Roland waved me down off the beach. Seems as if I was crossing into an army training area – the SWAT guys were out on sniper training, firing live rounds into the beach. His job was to wave down passing vehicles and divert them from the combat zone. I wasn’t so easily diverted, but his radio told me I’d have to wait 45 minutes until the firing stopped. I dropped my bag and pulled out my harmonica.
Roland was a contractor, not a cop. He’d driven up from a town 180 miles to the south where he worked in security. He spent most of his day up here texting alone in his truck, interrupted only occasionally by passing vehicles. Not too many hikers passing through here: ”usually the Oregon State Police guys stop their training to let hikers through, but these SWAT guys are assholes.”
He told me he was thinking of moving to Canada with his new wife and asked if Canadians could carry guns; his pride and joy was his gun collection, although he’d recently had to sell most of it to pay the medical costs incurred after he’d been hit by a car while working as a missionary in Detroit. ”Some guy pulled up onto the sidewalk to hit me. The doctors had to put two titanium pins in my shoulder. It cost me 35 grand, and I had insurance!” I assured him that, even if he couldn’t get his gun collection into Canada, he probably wouldn’t have had to pay that much for medical care. Anyway, he said, he’d had a good experience in Detroit, although he couldn’t see himself going back there anytime soon. Lots of trouble with gangs and drugs, and once or twice he stumbled over dead bodies in his back alleyway. Learned a lot, though.
I told him a few stories from travelling, and he wondered how I could afford to pay for my trips. I motioned to my backpack and said that I didn’t own a house or a car, and that I didn’t have a gun collection. His radio buzzed and I had permission to walk on; the snipers were breaking for lunch. I stuck close to the dunes for the next two miles, just in case.