Two men faced each other on a cold January day. The Oxford deputy sheriff’s sawed-off shotgun was trained on the outlaw as they stood in an enclosure that held the hotel’s outhouses, waiting for Sheriff William Stokes of Albion to return with handcuffs. The deputy had tracked the outlaw to Albion and now was anxious to return with his prisoner to Oxford. Continue reading →
I used to drive too fast and, if lost in thought, I drove even faster. It seemed as though the snapping synapses of my mental process somehow increased the plantar flexion of my right foot against the gas pedal.
I’m sure you see the problem here. Deep thought caused speeding tickets, which increased insurance premiums, resulting in deeper debt, thereby inducing financial fears, thus provoking more deep thought. Thinking can be dangerous. Continue reading →
The author, now retired as a decorated regional investigator for Idaho Fish and Game, describes exactly what game wardens do, and how he became interested in a career of undercover work. “Crossing Paths,” the first chapter of his 2012 book, Trafficking, is reprinted here with permission.
I remember the first time I was at Dworshak Dam [near Orofino]. My brother Nick and I were on our way to school at the University of Idaho in Moscow. He was studying architecture and I was struggling with a degree in wildlife management. He wanted to build stuff and I wanted to be a game warden.
Dworshak Dam was being built and Nick wanted to look at it during its construction phase. It was no minor project since it would be the country’s third highest dam when it was completed. It was quite the sight to see.
Twenty years later I returned to that spot near the dam where my brother and I had looked over its creation; but this trip wasn’t as a curious spectator. I was recalling the earlier visit with my brother but thinking about how bizarre this revisit was. I was investigating the illegal trafficking in wildlife. I wasn’t wearing a uniform, badge, or gun-belt since I was working undercover. I was about to initiate my first “illegal buy” of wildlife all while the deja vu of the past trip with my brother was playing though my head.
I think most kids ponder what they are going to be when they grow up. I’m sure I didn’t dwell on the subject, but I do remember my grandmother talking about her brother Hawley and the respect she had for him as an Idaho game warden. I don’t remember meeting him until well after he had retired. Regretfully he passed on before my appointment as an Idaho conservation officer and I never got to talk to him about his career. Hawley Hill attained the rank of Enforcement Bureau Chief, and after I was hired, I found that his troops had called him “Holy Hell” behind his back. It’s my belief the nickname came from a combination of fear and respect. Continue reading →
My dad, Ray Armstrong, was a young forest guard at Pole Creek Ranger Station in the Canyonlands of southwestern Idaho during the late 1920s. He didn’t remember ever attending school, but became a successful cattle broker and in his later years served as mayor of Bliss. Like many cattlemen and cowboys of that day, Dad was a gifted storyteller. In 1976, I recorded his tales in a notebook—tales that chronicle escapades typical of forest service activities in early times.
Ray Armstrong was nineteen years old in 1927. His father, my grandfather, raised horses along Cedar Draw on a rocky strip of land near the Berger community south of Filer. Word was that Dad left home at an early age. He herded sheep and served as a camp tender, learned cowboy work, and maintained himself doing odd jobs around Buhl and Twin Falls. On a chance happening, he met “Supervisor” McQueen, who was in charge of both Pole Creek and Mahoney Ranger Districts on the Humboldt National Forest just across the Nevada/Idaho state line. Dad was familiar with the country, having worked at the Diamond A Ranch. He knew Jarbidge, Murphy Hot Springs (known then as Kittie’s Hot Hole) and the Three Creek country.
Supervisor McQueen needed young, tough men as guards for both ranger districts. Following a rigorous examination that included both written and practical activities, Dad was hired for the Pole Creek position along with young Tommy Wells at Mahoney. It was never clear how Dad learned to read, but during the test session he managed to follow the directions for assembling a demonstration crank wall telephone. He was big, tough, and could throw a perfect diamond hitch, meeting all qualifications for the Pole Creek work. Both Wells and my dad were to furnish their own pack outfits, which included fifteen horses and pack equipment.
Continue reading →