LEAGUE CITY, Texas — Ervin Brittnacher and his dog Red seem friendly enough. But anytime anybody approaches their farmhouse. Red barks so loudly you can hear it all the way out in the road.
So when Red started barking early Monday morning, Ervin figured something was wrong. After all, his hay farm in Galveston County sits along a country road so remote, young couples use it as a lovers’ lane.
Ervin stumbled out of bed toward the front door, where he found a gunman carrying a rifle and trying to break into his house.
“I figured there’s a whole lot of ways I can do this,” said Brittnacher. “And I don’t want to shoot him.”
And yes, he could’ve easily shot the intruder. The 79-year-old keeps rifles propped next to his doors to scare away coyotes. Old photographs hanging on his walls show him riding bulls and certificates deem him a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
But when he saw the gunman and listened to his almost unintelligible gibberish, Brittnacher decided to handle things differently.
“I didn’t know whether to be scared or feel sorry for him,” he said.
So he hit the guy. Hard. Right in the throat, like a karate chop.
“I just took that old hand and give him a good old chop,” he said. “And normally, that really hurts bad.
The old cowboy gestured toward his chest as he explained what he did next.
“And then, if you take the fist and punch him right in between one of these ribs coming apart, that makes all this go up and you can’t even think good for a good while,” Ervin said. “And all of a sudden, he decided he didn’t want to do this anymore.”
The suddenly disarmed gunman calmed down, Brittnacher said. Then, of all things, the homeowner invited the stranger into his house to take a look around. It seemed like the disoriented intruder thought his girlfriend was inside the farmhouse.
Police who came to the scene said the gunman behaved as though he was high on bath salts.
“I’m just surprised the guy’s not dead,” said Barbara Black, a friend of the retired cowboy.
“I figured he would hurt him worse,” said his son, Mark. “He’s not someone to mess with. Nicest man you’d ever want to meet. Do anything for you. But you don’t want to cross him, push him around. He ain’t going to put up with that.”
Police say Charles Brian Smith, 38, of Alvin, was charged with attempted burglary with intent to commit assault. So he’ll have to relive in court the humiliation of getting his tail kicked by a 79-year-old man.
This story is a result of our partnership with the Galveston County Daily News.