December 03, 2006

The Spencer Redemption

This is the third law violation I have been a part of in three weeks, and it's becoming a fun habit.A couple of weeks ago it was the prostitution solicitation I received from a young woman at a North Carolina rest stop, followed, that evening, by a breaking and entering in Georgia. Today it was the run-in with the ranger in the mountains of California.

I went hiking this morning in a California state park. The woman I went with, "Sigourney," has a really sweet dog named Spencer. He also happens to have perfectly chiseled looks, so I call him Cary Grant. We had to drive way up a canyon road to get to the trailhead. When we arrived, we saw a sign that prohibited dogs. Sigourney decided to take Spencer anyway. I didn't say anything, but if it was my dog, I would have gone hiking elsewhere.

Along the hike, we had stunning views of the California Coast, the inland mountains, and some metro areas. This is what brings people like me out to Southern California -- to be able to hike in shorts and a t-shirt in December.

Some hikers along the way told us to watch out for rangers, who swoop down from neighboring canyons on unsuspecting dog-owning lawbreakers and write them very expensive tickets. The hikers all said that they had not seen any rangers. I was surprised that everyone seemed to be happy about having Spencer on the trail, and that they wanted to be part of the criminal conspiracy. It may have been due to Spencer's good looks, and his very friendly demeanor. I could just see hikers back in the Shenandoah citing some Rule 23.17(a) and saying to us that "no dogs are allowed here."

We got to the top of the hike, and were enjoying the spectacular views on the exposed hilltop, when I caught a glimpse of a tall, uniformed man in a ranger uniform headed our way on foot. We tried to hide Spencer behind our legs, but no luck. We were busted. Ranger Crowder questioned Sigourney about her identity. When she was unable to produce a driver's license, he asked her for her driver's license number. As if she would know that. He radioed in her personal information, received confirming information back, and then took out his ticket book.

Ever the negotiator, I requested that Ranger Crowder merely give us a warning. "I don't give warnings to dogs," he snipped. That was the moment that the Karma started to turn. The wind began to howl, and it became very cold. Spencer started barking at Ranger Crowder. We asked the Ranger to please hurry, since we were getting very cold. He seemed to enjoy taking his time. Finally, he tore the ticket out of his book, but he tore out both the original and the yellow copy, which I thought was strange. Maybe he was new to the job. He handed us the copy, and then the wind blew the original right out of his hand and onto the hillside. I told Crowder, "we're not waiting for you to write us another one," spun around, and left. I took one last look over my shoulder, and saw Ranger Crowder standing at the hillside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, scratching his head, wondering how he would rescue his ticket from its breezy jouney to the sea.

I figure there is at least a 50-50 chance that he will not be able to report this violation without the ticket documenting it, and that, like the other lawbreakers I have encountered on my journey to California, Sigourney and Spencer will get off scot free.

The irony is that, to retrieve his ticket, Ranger Crowder could have used the services of Spencer, a very athletic retriever. We did not stick around long enough to make the offer.


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