Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Shot stupidly for truffles

Rural people in the nearby Drôme region are upset by a regrettable incident that occurred recently on the property of a producer of truffles… which, as everybody knows, are a variety of underground fungus, used in fine cooking, which can be sold for a high price. On the other hand, a producer of truffles doesn't necessarily become a millionaire, because these fungi remain rare and hard to find.

A local 32-year-old producer, fed up with repeated thefts of his precious truffles, went out in the night, armed with a pump-action shotgun, to make sure there were no intruders. Suddenly, in the shadows, he saw an individual who appeared to be wielding some kind of weapon. So, he fired twice in the direction of the shadowy form. Alas, he soon realized that he had just killed an intruder who was wielding nothing more dangerous than a small trowel used to unearth truffles. In other words, he had in fact come face-to-face with a truffle-thief, but the killing of this defenseless intruder with two cartridges fired from a pump-action shotgun amounted to premeditated murder. At that moment, the killer made a second stupid mistake. He asked his father to hide the pump-action weapon, and to replace it by an ordinary hunting shotgun. When the gendarmes arrived on the scene, they lost no time in concluding that the killing had been carried out by means of a pump-action gun, rather than the standard gun that the alleged murderer was holding. Furthermore, tests are being performed to ascertain that traces of the victim's DNA can be found on the trowel, to make sure that this tool wasn't simply placed subsequently alongside the corpse of the victim. So, the accused man will be tried for murder, while his father will be charged with deliberate modification of a crime scene. Insofar as the 43-year-old victim was reputed to be a regular truffle thief, all the local folk are on the side of the producer, as is usual in this kind of rural affair.

I've been using the French-language pages of Wikipedia to examine the precise legislation concerning the ownership and use of a pump-action shotgun. In this context, I was intrigued to come upon this photo of a US soldier in Iraq in 2004 armed with a variant of the famous pump-action Mossberg 500 shotgun, manufactured in Connecticut.

Today, I don't have details on the kind of weapon used by the truffles producer in France, but it may well have been a less expensive 12-gauge arm, based upon the soldier's weapon (and superficially identical to a casual observer), known as the Mossberg Maverick 88. This easy-to-use pump-action shotgun (which I know quite well), manufactured in Texas and popular in France, is blue-finished, with a synthetic stock (rather than wood) and a cross-bolt safety lock. Ownership of this self-protection arm (which can be loaded with rubber-ball cartridges, nevertheless lethal at close range) is legal in France, but it goes without saying that you don't go out parading at night with such a device… and you don't point it and fire at anything that moves in the dark.

Once the barking of dogs indicates the presence of intruders, the general idea (which I've rehearsed mentally on countless occasions) is that you immediately phone the gendarmes by means of your mobile, while using an upper-floor lamp to cast light upon the visitors. Then, after a brief but all-important act known as a verbal injunction (sommation in French), you can start firing rubber balls, noisily but calmly, with both your bedside pistol and pump-action shotgun, above the heads of the supposed intruders. Here at Gamone, for example, that would be quite fun. (I'm joking, of course. I don't wish to find myself in a shoot-out reminiscent of the Clarke brothers in Braidwood.) But you must never aim to kill. Elementary, my dear Skyvington...

In a totally different context, over the last few days, a delightfully-crazy second-rate French comedian named Michaël Youn has been on the front pages of French news media because his Parisian apartment was robbed recently, and even his cherished Hummer was included in the stolen objects. It appears that this guy talked so much on the social media (Twitter and Facebook) about himself and his Parisian residence that it was almost inevitable that thieves might decide to pay him a visit. What is far more surprising (indeed almost unbelievable) is that the comedian used these same social media to ask the thieves to kindly return all his personal stuff, including the Hummer… and they did! For the moment, I'm not at all sure that I should believe this tale, which sounds like a publicity stunt. On the other hand, in the case of anybody who has got into the habit of talking a lot about himself on the Internet, I think it's vital to weigh one's words, and to transmit significant messages... which is what I've tried to do, between the lines, in the present blog post.

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