Notes from the Canyon

Lyle Johnson
Grand is truly the right word to describe the canyon at the South Rim.

Photos by Lyle Johnson


Ponies: Wild mustangs graze the prairies along the road to Four Corners Monument in Arizona.

Grand canyon: Grand is truly the right word to describe the canyon at the South Rim.

Deer: One of the three deer that visited us at our hotel in Tombstone.

This week we headed out to Santa Fe, NM for a day before heading to Tombstone, AZ. The scenery on the road trip there was awesome, but we only saw 3 antelope. We rode through a lot of desert so our expectations weren’t too high as far as wildlife was concerned.

Tombstone is the sight of the Shootout at the OK Corral except it didn’t really happen at the OK Corral. Hollywood takes liberties in almost everything it produces, even history. It happened near the corral but not in it. The outcome is accurate. Billy Clanton along with the McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom were gunned down on that fateful day.

The history is awesome, and I would recommend a visit there if you would be in the area. We saw the reenactment of the gunfight along with a stage coach ride that took us all around the town to visit the historical spots as well as informing us of the history of one of the wildest and richest towns ever in the wild west.

We had a couple of great burgers at the Crystal Palace Saloon where Morgan Earp, Wyatt’s younger brother was gunned down while shooting pool. Our other stop for eating was Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Kate was “Doc” Holliday’s girl, but she didn’t get her name from having a big nose. She got it from sticking it in everybody else’s business.

Boot Hill was one of the coolest spots as the three folks that were killed at the shootout are buried there along with a lot of other historical people that lived and died in Tombstone; some good, some not so good. We were treated by a visit from three mule deer one morning as I went out to drink a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise. They walked in the hotel’s rock trail about 20 ft. from our bench and stopped to take a look at us.

The rest of this portion of our trip included visits to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and The Arches National Park and the Four Corners Monument in Arizona. There’s a marker there where the corners of four states touch: Arizona, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. Along the road we saw many wild mustangs that still survive because of protection laws.

We also made a stop at Doc Holliday's grave site in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Doc had tuberculosis and moved to Glenwood with the belief that the hot springs there would cure him. The springs actually quickened his death.

While on this portion of our trip, two things gave me a new perspective. The first is a new respect for the word Grand. The 277-mile-long and 18-miles-wide (at its widest point) Canyon is truly Grand. The other is a new appreciation of the folks that headed west to help settle our nation. I can’t imagine what they experienced as the crossed this vast expanse of land on horses and wagons. The United States of America has spectacular places for us to visit. I stand in awe of God’s creation and its majesty.

A little closer to home we have some great news as it relates to a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agent that was shot in the line of duty while on patrol on the Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area in Ouachita Parish back in May of 2015.

Sgt. Scott Bullitt, 32, of Jonesboro, along with another agent stopped a vehicle at the end of Buckley Hill Road near the Wham Break Boat Launch. Sgt. Bullitt believed the occupants of the vehicle to be impaired and proceeded to go back to the LDWF patrol vehicle.

While walking back to his vehicle, Sgt. Bullitt was shot in the lower back by the passenger of the vehicle, later identified as Luke Jarrod Hust, 29, of Monroe. The other agent returned fire. Hust fled the scene into the woods.

The unwounded agent was able to call for help and apprehend the driver of the vehicle, whom authorities don’t believe fired any shots at this time. The driver was subsequently brought in for questioning.

Sgt. Bullitt has been an LDWF agent for over five years and is married with no kids. He recently received the “Louisiana Highway Safety Commission DWI Award” presented on March 24. He was selected among statewide agents to receive this award due to his dedication and hard work to make Louisiana waterways and roadways safer for the traveling public by removing impaired drivers.

"This is a sad day for all wildlife and fisheries agents in the country," said Col. Broussard, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. "Our agents travel into remote areas patrolling public lands often, and it can be a very dangerous task as we saw tonight. My thoughts at this time are with Sgt. Bullitt and his family and also the brave men and women that contributed to catching the shooter."

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law on May 31 in Baton Rouge that will provide full retirement benefits to a shot Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enforcement agent and other hazardous duty members.

House Representative Terry Brown of District 22 authored House Bill 37 that will provide full Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System (LASERS) benefits to hazardous duty members that are totally and permanently disabled in the line of duty by an intentional act of violence. LDWF's own Scott Bullitt will qualify for the full LASERS retirement benefits because of this bill.

Bullitt, originally from Grant Parish, had been an agent for over five years when he was shot in the line of duty on May 21, 2015 in Ouachita Parish. Bullitt has been confined to a wheelchair since the shooting and was unable to return to regular LDWF agent duties.

"This law was a top priority within the department's legislative package since it directly affected one of our agents and to show Scott how much the department valued his service," said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. "We are happy for Scott, and honored that this law will be of assistance to all enforcement and other law enforcement personnel. I thank Representative Brown, the legislature, and Governor John Bel Edwards for making this happen."

Bullitt's shooter, Luke Hust, was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 27, 2016 in Ouachita Parish.

"I can't describe how thankful I am for this bill becoming law," said Bullitt. "Not only will it help me, but in the tragic event that this happens again other agents won't have to worry about being taken care of retirement wise."

Remember to take out the slack and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!!

Lyle Johnson is the President of the Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association.