BURNS, OREGON — Grandfather of four Robert Saunders says he was just out to check on some young burrowing owls at the crack of dawn this morning when he was confronted by a “red-faced pudgy man with a big gun”.
And things got physical when Saunders refused the barked orders to halt and identify himself.
But it wasn’t the retired teacher who ended up on the ground.
“Well heck, one second he was warming his hands by this kind of puny little fire and the next second he was running at me and shouting to get down on the ground,” Saunders told reporters gathered near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“Made me mad really. It’s public property and here this guy is acting all big and tough and pushy.”
“I don’t swear much at all but I told him to screw right off and that made him really angry. He started yelling right into my face — his breath was…well, pee you…it smelled like beer and maybe salami sausages or something.”“So I said there was no darn way I was getting down on the ground and he poked me in the shoulder — so, yeah, I did a leg take-down. Didn’t know I even remembered that old move. Did it without even thinking about it. Haha.”
“He landed pretty hard on his back and I could tell he was winded because he started moaning and trying to suck air into his lungs. And that was that.”
An FBI spokesperson at the entrance to the refuge told reporters that this is the first reported instance of any conflict between the occupying militant group and locals but warned that things could escalate quickly as other armed militants continue to arrive by the truckload.
“We’re hoping this is an isolated incident and we’re asking the elderly not to knock any more militants on their ass,” said the grinning FBI agent.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward appealed for calm among local citizens and the nearly 400 bird watchers who have come to the area promising to drive the militants out of the refuge that is home to dozens of species of birds including owls, white pelicans, sandhill cranes, and yellow-bellied black birds.
“I hope I didn’t hurt the man…well, his pride maybe,” said Saunders from his small bungalow in the nearby town of Burns, population 2,700.
“When I left to go check on the owls, he was still curled up in a ball on the ground.”
“The owls are fine but maybe these guys should just go home.”
Reportering for The Lapine