As I picked up my son at preschool today, the ground rocked from a round of artillery at the nearby military base. He stopped walking and looked up at me to ask, "What was that?" It took me a minute to figure out what he was asking about. After all, over the past dozen years I've gotten used to the sound of artillery in the distance and the ground shaking on occasion.
Until Luke asked the question, I hadn't thought about the fact that the firing ranges have been relatively quiet over the past few months. I can only guess that the drought has limited the military's ability to use some of the ranges for fear of wildfires. Last night it rained for the first time in weeks giving Virginia a little relief from the drought, and the Marines are clearly taking advantage of the wet fields.
As the ground shook again, I stood in the middle of the sidewalk next to my son's school and tried to find a way to put into words what was going on at the military base. After all, I'm a writer. I should be able to describe something as simple as an artillery shooting range to a three-year-old. Still, I found myself hesitant to use words like bombs and guns. It's not the kind of stuff you want to tell a little boy about when they're being fired close enough to rattle his school and house.
Before I managed to find an adequate answer, a teenager walked out of the school with his mom. Another round went off and the boy nodded in the direction of the base. "Sounds like the Marines are having target practice again."
Luke looked up at me and said, "Mom, it's target practice."
Gee, why couldn't I have thought of that?