Traveling through the snowy mountain passes on State Route 36 in a remote part of northern California where cell service is almost non-existent, we (boyfriend and I) came around a blind corner and encountered 2 young men standing in the middle of the road, waving their hands and attempting to stop our vehicle. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I instantly assessed the situation — 2 young men in their 20s, lean builds, dirty blonde hair and unshaven faces, dressed in faded camouflage cargo pants and dirty tees, with large bowie knives sheathed and strapped to their belts — as my boyfriend started to slow down to avoid hitting them.
There have been very few times in my life when I’ve been truly afraid, but as the situation started to unfold into something you’d expect to see on TV, fear started to rise in my throat and all my senses switched on to full alert. Panic gripped my chest so tightly that I had to remind myself to breathe. Before our truck came to a full stop and my boyfriend had a chance to crack his window to talk to the young men, I managed to ask him if he had packed his pistol. He quickly nodded his head and I had to stop myself from diving into the back seat and retrieving his concealed carry firearm as one of the young men ran up to our open window. He told us that he and his friend had been out exploring the back roads and that their truck had broken down at the end of a USFS service road. He was hoping we could give them a jump. My boyfriend, always the helpful nice guy, cautiously agreed, and as the 2 young men gave him directions and jumped into the bed of our truck, I quickly slid the pistol from its scabbard, racked the slide, and gripped it at my side, out of the view of the truck windows, as though my life depended on it. I knew better than to place it in the door pocket in case the door was ripped open, but other than that, I felt utterly unprepared for what we were might encounter.
When we rounded the corner, we came face to face with an older, beat-up SUV with all 4 doors open, parked in the center of the road with no room to pass on either side. A chill ran down try spine and I glanced at my boyfriend with a mix of uncertainty and fear clouding my eyes. This wasn’t what I was expecting and there was no way to escape except to back up the hill we’d just come down. The 2 young men jumped out of the bed of our truck before we’d come to a full stop in front of the SUV just as my eye caught a glimpse of movement behind the tinted windows, and two other young men stepped out from behind the open doors. My heart dropped into my stomach, and I turned to my boyfriend and whispered, “I knew we shouldn’t have stopped.” We were outnumbered, and the sheer magnitude of how utterly unprepared we were was overwhelming …
Thankfully, my fears turned out to be unfounded, and my boyfriend and I could help 4 stranded young men get back on the road, but I couldn’t shake the shame that I felt for being completely unprepared to protect my life and the life of my loved one in that situation. Some may say that because I had a gun, my fears are negated and I should have considered myself prepared, but the truth is, that gun is only as useful as the person behind the trigger, and in all of my firearm training, I’ve never trained for a 4-on-2 situation in a remote location where calling for help or backup is not an option. I’ve realized since then that I need to prepare for all types of self-protection, whether I think I will ever end up in such a situation. That training has now become one of my top goals for this year, but in the meantime, I wanted to share something that my dad taught me and that has probably saved my life more than once: Come Prepared and Stay Resourceful.
Regardless of whether you choose to exercise your Second Amendment rights to conceal or open carry (depending on the laws of the state that you live in), you can always maintain an upper hand while traveling if you are vigilant in coming to any situation prepared. In my situation, I had access to my boyfriend’s CCW pistol, but what could have happened if I were traveling alone and had been forced to stop, and hadn’t thought to bring my own concealed carry firearm with me? We all have regular routines that we take for granted and think that nothing bad could possibly happen to us – such as driving home to see family as we were that day – but, we need to stop being so lax in our personal safety. We make sure that we are hyper-aware of any potential threat to ourselves and those around us.
Looking back, we came [partially] prepared: we had a firearm and plenty of ammunition in an easily accessible location and I had a Yellowjacket stun gun and backup battery phone case on my phone. Both my boyfriend and I had knives on our body, in the truck, and I had one in my purse. Forced into a combative situation, we might have managed to fend off our attackers and escape relatively unharmed, but I never want to bet our lives on a “could have.” Train for any self-defense situation and come prepared. If you feel like you’re being overly cautious and are “too prepared,” realize that you’re just getting started.
I will never be able to thank my dad enough for teaching me to stay resourceful in any situation. His constant lessons in staying resourceful during my childhood have shaped me into a situationally aware adult that is always honing my fight or flight plan in every new environment. If you made the mistake of coming unprepared, you haven’t lost the fight yet. Assess your situation, and look for everyday items that can be used to protect yourself in a pinch. In our situation, I knew that we had a tire thumper and a crowbar under the seat that could have been used as a makeshift self-defense tool. A can of bear Mace that we keep in the truck for our hunting and fishing adventures could have been used in place of pepper spray to temporarily subdue an attacker (possibly even more than 1 attacker – have you seen how far bear Mace can spray?) Staying resourceful also means formulating an escape plan and being able to adjust it with each turn of events. Could I have safely escaped in the truck without causing harm to myself or rendering the truck inoperable? Without cell reception, could I have run far enough to reach shelter or a place where I could call for help? I pray that I will never have to find out, but I know for certain that I will never stop looking for those resources and adjusting my plan.
I’m so thankful that our decision to help out a stranger didn’t turn out to be a fatal one. I still have some faith in humanity and the goodness of strangers. Hindsight is 20/20, and I hope that next time I will trust my gut a little more and not allow myself to be put in a situation where I have to question if I’m prepared to fight for my life. Take my story as a lesson that I thankfully didn’t have to learn the hard way; train and prepare yourself for the fight of your life, no matter how routine or safe your environment may feel. Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you will have to use what you have learned, but as the old saying goes, “It’s better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have one.”