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The following event occurred four years ago. At the time, I didn’t believe in concealed carry. My state has an open interpretation of the wildlife code. If you are in a rural area, and if something is in season, and you have a hunting permit, then it is legal to be openly carrying a firearm. I firmly believed that the best place for a woman’s gun was right there on her hip where a man could see it. Besides, the gun I carried was a Ruger Single‑Six .22 with a 9.5-inch barrel. I carried it in a homemade leather holster that reached nearly to my knees. There was just no concealing it.

That day I had been canoeing. I had been terrorizing old soda cans and bottles with the Ruger most of the afternoon. I shot almost daily, and I could consistently hit something the size of a cantaloupe at 30 yards with it. Before I left the gravel bar, I put the magnum cylinder in the revolver, just in case. The .22 Mag is a wicked little round.

It was about four in the afternoon. This is usually a good time for a woman alone to pull off the river. Most working men hadn’t had time to leave work and make it to that part of the world yet. So usually I had the boat ramp to myself, or I sometimes ran into a grandpa and his grandkids. As I approached the boat ramp, I listened carefully. No one was at the water’s edge, but I could hear rap music in the parking area. Even in the country, that means young men. I pulled my canoe onto the bank just enough so it wouldn’t float away. I slid the Ruger into my duffel bag and slung the bag over my shoulder. I carefully positioned the open zipper where I could easily reach the revolver inside without actually exposing it.

I walked up the boat ramp. Three men in their late 20s were drinking beer in the turn around area. I had to walk past them. The one in the middle elbowed the other two when he saw me, and all three turned to face me. They were openly staring with surprise on their faces. No big deal I thought, as I approached. They probably have just never seen a woman in a camouflage bikini. As I passed them, about 18 yards away, a different look appeared on the elbower’s face, a look that I didn’t like at all. He leaned in and said something to the other two. They all laughed that unpleasant laugh that men have when they are talking about sex.

My truck was the only other one in the parking area. I drove past the men, backed down to the water, and began loading my canoe. All three men walked to the top of the boat ramp and watched me. I still was not overly alarmed. Lots of men watch while I load or unload. Perhaps they have never seen a woman alone with a canoe before. I wasn’t alarmed, but neither was I stupid. High brush and ragweed taller than my head lined the banks on both sides of the ramp. If the men walked down the ramp while I was at the water’s edge, there was no place to retreat to except out into the river or into the truck. So I left the driver’s side door open so that I could abandon my things by getting in, if I had to. The duffel with the Ruger inside was now in the back of the truck within easy reach. I kept looking up the ramp to see if they were moving, and I listened carefully for the sound of footsteps. I moved casually, but purposely, and had the canoe and all of my gear loaded within 7 to 8 minutes.

I decided to strap the canoe down after I pulled the truck up the ramp. All this time the three stood at the top of the ramp, talking and drinking. As I got in the truck, I put the Ruger in the pocket on the inside of the door. I drove past the men once more and stopped at the edge of the parking area about 25 yards from them to strap down the canoe. There was plenty of room to maneuver here. No one with a single vehicle could block my exit and there was no reason to come close to me unless they had something unpleasant in mind.

I was in the back of my truck cinching down a ratchet strap when they made their move. All three began walking toward me quickly with that shoulder‑swaying swagger that men use when they are pretty sure of themselves. I jumped out of the truck bed and immediately stepped to my partly open door. I pushed the door open further, and put my hand on the Ruger’s grips. There was no time to actually get in and drive away. If they had been simply going for a walk, my actions might have said that I was just done securing my load and about to be on my way. The men actually sped up. I knew that look on their faces. I have seen it many times on the faces of my squirrel dogs and coon hounds, that intent stare, that predatory hunting look.

I pushed the door open all the way with my hand on the Ruger and turned to face them squarely. The cylinder hadn’t completely cleared leather yet, but they could plainly see a revolver in that door pocket, a seriously big weapon judging by the length of the holster. It was only a .22 Mag, but only I knew that. They stopped dead. I must have had some kind of determined look on my face, because without a word, “elbow man” turned and went back to his car. The other two followed.

One strap was more than enough to hold in a canoe at 60 mph I suddenly decided, and jumped in the truck and left. I didn’t realize how shook up I was until I pulled in my driveway 12 miles away and couldn’t get my fingers to release the steering wheel.

I have since upgraded to a 9mm pistol and gotten a concealed carry permit. I now carry everywhere that it is legal. I firmly believe that a woman alone, especially in the outdoors, is a fool if she is not armed.

—DI, MO

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