Kathy Bassett: Old-time game wardens

Kathy Bassett

Kathy Bassett's column, "The View from Maybell," appears in the Saturday Morning Press.

Living in the country where we do has given us and still gives us the privilege and honor of knowing so many wonderful folks. The stories they have to tell are fascinating.

I got to know some of the old-time game wardens.

Yeppers, that’s what they called them back when. Some of them wrote books about their adventures and a lot more of them should have. They don’t make them like that anymore because today there are too many rules. Too many people take advantage. And, of course, back then you had your good ones and your not-so-good ones, just like today.

I recall one of the old wardens telling me about sitting up on a hillside on a cold, snowy day, watching a fisherman just fishing away in a creek where he wasn’t supposed to be fishing.

So, pretty soon, the warden meandered down toward the illegal fisherman, who saw him coming. The fisherman, quickly threw his pole over in the weeds, proceeded to take off his boots and socks, and then promptly sat down on the creek bank and stuck his feet in the water.

“Howdy! Whatcha doing?”

“Oh, just soaking my feet!”

“Really? Isn’t it a little cold?”

“Well, I like the water to be cold when I soak my feet!”

The game warden walked over and picked up the pole lying in the weeds and remarked, “Well now, this is a mighty fine bamboo pole! I wonder who it belongs to?”

“Not mine! Never saw it before!”

So the story goes the warden kept the poor man talking for quite a spell as the guy soaked his feet in the icy creek. He finally felt sort of sorry for the fella, but the man just never would own up to the pole, so the warden bid him good day and took the pole home.

There was the warden who bragged that his horse never bucked. But one snowy day, his horse did some mighty tall bucking.

When the warden picked himself up and brushed off the snow he blamed it all on a “snow snake!”

Some wardens knew times were tough on everyone. So, if they came upon someone “grocery shopping” out of season, they had a tendency to look the other way if they knew the person really needed the meat. But heaven help them if they were only killing an animal for other reasons besides feeding a passel of kids.

I know some other people who were hunting and had no idea a warden was sitting up on a hillside watching.

A couple of days later, the warden remarked to the man how he had counted 14 head of elk going down into a stand of trees, but only 13 came out. That was all that was said. The man knew it was directed at him, and the warden knew he got his point across.

And everyone knows the story of the warden who stopped a hunter and discovered a goose hidden in the cavity of the deer laying in the vehicle. Goose season was not open.

When the warden asked the hunter why there was a goose inside his deer, the hunter exclaimed, “Why that goose-eating @#&%!”

Well, that one got a ticket, but the story is still making the rounds and being laughed about all these years later.

But, sigh, like I said, times change.

I e-mailed some questions to the Division of Wildlife in Denver last year about a certain matter, only to be told that I probably had a neighbor who was sneaking into my yard at night to play pranks on me.

Laugh, laugh, snort.

I wrote back and asked the guy if he ever got out much. Of course, then I had to get back a long list of his credentials and how smart and wonderful he was. I don’t care how many papers are hanging on his wall, he didn’t have a clue.

Shame.

I remember not too many years ago, a warden driving into my place and telling me who he was. He was going around meeting folks and if there was anything he could do to improve public relations, he wanted ideas.

One has to respect a guy like that. Some wardens are nice and respected. Others have such an attitude that your hackles immediately jump into high gear.

The older generation of game wardens knew everyone, and everyone knew them. They were highly respected and it is through them that the legends live on.

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