Biff America: And forgive us our trespassers
VAIL CO, Colorado
“No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.”
Dang, that doesn’t leave you much wiggle room. But on the plus side, if you wait long enough laws do change. In my lifetime I’ve seen our nation go from one where interracial marriages were forbidden but lawn darts were legal. I am a firm believer that anyone, of any sex, should be allowed to marry – but if they want my lawn darts they will have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands.
I will admit to occasionally fracturing the law. I hasten to add, I never drive while impaired, speed or drive aggressively – In fact I’ve been pulled over for driving too slowly.
But I have strayed from the legal boundaries in terms to some of my past and present lifestyle practices. I also have been known to ignore the laws of the land in regard to fireworks, potato cannons and returning dog waste to the front steps of the offending cur’s home.
One law I try not to break is trespassing; when I see “No Trespassing” signs I respect them.
It was for that reason while skiing in southern Colorado last spring I insisted that we go the long way around to access a peak. We could see on the map a sliver of a private parcel that the trail circumnavigated to access public lands.
It was barely 6 a.m. when we skied next to a buck-and-rail fence with ‘No Trespassing’ signs every 10 feet. We passed a well-worn short cut that climbed within a few feet of a “Keep Out” sign and entered the property. My mate wanted to follow it, but I insisted that to go around would only add about 30 minutes to our day.
We passed the home and driveway. It was huge and looked unoccupied. In front was a bronze sculpture of two elk humping.
We paralleled a fence line for about a quarter mile before we curved back and traversed the high side of the property, for another quarter mile, with the ever present “Keep out” signs.
Once we got around the private in-holding, the route to the summit was fairly straight forward. From the high point we could see the sun reflecting off the big home below. We could also grasp what a round-about course we were forced to take.
The ski down was near perfect. The natural line brought us right to the fence with the ubiquitous “No Trespassing” signs. We stopped just above the illegal track we had seen below crossing the private property. We had two choices, go back the way we came – about a half mile on a road – or sneak across the private property for about the length of a football field.
It appeared that the route was well used and the house was barely a speck in the distance, so we made about 50 turns in a glade with widely spaced aspen for about 100 yards.
We were back to our truck when the Hummer pulled up. It had two faded “W” stickers on the front bumper; I hoped they stood for welcome.
The window rolled and I heard, “Don’t tell me you didn’t see those no trespassing sings.”
I knew I was busted and wrong; the apology came easy. “Sorry Dude. Yes I did see the signs, but I didn’t think anyone was home and the skiing through that meadow looked so fun, temptation got the better of me. Again, sorry about that.” (In retrospect calling him “Dude” was a mistake; but to me it is a term of endearment.)
While apologizing, it dawned on me that only way he could have known we encroached was when we entered his lands from above, about 500 yards from his home. After that we were out of sight. He would have had to have used binoculars to spy on us and then jumped in his Hummer once he saw us cross onto his land. This guy had too much time on his hands. That certainly did not make it OK to do what we did, but it did give me some insight of the landowner’s mindset.
Sometimes when I do something stupid I can see myself doing it in an out of body experience.
I should have just stopped talking, instead I heard myself saying, “By the looks of all the tracks, we are not the first to trespass. And since the trail passes so far away from your home wouldn’t it be easier just to allow skiers and hikers to cross your land to access the peak?”
His answer was more of a shout, “Because the land is mine! I paid for it! And I don’t want people like you trespassing! Is that a good enough reason for you … DUDE?”
There was no point in arguing with that guy. He and I would never see eye to eye on the matter. I fault myself, I should have apologized and left it at that.
The sad part was nothing was resolved and both of us went away angry. He was angry that we had disregarded his property rights; we were disgusted because we felt he was being selfish. Truth is, we were both correct. The law was on his side, the sweet turns on ours.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.