I guess it is only natural to have independence on the mind this week.

After all, I was born in America, and it was only 241 years ago that America became America for real.

If we hadn’t won that fight, I would be speaking (well, typing) with a cool British accent right now.

Yet I’m not a huge fan of fighting in general. For starters, I really like personal space. I also enjoy daily showers and bathrooms with doors (which most battlefields don’t seem to offer). And then there is my odd preference for remaining bullet-free.

So when my folks and I first decided to spend a day at the nearby George Ranch Historical Park learning to shoot antique rifles and brunching on traditional English faire, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After all, I’ve shot many types of guns in the past, from 9 mms to revolvers to shotguns. My boyfriend and I enjoy a rousing afternoon at the shooting range when budget permits. I even own a gun….a gift from a girlfriend that is better known for its ability to jam than to shoot.

But this was different – I knew that the moment “orientation” began….and didn’t end for 20 minutes. 

Me with my carefully wrapped paper scrap.

The key to shooting success, it would seem, hinged on a small scrap of white paper that we were to carefully wrap just so, fill with loose gunpowder and then scrunch down into the chamber with a long metal stick.

When orientation ended, we all got in line to receive, wrap and fill our paper scraps. Then we got in another line to try our luck with one of four antique rifles available for our shooting pleasure.

When the instructor handed me my rifle, I forgot about all my other concerns. This was because I was pretty sure the rifle outweighed me. Yet somehow the two of us managed to get the wrapped paper scrap with its requisite portion of loose gunpowder down the little shoot and the rifle up onto my right shoulder in “aiming position.”

A very proud me….with rifle (although to be honest, the rifle did most of the work).

At that point, I finally had the experience we had come there for – I fired it.

After my cheek muscles got tired from so much smiling, I spent the next approximately four hours (or four weeks) pondering how anyone had ever won any kind of fight using that kind of weapon.

By the time you got it loaded, cocked, aimed and fired, the enemy could have simply crossed the battlefield and sucker-punched you into submission.

After we fired our rifles, we were invited to listen to a traditional storyteller retell the tale of how the original George Ranch was founded and the family who did it.

Suffice it to say everything they had to do, from riding in that rickety wagon to taking machetes to six-foot-high grass to clear a path to not showering for weeks (months?) at a time to building a log cabin quite literally “from scratch,” sounded way harder than what we had just done in order to fire a rifle.

Everything about being a settler was hard. It was also lonely, scary, dirty, itchy, inclement and sometimes fatal.

If you happened to be young, old, ill or (god help you) pregnant, it was even harder.

Worst of all, settlers didn’t have the luxury of having “pet” animals. For anyone who had the bad judgment to befriend one of the non-human beings hanging out in the pen over yonder, there were really only two choices: have a friend for dinner (literally) or go hungry that night.

I simply cannot imagine.

I cannot imagine the courage. The sacrifice. The mosquitoes.

I cannot imagine knowing there are scalp-snatching Injuns (which I happen to be directly descended from) that could show up at any time to claim yours.

I cannot imagine arriving at your destination – finally – and the only thing you can see for miles around is more six-foot-high grass. There is no bathroom. No hotel. No dinner waiting.

All that to say, sometimes feelings of gratitude show up via the strangest of messengers. One antique shotgun mentor later, I wanted to kiss my smart phone and hug my Toyota.

I wanted to buy flowers for every bathroom I saw.

And when I got home and crawled into my warm, cozy, comfy bed that night, I knew for a fact I was in love.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever taken a day to “go back in time” and learn more about your own ancestors or the people who settled the place where you live? What was that like – to try to imagine being you, but then rather than now? Do you think you might have liked it? Or did you – like me – find yourself feeling oh-so-grateful you are you-now instead?