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By weathertop9

I grew up in Tennessee, a free state. My father was a country boy, a squirrel hunter and a fly fisherman. He used to make his own flies from old flip-flops and try his luck down on the Cumberland or Harpeth Rivers. My grandfathers both served in WWII; Air Force through-and-through. My mom’s little brother has been an avid hunter his entire life. Growing up, I think firearms must’ve been such a part of every day living that I never noticed them as anything unusual. As was the fishing pole, the rake, the textbook and the dog food bowl, so was the gun part of my “normal” . . .

Thus, I can’t sit here and I say I grew up around guns or that I didn’t.  I just grew up and there were guns; stored responsibly no doubt. They weren’t avidly discussed or deliberately avoided, nor were they glorified or vilified. In retrospect, they were occupying a space of neutrality and purpose. And that was good.

I was a busy kid, the eldest of four. My parents split up when I was eleven and in school I focused on grades and athletics. I didn’t shoot a lot. My father moved to Florida and with him went the opportunity to learn more about guns. My uncle lived in St. Louis so hunting was out. My grandfathers both worked, a lot. The only firearm exposure I had at that age was through the Boy Scouts of America.

I loved being a Scout. I started in grade school with probably twenty other boys and was only one of three who went all the way to earn my Arrow of Light. The scouts had a merit badge for rifle shooting and I relished earning it. I latched on to the ideals associated with scouting: doing a good deed every day, helping people, learning and earning. But there’s a huge difference in being prepared and being a realist. The Scouts made me an idealist and sometimes that juxtaposes with being prepared. Life would intervene and settle that dichotomy for me.

I left the Scouts when I left for college. Through college I never even thought about guns. I was focused on just about everything else: grades, girls, money and sleep. I started working during the summers in between semesters so I could feed that money part I mentioned. Just so happens I met a girl too; from the “Kentuckee” as she called it. We dated for some time and eventually married three years after graduating college.

We both decided we wanted to earn higher degrees (it seems like you gotta have a friggin’ grad degree these days just to get a job waiting tables…). So she applied to Auburn University in Alabama; she wanted to be a veterinarian (yup, smart and beautiful).  And just to keep balance in the house I applied for grad school at the University of Alabama. We were both accepted; and on all things football we are eternally divided.

My grad program was two straight years and her vet program was four. Since she would be in longer we elected to make Auburn home base and rented a singlewide trailer in a local trailer park in Auburn just down the street from the vet school.  This made the most sense since she wouldn’t have the distractions of dorm life; also, she would be five minutes from school for those 4 AM calf birthing’s or 12 hour night shifts.

Now, we had no reason to believe that trailer parks were inherently dangerous. There were other students who lived in the park and plenty other honest hard working people as well.

Still, I was a Scout and all that being prepared stuff didn’t wear off. So I installed an alarm system and called a local handyman to help me attach a thin steel plate to the doorframe to reinforce the deadbolt against any would be intruder. I was aware that break-ins did happen, but was told (by the police) that they usually occurred when no one was home so as to get in, grab the electronics and get out.

Nonetheless, there would be plenty of days and nights when I wouldn’t be there. My wife can handle herself. Hell, she can handle a thousand pound animal that is intent on killing her so I don’t worry too much. But man is a different animal and I was determined to make it as difficult as possible to gain entry into our castle (yes, I just referred to our trailer as a castle). I’ll go ahead and answer the question: no, we did not own a gun. I never thought about it to be quite honest with you. I never thought I needed it. I thought, “I’m taking the necessary steps; I’m being prepared”. There’s a difference between being blind and being complacent. I was certainly guilty of the latter.

The trailer was our first “castle” and we were intent on fixing it up to be just that. First on the agenda was to paint the walls. We spent an entire Saturday in the fall of 2007 hard at it and decided to leave the windows open that night for adequate ventilation. All the windows had screens so no concern for skeeters or noseeums. We went to bed.

And that’s when my first wake up call came.

Zero dark thirty. Yup, that’s when it always hits the fan doesn’t it? It did for me. I shot awake from a deep sleep. I hear a pounding on the front door. Heavy hand. The windows are open so I can hear someone on the front porch talking. Deep voice. I don’t recognize it and they are not saying, “This is the police,” so I get concerned real quick.

The pounding gets louder. I jump out of bed and look out the window. I see this guy hammering both fists against the door. I don’t factually know how big he was, but there’s something about that hour of the night that seems to magnify an intruder’s size. He appears drunk as a bicycle. What does that expression mean, you ask? You ever take a bicycle and just push it forward by itself to see how far it’ll go before it topples over? When that front wheel starts to shimmy and the whole bike starts to wobble before it falls….  That’s what this guy looked like.

I had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t here to ask for a cup o’ sugar. And he was starting to put his big shoulder into the door. I make light of this now, but I will confess I was terrified. I told my wife to dial 911. But I know that this guy is getting in before the cops show up so I’m stuck in a position I vow never to be in again: I’m not prepared. What am I going to do until then? How am I going to defend myself if this guy gets violent? How am I going to defend my wife?

I ran to the utility drawer, grabbed a hammer and made for the front door. I distinctly remember thinking when the door gives and he gets inside I have to hit him in the temple as hard as I can. I didn’t know if this guy was armed, if he was in fact drunk or what his intentions were. He could have just been confused and had the wrong house. Maybe his wife threw him out? Or maybe he was stoned? He said several unintelligibles, expletives, gibberish. I figured I had one opportunity; therefore, aim for the temple. He started putting his entire body into the door. Any moment now, I believed. Any moment, he’s coming in.

But he didn’t. Somehow, that steel plate held the deadbolt in place and the door didn’t give. He just stopped and he left. I went to the back door to make sure he wasn’t coming around to try it. I didn’t see him. Then I ran around and shut all the windows. I went back to the bedroom where my wife was still on the phone with 911. The cops finally came and after the fact we checked my wife’s phone to see how long she had been on with dispatch. Seven minutes.

In the middle of a college town, a small city, it had taken the police seven minutes to show up. That’s not a criticism. I think that’s a decent response time. Cops don’t have a teleporter or a TARDIS to get around; they’ve got a Crown Vic or a Chrysler 300 if they’re lucky. I’m friends with several police officers and I respect the difficult job they do. I asked the cop if I’d have been within my rights to strike at him if he got inside, even if he was at my house by mistake. And that’s when I learned what a “castle doctrine” was and that it exists precisely for those seven minutes.

For seven minutes I was on my own. It was my responsibility and right to defend myself, my wife and my home against someone who was trying to violently force entry. This person wanted to do harm to whoever was on the other side of the door. And that was me and mine. I was stuck with a hammer. I wanted a shotgun. But I’d have been happy with a .22! I’m now a believer in Rule Number 1: HAVE A GUN.

The cops never found the guy. Next morning my wife and I had a discussion. We are either getting a dog or a gun. Guess what? We got both.

We got a Rottweiler from a rescue in Georgia. She was two years old and apparently the runt of her litter. She was all of fifty pounds and as sweet as sugar. I remember wondering if she would be protective enough because she was so good-natured. She came back to Alabama with us and we took to each other immediately. I installed a dog door in the back door that opened into our small back yard that I had chain link fenced.

I asked my grandfather if I could borrow his double barrel until I saved some money to buy something more practical; his was a Sears & Roebuck he bought via catalog in 1954. It felt like it weighed 25 pounds. I kept it for about a year and then purchased a G19. So I returned the blunderbuss. The dog and the gun stayed in the bedroom with us from then on.

Two years later, the summer before my wife graduated, lightning struck for the second time.

Zero dark thirty. Again. This time, it wasn’t a pounding on the door that woke me but rather the rattle of the chain link fence. I sat straight up and grabbed the gun from the drawer safe. I headed for the back door. I had just a moment to see our dog dart outside through the dog door. I stopped at the back door and looked through the window, assessing before I exited. I’ll never forget what I saw. A man, tall and skinny, not more than 17 was falling over himself trying to get back over the fence and out of my yard. My dog was moving through the grass towards him at about mach 5. He made it over and got out. Lucky S.O.B. She stayed at the fence barking, hackles raised and sounding every bit the caged bear. It was textbook.

I let her make sure he was well and truly gone. Then I called the police to report the attempt and gave her a leftover cheeseburger we had grilled earlier. The whole thing.

That was four years ago. We now live in Kentucky, another free state where I am blessed to be able to exercise my Constitutional and God-given rights. We have a beautiful little house out in the country. I have several pistols, long guns and am awaiting approval of my tax stamp(s). I hunt. I target shoot. I exercise my right to defend me and mine. I exercise my right to keep and bear arms. I exercise my right to legal, licensed concealed carry. I will never be unprepared again. My resolve is deep. No one can take it. No government can break it. And no one can tell me that it will never happen to me. It has. Twice. And I’m not going to wait around and see if the third time will be a charm or not.

I’m nearing the middle of my fourth decade. My wife and I both work. A lot. Last September she gave birth to our first child. A boy. The apple of my eye. I will love her forever for it. She has since started a small collection of arms herself. She practices. She too, will be prepared.

We will teach our son to be prepared, to not be complacent and to be safe. These firearms are tools and will exist just like the fishing pole, the rake, the textbook and the dog food bowl. They are stored responsibly, locked in safes and bolted in place as one with young children should store them.

Living in the country has many benefits but the reality is that we are likely now much further from help if the need arises. So, by God, I will be ready if I ever have to be. I do not want a fight. I pray I will not be tested again. But I am a realist now and as such, complacency no longer has any place with me.

Our dog loves my boy and he, even at eight months old, seeks her attention daily. Last year my wife diagnosed her with osteosarcoma, bone cancer, in her front right leg and it had to be amputated. She is still pretty fast. But she slows every day. The cancer has since spread to her ribs and lungs. She gets chemotherapy every other day. My wife tells me she will probably go to the big doghouse in the sky very soon. We will miss her terribly. She did her job, for which I will forever be grateful.

So for my son, my wife, my castle, my dog and myself I will remember the night I got that wake-up call. I will always be prepared.

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  1. Tennessee, a free state? Really? Like if you are pulled over and you happen to have $2500 in cash on you from selling something on Craigslist, they get to legally steal it from you because they get to assume you are selling drugs?

    Maybe we can call it a little freer than some other states.

  2. This article gave me chills… As a devoted family man who had a very similar wakeup call with a “bicycle” this resonated very strongly with me, if I were judge, this article would win one of the P320’s!

  3. Nice article and story. I also had a wakeup call many years ago. It ended rather uneventfully. But it changed me forever.

    • We have a black lab and rely on him to sound the alarm if an evil doer should force their presence on our property. HOWEVER, as good as the dog is, he’s no good if he’s been drugged by a tainted piece of sirloin. or shot with a silenced gun.
      A dog should considered a level one deterrent, and not a cure all for crime prevention.
      Other less fallible methods should also be in your anti break in portfolio.

  4. Was there an Air Force in WWII? I thought is was Army Air Corps back then.

    Great story, just the same.

    • It was common to call them “the Air Force” during WW2.

      It was actually the United States Army Air Forces (note the plural) or USAAF from June 1941 through 1947, when the USAF separated from the Army.

      Before that, it was the US Army Signal Corps Aviation Section, then the US Army Air Service 1918 through 1926, then United States Army Air Corps 1926 through 1941.

      Slippery fellows, these fly boys are. (I was in the Army. My dad retired from the USAF.)

    • The Air Force started life as the US Army Air Corp during the interwar years. During the height of WWII, the name got changed to US Army Air Force to signify that they were somewhat autonomous from the land forces. So technically yes there WAS an Air Force in WWII. 🙂

      • I once yelled “Eat the apple, fuck the core,” where “core” is intended to sound like “corps,” in a crowded bar (in a moment of exuberance, I’m sure you’ve all at least seen that sort of thing) and suddenly 3 or 4 very tough-looking Marines turned toward me, and one asked, “And exactly which Corps would that be?” or words to that effect. I stammered, “Well, the United States Army Air Corps, of course.” and we all laughed and had another beer. 🙂
        *I was in the AF at the time.

  5. Good story and I glad your doing well. I had a similar experience not that long ago. Someone banging at the door at 4:30 in the morning. I went to the door with my colt and my Airedale, she had her hackles up and was at my side. It was nice to know that someone else was in with me for whatever came next. After yelling at the fool that I was not opening the door and that he better not try it, he stalked off. He was I guess your typically thug, with the big hoodie and his hands tucked in the pocket. I called 911, and the cops actually caught the guy not that far down the road.
    Good dogs are tough to replace, all the best..

    • My biggest cat growls and runs toward the door whenever anyone is “lurking” outside. He doesn’t do that when I’m not home (I know because my cat sitters have told me so), so it’s pretty clear that he’s protecting me and not his territory.

      If you heard him growl, the little hairs on the back of your neck would be at full attention.

  6. Great article, I’m so sorry for your dog, I almost shed a tear at the end of the story. If it were my choice one of the P320s would go to you.

  7. Terrific article. I’ve had my wakeup call too. I have a 39 year old son who works for DOD. Ex Army MP in lots of dangerous places.He doesn’t want guns in his house as he lives in a “nice” suburb. Hope my 3 young granddaughters will be OK. BTW…I NEVER say “dude” but DUDE you lived in a trailer park! In my 60 years I’ve found trailer parks to be some of the most dangerous places around. Glad you got out OK.

  8. And here we have a wonderful example of having a good dog of the right sort of breed for your household.

    Dogs live too short a lifespan, IMO.

  9. I have for dogs, two Pits and two Pit mixes. All spayed females, all wonderful socialized pets.
    But banging on the door at night would send them ballistic and the human has a Sig P229 and a SAM7R with an Aimpoint T1 and Surefire X300 Ultra. I’m ready. Come on in……I dare ya. Say hello to all my friends!!!

  10. Wonderful story, Your dog will do fine in “dog heaven”
    You were fortunate that your “wake up call” did not result in injury or death to you or your wife.
    It’s sad that others sometimes are not so fortunate.
    Some folks think they will be OK if someone tries to break in, because they have an assortment of combat knives close at hand, and know how to use them.
    Everyone should remember the saying
    “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”
    Get a gun, and learn how to use it!

  11. weathertop9, don’t fear. Another dog, just the right one for you, will come to you one way or another at just the right time. I know this to be true from experience.

  12. In addition to whatever it is you do for a living, you’re a terrific writer. Thanks for the great story.

  13. Awesome, chilling article. I think you deserve a nice new Sig for the next time something goes bump in the night.

  14. Beautiful story, and very similar to mine. My wife and I got a German Shepherd mix from a safe a stray around the time that we got married. He successfully protected our castle once, and that’s when we became gun owners. We came to the conclusion that he’s an effective first line, but we didn’t want him to be the last line of defense.

    That was 13 years ago, and we was full grown when we got him, so obviously he’s nearing the end, and we can see it. I hope your dog, and mine meet their end peacefully. I can’t imagine owning another dog, as he is part of our family, but we will. A canine is as big a piece of defending our castle as our firearms are.

  15. “There’s a difference between being blind and being complacent. I was certainly guilty of the latter.”

    Though I don’t see much difference between the two, I loved you article. I might even marry it, with your blessing, of course. 😀

    I confess I haven’t read every entry, but your really resonated with me. And I vote winner for yours!

  16. Sorry sir, but without corroborating evidence, according to the Kommiefornia Sheriffs Association, none of this actually happened.

    God bless.

  17. Nice article. It’s always pleasing to see men and women living as married couples, raising their children, taking responsibility for their physical and financial well being, peacefully enjoying themselves and participating in their communities. Firearms and dogs are often important elements of that gratifying tableau. Keep doing your thing and God bless. You’re a great American.

  18. Great story buddy and a huge WAR EAGLE to you and the wife. We probably lived in the same trailer park. I lived in Conway for a little bit while at Auburn. Never had a problem, but I was well prepared.

  19. Thank you for the great story. It was sincere and engaging. My own wake up came well before yours in the timeline of my life but I understand what you mean. I’m never going to be powerless again.

  20. Having just added another dog to our family yesterday, this story hit home with me. It also touched a chord b/c of the way guns first entered my home when I was 16. A call from what turned out to be a harmless psycho threatening to shoot my mother. He got his jollies by calling women and frightening them. Dad was 100 miles away on business. All my brothers and I (aged 15 and 11) had for defense was a 25-pound bow with target arrows and WWI bayonet. Neighbors with shotguns stood by us until Dad got home. The next weekend, my great uncle dropped off a S&W K-22 and K-15. Dad taught us how to use them. After that, everyone rested better.

  21. Sorry to read that your pooch is nearing the end. I miss having a dog. I enjoyed reading your story about the “bumps in the night” that can really rattle your life, even when no one is injured, the door locks hold, and the bad guy goes away. I’ve had a couple similar events in my life, I imagine many folks have. And being prepared in advance sure is a lot better than hastily searching around for something and coming up with a hammer. Although a hammer makes a pretty good close quarters weapon. I also grew up in a house where guns were tools with a job, similar to a hammer. And like the hammer, they weren’t a topic of conversation, or even thought of during a typical day.

  22. Good article, well written.

    Sorry to hear about your dog, but you gave her a good life out of that rescue and she gave you the protection, security and companionship you needed. I foster rescue dogs, and always have one along with my own pack. Unfortunately the current members are all fairly small (35 to 50 lbs) and pretty calm, they don’t bark at the door. However, in the yard, they will if they detect something out of the norm. My last good guard dog I had to let go last year, from kidney failure.

    And if someone comes in the house now, my dogs are in their kennels in the bedroom, I’d rather have them safely confined than worry about them getting hurt. I rely on the security system to run someone off, and if I’m at home, a nice Remington 870.

  23. Thanks for all the support everyone. I’m glad this post generated so much conversation. That’s the only way to move forward with anything and seems almost impossible to accomplish sometimes. Let TTAG be an example to all for positive and productive conversation on the mission set forth by RF (yup, I’ve still got those idealistic roots).

    Update: We put our dog to sleep yesterday. It was very sad. But also very peaceful. As you read above, she always took care of us and a good life deserves a good death. She hurts no more and that is good. It’s strange. I think man and dog must share a deep bond, our mutual survival intertwined on a very basic level. Now that she’s gone I feel more vulnerable. Our first line of defense is missing. The necessity for preparedness, the level of alertness, heightened. I do not feel alarmist about this, nor anxious. This is simply a reality of life without our dog. It’s time to reassess. To adapt. To prepare yet again.


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