One day in the summer of 2012, I was investigating some boundary evidence that our field crews had surveyed on a farm. The farm was about to be bought by a private foundation to be turned over to the National Park Service, Gettysburg National Military Park.
One boundary adjoined a campground, where they stabled and pastured horses that they used to give tours of the battlefield. Another corner in particular was not found, but the crews had located a large tree with old barbed wire embedded into its trunk. I needed to look around for some other evidence.
As I walked along the line adjacent to the campground, I stepped into the tree line to look for other evidence of old wire grown into the trees. I heard gunshots, which sounded like they were in the direction of the corner where I intended to go. It was pretty clear that the shots emanated from the campground property and not the farm that was being surveyed. The sounds of the gunfire seemed to be about 200 yards in front of me, so I wasn’t too concerned.
It was summer so I assumed someone was killing a varmint, either a groundhog or snake. The shooting continued as I covered another 100 yards, and I began to think that someone was shooting targets. But I couldn’t understand why they would be doing that on the campground property where families were staying in campers and tents.
I suddenly heard what sounded like a bullet hitting some branches in the tree line, which was about 25 feet to my right. As I went on guard and started looking through the trees to see who was shooting and where this was coming from, another shot rang out as I heard a bullet whistle past my ear and hit some brush in front of me.
I hit the dirt and yelled that there were people “up here.” There were a few more shots, and I hollered as loud as I could in the direction of the shooter. When the shooting stopped, I walked quickly toward my vehicle and drove to the campground store and office to alert them of a shooter on their property.
They explained that the owner lived back in that corner of the property and that he had built a shooting range where the local police were invited to come and practice with their handguns. They called him on the radio and told him of my report; he replied that he would be there in a few minutes.
When the owner arrived on a golf cart, I could see that he dressed like a western sheriff. He introduced himself and allowed me to do the same. When I told him of my duties in surveying the property next to his and reminded him that we had mailed a letter to inform them of the survey, he thought for a minute and said, “Yeah, I got your letter, but you said you would call me to let me know when you were coming out.”
I said, “No, the letter informed you of the survey that would be performed, and it stated that you could call us if you had any questions or wished to meet our crew on the site.”
He was very doubtful of the story that I was telling him, not even accepting the fact that I had heard a bullet. He told me about how the backstop was all dirt and that is was 15 feet high, etc. I asked if someone had been shooting there in the past 30 minutes, and he confirmed that there was someone back there shooting. Then he offered to show me his range.
I looked at the backstop, and it was built for safety just as he said. I don’t know how the bullets got to where I was, but my conclusion was that the shooter (who had left by now) fired in the wrong direction and not directly into the backstop. Or the shooter was probably off the range and shooting at random targets.
The owner allowed me to walk through his patch of woods into the corner that I wanted to investigate. We left with a disagreement about what had happened, but I was just happy that my life was spared, and I didn’t get shot!
Eric Gladhill, PLS, is a senior client manager at C.S. Davidson Inc, in their Gettysburg office. This is an excerpt from his book. Its working title, “Finding My Boundaries (Interesting People I’ve Met While Surveying).”
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of POB magazine.