Sunday, May 29, 2005

Home In The USA . Scattered Thoughts on Travel.

We're all home safe, Linda Lou, Captain Fatbob the Pug and me. I love taking driving trips but whenever I get home I threaten to never look at the world through a windshield again.

I'm struck, as usual, by the sheer size of the USA. The trip home was over 1300 miles and we only went through a slice of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and a little piece of Texas. I'm struck, too, by the people. In small towns and big cities as well as stops in the country it was difficult to find someone unfriendly. Perhaps it was Captain Fatbob breaking the ice but we hardly ran into an unfriendly person. People were especially generous with their time, we'd ask directions or just ask folks what there was to see wherever we were. The local people, wherever we went, are proud of where they live and want to tell us about it. Ordinary Americans aren't afraid to talk to strangers.

We rode the bus back from downtown DC, instead of the Metro train, at one point we were the only white folks on the bus, me all decked out in my Texas wild west clothes and, even the part of the trip through the projects, there was not one display of hostility. I've heard Washington described as a city with "Northern Charm and Southern Efficiency". I haven't traveled much in the north but if folks up there act like the folks in DC it will be a pleasure once I do.

While I'm thinking about just how big the country is I might mention the odd attitude of the snobby Euroweenies (all Europeans aren't snobby nor weenies) and their frequent blather about how few Americans have passports. It's because we don't need 'em to travel long distances. I notice how small the countries in Europe are, except Russia. We could hide all of France in Texas and not notice much except for odd smells. There would be a slight increase of rudeness, I suppose, until we shot a bunch of 'em and kicked a bunch more in the butt.

I'll add some more, later. I've got to talk about Manassas and something about Tennessee. That Davy Crocket song just might be true, Tennessee is the greenest state in the land of the free.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Wall

We walked to the Metro Stop, about five blocks and rode downtown to Union Station which is still in the process of being renovated. After wandering around there for a bit we caught a cab to The Wall. I wasn't dressed as I planned, when I slammed on my brakes during the unfortunate incident of the bumpers in Atlanta my only dress shirt (that we packed) ended up knocked off the hanger and ended up under the ice chest, soaked and dirty. Instead of wearing my weddings and funeral suit I wore my fancy bright red western bib shirt. You've seen them on John Wayne in his westerns. Anyhow, I'm somewhat more comfortable in blue jeans, a western straw hat and poliched boots.

It was a gray, windy day, cold enough that I should have worn my felt Stetson but it's not nearly rainproof. I was glad for the bib shirt, they do a real good job of keeping the wind from whipping down the collar a la that old country song 'Anybody Goin' to San Antone', Charlie Pride did the best job, the Texas Tornados an almost-close second.

We paid a few extra bucks to the cabby to show us a few of the sights on the way, we saw the Capitol Building from a few angles, when we stopped near the State Department the guards gave us the hairy eyeball, we moved away quickly. We must have seen someone important driving, a convoy of police motorcycles, black Suburbans and one limo, sirens ascreamin and lights aflashin. We weren't close enough to see who it was.

We got to The Wall and walked on down. Linda Lou and I walked it once and then I put her on a bench and returned. It would have been more emotional for me, perhaps, had it not been for all the giggling kids. Still, powerful. I didn't look at my watch, I have no idea how long I stayed. While I was walking between panels a Park Service guy asked me about where to find those bib shirts, we'll meet him again, later.

It was easy to tell the other vets in the crowd, just a matter of finding the somber old farts. I met the mother of one of us that didn't beat the odds, she was on one of those wheeled walkers with a cushioned shelf-seat being pulled around by her middle-aged daughters. We spoke for a few minutes while her daughters made a pencil rubbing of his name. Her son was Army so I didn't know him, although he was my brother. While we were talking a Viet-American came up and thanked her, it made my day. I went back to the panel where some friends were listed, said a little prayer and wished I'd remembered to bring a six-pack to leave. I was really annoyed at the kids pulling out and reading the notes left stuck in the cracks between panels, it seemed a real invasion of privacy. I thought I was going to be in a fistfight over the one kid just dropping the note instead of putting it back. Still, after I mentioned showing a little respect he did put it back and I only suffered a dirty look from the parents. Bein' a married man I'm used to dirty looks.

I wandered up, collected Linda Lou and we saw a high school band from a small town in Missouri, Nixa if I remember correctly, playing between the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflection Pool. The kids were in T-shirts, they must have been freezing their hinies off but they played well. We got there during the last of the set, the only complete song we heard was America The Beautiful.

I walked up the steps and went in the Linoln Memorial while Linda Lou sat on a bench, since she tore her ACL she doesn't do anymore stairs than absolutely neccessary. After that we went to see the two statues by The Wall, the three soldiers and the nurses and the fallen soldier. I really wish the person who did the three soldiers statue had the slightest idea of what an infantryman looks like. The peabrain put two of them without hats, not knowing that we would have all died of the heatstroke wandering the bush without something on our heads. Worse, was the belt of M-60 ammo around the one guys neck, with no padding and the pointy bullets sticking his neck rather than pointing out. Idiot artist.

As we were leaving the Park Service guy caught up with us and gave me one of those small flags that had been planted for a ceremony, one of two hundred. If he mentioned what the ceremony was, I don't remember. I didn't recall mentioning to him in our conversation that I'd spent my time over there, maybe I did, maybe he just has seen enough of us to know. I wish I'd had it to give to that mother, instead I'll put it on the wall of my study/gunroom.

I'll write some more later, right now I've got to get Captain Fatbob the Pug out of Knoxville before Professor Reynolds tries to make a Smoothie out of him. On to Nashville and then, Little Rock for the night.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pugs Don't Like Oceans

Washington, DC. One would think that a citizen arriving in Washington would first see enormous piles of money blocking the streets. Not so far, anyhow. It's somewhat frightening that all the money we send to DC is spent. No wonder the Nanny State can afford of be such a long-nosed busybody.

I've neglected posting about the visit with the kids, partially because we were busy, partially because I'm neither a Lileks, a Boudicia nor an Army Wife, Toddler Mom. Just plug in a wildly extroverted four year old boy and a quite introverted two year old boy to any of their posts and that's what I'd write. The newborn, like all two-week olds, eats, poops and sleeps. It was impossible to explain to the boys that Pugs are not horses and no matter how hard you pull their ears you can't ride them.

We left Charlotte, drove to Williamsburg, VA to spend two nights and one full day. We had only enough time to scratch the surface of Colonial Williamsburg before we continued our trip. Not a whole lot to tell, I did, however buy my very first $4.50 cup of coffee in my life. It explained the sociological mystery to me. I've never understood why Starbucks drinkers always seem to be in a bad mood. They simply cannot afford to stave off the caffeine-withdrawal headaches. Nor do I understand the Starbucks mystique. The coffee tastes ugly to a boy raised on the plain-jane stuff. It reminds me of the only time I ever tried the grits in a Yankee truck stop. I was glad to leave Williamsburg, every time we got in the car we were lost.

Seeing as how we don't have a lot of extra time on this trip we drove from Williamsburg to DC via Virginia Beach. Linda Lou had never seen the Atlantic Ocean. It was a gray, rainy day but, luckily, the rain took a break for the couple of hours we spent there. I walked Captain Fatbob the Pug down to the waves. He found the smells of the beach fascinating but when we got to the sand where the small waves were breaking, he didn't like that much. As the waves got close he hid behind me. Then when I tried to back away from the oncoming water I tripped over him and went ass over teakettle on the sand. We just HAD to get dogs. I could be catblogging like all the big guys and gals but no. We had to get dogs. Oh, well, nothing was hurt 'cept my pride and my bootshine. I think my next pet should be a long-legged redhead. Linda Lou disagrees.

The drive up was both beautiful and frustrating. This is some very pretty country but it's frustrating to not have time to stop and tour all the battlefields of the Civil War. The only stop I made was at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine off I95 just south of Fredericksburg. The bed that General Jackson died in is still there and the blanket that covered him. The nice young National Park Service guy is part of the far-flung Davis clan, maybe a forty-second cousin, twelve times removed. anyhow I now know more than I need to about just how Stonewall Jackson died.

In a stunning example of my impeccable timing we hit the Beltway right at rush hour. In spite of all warnings about how rooms are so expensive in DC as opposed to the suburbs we found a Motel 6 on Georgia Ave, five or so miles from the White House. It's over twenty bucks a night cheaper than the suburban motels. The downside? Traffic right outside the window. We're trying to wake up enough to get moving. Stupid cities. Can't sleep very well because of the noise, can't wake up because we're tired. No wonder city folks keep shooting and cutting each other.

One piece of good news, when I went down with the yellow pages to ask where a close kennel to keep Captain Fatbob while we take the Metro to the Smithsonian and The Wall, the clerk said we could just leave him in the room. That saves us some time and money.

Well, it's time to get moving.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

What's Wrong With Journalists?

I'm a little too young to remember the reporting from WW2 but I grew up reading the words of the reporters who covered the war. I'm struck by the difference between what we had then and what we have now. Unlike my Dad's generation, the journalists of today act no differently than if they were actively working for the other side.

Those are hard words, I know. Still if Newsweek, or Eason, now this Foley person were actively working on the side of the Jihadis how would their reportage be different than it is? If the NY Times were actively on the other side would there be any more coverage of the bad and less of the good news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq?

The wartime censorship during WW2 is sometimes offered as an explanation but I've read too many books by those same reporters, written after the war, when the censorship had ended. No, it's not the censorship, it's something else. I think I have a handle on a large part of it.

Prior to WW2 a college degree was a rare thing. Many people stayed in school only long enough to learn to read and write. The GI Bill changed that, for the first time in history large numbers of working and middle class people got degrees. This is seen, generally, as a good thing. The downside, though, was that all of these new degrees tended to devalue those degrees. Jobs that were previously open to anyone now required degrees.

At the same time, trades became 'professions'. Nowhere is this more true than in the News business. Prior to the degree glut reporters were almost all the sons of blue collar workers or farmers. Bright young kids with a way with words got out of the drudgery of farm and factory by going to work for the newspapers. Reporting was a trade like bricklaying. The kids who went into reporting brought their working class attitudes with them. When a reporter covered stories about the military or the police they were covering the people they grew up with. The average reporter probably had a brother or cousin on the cops or in the Service.

The reason that people go into reporting is different as well. In the old days people took jobs as reporters because that was their chance to get out of the farms and factories. It was a job that was often interesting and involving no stultifying manual labor. Today people get into the news biz to 'make a difference'.

As the WW2 generation of reporters retired they were replaced by a new generation of college-educated people for whom the trade of news reporting wasn't good enough, hence came "The Profession of Journalism". Let's add a couple of things that happened while this was going on. First was the shrinking of the military and the end of the Draft. Not that the Draft had much to do with this new generation of journos, not with the 2-S deferments. Even the war in Southeast Asia had small effect on this new batch of reporters, they could simply stay in school until they were out of the age class the Services liked. Of course this had a tendency to raise the socio-economic class of the graduates entering the news business, blue collar families couldn't afford to keep their kids in college through grad school and the Viet Nam Era GI Bill was nothing like the post WW2 GI Bill.

So, what we have today is a completely different breed of reporters than previous generations. I doubt that Linda Foley personally knows a single member of the Armed Services. What are the odds that Eason Jordan has ever known a Soldier in a social situation? Over at the Times, anybody want to bet the house payment that Maureen Dowd has ever dated a Marine?

To the new generation of journos the members of our Armed Services are not their fathers, sisters, cousins or sons and daughters, they're abstractions. Writing something that would harm them is unimportant. What matters more is the chance to harm an administration with which they feel no loyalty and, in a large percentage, outright hatred.

It also matters that the vast majority of today's journos are poster children for the Me Generations we've raised. The concept of risking discomfort, much less their lives, for something larger than themselves is as foreign to them as the concept of suicide bombing.

Since few journos know no service men or women, it's easy to believe any outlandish thing they hear.

Add it all up and why not print a poorly sourced story about the possible flushing of a Koran at Gitmo? No one that Newsweak cares about will be hurt.

Why not claim that military people are intentionally targeting journos? Our Soldiers and Marines, our Airmen and Sailors are foreigners to these journos. We who have served or are serving now know how silly an idea that is, if for any other reason that they're still breathing air. If it were policy that we offed journos and our troops went along with that policy, journos would be stacked like cordwood. Of course very few of our troops would stand for such a policy, though I suspect that more would now than last month.

My concern is that we are still in the early stages of the fight against militant Islamism. It's bad enough that mainstream journos are acting just like their intention is to turn the public against our victory in this life and death struggle. On top of that they, at every chance, put out materiel that puts the lives of our people at greater risk. I know combat troops, I was one. We're the most pragmatic people in the world. How long before the rants of the Jordans and the Foleys become self-fulfilling prophesies?

Update...I do not expect our Servicepeople to go around willy-nilly blowing away journos. Something has got to give, though. If the world war against militant Islamism is as dangerous to the survival of our Western Civilisation as I think, and the chance of our losing as real, we simply cannot afford the mainstream media acting as they do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Newsweek Riots

Everybody and their mother in law is blogging about Newsweek and the riots after they published that blurb about the alleged desecration of the Koran. While it's pretty obvious that Newsweek screwed the pooch, I'm wondering about something else.

I'm wondering why we have to walk around on pins and needles worrying about the Islamic hypersensitivity to any slight, real, alleged or even imagined, to their religion when they show no trace of respect to others. Isn't it about time that Islam starts to worry about our cultural and religious sensitivity a little? Like the one about not flying airliners into our buildings? Maybe the one about not beheading our civilians? How about the religious taboo about not taking over a Russian school and slaughtering children?

I'm about this close to running for President on the Nuke Them All Platform. I can see where nuking all of Islam at once might be considered a bit extreme by some, although there are others that would wonder why nobody's run on such a platform before. Because I'm a reasonable man I'm willing to compromise. How about we only blow up three places a week until Islam decides to play nice with it's neighbors?

Eh, it's late and I probably shouldn't post when I'm tired and grumpy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Atlanta and the Busted Bumpers

It should have been an easy drive into Atlanta and it was. We got into Alabama, the wildflowers and smooth pavement returned. Alabama shares a similarity with many other areas in the American South, it's closed on Mondays. We'd planned a stop in Birmingham to see the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, pronounced ('Babatist' by most southerners)where those four young girls were blown up by that peckerwood Kluxer. That bombing was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s, turning a lot of people who had no particular commitment either way toward the slow and stumbling march toward racial equality. I was a kid then, I still remember some neighbors who, for the life of them, couldn't refer to black Americans in words used in polite company who were so revolted by that bombing that they turned against Jim Crow. Since the place was closed we bypassed Birmingham.

Alabama is strange country, red dirt and scrub pine is about all one can see from the freeway. We saw almost no farming, previous generations had, in their ignorance, cottoned the land plumb out. Hardly anything grew except those scrub pines.

We had lunch near one of the Shrines of Southern Religion, the Talladega Super-Speedway. We didn't tour the Motorsports Museum because we didn't want to leave Captain Fatbob in the car that long. It's not so hot yet that it's dangerous to leave our vicious killer attack Pug in the car but he still cries. Loudly.

We got into Georgia, the pavement is still good, the roadside wildflowers seem to be a county affair here. Cross one county line and the wildflowers are profuse, the next county just scrub weeds on the roadside, then back to the riot of springtime colors.

We got into Atlanta just in time for the rush hour traffic, in the start and stop action on the freeway I managed to space out just enough to miss the brake lights of the car in front of me. Turns out that I met a nice fellow from Indiana who was delivering an older Jeep Cherokee to his son as a graduation gift. Seems that we both need some bumper repair now. Nobody hurt but my pride took a real beating. The only damage to his car was that the brackets holding the bumper on the car got badly bent, our car, only the plastic bumper cover is a little torn up. The insurance will cover it. Oddly, Georgia still requires a police report for minor accidents, even with both drivers insured. The Clayton County Police Officers were polite and professional. I think they were relieved that nobody was yelling at each other. They weren't the stereotypical big-bellied white southern lawmen and nobody said anything like 'you in a heap o' trouble, boy'. Both Officers were black, if that matters, fairly young and in great physical shape. Good guys. It took a little longer than it might have, it takes a little longer to run wants and warrants for out of state types, still they handled that little chore as well as any department in the country. One can tell how a department's Officers will handle a big job by the way they handle the little jobs. Somehow I believe that if that guy that took Deputy Granny's gun up in Atlanta and blew away that judge and three other people had been in the Clayton County lockup instead of Fulton County it would have been a different outcome.

Fortunately neither car had broken lights, dragging parts or anything else that needs immediate attention so everyone went on their way with minimum hassle.

Today Linda Lou wants to visit the Gone With The Wind Museum, we'll fool around here today and then on to Charlotte in the morning.

Later...Atlanta doesn't seem to understand Tex-Mex food very well. I should have known better but Linda Lou wanted Mexican. We passed a big shiny soul food restaurant and a big shiny southren cookin' restaurant, but, noooo. I'm not trying anymore Tex-Mex 'til we're back home. There is supposed to be a difference betwixt Salsa and pureed tomatos.

I stayed in the room with Captain Fatbob while Linda Lou toured the Road to Tara Museum. We're going to have to put him in a doggie day-care when we go visit our money in Washington. He's just going to love that. Probably as much as he's going to love visiting a four year old and a two year old. Our poor old Pug isn't used to young children.

It's a real short drive into Charlotte, only 250 miles or so. I like to see the country but I sure miss my Select Comfort bed. I REALLY miss being on my little three house, dead-end street. I dunno how people manage to sleep, day in and day out in the noise of the city.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Boots Hinton

We didn't get nearly as far as I'd hoped, we're overnighting in Meridian Mississippi. It's my own fault, I just had to stop at the Bonnie and Clyde Museum in Gibsland, Louisiana. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were right up there with the most notorious of the Depression-era bandits, they cut a swath through the Midwest and southwest, robbing and murdering for two years before they were ambushed and killed by a six-man posse on a back road outside Gibsland.

The museum itself is almost a ripoff. Seven dollars each to see a bunch of old news articles and photos blown up poster sized and the car the shot up in the Faye Dunnaway, Warren Beatty movie. It wasn't a ripoff, though, what made it worth more than we paid was the guy running the place, a feller named Boots Hinton. Boots is the son of the late Ted Hinton, a member of that six-man posse and, at the time, a Dallas County Sheriff's Deputy, was assigned to that posse because he actually knew Clyde Barrow, having worked as a teenaged Western Union Messenger with Clyde.

Boots, a former Texas lawman himself, had too many stories for me to make a quick getaway. I found myself burning up two hundred miles worth of time sitting on a bench in the shade in a small town swapping li, er, stories with a kindred spirit.

We didn't get back on the road until after five PM, I just screwed my whole schedule. If it hadn't been that, it would have been something else. I found myself out of daylight in Jackson, Mississippi. I then regretted not getting a much earlier start. Have you ever wanted to stop and check out a town just because of the name? I found just such a town in Mississippi. Some day I'm going to have to come back and explore Chunky. Yes, somewhere in the dark, between Jackson and Meridian, I passed the exit for Chunky. I need to come back and find out if they have a high school. I'm probably going to lose sleep tonight wondering about the high school cheerleaders. I want to meet the chunky girls.

Taking this springtime trip reminds me of just how lucky I am to live in Texas. The sides and medians of the highways in Texas are covered in wildflowers in the spring, a legacy of Lady Bird Johnson. We crossed the line into Louisiana, the wildflowers disappeared. For a while I thought that so had the pavement but it's just that our coonass brethren have yet to master the concept of smooth concrete.

Well, tomorrow it's on to Atlanta, Linda Lou insists on going to the Coca Cola Museum. We may get to Charlotte in time for that new boy's Bar Mitzvah. It's time to close this, and my eyes. I must ponder the question of the Chunky girls.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Missed anniversary

Last week was an anniversary for me, marking forty years since I went over the bow ramp into Chu Lai in Viet Nam. It also marked the fortieth anniversary of the first young man I served with being killed, he somehow fell off the debarkation net and got smashed between a 73 foot LCM-8 (landing craft) and the ship before the weight of his gear sent him to the bottom.

His name is one of many on The Wall in DC, the first of those I'd served and lived with. He wasn't the last. I've been avoiding The Wall all these years as I've avoided wearing anything green, now with this upcoming trip I can no longer do so. Avoid The Wall, I mean, I still have no green in my wardrobe, such as it is.

I'm not much for joining, I never joined the VFW or American Legion, I'm not one of those 'professional veterans' one sees at every sort of event and I have no idea where my meager collection of medals and other military gewgaws and doodads ended up. I've never been to a unit reunion and have no particular desire to do so. I don't even get those letters anymore, I guess they gave up when I never answered.

I had, and still have a huge resentment toward a certain tall, horse-faced Senator from Taxachusetts for stirring up old memories and bringing back the dreams that spoiled my sleep for a decade or more. On the good nights the young men that never grew old would just visit as they were, strong and happy, on the bad nights I'd see them as they were when last I saw them.

I don't know if there is a point to this, except that I'm going to put on my 'weddings and funerals suit' and going to pay my respects to some old friends that I've neglected far too long. I'm not a fit spokesman for them, not after spending so many years hiding from them in a bottle, so I shall not try to speak for them. All I'll do is put on my Sunday best and go ask their forgiveness for not doing enough to keep their memories sharp and clean. I've never done near enough for them. I don't know that it's possible to do enough but I could have done more. I should have done more. I never had the courage to face their families and tell them what fine young men they were. I should have done that. Instead I hid.

It's past time I put this survivor's guilt behind me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Road Trip

We're beginning preparations for a little road trip, a drive from here to the Charlotte, North Carolina area to see our newest grandson, his two brothers, and of course, the kids. It looks to be an easy drive barring unusual weather or oddities of road construction, only a thousand miles. In our younger days we could make that in one long day, now we'll take two, maybe three. It will depend on what we stop to look at. I doubt we'll need more than two or three hundred rounds of ammunition for a short little trip like this. We may take a day trip up to Washington, DC so as to visit our money.

We've never been that far east in the southern part of the country, the furthest we've been in that area was when we toured the battlefields of Shiloh, Vicksburg and some of the smaller ones from The War of Yankee Aggression, as some southerners still call it. I have ancestors who wore Blue in that fight so, to me it's the Civil War, though from what I understand, it wasn't all that civil.

Any suggestions on must-see attractions on the route would be very welcome.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Rockhounds and the Rattlesnake, a Mother's Day Story.

My Mother was a rockhound, a collector of rocks. More specifically, quartz crystals, mainly although she had a lot of other specimens. She claimed that her biggest collection was the rocks in my head but that's a story for another time.

A member of several rockhound clubs and the more formal gem and mineral societies, she traveled the west and southwest in pursuit of her hobby. (It would have been too easy to insert the word 'quarry' in that least sentence.) In the late fifties and early sixties it was a common sight to see my mom driving the back roads in that Mercury station wagon, towing her robin's egg blue war surplus jeep behind.

One such trip was to the Calaveras River in the Gold Rush country of California, before that whole State went insane, must have been 1960 or '61. I was old enough to be of some help with the coolie labor involving the shovel, anyway. Might have been '59. The important thing is that it was before people started thinking rattlesnakes are a precious resource instead of dangerous vermin to be killed on sight. Many, perhaps most, rockhounds carried handguns on their belts for the purpose of dealing with snakes., Mainly small caliber, .22s, and .32s with a smattering of .38s.

This was a large gathering, The local club had issued invitations to several others for a multi-club dig on land still owned by a mining company, right on the river. Like most western rivers the Calaveras is a big river in the winter and spring from rain in the lower elevation and snowmelt from the higher mountains and very small in the summer and fall. The high water washes the collectible rocks from the higher elevations and leaves them along the course of the river in the depressions of the rocky watercourse.

Now that I've set the stage, imagine about seventy-five adults and God-only-knows- how-many kids digging the sediment that settled in the depressions of this solid rock, spread out over maybe ten acres of riverbank. Then some guy spotted a rattlesnake in one of those depressions. He pegged a couple of shots, missing. Naturally everyone went to see what was going on. The snake had taken refuge under this poor pitiful, scraggeldy bush that was destined to be underwater as soon as the rains came and everyone started shooting. Remember, they were shooting at a snake, under a bush, on rocky ground. It sounded like I've always imagined the Second Day at Gettysburg sounded like, must have been thirty-odd people shooting at once with ricochets flying everywhere. Being rockhounds, not shootists, they shot their shootin' irons dry with the snake being still very much with us after the fusillade.

As the guys were thinking about walking up the hill to their cars for more ammunition, up walked my mother. Fixing the whole crowd with a look that only a mother of unruly boys possesses, she asked if they were all through. There were a few mumbles as she walked up to just out of striking range, held her shovel like a WW2 Japanese Soldier about to bayonet the wounded and, with one spearing blow cut the snake in twain. After throwing the snake's head out onto the bare rock, she turned around, fixed the crowd with that look again, holding it long enough to shrivel testicles to the size of BBs, gave a slight curl of her lip and, wordlessly, walked back to where we were digging some very nice quartz crystals, along with a little bit of gold dust that we panned out of the dirt.

Mom has been gone a long time, now, her ashes scattered, according to her wishes, over a flower garden. Yet in my mind's eye she still stands tall, all five foot three of her, wordlessly turning a bunch of grown men into shamed little boys.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I hope when I see you again I don't deserve the look.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


This week's Carnival of the Cordite is here, at Pajama Pundits. I was too busy at the loading press, making a little ammo to write anything for it this week, but, there's always next week.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Range Day

Spent most of today at the shooting range fooling with a couple of extremes. On one end is my little Ruger 10/22, the other end is my Cimarron Single Action Army clone in .45 Colt.

My 10/22 is a $75.00 used rifle that I have some $500.00 into, so far. The stock and barrel are stuffed in the side of my 'stuff' closet, it's wearing a Hogue Overmolded Synthetic stock now and a $300.00 Shilen Match Grade Stainless Steel heavy barrel, the trigger, sear, hammer and extractor are Volquartsen. Ever wonder why shooters are always broke? Oh, let's not forget the two scope sights in quick detachable rings so I can switch from the 2-7 X variable power small game hunting scope to the 36 power benchrest scope.

Trouble is the wind was gusting from almost nothing to a bit over twenty MPH, right in the middle of each group. Every time I had a real nice five or ten shot group going, the wind would switch from straight in twelve o'clock to around three o'clock.

The good news is that I was testing function, mainly. It's hard to test accuracy when cinderblocks and anvils are blowing past in a Texas Spring Breeze. All my modifications seem to work and, maybe even better, the cheap 'by the brick' .22 ammo seems to shoot almost as well as the expensive match ammo.

I had a little more luck with the .45, the ranges are shorter and those big fat, heavy bullets don't get blown around as much. I haven't fooled around with single action revolvers much since I was a kid, I'm still getting used to this one. I had two different handloads that I was fooling with, both with my home-cast 250 grain round nosed flat points. The modern load is six grains (note to the curious, a grain is a measure of weight, one ounce equals 437.5 grains) of Hodgdon's Titegroup Powder. I mostly use Starline Brass and this load was sparked by PMC large pistol primers. These bullets used Lee's tumble lube and were sized to .452 inches. The alloy is a mix of half pure lead and half cleaned up wheelweight metal with one pound of tin to each twenty twenty pounds of alloy to improve the way the metal fills out the mold.

This load clocks about 850 feet per second out of my five and a half inch barrel and is destined to be my favorite load for just loafing around the woods or blasting at the range. Titegroup is going to become THE powder for small charges in big cases. Many, perhaps most, smokeless powders give erratic ignition when used in small charges in cartridge cases designed for Black Powder. Not Titegroup. I tested for any tendency toward being sensitive to position in the case by holding the loaded gun muzzle down before one shot, muzzle up before another through several groups, and compared them with groups that I just shot holding the revolver normally. It would take a much better shot than me to tell the difference.

Recoil is noticeable but not unpleasant. Best of all this load hits right over the front sight at ten yards, about four inches high at twenty-five and about two inches low at fifty that I've spent months trying to find a load to make other fixed sight revolvers shoot where they looked, I'm ecstatic.

The other load needs more work. I'm gathering up the toys to get into Cowboy Action Competition Shooting and would like to compete in the class that requires black powder or the black powder replicas, I'm fooling with Pyrodex P for now. This is a replica black powder, it's chief virtue is that it's not quite as easy to blow my fool head off in an accidental explosion as real black powder. Since black powder and the replicas are measured by volume, not weight, I'll simply refer you to Hodgdon's website and not give any numbers on how much powder I'm using. I'm using the same bullet but with SPG Lube instead of the Lee. Because of the way Black and replica black powder stains the cartridge cases I'm using Remington nickel plated brass for easier cleaning and lighting it all off with Winchester WLR Primers. I haven't run this load through my chronograph but it should clock about 900 feet per second.

This load works fine, for about one cylinder and a half, then the fouling builds up on the face of the cylinder and it gets really hard to turn. Apparently I don't have enough of that soft lube in the bullet's grease groove to both prevent leading and keep the fouling soft. My next batch I'm going to try a 'grease cookie'. This is a little dab,about the size of a pea, of that same soft bullet lube. It gets inserted on top of the over-powder fiber wad and then is smooshed flat as the bullet is seated. That *might* keep the fouling soft enough so that the cylinder won't bind.

I did get the old fashioned BOOM! of the old-timey loads and the satisfying cloud of sulpher-stinking white smoke instead of the wimpy bang of modern loads, so that's a start. Note to self: when testing black or replica black powder, try to remember not to shoot directly into the wind.

Now, excuse me while I clean my revolver and ponder that age old question, how does a cloud of white smoke turn everything it touches black?

And another question: Does anyone in the entire world, besides me, care about the details of handloading tests?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Colonel David Hackworth, RIP.

Col. David Hackworth died at age 74 in Tijuana, Mexico today where he was undergoing treatment for cancer.

Col. Hackworth, Hack to his legions of friends, admirers and foes alike, served as an Enlisted Man in the Korean War before being commissioned as an Officer in the US Army. He rose to Colonel and served with distinction and valor in Viet Nam before his outspoken opposition to the way that war was handled forced him to retire.

He wrote three books, About Face, A Viet Nam Primer, and Hazardous Duty. He then spent time as a columnist and gadfly to the corporate military and it's "Perfumed Princes".

I had my disagreements with Hack but I never once doubted his love of country and his dedication to the Soldiers who do the fighting. His fight was with the politicians, in and out of uniform.

My prayers and condolences to his family and friends. I hope they may find some comfort in knowing that he always fought for the right, as he saw the right. David Hackworth was a Soldier!

Jack Kelly Blogging!

Jack Kelly, the Marine and ex-Special Forces Soldier and now columnist for the Pittsburg Post Gazette has a new blog, Irish Pennants.
Mr. Kelly brings a sharp eye and keen mind to the military, political and historical issues we face. Excuse me while I add him to my blogroll.

Artificial Retinas One Step Closer In Continuing New Hope For The Blind

As the melding of medicine and microchip continues apace there are promising developments in treating previously untreatable conditions causing blindness. One such development is here. The artificial retina may be ready for widespread testing within the next few years.

Hat tip: The Evil Puppy Blender.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Neurological Miracle

This post will be absolutely boring to everyone except those who have had, or may someday have, a stroke. Or those who have a friend or loved one who has had, or may someday have, a stroke. If you don't fall into those categories go see Harvey's love notes because he is the best Blogfather ever for teaching me how to use the link, besides the comments are hilarious, though sometimes raunchy.

In a medical miracle that ranks quite a bit lower than that of Donald Herbert regaining his speech and memory after ten years following a Bad Day as a firefighter, I woke up this morning with the feeling and strength partially back in my right hand and arm. Without going into excrutiatingly boring detail about six weeks ago I awoke with numbness and weakness on the right side of my body after what my Neurologist describes as a ministroke, a tiny blood vessel in my (alleged) brain let go. The event was so small it didn't show up in the MRI that I had but Doc Walker was sure of his diagnosis because of the symptoms.

He started me on a course of treatment that I, quite frankly do not understand but, since I trust him, I'm going along with. I'll go along with almost any medical procedure that consists of me sitting, doing nothing, and entails no discomfort. As best I can describe it I'm hooked up to a computer and machine through electrode loops around my wrists, ankles and head. The machine records and the computer displays the electric and magnetic fields from my various body parts and then sends impulses to stimulate the body's internal healing mechanisms. In this case it tells those minute blood cells concerned with scavenging dead blood cells from the body, specifically in my brain. The treatment procedures are supposed to be about two weeks apart so that the body's internal "repair crews" have time to work. Yesterday was my second treatment session, this morning I noticed a dramatic improvement. I'm not a hundred percent but maybe seventy-five. Since the process is supposed to take time, I'm quite excited.

This is an unconventional treatment, my Doc is big on things like Homeopathic Medicine, Biofeedback and some other things that I cannot even pronounce, much less spell.

If you are dealing with the results of a stroke, either yours or a friend's or loved one's and are having no progress in recovery drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with my Doc, he knows who else is working with these unconventional methods.

Who knows, I may even be able to shoot that batch of Black Powder loads in my .45 Colt. I had them all made up and then this event happened, I've been afraid to go try them for fear I wouldn't be able to hold on to the shootin' iron during recoil. Woot!

Thanks to GEBIV of There's One, Only for staying on top of the Herbert story.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cigars All Around, The Blue Bands, Please.

Virtual Cigars for everyone! The newest member of the VRWC entered this world at 10.00 PM EDT. Mother and father squinting at the nine pound, two ounce, twenty-one and three quarter inch long boy trying to figure out if the name they picked out fits.

He joins his two brothers and three male cousins in the solemn duty of protecting my only Granddaughter's virtue.

The family tradition of running long on boys and short on cash continues through the generations.

In unrelated news, scientists link global warming to burning cigars.

Update 5/4/05: Well the kids looked at this new baby from enough angles to decide his name: John Mark. I'm glad that's settled. I'd hate to have to engrave "To whom it may concern" on his first .22 rifle.


The newest grandchild is late. Number Two Son, the human gas machine and his wife, Tall Brunette Angel were due yesterday. Their OB/GYN is inducing labor sometime today.

Pardon my pacing. No liveblogging this event, we have commitments that keep us here, the kids are in North Carolina. This is their third, the first two boys (and their Mom) came through with no problems, we expect none this time. The frustrating thing is that I'll be out of pocket all afternoon, I have to go to Dallas for a session with my neurologist. It's bad enough having to go to Dallas but waiting, too? I thought I was too old to sin so much to deserve punishment like this.

Update 915 PMCDT
Home safe, no messages and Linda Lou not home yet. I just called her on our only cell phone, no news. This guy is bound and determined to make them wake me up in the middle of the night. How rude. He didn't get that from MY side of the family.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Wrong People Talking, Again

The Armed Services of the USA have two seperate missions, a peacetime mission of standing around looking so fierce and frightening that we don't have to fight and, when that fails, to kill the other side's people and blow up their stuff until the other side gives up. Everything else we do with the Services is secondary to those two missions.

Over the last few months a LOT of people have been talking about whether or not openly gay men and women should serve in the Armed Services. The trouble is, it's the wrong people. I hear arguments both for and against from talk show hosts and callers, politicians, activists both for and against, retired Generals, dozens of bloggers and the odd DOD official.

Everyone but me has an opinion and, as a citizen and veteran, I should. The trouble is, the people I hear and read don't give me the information I need to form an informed opinion. The activists are interested in their agendas, the mission of the Armed Services is secondary. Most everyone else either has an agenda, too or is, like me, trying to come up with an informed opinion without the relevent information.

I remain monumentally uninterested in whether or not the current policy, or any proposed change in that policy, is "fair". There are a lot of people who would like to have the option of uniformed service who cannot. Is it "fair" to exclude someone because of the height or weight requirements?

I don't know what the seventeen year-old kid thinking of enlisting thinks. I don't know what the eighteen and nineteen year-old E-3 thinks and I haven't heard from any E-5s and O-1s, the young leaders who are the first steps in the chain of command.

The Editorial Writers from the NYT and Wapo are no help, what do they know about the attitudes of a kid in his or her late teens who hails from Resume Speed, North Dakota? Rush Limbaugh or Randi Rhodes talking on the radio are no help for the same reason. Even my own experience as that 19 year old E-3 is useless. Not only is that experience so long ago that trying to recall is difficult but my attitudes have changed so much in forty years that I can't trust my memory. My attitudes today color my memory of yesterday.

I enlisted sixteen years after President Truman signed that executive order desegregating the Armed Services and we still weren't fully adjusted to that. Lives were lost because of it. Still, looking back, there is an almost universal consensus that integrating the Services was the right thing to do. In the long run it was good for the Services and the country as a whole. Yet, in that short run, say 1948 to the early '70s, it took the Draft to make that integration work. Can integrating open gays work without a Draft? If we, the nation, go that way it durned well better because there ain't gonna be no Draft.

I flat don't know. Worse, in our all or nothing society, there's no way to do the only thing that makes sense to me. We've formed sides and neither side would allow us to have each Branch of Service form a unit to give the idea a real-life test. If both sides would climb down from their soapboxes we could form an experimental unit, call it the Fifteenth Lets See if This Works Mech Infantry Division. Run that test long enough to see how it works in garrison and in combat. The Navy, Air Force and Marines could form similar units.

It's bad enough that I don't even have a cat. Just that alone has me on thin ice with the Amalgamated Association of Bloviating Bloggers, AFL, CIO. I'm dead meat when the AABB finds out I can't even form an opinion on a controversial issue.

Update 5/3/05 I an aware that the attitudes of the young people that are in the Services or the ones who will be enlisting have and are changing. I simply don't know how much. I served with a few men whom we all *knew* batted for the other team. About half of them fit in after an initial period of them proving themselves, the others were disruptive from the getgo. I can't say if the disruption was because of them or us. It's too long ago.