A Story… To Pick or Shoot

“Indeed, since people lack nothing, it is a pity that they wander so much in illusion once they have been deluded by their perception.”

Bill Goins and I wanted to drive what locals called a “pipeline road” in the Florence desert, but a rancher had locks on all the gates. We were of the opinion that pipeline roads—being on state owned land and not private property—should not be locked. (Whether we were right or not didn’t matter at the time.) 

I learned how to pick locks while working at the Arizona State Prison, in Florence. With that skill set and lock picks in the truck, we decided to check out this beautiful desert—that was inaccessible by any other road—locks or not.

They were cheap, easy-to-pick locks, so in about an hour we’re six gates down the road, when we get to a lock I can’t pick. (We were re-locking the locks behind us, you know, trying to do the right thing.) From our topographic map, I knew this was the last gate preventing us from connecting to a lock-free exit road. Not excited to pick our way back through the gates—we decided to shoot the lock off.

One of my all-time favorite pictures of Bill – it captures his essence.

Bill sandbags his scoped, .308 rifle on the hood of my truck. Knowing locks, I point to the exact spot the bullet needs to hit. Bill was a crack shot with a rifle, and knew exactly where to put the crosshairs—at that extremely close range—to shoot the spot.

I stand back, he fires, the lock disappeared, the chain rattles its way out of the gate, making the most fun sound—chik chik chik chik—and to our astonishment the gate swings wide open. (The gate swinging open was a bonus round, due to gravity.) We looked at each other—laughing hysterically.

I start looking around for remnants of the lock, in the off-chance the rancher appears. I can’t find anything, so we close the gate, loop the chain through it, and head down the road.

In a few minutes, we see what we guess is the rancher driving toward us. We imagine he’s really curious as to how we got this far down “his” locked road. He parked so we pretty much have to stop. I know he is thinking we shot the lock off the last gate. I tell him we shot at a coyote. 

Then I calmly mention that we thought it was really odd that all the previous gates were unlocked. Of course, being the conscientious human beings that we were—I told him that we locked them behind us—because from our topo map we knew we wouldn’t have to backtrack. He obviously was not buying any of that routine… He couldn’t wait to escort us off the property.

When we get back to the gate with the now missing lock, the first thing I see is its shackle laying right in the middle of the road. I quickly stepped on it before he could see it, and while he was bent over examining the chain, I snatched and pocketed it.

I know he can’t wait to find a piece of a shot-off lock at one of the next gates. You can probably imagine my suppressed grin as we arrived at each locked gate. At each gate, he got out, tried his key in the lock, then just stood there shaking his head. It was hilarious. He’s probably still wondering about it. He wouldn’t have counted on a lock-pickin’ hick.

I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.
Thanks for coming in.