A Twelve Year-old's Backcountry

BBGun picBy BHA Development Associate, Grant Alban


Monday through Friday, the bus dropped me off at the bottom of my street in the suburbs of Southern California.  I’d shuffle home, throw down my backpack and head straight to the kitchen to cook up a couple packets of Ramen.  Once I had eaten those, I’d head to the garage, grab my Daisy Powerline 880 BB/Pellet gun and jog past the two houses that separated my house from what seemed like endless wilderness (but what was actually only about 500 acres surrounded by a highway and a busy road).  The terrain was full of washes and coulees, covered with chaparral and occasional cactus.  I kept to the interior, avoiding the ridgelines that offered views of traffic whizzing by.  It was wild country, full of coyotes and cottontails, squirrels and burrowing owls. With my trusty gun loaded and pumped to the max, I was ready to release a little copper BB at 685 feet per second to any game that crossed my path. 


Alone out here in my own personal backcountry, I was free to explore the land on my terms.  I rolled rabbit turds between my fingers, trying to determine how fresh they were.  I learned the location of different bird nests and watched the residents come and go.  I remember being completely in the moment when I was out there.  School was miles away, soccer practice off the radar-- but that bleached-out weasel skull lying in the scrub caught my eye.  I knew the ground intimately and cherished it.

Now when I return home, I drive by my lost wilderness and see cul-de-sacs and homes.  Endless homes.  The animals are gone and so are the coulees and washes the held something exciting under every stone.  As sad as it is to see my secret place lost, I like to imagine some new resident of the area digging in their garden and coming across a BB in the soil, thinking about what the land used to be. 

About Grant Alban

Communications professional, conservation advocate, writer, angler. Love to run up mountains and spend time in wilderness. Work + play in Missoula, MT.

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