Rich was a Vietnam vet, a senior NCO, a native Missourian, and a friend of mine. He lived on the family farm commuting distance from Fort Leonard Wood, he was a hunter and fisherman, soldier, and farmer.
Tracker makes boats, really nice aluminum bass boats that were the Cadillac of fishing boats. They were made just down the road from Fort Leonard Wood (a great place for huntin' and fishin') and every fishin' soldier at "Lost in the Woods" wanted one. At the time, mid eighties, a nice Bass Tracker would run you in the neighborhood of $5000.00 dollars. Several of my friends and co-workers were scrambling to put together financing for their dream boat. Rich got his and couldn't wait to show it off. He hooked it up to his pick up and towed it to work several days in a row to insure EVERYONE got a chance to see it...live wells, built in coolers, trolling motor, 75 hp Merc outboard, and lots of other neat features (I have NO idea what any of that stuff was, anyway).
Rich quickly put together a group and made plans to sail the mighty Rubidoux in search of monster bass. I think there were five or six guys in the fishing safari when they put the might Bass Tracker in the water and set sail.
I gotta tell you a little about Fort Leonard Wood before I go on. When someone in the Army tells you a place is a "great place for huntin' and fishin' "...that is code for, "It is out in the middle of nowhere with nothing any where around it." But there are some soldiers who LOVE great places for huntin' and fishin', 'cause they LOVE huntin' and fishin'. There was more wildlife running around loose on Fort Leonard Wood than any place I have ever lived. Deer, turkey, varmints of all descriptions, beavers, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, SNAKES !, and every kind of fish you may want to catch and eat...or release. Go figure. On any morning you could see some or all of the local wildlife strolling through the housing areas.
So back to Rich and the fishin' safari. Knowing what I just explained about the local wildlife, you can understand why so many fishermen carried sidearms with them...to settle disputes with larger specimen of wildlife who may object to the people taking their food (fish) out of their territory. Rich had a big .44 magnum in an impressive western style rig that was his constant companion when out in the wild.
They motored out to a good spot and allowed the boat to drift downstream with their lines trailing (apparantly that is how the biggest bass were fooled into biting on a hook). About three sixpacks into the safari, the drifting and the sun and the alcohol put everyone into a sort of trance, the big fish courteous enough not to disturb them. They drifted into a shady pool formed at the far side of a bend in the river, up under some overhanging trees. Enjoying the drowse, Rich allowed the boat to gently bump the low branches. One of the gentle bumps dislodged a huge water mocasin and it dropped into the boat. Being the trip leader and best prepared for any eventuality, Rich jumped to his feet, drew his big .44, and emptied it at the snake in an impressive display of rapid fire.
When the gunfire stopped, Rich looked around and saw his fishin' buddies in the water setting world records as they raced for shore...the snake was in the lead, barely. Rich stood in the midst of six fountains of Rubidoux water shooting up from the nearly half inch holes he had bored into the bottom of his brand new Bass Tracker and just shook his head and said, "That's messed up".
This story is red hot gospel true. And with the current discussion about arming teachers in Texas, the story is timely, too. Rich was a combat vet, a hunter, well versed in the use and care of firearms. But in the heat of the moment, he drew and fired carelessly, endangering everyone but the snake...and caused several hundred dollars worth of repairs to his brand new boat (the folks in Springfield wouldn't even consider bullet holes as a warantee item).