Missouri women go into the woods with the controversial Appleseed Project and come out firing 

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After some background on events leading up to that date — namely the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party — Dinky describes the Battle of Lexington. The story takes an hour to tell, and other than Paul Revere, it's full of names too obscure for anyone here to recognize. When it's over, everyone looks ready for a nap. But nap time isn't on the itinerary.

Next, the instructors demonstrate a proper kneeling position. The key to kneeling, Dinky says, is to "let your heel hit ya where the good Lord split ya." Cookie Lady, an instructor named for her baking skills, demonstrates the cross-legged stance, using the "two-cheek sneak" to adjust her angle to the target.

The day ends without any signs of a coup, or even a decent Obama joke. The group gathers under the dusty beams of a barn for a flavorful, Revolutionary-era dinner of sausage, cabbage and carrots, applesauce, cornbread, and sassafras tea served in canning jars. Dinky hands out playing cards from a custom-made deck, each card printed with the biography of someone who played an important role in the Revolution. She instructs the women to read them aloud, one by one. She chokes up when she reads the card for Hannah Davis, the wife of the first man to die on the bridge at the Battle of Concord, and again when describing the sacrifices of women who saw their silver and linens turned into bullets and blankets.

"If we, as women, don't think we had contributions," Dinky says, "well, there's no shame in being a cook."

She doesn't mention that "cooks" are what Appleseeders call shooters with bad aim.


Once the sun goes down, the glittering streak of the Milky Way is plainly visible in the night sky. I need the light of my cell phone to find my way from the barn to my car. My plan is to camp out on the range until morning.

Headlights suddenly appear at the field's gate. It's Mama Bear, who says there's room on the couch at Paulette's, where the instructors are staying.

Inside Paulette's kitchen, Dinky presides over a postmortem meeting, seemingly unconcerned by the presence of a reporter. The instructors all agree that the day had gone terribly slow — usually, they get through all three shooting stances on the first day. The group still needs a lot of preparation for the Army Qualification Test, which combines all three stances, loading and unloading, for points that add up to a Rifleman score.

Dinky tells the other instructors that she made a mistake earlier in the day when she related the Redcoat targets to human body parts. She ought to have been more abstract, she says. While it's OK to be blunt about colonists outgunning Redcoats in a historical context, instructors aren't supposed to connect the pierced pieces of paper with actual humans. Appleseed leaders seem to prefer some distance between the skills they teach and their potential liability, just in case an errant attendee shoots up a Federal Reserve building.

Not that Dinky likes it this way.

"I think P.C. is a disease that's ruining this country," she says. "I don't buy into it. I'm old-school."

Later, I call Chris Midkiff, the state coordinator, to ask why Dinky might have felt that she had to water down Appleseed's rhetoric.

"The program has progressed," Midkiff says. "When we first started out, it was all middle-aged white guys with .30-caliber rifles. It's gotten to a point now where it's families with .22 rifles. I wouldn't say we're trying to be P.C. by any stretch of the imagination, but we're trying to tone down the terminology we use to make the group more comfortable."

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