeye Canyon, we encountered a particularly drunk and obnoxious bunch. They had a particularly large, roaring campfire, and we stopped to do our duty. We did, but not without a barrage of foul-mouthed comments about “cops,” which Marion explained we were not. Halfway through this encounter, I began thinking seriously about the fact they were armed and we were not.

Just a few minutes later, in a nearby camp, Marion and I roused from a drunken stupor a hunter whose campfire was about to ignite the tent in which he was snoring the day away.

Trouble that hunting season came on four feet as well as two. One day, as I patrolled the Buckeye Road, I came upon a campfire burning in an apparently unoccupied camp. I stopped the patrol truck and got out to investigate. The campfire was attended only by a large German shepherd chained to a pickup bumper. I couldn’t locate anyone, so I started to put out the fire.

That got the dog’s attention. He growled.

But he was chained, so I ignored him. I shouldn’t have. Suddenly, the barking beast ran toward me. “How long is that chain, anyway?” I asked myself. But it was too late, and the chain was too long. Fangs barred, the charging dog leaped at me. As it did, I twisted to one side and kicked at it even as I tried an all-too-slow exit. We both made contact. I kicked the dog in the rib cage, and it sunk a couple teeth into my upper arm before I got out of range.

As the dog strained at the chain, barking and growling, I retreated to my truck. I took off my uniform shirt, and was surprised to see how little I was hurt. The wound was no more than a couple small punctures and some superficial scratches. Not much blood flowed. I quickly applied some disinfectant and a couple bandages, slipped back into my shirt, and set about writing the dog’s owner a citation for abandoning his campfire.

Just as I got to the point I needed the fellow’s name and address, he showed up. “What’s goin’ on?” I heard barkin’.”

“You left your campfire unattended,” I informed him. Then, somewhat sheepishly, I added “And your dog bit me.”

“I just went up the creek a ways,” he offered in weak defense.

“And your dog was watching your fire?” I commented before asking him his name and address. I handed him the citation, and advised him I would contact the authorities in Glendale, where he lived, about quarantining his dog to make sure it didn’t have rabies. When I got back to the ranger station, I did just that.

I also paid a visit to Doctor Nichols in town.


Adapted from the 2018 third edition of Toiyabe Patrol, the writer’s memoir of five U.S. Forest Service summers on the Toiyabe National Forest in the 1960s.

Leave a Comment