WILSON – Did you hear about the guy who performed mouth-to-mouth on a deer?
Richard J. Lang didn’t hear the story; he saw it happen. The incident is one in a treasure trove of stories he collected in his 34 years as a state Department of Environmental Conservation officer. And he plans to share the wealth when he speaks at 7 p.m. Monday to the Wilson Historical Society.
The meeting is free and open to the public, and will be held in the Society’s Barnum Building, 645 Lake St.
Lang retired as Royalton town supervisor in December 2011 after four years at the helm. He also is a retired wrestling coach – at Royalton-Hartland for 10 years and at Newfane High School for 19 years. He’s a gentleman farmer and now a writer, having published his career memoirs, “Behind the Badge: The Life of an Old-Time Game Warden,” last fall.
He retired as a DEC officer in 2003 and will discuss many of the experiences he detailed in his book at Monday’s meeting.
He said one of his favorites involves the aforementioned deer. Lang was three months into his new job and was called to the Erie Canal, where dogs often chased deer into the water.
“I was 28 at the time, and deer were not considered the nuisance they are now. There were hardly any in Niagara County back then, so they were sacred animals,” he said.
“We were able to get a rope around the deer’s neck, but then it tightened up, and the deer was having difficulty breathing. Another guy that was with me grabbed the deer and gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I witnessed it, but I never would have done it myself. But that deer came around, and we were able to release it on the other side of the canal.”
“Another time, I remember it was the day after Halloween, and I was patrolling the Tonawanda Game Management area, and a car pulled into an abandoned driveway,” he said. “I pulled up next to him and asked him if he was hunting, and he said, ‘No.’ I asked him if he had any guns, and he said, ‘No.’ I asked him to open his trunk, and there was a full-sized human skeleton.”
Lang recalled taking the young man to the nearest phone – there were no cellphones back then – and calling Akron High School and asking if any of the school’s science classes was missing a skeleton. It turned out that it belonged to the biology class.”
“The principal was waiting for him,” he said of his detainee. “He was out for a prank, and then I came along.”
Lang, who grew up on an Orchard Park farm, said he knew at age 14 that he wanted to learn more about conservation officers when he earned his hunter safety certificate at the Erie County Fair. He joined the DEC in 1969 and has become a game warden historian, collecting memorabilia along the way.
“I called other retired officers when I was writing this book and asked them what they thought of the job and would they do this job again, and one guy said, ‘I wouldn’t walk, I’d run to get the job back,’ ” Lang said. “I was the first one from New York State to write a book about it. There’s been books written about the job by guys in other states.”
“I’d get up and go to work, and it was something different every day,” he said. “It was a fantastic job, and I’d recommend it to anybody.”