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There's an "armed and dangerous" man running loose in our woods.  He shot an officer out on the coast during a traffic stop.  That officer is still in critical condition in a Portland Hospital.  The shooter, dressed in homemade camos, continued south on Hwy 101 until he was stopped by spike strips in the little community at the end of our road, where the river that runs through our little valley meets the ocean.

When the spike strips stopped his truck, he jumped out and ran into the woods.  His best friend, his dog Huckleberry, ran off in another direction and was found injured, roaming the highway a day later.  Described by his friends as an "avid outdoorsman", he seems to be someone with superior skills at surviving and navigating through rough terrain.  His friends say that his behavior had recently become increasingly paranoid, particularly about government and law enforcement being out to get him.

The house to house searches by multiple SWAT teams failed to find him and after several days, most of the SWAT teams pulled out of that community.  Being right on the coast, there are only three ways out of town, the coast road north, the coast road south, and the road that goes into the mountains and leads directly to our little village.

Our dogs have been going crazy every night.  Could be a possum.  Could be an armed and dangerous man slinking through the woods, hiding in our barn, raiding the well-stocked pantry in the dairy buidling.  Sure we lock the front door at night but the axe and splitting maul are sitting on the front porch, next to the chopping block, and could easily be used to smash the door in and attack us.

I keep imagining what I would say to him, survival strategies if he were to invade our home.  I make sure I have leftovers in the fridge so I could offer to feed him, make him more at ease, gain his trust a little.  This is so silly I almost can't even tell my husband I'm thinking like this... but hey, the man NEVER locks the door and the door to the house was locked when I got home from town yesterday evening.  He was inside alone (except for a couple of dogs) so I guess even he is being more cautious.

Yesterday, I began thinking about this wonderful little slice of paradise where we live.  A true community of about 600 families.  One school that goes pre-K through HS.  When there was no money for a new Rural Health Clinic, we all got together, found grants and built one.  Then we tackled the library, now we have a wonderful new library, built by all of us.  A friend and I had organized a fundraiser for our little local foodbank outside our Mercantile and on Sunday just about everyone in town stopped by the store during the day.  We sold cakes, cookies, homemade bread, took in cans and cash donations, visited, gossiped and speculated about the armed and dangerous man out in our woods.  Almost everyone agreed he was headed our way.

I've been here almost 20 years and I'm still a new-comer.  But I realized that in those 20 years, there have been so many murders, suicides, shootings, abductions.  They happen randomly and infrequently so it's easy to pay attention and then dismiss them as just part of the fabric of daily life.... until you begin to add them up.  I started a list... beginning with the grisly murder that happened just before I moved here.  Then the gay love triangle shooting.  Then the one legged woman who drove her truck into the river at the boat launch after she and her boyfriend had a fight while tweaking.

The old man who walked between his house out in the woods 20 miles from town and the Merc once or twice a month... whenever I'd see him I'd pick him up and drive him wherever he was going.... he got sick... er... sicker and shot himself.  That reminded me of the 14 year old girl who helped me milk the goats when we first got here, who told me that they bought their beautiful 200 acre farm, across the road from mine, after the elderly owner blew his brains out in the bathroom.  The blood was still on the walls when they moved in.  My list was growing.

Then there was the returning Iraq soldier who shot his father while his little sister was in the other room.  They also lived way, way out of town. She managed to hide in the woods until the sheriffs arrived.  She was a popular honor student in 9th grade.  This was meth related also.

A few years later, there were two murders, down the road, not too far out of town but on an isolated property where weed was being grown or had been grown.  Grandparents owned the property but never came around so the dimwitted grandson cooked up this scheme with two friends and then killed the two friends. There was another suicide that summer too.  That was so sad because his girlfriend and parents knew he had driven out this way to kill himself in the woods and they were combing every back road looking for his car.  Two days later they found it on a logging road.

My list is getting longer and longer.  I decided to add "Mad Mike" who went off his meds and was abusive and threatening to EVERYONE and "Crazy Earl" who went off his meds and was abusive and threatening to his family before taking off into the woods and starting multiple fires before being apprehended.  Neither one died but they both sure rocked the community on it's ear for awhile.

Last summer, they raided a drug house in the larger town over the mountain and were then led to a property just down the road from me.  Fifteen caged fighting pitbulls, underfed and abandoned were found along with more drug stuff. We knew we'd heard unfamiliar dogs barking at night but didn't know where it was coming from.  Two summers before that, my son's friend was in the woods with his two small girls and a "tracking" dog when he stumbled on an illegal "grow" and was shot.  The bullet missed vital organs and the gun jammed so he picked up the two kids and ran.  1500 plants and two illegal garden tenders rounded up in the aftermath of that.  That was on the next ridge over from the one behind our place.

When I drove over to the Foodbank to drop off the bushels of donated food and the cash from the bakesale, I ran into a man who has written about this community for various local papers over the years and he reminded me of the dad who slaughtered his entire family and dumped their bodies in bays up and down the coast, the youngest victims ending up in the Bay not too far from us.  We talked about four suicides in the last two years, the most noteworthy a popular minister who had lived all his life with his elderly parents.  First they died within months of each other.  Then he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease.  Then he was gone.  He used to run the post office when the postmaster went on vacation.  He was well known to everyone and very loved.  People understood but were still devastated.

This gentleman told me that our First Responders, all volunteers, have dealt with so many violent deaths that they are traumatized and counselors are being brought in to help with PTSD issues.

Now there's an armed and dangerous man roaming in our woods, possibly headed right this way.

Originally posted to on Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 10:08 AM PST.

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