Is it just me, or does there seem to be way fewer rifle racks adorning the back windows of pickup trucks these days? As in almost none. It’s like folks are embarrassed about owning rifles or being hunters and shooters. Used to be standard equipment any time of the year if you owned a pickup truck – like mud flaps. Don’t see many of those anymore either. Those were both adornment and a public service for other folks to keep rocks out of peoples’ windshields.

As far as that goes, has anyone seen a two-wheel drive pickup lately? Maybe I’m just getting older than I realized, but I remember when every truck on main street had a brace of rifles or maybe a shotgun or two hanging in rear window racks and, at least half of those trucks were two-wheel drive units. These days, if you see a rifle in the rear window of someone’s truck, it’s probably one of those Modern Sporting Rifles (AR-15 clone), the black rifles all the Democrats are so afraid of.

I guess it could be chancy to hang a firearm unchaperoned in your vehicle’s window nowadays, locked or not. I remember when my good friend Charlie Melke, who was a big game guide and a mountain man cut from the old cloth, had his model 94 Winchester rifle stolen from his truck. If I remember correctly that rifle was chambered in .32 Winchester Special. The theft of his rifle took place while his locked truck was parked a half block north of the Irma intersection.

Charlie was one of the most laid-back individuals I’ve known and also one of the most powerful, as pertains to physical strength. At over 6 feet tall, built like a beer keg with legs and sporting a full beard, he looked the part and was. He wasn’t very mellow that afternoon though.

If memory serves, it was early in the evening when Charlie discovered that some jerk had busted the side window of his old truck, reached in and grabbed that battered old Winchester. That upset him a bunch, but what made Charlie hopping-mad was when the young cop investigating the theft told him it was his own fault for displaying the rifle in the rear window rack.

Aside from being physically built like a beer keg on legs, Charlie didn’t look like much, social status-wise, usually wearing his work clothes most everywhere he went. He didn’t put on airs, or act like a hero, but he was. He’d served in the fabled “brown water Navy” in “Nam” and piloted small craft filled with genuine Navy Seals on missions up and down those fetid canals and rivers while sometimes taking heavy fire. And that was before most of America knew anything about the Seals and their effectiveness in kicking butt over there.

That said, Charlie Melke was one of the best men I ever met and I just know he had a heck of a time holding his tongue while being berated by that youngster of a cop. In my book, he’d earned the right to explain proper respect to that young cop, and maybe he did. Knowing Charlie, he probably held his tongue. But, as I remember, the whole affair was a sore spot with Charlie for a long time. Plus, he really liked that rifle.

Anyway, noticing the shortage of rifles displayed in window racks the other day led me down that trail of forgotten memories and I just thought I’d share that with you. As for Charlie, he went hunting on the other side of the divide some years ago and Charlie, wherever you are, I hope you’re packing that old Winchester again.

That said, I’ll change horses here for the remainder of this effort. As in telling you readers about the annual fundraiser and banquet put on each year by the Wyoming Outdoorsman at Riley Arena. This year it was scheduled for Saturday, April 4, 2020, with doors opening at 4 p.m. and dinner being served around 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought at various locations locally and will set you back $60 for adults and $30 for youths.

Don’t let that price discourage you as it includes membership to the Wyoming Outdoorsmen and a prime rib dinner. Plus, you may get it back as there’s a $500 cash drawing for those present and a virtual smorgasbord of drawings for the youngsters, plus games and raffles and a silent auction. These folks know how to put on a party everyone can enjoy.

What with all this virus scare going around and several events being cancelled until the threat passes, you’d probably better call Don Frame at (307) 349-5690 or Jay Jochim at (307) 899-6077 and check on whether or not the date is still good. And folks, even if they had to cancel the event on account of this coronavirus thing, they are worth your support.

This annual dinner event, replete with auctions, door prizes and drawings, is how they raise money to sponsor all of the civic events and hunting-related projects they support. Unlike some other so-called sportsman organizations, the money they raise stays in our area, to benefit our sportsmen and women. Since their money trail extends outward to help our folks, not inward to help themselves like some so-called conservation organizations, they’re the only outdoor organization I’ll support these days.

So, in the event of a cancellation, consider sending the organization a check for a healthy donation so they can carry on their good work. This is a solid way to support the one local pro-hunting organization that I feel is out there working for all our interests.

And, as far as whoever stole Charlie’s rifle, I hope it blew up on you. It’s just too bad Charlie didn’t catch you in the act. Or maybe that’s a good thing for both of you, you know?

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