Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

We throw the word "hero" around a lot. Too often, really. Movie actors who have never done anything but recite words written by someone else, showing expressions in closeups, as told by a director. We have ball players who, were it not for some freakish gift of nature, plus a willingness to work, with personal habits that would otherwise earn them an orange jumpsuit. Today, though, we honor the real heroes.

The heroes were ordinary men and women who, in a moment of extraordinary stress and danger, reached down deep inside and found a little something extra. Men and women of the United States of America have been doing this since before we were a nation. There is much nonsense about the decline of America bandied about. This decline is not found in our Armed Services.

I only pray that the sacrifices of our young men and women are not thrown away by our political class. Some 58,000 of my brothers and a few of my sisters had their lives thrown away by our politicians, after we won that war. Today the political class is doing the best they can to repeat the process.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Loaded For Bear, The .348 Winchester

It was the last of Winchester's heavy American Game lever guns, the Winchester Model 71 in .348 Winchester. Not quite up to Africa's biggest game, the .348 was for America's big critters, the Moose, the Elk, the Grizzly Bear and Alaskan Brown Bear. When loaded with it's heaviest bullets at full charge the saying went: "Kills on one end, wounds on the other." The checkered steel buttplate did not help there. It's very rare to see a 71 with the original steel buttplate.

I first fired one of those when I was a boy weighing about 120 pounds. Firing from the prone position the recoil lifted both elbows off the ground and I dropped back hard enough to bruise and skin both of them. My Mama gave me a little grief for the bloodstains on my shirt, if I recall. I finished shooting from kneeling and offhand where my body could rock back with the recoil, it wasn't so painful that way.

Those were the Winchester 200 grain loads, or handloaded equivalents. If those had been the 250 grain bear loads I probably would have taken up astronomy for a hobby instead of shooting. Maybe needlework or knitting.

The 71 Winchester was the last modification of John Browning's famous 1886 Winchester rifle. By 1936 when the '71 was developed, the 1886 was too expensive to manufacture as well as being pretty well non competitive with other hunting rifles due to weight and the difficulty in putting those newfangled telescopic sights on board. The tube magazine prevented using the sharp pointed spitzer bullets, too.

Few hunters used the old big bore cartridges by then, like the .45-70, .45-90 and .50-110 anymore, except in Alaska, Canada and the Grizzly country of the American western mountains. The only '86 Winchester Cartridge suitable for the lighter deer of the rest of the country was the .33 Winchester but it was considered a little light for the great bears.

So the internal changes in the 71, combined with the better steels available from the 1900 nickel steel of the smokeless era 1886 Winchesters brought us the 71. The stronger rifle needed a stronger cartridge so they took the old .50-110 black powder case and necked it down to .348. They first loaded it with 150 grain bullets for deer and 200 grain bullets for bigger game. This, with the improved stock by Colonel Townsend Whelan kept the rifle manageable, at least to men weighing more than 120 pounds! Of course, few ever shot that rifle much from prone, anyhow.

A couple other of the mid-century giants of shooting had much to do with the rifle and cartridge, Phil Sharpe and Elmer Keith.

This rifle has not been made since the 1950s, except for a short run made by the Miroku people in Japan. This was for the Browning line. Most, though, are still in use by men in Alaska and Canada's bear country and a few folks still hunting the dark woods for moose.

There isn't much factory ammo left for the .348, Winchester loads a 200 grain Silvertip, Buffalo Bore loads a 250 grain load that is just the thing for someone in the great bear country. Although at $83.00 for a box of twenty I'd have to think long and hard if it wouldn't be a little cheaper to let the bear chew on me a while.

The only mass produced component bullet around is the Hornady 200 grain flat point. Barnes makes a 220 and 250 grain and there is a company in Alaska, the Alaska Bullet Works I believe, that makes a 250 grain bullet reputed to be a dandy for the big bears. Hawk Bullets also makes a 250 grain.

There have been several attempts to blow out the .348 to make it a bit more powerful, although I don't know why.Parker Ackley's .348 Improved being the most famous. Trouble is that the .348 is already powerful enough for it's intended purpose, plus the "improved" cartridge is a bit more fussy in making the trip between the magazine tube and the chamber. Me? I'd rather have the sure feeding of the parent round than the extra 100-150 feet per second, if, of course I decided that I'd rather shoot the four dollar+ cartridge than let the bear chew on me.

There were not that many 71 Winchesters made, it started, of course atthe very end of the lever action era, in thend of the great depression. Then, of course, the war came along, Winchester quit making guns for the civilian market. then, in late 1945 when civilian stuff came back online many, perhaps most, of the skilled craftsmen who made these fine rifles did not come back to Winchester. Winchester discontinued this fine rifle in 1958 and I never got to own one.

*Photo of rifle shamelessly stolen from Paco Kelly's essential site, Leverguns. If my blog-fu were better I would have a proper linkage. I'm pretty sure they'll forgive me, I was a rifleman, not an electronicalwockel expert.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stupid Dog!

Well I got all psyched up to put Ming out of her misery and then she got a little use out of her back legs again and quit crying. She can now lay comfortably in her doggie bed and sleep with her Mama. So, she has a reprieve, for how long I don't know but as long as she is fairly comfortable, she lives.

I reckon the good and kind thoughts of you readers helped, thanks.

In other news we still have a semi-disaster off the coast of Louisiana with that blown oil platform. I say semidisaster because the effects of oil are temporary. Whatever damage done will go away, in time, after we stop the flow of oil. Oddly. one of the groups we have to thank for this is the antil drilling bunch. Had we some kind of rational drilling policy that rig would be in shallow water, the leak would have been stopped within days and the mess already cleaned up.But these anti drilling people are so much smarter than everyone else, just ask them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Time To Say Goodbye

Ming the Merciless has lost the use of her back legs completely. The poor little girl is well over twelve years old and it's getting to be time to take her into the yard with a paper plate full of liverwurst (her fave) and give her the shot.

Rudyard Kipling said it as well as anyone in The Power Of The Dog, the last stanzas go like:

When the body that lived at your single will,
With it's whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way. When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given but only lent, at compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em the more we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong, A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our heart for a dog to tear?

Why indeed? Yet we do it anyway. Well, it's time to dig another hole in the yard. Damn. Just damn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't Tell Nobody But Being Single Blows Chunks.

So, the idiot Doctor and hospital decided to have the surgery on Linda Lou's leg when they had no room for her on the rehab wing. The surgery went fine, BTW, they removed all the hardware and put in a longer rod, and, while he was inside, he worked on her knee some, also.

The plan was to put her in this nursing home in Greenville that does physical therapy. Only after the surgery did anyone check to see if our insurance would cover that. The answer is no. So, they kept Linda Lou in the medical-surgery wing longer than usual until they could find a hospital with a rehab wing with room for her. All the "close" hospitals were full, leaving us with a choice of two, about seventy-five miles away, each. You might not believe this but I said an ugly word. Or two.

Fortunately, one of the hospitals is in Plano, TX, where our daughter lives with her family. So, that's where I took her. I have enough gas in the tank to go get her and bring her home, next Thursday. Not to go see her. Oh, snap! And other comments.

The good news is thar she is getting her physical therapy and Stephanie is able to visit and do things like keep her in clean laundry and the odd snack. Tonight, Steph and Dean took William, aka Dead Eye McGurk, to a scouting function and couldn't come. Dean's parents, though, showed up with the other two boys, Josiah and Karson. So, even though I can't go, my Linda Lou gets visits from some of those who love her.

Don't tell her that I miss her, she'll get the big head. While Linda Lou is in the hospital I'm fixing some of the meals from bachelorhood. Meals like "Oh no! Not Again!" This is hamburger, fried and drained, then cooked a little more with onions, mixed with rice and served with lots of soy sauce. For some strange reason this recipe repels women but guys like it. It's not worth having Linda Lou gone so long, though.

Other than that, the big news around here is that one of my neighbors rototilled a little strip in the front yard and we hit a yard where someone once had a mobile home, dug up a couple of dozen Iris and I planted them. There are a lot of Iris left, there. The place has been empty for a long time and the Iris have kind of taken over. The Iris I planted won't, if they live, bloom until next Spring but, what the heck. If they live, good, if not, well, I tried. Iris, being more or less a desert plant, require little, to no effort, the hard part is keeping them from turning into an Iris "forest".

Ming the Merciless has gone completely blind now, this has been coming on for a while. She is still fairly comfortable, though. The pains she has are controlled by the same low dose aspirin I take every day to reduce the risk of a heart attack. Only hers are wrapped in liverwurst. Her teeth are pretty well gone now, too. So I feed her that soft pouch food. Bingo and CAP don't quite understand that they get kibble and she gets pouch food. The kibble is better for them, though.

Anyhow, Ming is still fairly happy, even though she can't see and can't hardly walk. I take her outside once or twice a day, she lays outside after she's done her business and limped away a few feet. She lays there and sniffs the wind and barks at strange sounds and smells for a while, then I bring her back in. Then she gets her liverwurst pill.

Forty years ago if anyone would have told me that this would be my life, I probably would have thumped 'em with a stick or something. As it is, even through the rough patches, I'm one of the luckiest guys around. I might not be rich but what I have is both mine and paid for, plus the kids and grandkids that love me, not to mention my Linda Lou. I won't mention her for fear of that big head. Which is different from a little head.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Another Mother's Day. I Still Miss Her

I am sure there are men and women who miss their mothers as much as I do, I just can't figure out who they would be.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Single Again For A Little While

Linda Lou is back in the hospital after more surgery on that same broken leg. Seems one or more of the screws holding the rod to the bone came out and her leg was healing with a bend where there should be no bend. So they went in and put a longer rod in, plus, since her knee was about kaput, they did a little work there, too.

Lord only knows how long they'll keep her there this time, seems they want her to stay long enough to avoid her having to keep repeating the process. It would be nice to get back into a regular routine. This is about the only reason I miss living in town. Instead of it being a ten minute drive it's always a big trek. It could be worse, though, I could have settled in Nashville.

Hmmm, Linda Lou just called. Seems that, instead of staying home and keeping the dogs comfy I have to go take Linda Lou to a nursing home near the hospital as they have no rooms available in the physical therapy section. Seems that the physical terrorists can work on her just as well in the other nursing care center. I would have been just as happy had she watched where she was walking in the first place.

More, later, when I have some idea of what is going on.