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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
On a foggy afternoon the previous year, we had trudged up to where we now lay admiring the hawks. Hurrying against the fading light, we chewed up the miles with a quick, rhythmic gait. The dog was along, but we ignored the likely cover and trotted on toward the deep, open pits of a shale quarry. My arm cradled a short, solid 30-30 lever-action Winchester, and my brother carried a Purple Royal Triton motor oil carton and a black crayon to make a target. We wanted the little deer gun finely sighted in by dusk.
"Hold it right there!"
We slowed and almost stopped, looking up the sidehill. Standing in the waistdeep buckbrush, a wiry middle-aged figure clad entirely in khaki work clothes hollered again:
"I said you, hold it!"
I felt a numbing scalp squeeze, and discomfiture that in our haste we hadn't scouted anything ahead. This s.o.b. had probably escaped from the prison, spotted our carbine and figured to have it. I couldn't see a weapon on him, but our gun was empty, so it might amount to a standoff; then again, maybe we could slice off and vanish into the scrub oaks below—outrunning winos from a nearby hobo jungle was one of our outdoor joys.
"Where you headed with that rifle?"
"Up to the quarry to sight it in. Deer season opens Saturday."
Slowly he shook his head, doubting us, then gestured with one arm, and the whole texture of the hillside seemed to shift and raise. We were locked in a circle of 30 men with scoped rifles, shotguns and submachine guns. Some stared down their sights at us; others just looked. Some were in guard uniforms; others wore suits and ties under hunting garb.
"We lost two blond guys from the prison this afternoon. They'll be dressed in blue dungarees, same as you."
We were blond, didn't consider our Levi's the same as dungarees, but weren't about to argue it.