The Wrong Turn

There were worlds of mourning dove coming in to feed on the grain field stubble, in a field, on an Indian reservation in the Phoenix area. This particular reservation allowed hunting in the grain fields, but we had to be careful not to go into the “No Trespassing” areas that were well marked with signs.

My family, Brad, my ex wife and I, were fast into knocking down these twisty fliers, Randy and Suzanne were doing the retrieving and our bird count was rising. This afternoon, we were the only hunters out so we were hunkered down, a hundred yards apart, along an irrigation ditch, now dry. Many of the birds flew over us as they came into the field to feed, providing some easy overhead shots.

We took a break to count up our birds and our tally indicated that we had knocked down 31, five short of our combined limits. Shooting time was just about over so we let Brad, who was an excellent shot with a shotgun and the reigning Arizona, junior state champion trap shooter, finish out the string.

We set to breasting out the dove, leaving both wings on and dusk was settling in by the time we finished. Rinsing our hands, we loaded everything up into the camper, kenneled up the kids and drove off the reservation, we thought. Coming to a cross road, we turned, we thought, the correct way because there weren’t any signs. The next thing we knew, through the dust, here came a pickup barreling toward us, loaded with Indians and as they came closer, we saw they were all armed!

As the truck pulled to head us off, all the Indians were shouting and waving their firearms, we looked to be in deep stuff, but didn’t know of any tribal laws we had broken. One, possibly the headman, yelled over to us, “You’re on private, no trespassing, property and are under arrest! Been hunting, too, we’ll get all of you for shooting after hours?” This really looked serious now.

The year before, we had a run in with an Apache Policeman, he confiscated our .22 pistols and was going to ticket us for carrying firearms on the reservation, until he calmed down some and I told him that I was friends with the Tribal Chairman and named him. He relented, but told us “Friends with the Tribal Chairman or not, if he caught us on reservation with loaded firearms again, we be in big trouble!” Luckily, we never saw this policeman again!

Back to our immediate plight, the Indians were really heating up and I started fearing for my family. My ex had the, formerly confiscated, .22 pistol on her hip and she slipped it over to me, one pistol, 6 shots against a truck full, bad odds, before another Little Big Horn, I thought, I’ve got to get the headman talking. Telling him we thought we were headed out toward Baseline Road, he settled down a little and told us we took the wrong turn and were heading deeper into the reservation. He added, “Over the past weeks, we’ve had an increase in grave robberies, but to me, it looks like you just took the wrong turn.” The occupants in the truck were still yelling until he told them to be quiet and told us, “Just turn around and we’ll follow you out.”

Grave robberies meant that folks were sneaking on to the reservation, not robbing the graves of recently buried people, but rooting around in the desert trying to find graves hundreds, up to a thousand years old. This definitely wasn’t part of our program!

This was to close a call, so during our remaining years in Phoenix, we never went back to that reservation. That truck full of Indians really scared us off!