Before I moved to Altoona 29 years ago, I lived in Bradford County, in Sayre, almost on the New York border. In fact, for a few years, I lived so near the border that I had a New York address although technically I lived in the Keystone state.
That caused me no end of technical troubles, as in applying for a state antlerless license, and related legal issues. I hunted the gamelands in the southern part of the county - No. 12 and No. 36 - which comprise over 40,000 acres of contiguous acreage. I fished the county's best trout stream, Schrader Creek and in the summer I could be found in those parts three or four days a week.
I knew every hollow, every ridge on those gamelands and every good fishing hole on that creek. So it sure caught my attention when I read of the Wildlife Conservation Officer, Jeffery Oleniacz, was harassed and threatened by a bunch of fellows on some kind of ATV's. It happened on June 7 - which is also my birthday - and in a spot I am intimately acquainted with. It's an area I frequented constantly.
This area was about 40 miles from my home but it was the best place in Bradford County to hunt and fish and it was my second home. It is where the episode happened I have occasionally shared with you in which a black bear kept me up a tree for over three hours. It was archery season and the bear came strolling along and decided to loll around at the base of the very tree I was posted in. It was long after dark when he finally decided to walk away, and then I dropped out of the tree and had almost a mile to walk in the dark to my truck, which was parked at a gamelands gate.
Bill Bower - long retired now - was the WCO of that section at the time and as I walked back to me car, bow and arrows in hand, I fretted that if Bower was waiting at the gate to pick up late hunters, my goose would be cooked because he would never believe the story that a bear had kept me "treed" for three hours.
Well, he wasn't there but I told him about it later and he told me I was right, he probably would have ticketed me for late hunting and expressed his regret for missing a chance to "catch" me at something.
Not far from the spot where this officer was assaulted, I have chased many a spring gobbler, jumped over or stepped on many a rattlesnake, and on the ridges above the creek, bagged many a buck.
There was one evening I remember especially when I had fished most of the day, and just before climbing into my SUV to drive home, I went to the creek's edge and gutted the fish, leaving the innards for the raccoons. When I got home, it was about 9 p.m. and when I reached for my fishing rod and reels, I realized I had left it streamside where I had cleaned the fish. It was a long and lonely ride back to that spot to retrieve my rod and reel. I was afraid to wait until morning to go get them for fear that another angler would find them before I got there.
Another most memorable event happened to me on a stretch of that same road but about three miles up the road from the parking lot where most anglers left their vehicles when fishing Schrader Creek. There is a wide spot in the creek there and it is very deep and so has become a favorite swimming and "partying" spot.
One early evening as I approached that spot in my truck, I spotted about a dozen young men, beer cans in hand, spread out across the road. They made no effort to move enough that I could drive through so my sixth sense told me this could be trouble. I reached over and locked the doors of my truck, then slid my pistol over next to me. Sure enough, they formed a solid line across the road and stood there and stared at me. Then a couple guys left the line and started toward my truck. I could only imagine what they had in mind. So I picked up my handgun, rested it across the steering wheel where they could see it but it wasn't pointed at anyone. I waited.
When the lead man got close enough to spot my pistol he yelled at the rest of the crowd "She's got a gun!" A nice huge hole quickly appeared in the road and I drove through. I was prepared to floor it and push through that gang if I had to but they left me pass without incident.
I've had a bushel of adventures in Bradford County the first 30 years of my hunting life. But, I've had about as many in Blair County in the last 30 years.
People often ask me whether I am afraid when I go out into the woods and waters alone. I tell them no, that I am not afraid but I am careful. I stay aware of who and what is around me. I am always armed and I shoot straight.
But when I look back on all the things I did and places I went alone in the times before anyone ever heard of cell phones, I shudder. I am so thankful for my squadron of guardian angels. I've kept them hopping over the years.