Like most Southerners growing up, my father taught my sister and me how to shoot a rifle. Actually, he tried to teach us how to shoot.
When visiting my grandmother’s farm, we would walk over to the barn. Daddy would give us his school-teacher lecture about safety, show us how to load mother’s rifle, aim and fire. The object was to hit some portion of the barn. Mother hadn’t hunted since we were born, and we quickly discovered a nerve-racking wait between pulling the trigger and the bullet coming out. We switched to daddy’s rifle and came away with hurting shoulders. We never did hit the barn.
Everybody in Dayton, Tennessee, knew my school teacher grandmother. They knew her farm had good hunting and fishing, and after politely asking her permission, they would later bring her a portion of whatever they’d caught. Granny always had fish, rabbit, geese or the occasional unfortunate squirrel. Guns for sport and food are often beneficial for some overpopulated species.
But there is another side – much scarier.
Recently, while returning from a hike, I was almost home when the car in front of me abruptly stopped. After slamming on my brakes, my car sounded like I had a flat. Limping into a nearby grocery store parking lot, I called Dan. Turned out one of my tires was trying to wobble its way off my car. After a temporary fix, we decided to drive home with Dan following behind me. Exiting the parking lot, we paused for the traffic light. When the light turned green, and I crossed the highway, Dan wasn’t behind me. When he finally got home, Dan explained what happened.
When Dan pulled behind me at the stoplight, another driver became furious, convinced Dan had intentionally pulled in front of him. The driver screamed obscenities, and made rude, threatening gestures with his hands.
When the light changed, the man swerved in front of Dan, screeched across the highway, got out of his car, and began banging his fists on his car’s roof. He signaled to Dan to come over, turning his hand into a gun and firing multiple imaginary rounds.
Dan stayed put, called 911 and gave them the driver’s license plate number. When the man realized that Dan wasn’t going to engage, he drove away and Dan took another way home.
Road rage, misplaced anger, that overused word, marginalization, are all mental health issues that might be lurking in the mind of a complete stranger. It’s enough to give one pause. You never know what you are dealing with, but I can definitely say those folks are out there. We’ve experienced one.
As they used to say in the old TV show Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there, folks.”
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.