After five years of fighting motorcycle riders who use his farm as a huge dirt track, Ivan Jordan spotted two riders headed toward his corn field May 9, grabbed his shotgun from under a pile of corn and fired.
"I didn't have time to aim," said Jordan, "so I hit him high."
Rider Michael Aswall, a long-haired 21-year-old whom Jordan said he "couldn't stand the looks of . . . anyway," was hit in the left side, back and ear by 48 pellets from the farmer's gun.
Aswell's companion, Jeffery Layer, 19, who was hit with two pellets, grabbed the biggest rocks he could find and heaved them at Jordan and his truck.
The latest round had opened in the Montgomery County dirt biker war.
Since 1974, the 560 farmers still clinging to their cropland on Montgomery County's upper fringes have been engaged in tactical maneuvers to keep bikers off their fields. But the bikers, who have invested between $700 and $1,300 in machines that cannot be ridden legally anywhere in Montgomery without permission, see the farmers' fields as harmless terrain.
Nevertheless, their deep-treaded cycles, designed to tear into the earth for traction, have damaged crops and ruined land, injured livestock and bikers themselves and have vandalized machinery, farmers say.
"A lot of us end up riding on somebody's property without them knowing it," said Aswell, whose father has hired an attorney to sue Jordan for the shooting. "But it's usually just riding . . . not damaging anything. The first thing they'll (the farmers) do is pull a shotgun on you. There are a lot of rednecks out there," Aswell said.
The dirt biker war was labeled the "classic confrontation between the farmer and the suburbanite," when Jordan was hauled into court in connection with the shootings of Aswall and Layer.
The case was later dismissed because of Jordan's failure to get a lawyer when he asked for one.
"It's just one of the many aggravations you have when the city moves in on you," said Wiley Griffith of Laytonsville. "They're not country people. . . ."
Cyclist Michael Williams, 19, says Riders have cut and trampled the wire fence around Buddy Eyler's farm four times since June, allowing $2,500 worth of his cattle to escape and wander off, Eyler says.
Cyclists have invaded Fred (Stretch) Harting's land at least 10 times in two months, doing more than $150 damage to each of several hay fields, Harting says.
The deep tread of motorcycle tires ripped permanent ruts through William King's corn fields along Shady Grove Road in Derwood, and now "that land is ruined . . . nothing will grow (there), King says.
But those are only the recent incidents. All seven farmers interviewed told of worse destruction in years past -- barns and fields set afire, expensive equipment and tires shot with rifles, and acres of crops destroyed and turned into circular, rut-ridden race tracks. In each case, the farmers blame the vandalism on bikers, because they say they have found bike tracks leading from the scene.
Damage attributed by farmers to dirt bikers is not confined to Montgomery County. Prince George's agriculture extension agents says farmers in Landover, Upper Marlboro and Mitchellville have similar complaints.
Until now, farmers have combated the motorcycle problem with measures such as Robert Stabler's verbal threats. William King said he confiscates the motorcycle rider's bikes when he can catch them and then hangs onto them until the rider's parents come to get their property back.
Other farmers lose hope. "I've got to where I give up," Radie Evans said.'There's no peace for the farmer at all . . . When I get the crop up (at the end of summer), I'm hanging it up. Let the motorcycle boys have it."
Montgomery County police Lt. Col. Donald E. Brooks said he realizes farmers are growing increasingly frustrated but that his department is limited in aiding them.
Constantly patrolling the county's 135,000 acres of farm land would be almost impossible, though the department does give extra attention to heavily traveled areas. Even catching the cyclists is "tremendously difficult" because they flee into the woods, Brooks said.
Montgomery County Farm Bureau president Roscoe Whipp called for building a motorcycle dirt track and for licensing dirt bikes. The latter proposal failed to pass the Maryland general assembly last year.
"It's a sad situation really, because these children want some recreation," Whipp said. "It's time for somebody to do something." Other officials agreed, however, that a proposed track would generate overwhelming public opposition.
The farmer's attitude seems inexplicable to the bikers.
"A lot of them (farmers) just plant the corn for tax purposes, so they don't really care if you ruin their crops," Aswall said. Conceding he sometimes rides on land owned by farmers he doesn't know, Aswell said his rides are "never through corn . . . anyways -- there are trails through a I just stay on the trails that are there lot of the fields."
Cyclist Michael Williams, 19, says, "From the farm area to where the farmer lives, probably only the farm hand would notice . . . So you don't really care."
Jordan says the cyclist have been persistent, especially after being ordered off his property. But he said he'll call police rather than pull out his shotgun the next time he catches riders on his land.
"(The shooting) wasn't worth it. It cost me too much money," said Jordan, who found fresh tracks across his field the night his case was dismissed.
"Hell, it didn't help none. They're back. I don't know what to do," Jordan said. "I believe you couldn't kill 'em and it's not going to make a difference." CAPTION: Picture, Buddy Eyler says dirt bikers damaged his wire fence four times since June. By James A Parcell -- The Washington Post