Tom, I hear what you are saying. That's why when one Inyo office permit issuer tells me something that I think may not be absolutely true, I ask for a second opinion. Then, once I have them all in agreement, I ask where that is laid out in black and white, at least if I think there may be some question. Once I get it in black and white, then sometimes I carry that with me in the field, just in the even of that same guy that you ran into 37 years ago. Gee, that same guy must be getting old by now.
I've watched some Yosemite backcountry rangers with great interest. One guy walked up to me and asked to see my permit. I showed him and he was on his way about twenty seconds later. He spotted an illegally pitched tent (right next to a lake and right on a pristine piece of meadow), so he was making his way over there. The ranger was packing a sidearm, so he was not to be fooled around with. Plus, he knew how to flush out the owner of said tent. He walked up to it and started pulling out the stakes! Immediately the owner stomped up and started giving the ranger a hard time, right up until he saw the sidearm. The owner just did not know when to give up, though. If he had immediately grabbed up his tent and started moving it back to a legal spot, the ranger might have let him go with a verbal warning. But, the owner just kept ragging on the ranger, so we watched the citation get written, and that is for a federal court.