Western North Carolina
 
When we first moved here- one of our adjustments (minor…major… not sure where to qualify it) revolved around dogs. Dogs you say? Yes, I nod. Dogs. Dogs here in rural North Carolina roam free. They can roam in packs. They can be single, solitary, bedraggled pups or old, impaired, foggy eyed mutts. They can also be fierce, territorial Labradors bent on terrorizing you. Really.  We had an experience here with the latter and I was stunned and shocked by the counsel I received to “pack a BB gun” and zing the dogs. Honestly, I had never even seen a BB gun( I still haven’t, actually)- let alone know how to aim and fire one. Wide-eyed, I repeated, “Shoot them with BB guns?” The next question  was concerned with injuring dogs.(strangely concerned it seems, as the dogs certainly showed no such sensibility about hurting me.) Oh- I was assured I wouldn’t injure the dogs- just scare them. Suddenly I realized that every time our landlord was around- even every time his truck started to rumble down the long gravel road- there was nary a dog in sight. Once he was gone- swarms of dogs (and I am not kidding) would come and make their home around the house and in the yard. Turns out he and his brother and father, used to be working on the roof and would aim and fire every time a dog put a paw near the property. They learned and learned well.
Todd nicknamed all the wild dogs that roam free –  “dingoes” and we see dingoes just about every day. Dingoes roaming free. Dingoes running at our car. Seems since we moved here- they have tightened some of the laws surrounding dogs, possession and where they can go when they are “wild” and roaming uncollared and unclaimed. Still- it is very different here than in PA (leash laws, you know) even with the “belt tightened” a little.
Hmmm…
 
Fast forward three years.
 
Tall son is 9. It is time to begin considering 4-H. One of the clubs is called the Sharp-Shooters. My thoughts shift toward BB guns and dogs. In my heart, I purpose. My sons will be in that club. They will learn to “pack a BB.” They won’t experience the inept inadequacy I feel- just trying to walk down our half-mile mountain road to the mailbox.  I can’t teach them how to shoot a “BB” gun. I have no experience. Zero. I don’t want that for them… that terrified feeling that comes because all of us sans Todd were attacked by dogs here in a horrible, tear-stained encounter.
 
I am on the phone with my beloved sister. She tells me about her day. She rear-ended someone in the busy intersection by her house on her way to tutor. I close my eyes. I see that intersection. I see the urban/suburban area where she lives. I know it well.  I see her in the midst of that traffic in PA.  I see myself. Rural, winding mountain roads. An intersection like that is an hour away.
 
Then I start to tell her about 4-H, Micah, and BB guns. I say,”I don’t want him to have to feel scared and unprepared when out on our roads. I want him to know how to “bing” a dog to scare him off. Not hurt him. …just “bing” him a little and he’ll run away. I want him to have that confidence and skill.”  There I am- nonchalantly and seriously talking about BB gun education. She starts to laugh. I laugh and laugh too. Our lives. Hers at intersections, mine with BB guns. I remember how incredulous I was when I was first told to shoot a dog a with a BB gun. Me, a dog, and a BB gun. Somehow those three (that combination)just never seemed to dwell together. Ever. I was shocked. I called home. I told everyone who knew me. They understood my shock. You would too.  Three years later- here I am. Calmly, seriously talking about BB guns and my family in the same sentence.  How things change after just three years. Cause in some ways- BB guns are just part of life.
 
I feel the mountain area working inside of me. From the inside out. Enlarging me, my experiences, our culture, even our lives. That mountain air, that North Carolina climate, that wilderness mountain- wild and free- is leaving its imprint on our hearts.
 
Three years later, BB guns are just a part of the package. Just like waterfalls, glorious color in the fall, and a crazy tax season. Just like an early Spring, “dingoes”, and smoke scarves embracing the mountains.
 
I tell my son about the 4-H. He brings up the Sharp-Shooters. “Mom, I want to learn to shoot a BB gun so we can walk down our mountain road and not be afraid. I won’t hurt them. I just want to scare them off.”
Blue eyes stare at me, serious and straight.  He stands tall, an echo of future man-ness. “Then we’ll walk down our road and not be afraid.” His heart beats strong to protect.  I’m proud of the intent of Micah’s heart. I’m amazed we want the same things with the same goals. I ponder the boy heart yielding to the man heart. I want to do all I can to support the godly instinct to be strong for those who are weak.
 
Then—
 
Inside, I laugh again. I laugh at the changes that have come our way, inside and out. I laugh at the enlargement of our experiences. I laugh at myself, knowing BB gun education is integral here.  A smile plays at the corners of my mouth. .
 
When I drive down my mountain road, I’ll think of my sister in that urban intersection.
I’ll see myself.
I’m learning through all these years.