August 16, 2012
Cape Perpetua, OR
When I got back to my campsite at Cape Perpetua, Oregon last night, there was a sheriff’s car with flashing lights. The sheriff with his flashlight out was wondering around the campsite, looking at my stuff. “Who are you?” he said. I just looked at him.
An hour earlier, as I was standing high on the hillside above the Pacific, watching a glorious sunset, I got out my cellphone to call Wendy. The signal was weak and we could barely hear each other. “Are you okay?” she said. Then the signal cut out.
“Mr. Coopersmith by any chance?” the sheriff prompted. Then I understood. Wendy — who gets very nervous about me when I go off on my solo camping trips, had called out the posse!
Anyway, we sorted it out. He was very nice and said he was glad he could come over. Then he left. Wendy, I said to myself, shaking my head. Do you really have to do this?
Today I was chatting with the couple in the next campsite. They’re in their late 50s and travel by motorcycle. He’s big, overweight, and she’s tiny. Both have tatoos and dress like typical hard core bikers.They were curious about what was going on last night. Then the camp host wandered over. She was curious too. It was the evening’s big event at the campground and everyone was talking about it. Was the occupant of Tent Site #8 some kind of fugitive ax murderer? I sighed and told them the story.
The biker rolls his eyes.
“You know, he’s got a heart condition.” the biker woman confides about her husband. “And he’s not getting any younger. Sometimes when he goes off on one of his rides, I wonder if he’s okay.”
“We’ve got great law enforcement coverage here,” chimes in the camp host. “When we need ’em, they come!”
I share with all of them my story about the law enforcement vacuum in Southern Oregon. When I stayed with my friends Bob and Rochelle* down there, they told me about it. It seems that years of refusal by voters to provide the tax base needed had finally resulted in the inevitable — closing police and sheriff’s offices in rural areas. “When you dial 911, nothing happens,” I say.
The biker looks startled. “Really?” he says.
“Really,” I say. “My friends down there say local people are buying more guns to try to protect themselves.”
He stands there in his leather and chains and tatoos, his eyes open wide. “That’s scary!” he says. We all nod.
“Well, the scariest thing we have around here are crows,” says the campground host. “Big ones — not scared of anything! Watch out or they’ll get into your food.”
The biker woman, with a tatooed serpent peering out on her shoulder, looks at me again. “Isn’t it wonderful that your wife called the sheriff!” she said. “You should feel good, knowing someone’s looking out for you!”
The campground host loudly agrees. “You’re very lucky!” she says.
I think about that. Maybe this is blog material.
(* Not their real names.)