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Get Out Of My Line Of Fire

C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, recounts a story of how his mother and stepfather (Gresham refers to Lewis as “Jack”)  confronted a trespasser on their property during a walk.  I had to laugh out loud for the initial politeness followed by nerves of steel.

We were walking up the hill into the woods, my mother carrying her little “garden gun”, which she used to scare pigeons off our vegetables and trespassers out of our woods, when the two of them, some distance ahead of me, were accosted by a young man with a bow and a quiver of arrows. “Excuse me,” said Jack politely, “this is private land and you really shouldn’t be here. Would you please leave?” The young man’s response was to nock an arrow to the string and draw the bow, pointing it at them. Jack stepped in front of my mother to shield her, and stood there for a few seconds until he heard her say, in tones of chilled steel: “God damn it, Jack, get out of my line of fire!” Whereupon Jack stepped swiftly sideways, leaving the young man staring down the barrel of a gun. He took off rapidly.

Moral of the story:  If you ignore polite requests to cease doing something illegal, all bets are off as to how polite the next request will be.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lkb November 29, 2010, 5:41 am

    Good story. I think in the U.S. though, Mrs. Lewis may have gotten herself into legal trouble by carrying a gun. The archer, if he was stupid enough to do so, could have filed assault charges. Dumb, I know, but possible.

  • PrincessSimmi November 29, 2010, 6:58 am

    Good illustration. And well said.

  • MamaToreen November 29, 2010, 7:45 am

    Now THAT is how a true lady handles a threat!!!!

  • Leah November 29, 2010, 8:11 am

    Ikb, given that Lewis died in 1963 and this story likely took place roughly 10 to 20 years before then, not to mention the archer made the first threatening maneuver, any police involvement would have ended with a pat on Lewis’ back for marrying such a capable woman.

  • Jennifer November 29, 2010, 8:26 am

    Actually, in the U.S., it is rarely illegal to carry a firearm on private property, especially since this sounds like a rural situation in which case city limit laws wouldn’t apply as well. There is a huge difference between self-defense and assault which has been upheld in many court cases.

  • Elizabeth B November 29, 2010, 8:36 am

    @Ikb- actually many states in the U.S. allow her behavior if it is on her property and he is trespassing.

    I loved the story. Gave me a good laugh.

  • Giles November 29, 2010, 8:39 am

    @ Ikb, I think the law varies by state, but aren’t you allowed to carry a gun around your own property? Aiming a bow at someone is definitely a threat, and it would very likely be justifiable force to aim a gun back at them.

    My father’s an avid hunter and when he was away he’s keep one of his rifles (unloaded, with the ammo locked away upstairs) under the bed. My mother used it to surprise one very, very sorry robber one night who got away with about two dollars in change and a hell of a lesson.

  • Rosie November 29, 2010, 8:54 am

    Loved this story. I think the gun was probably a BB gun and I don’t think those are illegal.

  • Gena November 29, 2010, 8:58 am

    In most parts of the US, you can carry a gun on your own property, and you have the right to defend it and yourself. Besides, if he pointed the arrow at them, he was threatening them and in the southeast where I live, I doubt he would have made it out alive.

  • Paula November 29, 2010, 9:07 am

    I have always adored CS Lewis, and I think here, I just also fell in love with his wife!

  • Sarah November 29, 2010, 9:15 am

    BRILLIANT! I love it.

  • Just Laura November 29, 2010, 9:16 am

    What legal trouble? I can’t think of a state where a licensed person can’t carry a gun on their own property, and if someone owns land, unlicensed guns (i.e. shotguns) are allowed for hunting or protection of livestock. There was no assault here as that gentleman was not only trespassing, but also pointed his weapon first.

  • Undecided November 29, 2010, 9:18 am

    lkb- carrying a gun, unconcealed, on your own property isn’t illegal in the U.S. if you have a permit. That would make it illegal to have a gun at all if you couldn’t have it at home. The laws vary from state to state on the specifics, but I’m also pretty sure that no archer is going to go to the cops and say “so, I was trespassing and they asked me to leave, so I aimed an arrow at them…” ; )

    Great story. Kinda wish they’d demanded his ID too though.

  • AJ November 29, 2010, 9:27 am

    lkb: It occurred on private property. As long as the gun is not fired within so many yards of another residence, it’s perfectly legal… at least where I live.

  • TheBardess November 29, 2010, 9:30 am

    Haha, I love it! Especially how Lewis (ever the English gentleman) politely asks the guy to leave and then nobly tries to shield the lady, while his wife (who was American) pulls her gun. Don’t mess with us Yankee gals!

  • Dorothy November 29, 2010, 9:32 am

    Mrs. Lewis’ gun would have been perfectly legal in both England and the United States at the time the story took place. It is only in approximately the last 50 years that the laws and attitudes have become so strange.

  • Lizajane November 29, 2010, 10:04 am

    That would be true now, but not at the time that the story happened.

  • AS November 29, 2010, 10:13 am

    @lkb, I am not sure she would have gotten herself into trouble in the US. The archer was encroaching Mrs.Lewis’s private property that too with something quite dangerous, and she has the right to protect it.

    Also, this reminds me of a story my friend’s grandmother said. When she was a newly married young woman, she and her husband moved into their new apartment in the woods. One morning, she found a man in their yard with a gun. She confronted him, and he said that it is the hunting season. She told him that this was private property and he cannot hunt here. But he said that he has been hunting there for a years, and does not care if it is a private property. I suppose threatening to call the police worked.

  • essie November 29, 2010, 11:16 am

    I disagree with lkb. I think it’s highly unlikely that she would have been in any sort of legal trouble in the US for carrying a gun on her own property. The archer not only refused to leave when asked to do so, but raised his weapon and prepared to fire it at them. Clearly, hers was an act of self-defense.

    I think it’s hilarious.

  • Paula November 29, 2010, 11:23 am

    Reminds me, in a slight way, of something my dad did once. When I was in high school, there was a boy that kept following me around – to work, to games, home – it was making me really nervous because I told him I had no interest.

    My dad – a large, muscular, Swedish farmer – saw him pull into our driveway one day. Dad picked up his shot gun, stepped out onto the lawn, and leaned on the shotgun like a crutch. He didn’t do anything with the gun but lean on it, and very simply stated, “I think it’s best you don’t come around here anymore.”

    The boy left me alone from that day forward.

    My daughter’s 11 – and blond, long-legged, tall, and very pretty. My brother inherited that shotgun, but I’m thinking about borrowing it from about the ages of 13 – 20.

  • essie November 29, 2010, 11:26 am

    Oh, Bardess! Please don’t say that! Mr. Lewis was an Irishman, not an Englishman!!

  • Shayna November 29, 2010, 11:39 am

    LOL…This had me laughing out loud.

  • Louise November 29, 2010, 11:54 am

    @ lkb Do you mean the archer could have filed assault charges had Mrs. Lewis shot him? Possibly; it depends on the state. My state is very pro-gun rights and Mrs. Lewis likely could have successfully
    claimed self-defense.

    Great story!

  • aka Cat November 29, 2010, 11:56 am

    I find it curious that nobody has brought up the fact that this almost certainly happened in the UK. apparently, Mr. Lewis first married Ms. Gresham so that she could remain in the UK.

    Anyway, it appears that a “garden gun” is actually a small rifle meant to fire bird shot. Even now, I think the UK is quite a bit more lenient about owning a rifle than they are a pistol, and back in the 50s they would have been less strict.

  • LilyG November 29, 2010, 12:16 pm

    I too adore C.S. Lewis and this is such a telling example of his personality. I love this story!

  • Jillybean November 29, 2010, 12:26 pm

    @Dorothy – I think laws attitudes have become strange because the weaponry has become strange (meaning so much more advanced then when most gun laws were written). But I agree with the others, that even in modern day this would have been a perfectly reasonable and legal response.

  • SouthernSugar November 29, 2010, 1:05 pm

    Here, castle laws would have been entirely on her side had she chosen to go a step further and shoot the archer, much less point her gun at him, given that he had already taken actions to threaten them on their own property.

    It really is amazingly sad how often polite requests for perfectly reasonable actions have to be escalated to threats of violence or calling the police.

  • Elfqueen November 29, 2010, 1:07 pm

    Reading the rest of the article it appears that Mrs Lewis was an American by birth and upbringing. In the mid-20th century shooting trespassers was almost a national pastime in some parts of the US. 😉

  • lkb November 29, 2010, 2:17 pm

    I recall in my criminal law classes (admittedly many years ago) reading cases in which people aiming a firearm, even in defense of their property and not actually pulling the trigger, were charged and convicted of assault. (Note, not battery because the other person was not actually touched but put in fear of being harmed.)

  • Elizabeth November 29, 2010, 2:42 pm

    Gun laws aside (both past and present), I have to agree with the point of the story. Plus, I am completely in love with it. It is just so cute! The Bardess sums it up perfectly.

  • Simone November 29, 2010, 3:10 pm

    I love that his first action was to protect his wife but that he had total trust in her to handle the situation when she indicated it was time to let her take charge. What a team!

    And just goes to prove (what I’ve often said) that a man can be chivalrous and respect a woman’s independence at the same time 🙂

  • Sharon November 29, 2010, 5:15 pm

    I hate that a very funny story was hi-jacked by whether or not she had a right to protect her life and the life of her husband on her own property. Ridiculously absurd.

    OP… your story is priceless! “A soft answer turns away wrath.” But, if a soft answer doesn’t work… GET A GUN!

  • bookworm November 29, 2010, 6:00 pm

    Simone, I agree completely.

    It’s a shame that the poacher felt he needed to escalate the situation, but I’m glad the good guys came out on top!

  • Ali November 29, 2010, 7:05 pm

    Hi! I’m actually a lawyer (no jokes, please). Under US law in most jurisdictions, even if she’d shot him it would be legally justified (a self-defense or defense of third party response to a threat of deadly force). If you point a gun at someone and they reasonably fear for their lives, they are justified in protecting their own or other’s lives. Not that I’m advocating it. But that kid was horrible and likely came a bad end if he continued that type of behavior.

  • Ali November 29, 2010, 7:07 pm

    Sorry, by gun I meant bow. And most US jurisdictions would recognize a hunting bow (depending on the size) as a deadly weapon.

  • babs November 29, 2010, 7:28 pm

    Legalities of the gun aside (whatever the laws are now, 60+ years ago nobody cared a whit if you walked around with a gun, on your own property), the the response was priceless! Great story. It made me smile. It reminded me of my husband’s grandmother, the wife of a bronco buster, and circuit-riding preacher, and even my mother-in-law who would shoot varmints outside of their desert cabin retreat when they lived in California 50 years ago.

  • b-rock November 29, 2010, 8:07 pm

    i know in my state (TN) it is perfectly legal for me to have guns on my property, in my car, and on my person, and i am completely within my legal rights to point it and shoot it at someone who is threatening me or others. even without a permit that is the case on your own private property.

    great story! i will share it with others.

  • The Cat Whisperer November 29, 2010, 9:11 pm

    This reminds me of a saying attributed to Al Capone:

    “You get further with a smile and a gun than just a smile.”

    Etiquette 101 for gangsters, I guess!

  • Lizza November 30, 2010, 1:22 am

    This is awesome, I love it!

  • aventurine November 30, 2010, 4:15 am

    The poacher failed to learn a very important lesson. You never bring a bow to a gun fight.


    Rock *on,* Mrs. Lewis!

  • HonorH November 30, 2010, 4:57 am

    Priceless! The idiot with the bow really should not have pressed the issue.

  • lkb November 30, 2010, 5:15 am

    Obviously, I must have been mistaken. Sorry.

  • Shayna November 30, 2010, 9:24 am

    @aventurine: and, part two of that lesson is never pi$$ off a woman with a gun!

  • Wink-n-Smile November 30, 2010, 2:54 pm

    After seeing “Shadowlands,” I am now picturing Debra Winger with a gun. LOVE THIS.

  • v8veronica December 14, 2010, 9:21 pm

    I just love tough old ladies!!!!! What is it about Americans and guns? I live in Australia and have never seen one-they terrify me!!!

  • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil December 30, 2010, 9:38 am

    By pointing the bow with the arrow notched and drawn, the archer was threatening them with a deadly weapon. In most US jurisdictions, she could have killed him immediately with no repercussions. You are permitted to defend yourself on your own property against deadly threats. Using deadly force is an appropriate response. After all, they did ask politely and the reply was to threaten them with an arrow through the heart.

  • Icey January 1, 2011, 9:50 pm

    I believe this quote is perfect for this story:
    “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word” – Al Capone