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March 02, 2018


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Dan's Writings ›  


In Solidarity With Parkland, Florida

Like a lot of Americans, I have been paying close attention to the kids who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It’s very unlikely that I will ever experience anything like what those kids have gone through. But when I watch their faces as they stand up and speak truth to the legislators who hold the power and responsibility for seeing that our schools are safe, and contemplate the need for society to do something to protect them, I see something in their postures and in their eyes that is vaguely familiar. Of course there is great emotion in what they are saying. They are courageous but, if you look closer, you can see a tiny shift in their eyes, an involuntary tilt of their heads, a little change in their balance, as if they are listening to the sound of a faint audible bell sounding in their heads.  

Though it is barely comparable, I have had a glimpse of that look. Six weeks ago I returned home from a short, few hour trip into Rapid City. We live in a remote area at the end of miles of gravel roads and at the dead end of a two-mile-long driveway. We go weeks without seeing a car. When I came home that day, I expected to see my dog, Shiner, tearing around the corner of the horse barn to greet me. He’s usually excited to go inside with me but, that day I saw no sign of him. It was cold and getting dark so I figured he’d weaseled his way into Erney’s cabin, who is our old friend and dog caretaker. I really didn’t think much about it, just parked the car and walked past the horse barn to Erney’s to collect him. When I asked Erney, he just shrugged. “Haven’t seen him. Haven’t seen anything, all day.”

English Setter

We agreed that he was probably somewhere in the trees, exercising the rabbits. We talked for a few minutes and I made my way back to the house. By now it was almost dark and the light had become eerie. When I got to the house I found the front door wide open. I wasn’t sure what to think. I could only believe that I had inadvertently left the door open when I’d left a few hours before. I stepped in and flipped on the light that illuminated the broken glass of picture frames that were scattered across the floor. I heard Shiner coming from the back bedroom. I initially went for the easy explanation: I left the door open, Shiner found it, came inside, and had a dog party in our house. But Shiner is not that kind of dog, he is not a Rottweiler or Doberman Pincher, he is a small, gentle, white English Setter, with a black patch around one eye. By then he was standing in the hallway, looking ashamed and as bewildered as I felt. A few more feet in and I noticed that the computer I’d been on just a few hours before was gone. Drawers were gaped open and I walked to one of the open drawers and saw that my Colt revolver was gone. My walk down the hall showed more open drawers and missing electronics.

I had called Colton and went to the window when I heard him pull up to the shop (which he was going to check out when he arrived), and I stared out in disbelief, the ranch pick-up truck was gone. We had been robbed. Our wall of security had been breached. Our little Camelot had been violated. What had Shiner seen? His tail wagged in slow confusion. Thump, thump, thump against the wall. 

In twenty years we had never locked a door, never taken the keys out of the ranch trucks. When Jill and Jilian showed up they stood staring at the damage gasping, that is when I first saw the troubled look that I’ve been seeing on the faces of kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School. That faint bell was sounding, inside Jill and Jilian’s heads. It was fear, a loss of innocence, a recalculation of the order of our lives. Who did this? Meth heads? Crazies? Would they come back? It’s a bell that could never be un-rung.

We’d lost the pickup, the computer, stereo speakers, my kindle, cell phone, some jewelry, and the old Colt revolver that I had kept near me for forty years. Our family photos could be reframed and our photographed faces would again smile out into the room, but those faces would never be the same – they had now been changed.  

It was clear that the greatest loss was something that could not be calculated. From the material realm, the insurance did not cover the pickup and after the deductible and depreciation values, the check was incredibly small. There was enough to cover all new door locks and a now needed security system, what was left over I reserved to buy a new pistol. Because I didn’t know what else to do, I walked over to the cabinet where the old Colt had always been, and put it in the drawer. It was a hollow gesture.


Barb in Milton

March 03, 2018

We, who live in cities, can hardly understand what a frightening shock that must have been for you and your family. I’m so sorry that this will forever change the innocence and trust you had in your peaceful place on the plains. My heart goes out to you all. Barb in Milton


March 03, 2018

Fascinating how you show empathy for the Parkland victims and support for our right to bear arms in this article. And i love how you employ the dog to ‘leash’(?sorry) the readers emotions to your point.


March 03, 2018

So heartbreaking! And so sorry to hear. I imagine Shiner was disappointed in himself and feeling guilty, poor guy! My family knows this feeling.. it’s the ultimate violation of our lives and cuts so personally deep. I hope you are able to rediscover the solace in your home that was once there.

Thomas C Jensen

March 03, 2018

I concede that the comparison is stretched in several ways, but my moment came in the early morning darkness two Novembers ago when my understanding of my country was ransacked and some of my most cherished assumptions carried away. I added to my arsenal in the week’s that followed. Also a meaningless but thinly reassuring move.

Mark Holloway

March 03, 2018

So sorry to hear that. It seems no matter where you live or how secure you felt, those days are over. And it’s a shame. future generations will never know that security that we have felt in past. We used to leave the doors unlocked and the cars unlocked, but no longer. It is a shame but it’s that way all across our great Nation.

Retha Haddock

March 03, 2018

I’m so sorry your beautiful retreat was so violated by greedy people with no regard for their fellow man. Your family is in my thoughts.

Natasha Thompson

March 03, 2018

After recently reading your book your amazing work/life has vaulted to the top of my Hero list. Thank you for doing the hard work of making incredible change to this earth. So very saddened to hear of this traumatizing invasion. Having had a new car stolen from my garage (i always left keys on floorboard), I can empathize with the sense of violation. Since then i have had to change my habits, remove keys, lock doors and always have my guard up. It really saddens (and maddens) me that your Shangra La has been forever changed. I hope the perpetrators are caught and that your sense of peace and safety can be restored in time. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Natasha

Jim Rudolph

March 03, 2018

Somehow I thought you’d be insulated from that happening in rural South Dakota. We were robbed exactly as you were in Clearwater, FL. Computers, cameras, jewelry. And our red daschund was shocked, traumatized. Drug addicted thieves were caught. They had robbed 3 homes. The dogs in the other two were poisoned and died to keep them from barking. Don’t let this keep you from seeing the good out there. (I spent 10k on security cameras) Hug Shiner and keep living the good life. I’m eating a bison T-bone tonight because of our friends at Wild Idea ??


March 03, 2018

so very sad and tragic. first thing first…thankfully, you and Shiner are OK. thank you for producing and delivering such a wonderful product. we could not live without it. may this invasion of your privacy not stop you from living a free and open lifestyle. cherish the life that you live. may we all give thanks for living in this amazing country called America!


March 03, 2018

So sorry. I know the feeling as well having been robbed twice. I was so damn mad I would have ripped the sorry SOB’s to pieces if I could have found them. This was in LA though. My mother in rural Maine used to make fun of me when I went to visit and always locked my car no mater where I parked. Even in her driveway. I now live back here and lock everything and have a security system complete with cameras. A sad fact of our new “improved” world. Believe me I use that term with maximum sarcasm.

FW Dustin

March 03, 2018

How sad I’m so sorry that you were totally violated by this intrusion, its not the material things that are gone, Its the feeling of Safety in a place where you should always feel safe.
I am glad that Shiner was ok, for they could have hurt him, as well, that could not be
replaced.. I hope they catch the person/persons responsible for this stay safe and I hope that your comfort level returns after the grieving process is over…


March 03, 2018

My beautiful Home in the woods was destroyed a few years ago. In the middle of the National Forest. All glass broken, pictures slashed, kitchen destroyed. Nothing taken but my sense of security and Peace. No insurance because of how far from town. It is still boarded up. I will repair it when I can. Senseless violence- no respect for personal property. So much disconnect from the Heart.

Siggy Palmer

March 03, 2018

You have, as ever, shared from your heart and shined a light on the sense of loss that we all feel for the students in Florida, and the families everywhere whose innocence has been shattered over these last years since Columbine……or earlier. These events inevitably amplify our need to self-protect and arm our defenses, while at the same time our hearts yearn for reassurance and connection. How different our world would be if we could feel safe by simply arming ourselves with integrity and honor and a strong sense of community. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you regroup, and regain your sense of peace in your home on the range. You’re keeping the light on for all of us……don’t let anything dim it.


March 03, 2018

I’ve been a prosecutor for over 30 years and it always bring pain to hear from victims who’s lives will never quite be the same because some drugged creep couldn’t handle his life. I’m sorry you had to experience that.

Jim Harwood

March 03, 2018

Sorry, Dan
Hard to believe it could happen at your ranch. We moved to our place in Sonoma 38 years ago when it was a little country town. Left home all day with the front door unlocked. Time for security system, I guess.


March 03, 2018

Also being miles from town on a dirt road, I feel your violation. We’ve had to place cameras with motion activated detectors. It does see a lot of wild life to our much satisfaction, but yet to catch a human who’s not supposed to be there. One day it will. On a second note, you were being watched and some one’s watching your travels, this was planned, change your schedule and rotate your cars placements. And buy good cameras with high pixel rate.. Also put up signs of video surveillance.. GL !

john Collier

March 03, 2018

WOW…!!!! what an erperience and shock of discovery that your “private space” has been violated… Even more so in a remote, rural area…!!!
Unfornatenatley our society and culture is changeing… If i have learned one in my short life it’s , the "one constant thing " in our society and world today, is “Change” and the better able we are to deal with that change that is occuring constantly drtrmines how well we will get along today in our lives…future
You just had a huge change in your life, when you discovered a break-in at your home and i know from following your wonderful Blog for the past year, your family and lifestyle will be changed forever and how well you deal with that new change will effect your future…
My best wishes to you and you and faamily for a wonderful future and now you can pack that Pistol with you instead of in the drwer…!!!!


March 03, 2018

Yes all of it is related. The shootings at schools and gathering places, the theft, corruption, war, and family violence. It’s a system full of judgement, shame, hopelessness and dying integrity. As a psychotherapist I have my theories about why this is happening so I have not lost hope yet. I believe we can still turn around as a nation. And a world. We only need one Frodo. And right now I believe we have many.

I believe the degrading of our society also strangely galvanizes the ones of us who cherish human and earth’s beauty, our compassion and integrity. And encourages to hold even more dearly what still remains.

Someone once said if everything you do is with love you cannot go wrong. It is each moment as such for which we can exercise our power.

Thank you for such eloquence

I was right there with you seeing your dog’s feeling of failure. I could feel him yearning for your acceptance of his inability to stop the invasion. It’s moments like that where we remember animals are just as much family as humans.


March 03, 2018

I came home from work late one night to discover my door wide open, my house had been broken into. My security camera showed a teenager neighbor (who knew where the cameras were) walk by my house (which he had never done) in broad day light, and 9 minutes later walk back to his house. The camera caught cars (who we knew) passing at the same time as he was walking, They saw him on my prosperity but no one saw him go into or out of my house, so the law did nothing about it. (that was 2012 and nothing still done) I have seen him many times since then and have let him know I kew it was him and rather than kicking his butt I have chosen to leave him in God’s Hands. I was offered very little from the insurance.

Mindee Naoom

March 03, 2018

sorry to hear of your violation and loss. It happened to me also, so I know how it feels, and its like being raped. My thoughts and pray goes out to you and yours. God bless you and keep looking up cause our redemption draws near.

Eric Burr

March 03, 2018

Even the remote national parks, forests, and ski areas, where I’ve worked are no longer safe. Park rangers carry guns and vandalism there seems to be an expression of resentment against the educated portions of society as represented by national parks, Patagonia, organic farming, and the womens’.

Even the remote national parks, forests, and ski areas, where I’ve worked are no longer safe. Park and forest rangers now carry guns, and vandalism combines with theft to indicate a resentment against educated people, businesses, and institutions. Icons of enlightenment such as national parks, Patagonia, and Wolf research, seem to get more than random criminal activity would indicate. Trump’s rampage against Obama’s legacy appears similar.

Peter Bierwirth

March 03, 2018

Parkland … and being robbed? And of course, “Comments will be approved before showing up,” just like the RCJ. Best of luck with your recovery.

Eric Burr

March 03, 2018

Sorry for the computer glich.

Jeannette Sieland

March 03, 2018

How horrible!! To have a heartbreaking situation like that to happen must have been horrendous to you & your family. It’s a shame that “civilization” came in & stole your sense of peace & calm. Mourn the losses you had (the innocence & tranquility) and love Shiner for his bravery (he tried his best). You lost possessions that can & have been replaced now you have to rebuild the peace & tranquility that was taken and that is a much harder thing to do. At least no one was hurt physically.
My heartfelt sympathies for your “loss of innocence” .

bob jackson

March 03, 2018

A few thoughts. I went after outfitter poachers for 30 years. Caught ‘em where, before, they had the run of the back country, Yellowstone and adjoining Wilderness areas. They retaliated. 30 miles from any road, they’d poisoned my horses twice ..spread porcupine quills in the mules roll spots. Little support from the govt., not because they didn’t want to but because they didn’t know how to help. Initially, what can one do except go after them with still greater determination? Thus it is with any home invasion or violation of personal space. Fight fire with fire …whether literal or figuratively. But there are other responsibilities after being violated … and that is compassion. Compassion for people best learned with compassion for my farms bison families. For me the hardest to deal with, is my killing of my bison. I am their brothers keepers and I have control over their lives .. and death. To see a big bull peek his head from around a big bale … after I had not done the job needed with the first shot …. looking at me from 20 feet away. So innocent … & for decades I was so caring for him… and then I kill him.
The only way forward is to be prepared before it happens? To give the prayer before every death one causes …. as every hunter-gatherer has done for tens of thousands of years. It is impossible not to. As for those violating ones home and space it is the same as that of that wounded bull looking around the big bale at me. Give a prayer to those violating. Every poacher, big tough cowboy types, I ever caught started crying way up there in those mts. when the gig was up. Those violating the Obrien’s will cry too, some day. But everyone of us caretaking buffalo … and then killing them…needs to cry. I think, or we get hardened to life. Pray to that animal and every one of their immediate family. Those are my thoughts.


March 03, 2018

I am sorry that this turn has fallen into your lives.

Lucy Fagan

March 03, 2018

Folks like the intruders should be staked out on the prairie for the ants. Yep, they should. And who knows what ugly things they may have done to ole Shiner. Keep us posted on whether these scurrilous critters are found and strung up …


March 03, 2018

Truly sorry that this violation of your family space occurred. It is a terrible feeling. Something like this can make anyone feel powerless against the evils of the world.
I wish you and your family the best, hope that you will find strength in each other’s love, and trust that the knowledge that your mission is a force for good will bring you some amount of peace.

Kristen Bryant

March 03, 2018

Residences in rural and urban areas get robbed and always have. Surprised to see people who think it doesn’t happen ‘where Dan lives’. Burglaries for any individual are rare. I live in the city and have had things taken from my front step. My parents live in the country and have had their home broken into. My dad’s grandparents had the same thing happen decades before. Mass shootings are also extremely rare but that they happen as often as they do is a new thing. More guns will do little to stop them. Registries, background checks and assault weapon bans will help. More compassion that leads to a society with more opportunity and help for those who need it would also reduce shootings.

Paula Stewart

March 03, 2018

So sad that your part of the country & your home was hit. No one is safe no matter where you live!

Ken Burroughs

March 03, 2018

It’s sad to say that if this had been in South Africa your fate would have been a lot worse. The important thing is that your still alive and life goes on you just bounce back. Learn from the knockout and come back stronger.

Joan Edwards

March 03, 2018

When I was a small child growing up on a fsrm in NW Perkins County, SD, one of our female neighbors was kidnapped and tied to a windmill several miles from her home. Her car was driven into Shadehill Lake. I am almost 70 years old and I still remember how fearful we all were. To this day I am very cautious in everything I do.

Keith and Kay Lewis

March 03, 2018

Dan and Jill, Jilian and Colton: We’re so sorry this has happened—I awoke in the night tossing and turning and thinking about it. Kay had two similar incidents elsewhere before we met—it certainly leaves a horrible feeling knowing that a family’s Home and Refuge have been violated.

We also send our respects to Shiner, a sweet soul who did all that his gentle temperament would allow.

And please remember that there are many people in this world who love you and appreciate all that you do for nature, humanity, and the planet. We need you. Is there a way that we can make a cash donation to help replace those items so essential to the Wild Idea?

Sincerely, Keith and Kay

Nancy Etchemendy

March 03, 2018

Dan, I’m so sorry this happened. I sympathize. When my husband and I were young and living in high-crime areas, we were robbed — not just once, but several times. As you’ve surmised, most robberies like this are associated with drug addicts in need of cash to support their habits. It’s a complicated set of issues. We’ve probably made the problem worse by criminalizing drugs, rather than treating users for mental health troubles. (You don’t see alcoholics or nicotine addicts robbing houses to support their habits.) Be that as it may, take heart from the fact of human resilience. You will learn ways to feel safe again, and be happy. BTW, you are one heck of a good writer!

Cynthia Eddings

March 03, 2018

This personal story puts words to the heavy dark cloak I feel myself involuntarily wearing these days. I am most saddened by hearing of your violation. May all beings be at peace.

Florence Briggs

March 03, 2018

Having visited your beautiful home, it is so hard to believe some could be so stupid as to rob when there is no where to run except on your ranch with all roads so visible for miles! Sorry for your loss of safe feelings, but so glad no one was home and Shiner was not harmed.


March 03, 2018


Material things can be replaced. Thankfully, Shiner was ok. But the violation, the intrusion into your home, your sanctuary, your safe haven can never be undone. The uncertainty of whether it can happen again will always linger. The uncertainty and the feeling of insecurity are the real damages. Just like the students in Parkland, the uncertainty of whether school will ever be safe again will never leave them.

God bless you and your family! I am sorry you experienced that ordeal.

Diane Thill

March 03, 2018

Is there no safe place anymore? It is hard to conceive that something like that could happen out there. Having had a car vandalized and valuables stolen from it, and an attempted theft of my current van, I know all too well what you are feeling. But I live in a city where these things are, sadly, common occurrences. It makes me sad to hear that it has happened on your beautiful ranch. Some things can be replaced, you can even buy another gun, but your Colt can’t be replaced. And neither can your trust. I’m so sorry, Dan.

Bill Hager

March 03, 2018

I Hope Ol Shiner’s cousin the pit bull is out for a visit should the dirt balls come back again. “every dog has his day”..

Glad everybody is ok.


March 03, 2018

First and foremost I am so sorry you and your family having suffered this type of violation on your home and being. We in rural America are subjected to the realm of “bad guys” but for whatever reason it is a truly “different” feeling than what occurs in the urban areas. Yes I have witnessed it for a brief time in an urban area and that is why I’m back home where I belong! Keeping you and yours in my thoughts and prayers. We Rural Folk are a resilient breed,,,,keep the faith Dan!


March 04, 2018

Very sad to hear that your ranch was vandalized. Our UIAD group from Grenoble (France) visited you at the end of june 2017.
Your welcome was so warm.
The place seemed beyond the reach of the folly of mankind that we can’t hardly belive such a malicious act.
I wish you to have the will to continue this beautiful activity.

Jo Schaller

March 04, 2018

I’m so very sorry to hear of this violation of your sanctuary – your home – but so very grateful to hear that your beloved dog is unharmed. Thank you for sharing this painful episode with your usual eloquence. I hope these kind words of strangers provide some comfort. Sadly, many of us have been in your shoes. My work in law enforcement has put me in contact with many burglars and thieves. Most don’t want confrontation, but most are also desperate drug users, so it’s impossible to tell if they’ll come back. Your remote home is no easy target, so I question why they would’ve bothered traveling out that far. They must’ve expected that the effort would be worth the risk. Get a lock box for your gun for when you leave the house, as guns are valuable items to sell in the street, and check pawn shops in town for your valuables. Some new cameras – and prominent signs announcing their presence – might deter a future visit. Yes, our world has changed, but there are still many more good than bad. Focus on the good, and continue to work for positive change – as you have been with your buffalo. It/they will restore your spirit.
Linda M. Hasselstrom

March 04, 2018

I am beyond sorry for this happening to you and your family. And shocked: not only your isolation, but the fact that you and your family are all known to be armed makes this a stunning occurrence in this rural area. I have always locked doors here, since we are closer to the highway and have been here for unwanted visitors many times, but I have believed that being rural was a kind of protection. As you say, this requires a reassessment of so many of our assumptions. I’m so glad the dog was not hurt; reading your lead, I was expecting even worse.

bob jackson

March 04, 2018

Home is the sanctuary basis for all beings, human and bison. to violate it means the safety, the well being of that entity, the family and extended family is at risk. so much so that sometimes new homes .. and the hope of security … becomes no. 1 on that families needs. Such as it was … and will forever be …. that bison (extended) families mirrored (or is it the other way around) human families in their need for a comforting home. The "original Plains Indian tribes knew that to hunt the matriarchal component during calving and nursery times meant that family would not be back the next year. They hunted the young bull groups during this time. But those tribes new to the Plains did not know this. They hunted without knowledge and therefore the more the hunters (Indians & Whites) … and the more the bison families displaced, the more chaos on those Plains. Until it got so bad, so many bison extended families, unable to find and keep secure homes, became the huge numbers of bison families on the move … the refugee camps of bison forever. The wise Plains Indians knew it all was the same, the structure of functional bison was the same as any hunter-gatherer tribe. Thus when there were social problems in that tribe, problems they had difficulty solving, they had several experts go into the field and find out how the bison extended families, the clans making up the herd, addressed it. If folks think it was a bit extreme for bison families to vamoose with danger then think of a human family, one with all their needs met, a nice house on the golf course, good schools for the kids, good professional jobs…but then someone, or ones, start walking through your house at different times of the day or night. And no way to stop it, not even knowing what time that individual is coming through, she no recourse but to move that family pronto. Thus it was on the Plains. All those bison had homes. all those elk had homes. same as the antelope. We just didn’t see the invisible fences of that families territory. Every family, human or bison, has public as well as private needs. In Yellowstone the bison could follow along the roads with little ones, the public space, but they always had private homes, the isolated back of places like Hayden Valley and the Mirror Plateau. Then Day Use outfitters started taking clients each day to those recesses “to see wildlife undisturbed”. Yes, soon those Hayden matriarchal component herds started running with the sight of any horse party…even a mile away. Along the road, OK, but in the inner home, they couldn’t tolerate it. And the males, those parts of each extended family that always formed protective rings around those female components, had no means to stop the human interlopers. Thus over a decade or more in Yellowstone, due to reductions with management based only on herds thought only in terms of “herd density” or multiples of one, Hayden and Lamar now have huge refuge camps of bison … all eating out winter range in the summer. YES HOME is not a place to be violated. It affects all of us, whether the O’Brien’s or those functional bison herd mothers of old.

Kally G

March 04, 2018

So glad Shiner and everyone is ok. We are locking up too now although theives will still enter. Thanks for the work you do and the modeling respectful ranching. And thanks buffaloes.

Karen Filter

March 04, 2018

I am SO sorry that happened Dan. It’s beyond imagination who would wander so far to then do such a thing! I’ve experienced this form of violation ,as well. It’s disconcerting effect is felt for months! I pray it wasn’t someone that already knew what you had and knew when you’d be gone! Too bad your friend/hand didn’t see anything strange.

Doug Lassey

March 04, 2018

I’m so sorry for your loss property and faith. I’m with you on your open policy, but not since being robbed. They only got a load of shotguns and rifles out of a locked safe, some jewelry of my wife"s and silver table settings. I now locked the garage, house, have a new and better safe. Since I’m retired we have someone overlooking our property. I hope some of your property will show up. Just by chance the police found the silver table setting and silver trays, pitchers, the day of the robbery in one of robbers trunk. Out of 14 shotguns and rifles I only got 1 back 4 years later from the police in another trunk.So I’m still feeling the disappointment. I had my 2 Labs with me and that was the best..

Wever Weed

March 04, 2018

With regard to vandalism and theft, I doubt human civilization has changed over all of our history. But our ability to tell and to learn has sure changed! Today an act of vandalism and theft even on an isolated South Dakota ranch is turned into a worldwide community discussion. In that community might be the perpetrator who might be reading all the comments, who might for the first time be feeling a part of rather than a part from, who might be feeling remorse, who might change. Might. And we might restore the Great Plains, too, one bite at a time.

Monica Van der Vieren

March 04, 2018

I am so sorry to hear this. I know how that feels, even though I have never left my doors unlocked, having suffered enough in student housing losing hard earned tip money and even textbooks. I live in a rural area on a dead end road and one year had the front metal gate- 12 feet wide- stolen. A week later, I was having Thanksgiving dinner with neighbors down the road. Driving home, I saw a truck coming out of my yard. I actually stopped the truck and the wasted driver told me they took a wrong turn. Sure. I found the broken window to my truck, registration stolen, along with a workbag with stuff I was going to shred. A shop accepted a check for 4×4 repair because they topped a rock coming across the fields after they saw me leave. It never cashed and the shop called to yell at me. Sure. This was not nearly as bad as your situation- no personal items, no electronics. But when the dogs came running out of the house and sniffed all around where they tried to enter, I had that same violated feeling and wondered how bad it would have been if I had surprised them in the house. Since then, I’ve had the drunk Navy guy almost drive over the dike into the river turning around after he realized my yard wasn’t a makeout spot for him and his underaged girlfriend, and the reportedly schizophrenic woman who swore she owned my house and wouldn’t leave until she was subdued by four burly medics. But those are not the same thing- just mistakes and misfortune – and you don’t feel like someone has ripped into you. Again, I’m sorry.

David L. Newquist

March 04, 2018

’s a sad, old story that is part of our heritage. A long time ado there was a loosely associated group called the Banditti of the Prairies that held the upper Mississippi Valley in a state of terror and rage. Their worst offense was to exploit the custom of hospitality as part of their predations. As inn accommodations were scarce and primitive, travelers would ask householders to put them up for the night. When Abraham Lincoln traveled the judicial circuit, he made much use of local hospitality. The custom is the source of all those traveling salesman-farmer’s daughter stories. The custom is well-portrayed in Hamlin Garland’s story “Under the Lion’s Paw.”

The Bandittti would ask for a night of hospitality so they could case the homestead and assess the values and the layout. Then they would return with their cronies and carry off everything of value. They carried this ploy out to the point where all the homesteaders began to keep loaded arms handy and refused hospitality to traveling strangers. This resulted in an attitude of shoot first and inquire later, a rash of shootings of both perpetrators and innocent travelers, and a climate of suspicion and hostility. The Banditti were among the first to complain about the dangerous atmosphere, but law enforcement and local officials also found it burdensome to sort out the legitimate acts of self-defense from the hasty, mistaken shootings.

As community leaders organized more considered methods of defense, things calmed down. But the custom of hospitality and trust in fellow humankind was dead and laid to rest.


March 05, 2018

this may sound strange or sermon-like but I’ve found the best way to overcome these attacks we all experience at some point. instead of allowing the anger/fear/resentment to burn a hole in your heart for as long as you hold onto this ugly event, bring forgiveness to it. the forgiveness I speak of isn’t like what is taught by religions of the world but the thought which you give to this as if it never happened, that it isn’t something to obsess over, you can let it go, let them go, for they didn’t know better. this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t guard against ill-will of others, just to let it go so it doesn’t harm you and those you love. it’s rising above the battleground.

Jane Baile

March 05, 2018

Far-away places, the same experience.
I am so sorry to learn that you too have experienced the shock of intrusion and robbery. For me here in Grenoble, France it was back in May of 2013 when we also lost the computer, the television, my kindle, and some jewellery. (Our English Setter, Spot, was at the kennel.) The robbers put it all into my car and drove away with that too. And I remember having to deal with the insurance company the same week I learned that my mother had passed away and I needed to get a plane ticket to return to Ohio for her funeral. Maybe family togetherness did help to blot out the vision of intruders in my home helping themselves to our possessions and walking into our private space. Jill and Dan, your home and your hospitality back in June 2017 still hold a special place in my mind.
How sensitive of you to keep your losses in proportion, as your thoughts first went to the kids in Parkland. We all continue to think of them and praise them for their action.

Xavier Pastor

March 05, 2018

I am writing to you from Mallorca, an European island in the Mediterranean. That is where I was born and where I live when not in Montana. I am so sorry of what happened to you. I have read your book with passion and bought extra copies to present to my close friends. I have also been a modest customer of your buffalo products. I am sad and angry when I imagine how you may feel when some heartless individuals dare to break that sensation of safety and intimacy at your place. Difficult as it may sound, you will eventually recover it with the help of your friends around.

cc in montana

March 05, 2018

“It was clear that the greatest loss was something that could not be calculated.” A most poignant statement for all of Humanity.

Xavier Pastor

March 05, 2018

I am writing to you from Mallorca, an European island in the Mediterranean. That is where I was born and where I live when not in Montana. I am so sorry of what happened to you. I have read your book with passion and bought extra copies to present to my close friends. I have also been a modest customer of your buffalo products. I am sad and angry when I imagine how you may feel when some heartless individuals dare to break that sensation of safety and intimacy at your place. Difficult as it may sound, you will eventually recover it with the help of your friends around.

Margaret Wilkerson

March 05, 2018

For me it was not only possessions that I lost, but the person or persons decided to kill my beloved pet as well. When I saw the picture of your dog I thought the same had happened to you. Growing up my parents lived in a remote little town where everyone knew everyone. Nothing bad happened unless it was an illness or an accident. Now the world is an ugly violent place and we are asked each day to turn the other cheek and forgive the unforgivable. I’m sorry if my views are different from many before me but I believe in my heart unless the guilty are accountable for their actions the escalation of violence will continue. My pet was like a child to me and deserved to live on this earth more than the person that killed it.


March 05, 2018

I know of what you feel. One night, at 23 years old, while I was living alone in a home in the woods outside of Custer, two big men started putting their shoulders to the back door, saying, “We saw are going to party on you.” I ran for my hunting rifle, which I kept loaded, and ran to the back door mudroom where they were trying to break down that door. The jam by now was already splintered as the deadbolt was about to give way. I realized I was about to shoot to kill two idiots that night. They saw me point the rifle at them through the window on the door and one said to the other, “Look at her. She will never shoot us.” Wha!t? Just because I was tall and blonde and looked like I was still in high school? In order to save their hideous lives, I yelled, “JUST GIVE ME AN EXCUSE TO KILL ANOTHER MAN!!!!!!” I heard one of them say, “ANOTHER man??! Let’s get out of here!”

After they ran from my house, I now had time to call the sheriff. As I was describing the incident, he said it appears they were trying to now break into my neighbor’s home an 1/4 mile down the road. They came out and caught the jerks. The sheriff deputy came to my house and looked at my splintered door jam. The deputy said, “We have them in the car. They are saying you said you have killed before.” I laughed and said I had to say something that would convince them they would lose their lives if they succeeded in breaking in and it worked, but no, I had not killed before. That was going to be the first time I would have taken a life had they not backed down, and I had every right to do so. I have always remained ready to use a gun again against home invasion.

Don Meyer

March 05, 2018

Hi Dan and Jill,

I am so sorry that you got robbed, and yes it makes you feel violated for sure. I live in an RV in Albuquerque, and I have my Aliner camping trailer parked on my RV site too with a lot of sound equipment in it. We have a high crime rate in Albuquerque these days, so I have both my RV and my Aliner fully alarmed with a loud siren that goes off the instant a door or window is breached. The alarm is called in to the alarm company and they call the police and one of my three alarm tenders at once.

Living way out like you do is a whole different animal for sure. Maybe you will have to put a gate on the road coming to your house far away from the house and alarm the gate, If an audible alarm goes off when they breach the gate you could have it say “Police are on their way” and they would drive away so as not to get caught down your road by the police before they could get out.

It is pretty sad what is going on in the world now, and it is going to be very difficult to stop the school shootings.
I just love what you are doing, and I just finished making 88 1/4 pound packs of buffalo hamburger and putting them in the freezer for my next three months of food! I have been eating your buffalo every day for a number of years now, and it is the best and safest meat on the planet for sure.

Here’s to no more robberies or intrusions on your ranch.
May the blessings be.
Love, Don

Lisa Wheeler

March 05, 2018

Part of putting things back together is sometimes tidying and putting things in a familiar place. Glad you stand in solidarity with the families, we all need each other to make it through this kind of stuff.

Doug Lee

March 05, 2018

Feeling mad, disgusted and sick about this violation Dan. It just leaves an awful pit in our stomach. Be wary but don’t let fear rule. So sorry. Praying for peace in your home.

Bob Jones

March 05, 2018

I grew up in the inner City Of Newark, I saw the effects guns had of people of all colors. As I grieve for your loss and for the families in Parkland. To be able to protect ones self and family is of utmost importance to me. We must look at this situation without overacting and come up with a solution that will protect our kids, schools, and families.

Valerie Shaw

March 05, 2018

So very sorry to hear this. BUT, thank God Shiner is okay. I can’t even imagine what you were feeling when you walked into your home. Bless you and your fur-baby Shiner!!


March 05, 2018

Thankfully no one was hurt, especially Shiner. It’s terrible how someone can do such a thing and change the lives of so many people! Forever!! your life has changed and can never go back to the way it was!! The kinds at Parkland will never forget this tragedy and neither will your family for the violation some anonymous person did by invading your home. We live in a quiet neighborhood, no worries until some stranger made himself too comfortable around our homes, now neighbors and I feel unsafe! I asked my husband to set up our alarm system. You just never know what intent someone has against you? God Bless you, keep you and family safe.

Lee Myers

March 05, 2018

May the act of writing ease the pain.

David Hicks

March 05, 2018

A dear family friend, Putt Weatherbee, had a similar experience on his pecan farm in Albany GA last year; however, he was home. A group of four pr five shot him five times and left Putt for dead. He lived and is paralyzed from the waist down but is doing very well. His wife and daughters were devastated. They wanted his guns apparently which were shotguns used for bird hunting. I heard it may have been a gang initiation ritual – in Albany, GA.

Norma J Skjold

March 05, 2018

I agree about the act of writing. Writing heals a person’s wounds and pain in many of the same ways that prayer does. Writing helps you make art out of pain and prayer lets you offer it up as a gift to that higher power I choose to call God, where Justice Will Be Done. It’s not all up to us. We just have to not rob the guy back.

Pat Wood

March 05, 2018

So sorry about the violent invasion and loss of possessions; at least they didn’t shoot your dog with your gun – curious to me: I have never seen so much response to any other of your posts (I read all that you write). Troubling, though, is no one is worried about your old gun being used by these intruders – might it now be used to kill someone? someone else’s dog? or one of their own family members? Please – lock your new gun away, and don’t let anyone know where it is…peace to you and your family.

Anjanette Kalb

March 06, 2018

I am terribly sorry for your loss. Having had a similar experience, I know what it is to lose that feeling of safety. I only hope that you and your family will keep your selves happy and safe, but sadly wiser. Don’t lose your faith in your fellow man completely because of this. That, too, would be horribly tragic.

And thank you for your understanding for the Parkland survivors. They need it badly.


March 06, 2018

I read this disturbing account of your break-in a few days ago and it has haunted me since then. Today, I was considering your speculation - Meth Heads? - and I was moved to act. I’ve just made a donation to an organization fighting meth addiction in South Dakota. MAMA — Mothers Against Meth Alliance is a grassroots organization run by Julee Richards, whose daughter fell victim to meth. Despite threats and harassment, she fights to raise awareness and stop the meth dealing.


March 07, 2018

Sorry that happened to you and I hope the authorities catch all who are involved. That being said, and not to be a horses behind, but where was Erney? If his place is a short walk from yours, and it’s as remote as you indicate, your quote that he hadn’t seen Shiner or “anything all day” somehow makes me feel differently about the situation. How does something like that happen without his knowledge? Just a question and not an accusation.

jill / Wild Idea Buffalo Co.

March 07, 2018

Jeff – Ernie is hard of hearing and always has his TV on very loud. You can also not see the house form his cabin.

Mrs. Baker

March 08, 2018

My sympathies are extended to you for the shocking robbery. It is always disconcerting to have strangers intruding into our home, touching our precious keepsakes, violating our sense of safety, carrying off the phones and tvs and computers and often very precious objects of little financial value but great personal significance.

I have lived and traveled in Alaska, a land where the subsistence lifestyle is practiced in deadly earnest, in remote villages accessible only by plane or barge and there is as much crime there as I encountered in San Francisco. As a young adult I learned never to bother putting in a light bulb on the front porch in my apartment in the area around the SF Medical Center – it would disappear during the first night.

Decades later I learned to live with the theft of potted plants from my garden in the Sierra foothills, knowing the thief would someday discover I had written “Stolen from the garden of…..” on the bottom of the pot in permanent form.

Crime against us as property owners feels ghastly. But real, terrible tragedy like the waste of a precious life is strangely numbing. The enormity is too large to grasp, the anger too exhausting, the sheer sense of loss so heavy…. it is a bridge over which many of us will not be asked to pass.

As a teacher I have wondered why I know of so many deaths of children from guns. Not a simultaneous mass of them as in Florida, but individual deaths, each inexplicable, each a tragedy, some as accidents, some as suicides, some with an unknowable cause and all of them leaving a fractured family, a completely changed home, a group of people left feeling not just the loss but THE loss, the most horrible loss a human can feel – the loss of one who is still so loved and so missed.

I cannot ever understand why those sad things happen but I have decided to see the emotions felt inside as God’s voice calling me to action, to take up our human true calling and to be the miracle workers we must be to turn the bad that happens to us into something good.

By seeing bad events as an invitation to the miracle, our reactions can be realigned to a balance, to the possibility of a transformation of grief into a sense of purpose.

And the greatest part is the way everytime we perform even the smallest part of the miracle, even the very smallest piece, that part stays done. That part is the eternal that we can believe we are leaving behind.

All bad events leave God’s voice – God’s invitation to each of us, in our own unique ability to hear, to transform what seems endless pain into endless hope.

Let the beauty of your home, the strength of your stewardship, the love of family and friends bring back the joy you deserve.


March 27, 2018

I’m sorry you have had to go through this, it’s hard to lose one’s trust in our fellow man. I don’t live down a long road but much closer to a town. The person that came onto my property deprived me of my best friend. Sweetie had been a big part of my life for 8 years and like Shiner I keep expecting to hear her walk across the hardwood floors. A stranger came onto my property, shot my dog, and then took her, leaving me with nothing but blood in the snow. How do I ever feel safe here again, how do I regain my trust in others?


April 02, 2018

Feeling solidarity with crime victims does not in any way negate one’s right to self-defense, and way out here when seconds count, help is not just minutes away…sometimes HOURS! I would not want to be home alone and unarmed if something like that happened, although most thieves around here wish to avoid violence,(mostly because this is a right to carry state) and take advantage of the owner’s absence.

Sorry for your material losses, but at least you and your family are unharmed.

Linda M. Hasselstrom

April 07, 2018

I just found this today, and of course am shocked, horrified, infuriated and— and armed. But so were you. I hate knowing this, and of course that’s one of the reasons you wrote it: because we can’t just take our lives for granted because we are smart and alert and armed and live clear out here. And as much as we hate it, we need to be reminded of that. But now what? I don’t want to start distrusting my fellow humans, as some of the commenters above said they will do. I’m horrified at the responses in which people told you all about the problems they have had, and yet have to acknowledge that part of the experience has to be knowing that someone else has felt the same way. That’s why we write— to put on paper the kinds of feelings many people have. And readers read to discover how beautifully we express their own fears and hopes and dreams. Call or email if you want to talk about this. I hope you are writing about it. Suddenly the landscape does not seem nearly so beautiful as it did this morning.


April 15, 2018

You would think, as far out as you live, you would never expect a thief to “drop in.” It took effort, and total lack of respect. What makes people do that?

Once after a burglar broke in, tossed my house, and took the telly, good jewelry (leaving the costume jewelry), a victims’ advocate called a couple days later to see how I was doing, and to advise me to be watchful and careful. I replied, “Thank you for your advice, but these people were IN MY (locked) HOUSE. How will I ever really feel safe again?”

Had similar feeling following the Columbine shooting, when our entire Denver community was faced with someone killing our children. Who is safe, if not our children in school? Who is safe, if peace loving Amish kids are slaughtered in their school house? You know there has been a change when your ten year old grandtwins laugh about how ridiculous their teacher is to carry a baseball bat when they’re doing lock down practice?

Life in these United States has indeed changed…or, perhaps, our awareness has been heightened.
Be safe out there…glad your pup was uninjured.

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