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06 October 2002 - 22:59

dome light

Don't turn on your dome light!

Words of warning to one of my wardens. She looked at me like I was crazy.

We were parked behind the gravel piles at my check station, hiding from hunters.

Well actually, only I was hiding from hunters. She had come out just to see if one of the vehicles she had asked me to watch for had come through the check station. And had spotted me in my blaze orange cap on top of the gravel piles, and figured out I was snapping shots of the sunset.

You see, I have been manning check stations at this spot for 26 hunting seasons now. The hunters know this spot. Expect me to be there. Have been sitting there at night with no light on at all, with the station signs down, and people still pull in.

"Are you open?"

And I always say yes, even if I was just writing down some notes from the day, or dumping out the last cup of cold coffee.

We had a great sunset yesterday. Just fantastic.

Got several pics of it starting to get color, just before actual sunset. Then it got busy. Fortunately a warden showed up to help, because there was never any break in the traffic. Truck after truck of hunters. About half with deer or antelope.

And when you've been sitting in that boring spot for eleven hours already, averaging less than three animals an hour, you certainly don't want to let any others go by just because you want to get home, and the wife and sons want to go to the late showing of Red Dragon.

So you send the empty vehicles on into town, and check the teeth, antlers, sex and paperwork for each and every harvested animal.

Warden got busy with a handful of violations almost immediately, so it was me by my lonesome out there on the highway (yes, literally) for the first hour or so of the after-dark rush. Had them backed up six to eight trucks deep most of the time.

And nobody got crabby about the delays.

But I missed the sunset. And it was superb. Had time for a few glances, and that was it.

But the important point is that you have to get closed down before dark, or you're going to be stuck there for hours more.

All by your lonesome.

Not exactly safe working conditions.

So tonight I snapped a quick pic of the setting sun, just before I drove down to get the check station signs.

Looked like it was going to be another excellent sunset. Gorgeous blue skies behind the thin clouds.

But naturally, as I hurried to get the signs down before any hunters arrived, I failed.

First truck just blew by.

Okay. I am closing the station, even though one sign is still up.

Second truck pulls alongside as I'm unwiring the last sign from the highway reflector post.

He's got a deer. One more sample for a long day. But the sign is at the crest of a low, blind rise. Great place for a sign, but horrible place to park a truck on a dark highway.

Ask him to go ahead and wait at the pullout, which he is glad to do.

Wants to show off his 4-point.

Turns out the first rig was his hunting buddy, and he's turned around. Got an antelope in his truck.

Yeah, I'll check yours, too.

So the two trucks are waiting by the gravel piles after I hastily throw the sign in. And I check their animals and paperwork, and hear their stories. And then they're off.

To avoid being spotted by any other hunters, I pulled behind the gravel piles so I can dismantle the amber flashing light (already unplugged) and get the signs properly strapped into the truck (they will blow out).

But first, I scramble up onto the gravel piles, settle into a depression, and enjoy the sunset. Camera in hand.


Was still there minutes later when the warden came by. She pulls in behind me behind the gravel piles, and we start exchanging notes for the day (no, her vehicle didn't come through).

And she turns on her dome light to write.

Which is where this entry started.

You guessed it. Even though her cab light was only on for seconds, and it is dead dark, the very next vehicle pressed on the brakes, and then came backing up the highway to pull into my lot.

The hunters were empty, and quickly on their way, but the warden couldn't believe I had people so well trained they would pull over for a dome light. (Some of them take over a mile to pull over for a warden's red light.)

As soon as we got our notes exchanged, and I got the amber light stowed, the warden pulled out and headed down the highway.

As soon as I touched my brake lights, I knew I was in trouble.

Another truck, having passed the station, turned around and met me by the gravel piles.

Another deer.

Of course I'll check it.

Another truck pulls over.

And another.

Got all three taken care of in a record four minutes, and sent them down the road.

With me right behind. Staring at the string of headlights stretching, probably for an hour or two, behind us.

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