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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.

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76 comments

  • 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.

    Bob Jones
  • 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.

    Doug Lee
  • 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.

    Lisa Wheeler
  • 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

    Don Meyer
  • 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.

    Peggy
  • 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.

    Margaret Wilkerson
  • 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.

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

    cc in montana
  • 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.

    Xavier Pastor
  • 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.

    Jane Baile
  • 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.

    BLAKE O'QUINN
  • ’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.

    David L. Newquist
  • 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.

    Monica Van der Vieren
  • 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.

    Wever Weed
  • 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..

    Doug Lassey

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