Monday, January 11, 2021

My Fathers Guns


Last Thursday was my father's birthday. He'd have been 79 years old. But life seldom works the way we'd like, and I inherited these shotguns a little over eight years ago.

This week-end, I took them out to the range to remember him. I brought a box of game loads for each of them and took down a fair number of clays in his memory. 

The 12 gauge Ithaca that I once gifted him was right on, breaking 22 of the 25 clays. It was an old parkerized police dept. gun that came with an 18" barrel but I fitted it with a 28" barrel for him for hunting...and he lost the 18" one somewhere over the years. (If any of you have one that you don't need, I'd love to replace it...)

The little Iver Johnson single shot 16 gauge that he bought as a teen was a little less effective as the bronze bead on the muzzle broke some time ago and requiring me to hold under the clay just right. I don't have it quite down yet, but someday...

It was a great day to be out, a cool and crisp 45 degrees and sunny...just like those fall days in Michigan like we used to go out in together. He'd have right at home here...and he'd have bitched constantly about the cold. But we'd have had fun.

Now the guns are getting a proper cleaning and oiling and I'll consider fixing that Iver Johnson front bead. I haven't decided whether I will or not yet but I probably will. Had he still been here I'd have fixed it for him just to keep him from blaming it every time he missed something.

I do miss him. 

And most of the day as I shot, and traveled to and from the range, I couldn't help but hum this song by the great Elton John. It came out when I was just a kid, not even old enough to ride a bike, but I never heard it until decades later. It has meaning for me now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hey--write about ME!

 So someone read this blog and saw the recent posts about her sister and brother and suddenly she was giving me the eye and wanting to know where her post was.

So even though her anniversary here isn't until August, to keep the peace, here's a post for Merida.

She's been here a year and a half now, and she'd definitely made herself at home.

Despite being "differently abled", she's the most active and aggressive member of the pack now because she's still fairly young. 

She's only about 45lbs, but she's rock solid and she's learned how to throw that mass around to her advantage, knocking the bigger shepherds aside whenever they get between her and something she wants. But she still loves them.

And for so long, I wanted a dog I could wrestle and roughhouse with. The Shepherds are good for a lot of stuff, but they don't care to be tossed around or messed with. It's never been their thing. This one though? She lives for it. Nothing makes her happier than a good tussle. The downside I never thought about? She often wants to do this when I don't want first thing in the morning when I'm still trying to sleep. Her signature move is to step on me with her one front leg, then drop on me like Superfly Snuka. And when I push her away, that mouth full of no front teeth can get a very impressive hold on my forearm if I'm not careful. She wants to play and play hard and I really don't get much choice. She's a little badass and she knows it. 

This is also why she's banned from the dog park--she'll take on dogs twice her size and whup 'em, and with other animals, she's not playing. She goes right for the throat and if she had all her teeth I'd have been paying some serious vet bills...and she's taken out three of my chickens already even without those teeth.

"Fuck around and find out. I dare ya."

But she's got her soft, girly side too, and her other favorite activity is snuggling, and whenever I sit or lie down, she's gotta get right in there too, because she's decided that her place is wherever I'm at. And it's hard to stay mad at this little Tasmanian Devil for long, because she's got the gift of cute, and she works it.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Range Trip with new Form 1 toy.

Well it took long enough but I finally got the ok to assemble my new short barreled AR. And thanks to the delay (courtesy of BATFE), I got to purchase the new barrel at panic-buy prices and I was lucky to get it at all--everything is out of stock these days.  But the build is a Colt 733, or an XM-177a1 if you prefer, minus the 177 five-inch long flash hider at the end of it's 11.5" barrel. It's an actual Colt barrel (at Colt barrel prices) because it's all I could find, and it's on a vintage A1 upper. Admittedly, it's short. and light. I think I like it.

And I skipped the moderator/flash hider from the old XM-177 versions because technology has improved somewhat since the early 1970's and now we have things like the Gemtech HALO suppressor, which brings the length back up again but still renders this little shorty pretty much hearing safe and flashless. (Without the can it's got an impressive big gun roar and flash.)

And here to demo it on the range is the adorable Sunshine, firing an AR for the first time ever.

"It's heavy."

Yeah. Wait until next time when I hand her an M1 Garand.


Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Ten years ago yesterday

 I was going to post this yesterday but I decided that it was going to be General Yeager's day. I checked with Murphy and he was good about it.  Crazy old dog...can't believe it's been ten years.

He's here!

Ten years ago, the dog foster drove down from Maryland to mi casa in West Virginia and dropped off this dog.  "Can't sell him to you because the rescue considers him too dangerous. Just take him. And if you really have trouble with him, you can bring him back."  With those words of encouragement, they snuck out of the house while the dog was exploring and they were gone. And this dog cried and cried, because he'd been abandoned by his people again.

And he was a handful. He was spirited and usually obedient, but only when he was within arm's reach. And he knew. So we had issues like this:

Damn dog!

And him "helping" me reload ammunition: 

Not helpful!

We had a lot of disagreements those early days, because he'd been abused and neglected and was almost feral after a spending year in the dog pound, but he came around, and while he's never been the "perfect" dog, he's a damned good dog, and that's good enough for me,

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

RIP General Chuck Yeager.

This is a re-post of an old post from March 23rd, 2010. RIP General Chuck Yeager.

There was a time, back in the day, when I worked as a hotel security guard at night to pay my way through school. It was a good job for this, as it paid me enough that I was able to directly pay my tuition each semester instead of relying on loans or other student aid, and also because my night hours allowed me to do all of my reading and paper-writing during working hours after the hotel bar was closed and the guests were mostly asleep. I could come in directly following my evening classes, get my (free to employees) dinner from the hotel kitchen's night crew, be available for a while when the guests were about, then study until the end of my shift, at which time I'd grab a (free) breakfast from the same kitchen's morning crew and head off to morning classes. It was a great gig for a student, let me tell you. One of the things about this hotel was that it was near the office of a particular defense contractor and offered a special rate to that contractor's employees. One of those people at this time was none other than General Chuck Yeager, USAF (ret.)Naturally, as an enthusiastic student of both military history and aviation even back then, I was in awe of this man, and even thought I'd never seen him personally, the mere fact that he was actually in the hotel filled me with pride, right up until it almost got me fired one day. You see, it was the task of hotel security to deliver the express checkout receipts to guests who requested that option. we got the job by default since there was no bell staff in the early morning hours, and I regularly made the rounds of the halls at about 4:30 or so and slipped one under each early-bird guest's door. Well one morning, as I was distributing them, I saw one with General Yeager's name on it. I took a few seconds and wrote out a brief note stating that I personally considered it a great honor that he was there and thanked him for his years of service to our country. Who could find fault with that, right? Well when I got in the next evening, I found out who could find fault with that: My department head, the hotel's night manager, and the hotel's general manager. All three of them were present for a special sit-down meeting with me that evening in which I was warned that if I ever bothered another guest like that again, I'd be out the door immediately. Apparently my little note was the source of a complaint at check-out, and it rolled downhill exponentially from there. To say that I was shocked and seriously disappointed in my hero, Chuck Yeager, was an understatement. I got over it, however, although not without some resentment. Was my note that inappropriate? I didn't think so, but even if it was, the hammer that got dropped on me certainly wasn't proportionate to the harm. I decided that the General was just a pompous ass, and it served me right for getting so caught up in his public image. This was my belief for the next few months, and then one night, I got a call from the night desk clerk. He said that a guest who couldn't sleep was in the lobby asking if he could get a cup of coffee. Now the kitchen was closed at this hour and the night clerk knew that if there was any coffee in the building, it would have been the pot that I made for myself to help keep me focused while I studied. I always brewed a pot, and much to the annoyance of the morning restaurant manager, I made it super-strength by turning up the setting on the coffee grinder to about twice what it was supposed to be. It worked for me, but invariably, the morning kitchen staff neglected to notice this and poisoned the first batch of morning customers with coffee that made espresso seem like tea. Well I told the desk monkey that yes, I had some coffee, but that it was pretty strong stuff. He knew how I made it and he advised the guest, but the guest said that he liked it strong, so I shrugged and poured a carafe full and took it out to the lobby on a tray with a couple of cups and the cream and sugar that wusses like to put in their coffee. Imagine my surprise when the guest in the lobby turned out to be General Yeager himself, sitting on the lobby couch. I set the coffee down on the table in front of him, still butt-hurt from my last experience. However he thanked me with what seemed like genuine warmth, and he asked my my name. I told him, hoping that he wouldn't remember the note episode, and he took a sip of the coffee and smiled, saying that it tasted like coffee was actually supposed to taste. I told him that it was my own mix, made up to help me stay awake while studying, and he asked me what I was studying. Well one thing led to another, and we started talking. And not only did we talk, but it wasn't long before I found myself sitting on the couch next to him and drinking coffee from the other cup while he told me all sorts of flying stories. And what stories they were--I was amazed at the detail with which he recalled the exact take-off and landing speeds of the aircraft that he flew back in the 1940's and 50's. He took me right through the start-up procedures for both the P-51 Mustang and the old P-39 Airacobra, a plane that I'd always thought was some kind of a dog but which Yeager thought was one of the best planes he'd ever flown. I still remember how much he talked about that old P-39. And he spoke highly of the F-86, too--another one of my personal favorites. I loved old warbirds even back then, and here was a man who'd flown almost all of them sitting right here and only too willing to tell me all about them. His detailed recall of these individual aircraft was simply astounding. My only regret to this day was not asking about his historic X-1 flight! We spent over an hour and a half sitting there drinking coffee and talking, the time broken only by my going back to the kitchen to get more coffee after we drank the first batch up. I learned all about the Northrop F-20 Tigershark program, Northrop's attempt to develop a low-cost, high-performance jet fighter for private sale on the foreign market.General Yeager, who'd flown the F-20 extensively, told me how in the hands of a good pilot, it was the equal of almost anything in the current US Air Force inventory but much, much cheaper due to the absence of the sophisticated avionics that our current aircraft flew and fought with. The idea was to offer this low-budget hotrod to developing nations, and General Yeager thought so much of the F-20 that he invested a lot of his own money into it, only to lose it when the US government undercut Northrop's sales by subsidizing sales of the F-15 and F-16 to the same countries that the F-20 was being marketed towards, in effect making it cheaper for those countries to buy the more expensive fighters by absorbing much of the cost. He said that it was a real tragedy that such a fine aircraft had been killed off like that, and he wasn't too happy about losing his own money on it, but he was still working with Northrop and going on despite the burn. He was no quitter, that was for sure. I couldn't help but be impressed by his positive attitude on that and other things we talked about. This guy was clearly a winner right from jump street--he had that winner's positive mindset and he knew how to put it into practice. Finally the desk clerk came over and asked me to get another guest's keys from the valet stand, and I looked at my watch and realized that I'd been off duty for the past twenty minutes. When I told the desk clerk that, the General realized that he needed to get going too, so he stood up, addressed me by name, and shook my hand, telling me how much he'd enjoyed the coffee and our chat. Well seeing as how we were getting on so well, I couldn't let him get away without finding out what the fuss over my note had been. So I asked him if he recalled the letter that I'd put under his door a few months ago. I told him that I hadn't meant to offend him, and that if I had, I was sure sorry about it. He looked puzzled for a few seconds, then told me that he'd never seen any note from me or anyone else. I related the story about how I'd left it for him and then been ripped apart for it, and he laughed and shook his head. "My aide always handles those things, so he probably got it." Then he leaned in close to me and whispered: "He's fantastic at what he does, but just between you and me, he can be a real tight-ass sometimes." I'll never forget that morning, and Chuck Yeager rose right back to the top of my "I want to be like that guy when I grow up" list. Oh--and just to make a point of personal pride--General Yeager is a West Virginian, born and bred. Sal-LOOT!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

It's a Belleversary!

Seven years ago today, I got up bright and early and drove out to a dog pound in Ranson, West Virginia. I was there to give a mangy, dirty female German Shepherd a bath in a tub with a cold water hose.

 Today's the Day

Then after I signed a couple of papers, she was whisked off to a vet by the pound people and dropped off for pre-adoption medical work and a check-up. My cost at this time was $25 to the pound.

Then I went to pick her up from the vet a few hours later and was told that she had Heartworm and Lyme Disease and that the cost to treat both in addition to her other required work would run about a thousand dollars. I didn't really have a spare thousand dollars, especially when papered and pedigreed Shepherd pups were selling for about five hundred dollars. The vet said I could send her back to the pound and there'd be no cost to me other than the $25, but he also said that no one else was likely to spend that kind of money on a shelter dog and that the pound would probably euthanize her. So I sighed and wrote a check and later that day I drove home with the most expensive dog I'd ever bought, hoping that she'd get along with Murphy, who was already in the house. They'd done ok during a few pound play dates but I still had my reservations because Murphy was a jerk. But I did it.

She's Here

Seven years later, I have no regrets at all. Belle turned out to be a wonderful dog who put Murphy right in his place and tempered his separation anxiety when I was gone. I also discovered that this ragamuffin dog who'd been ditched at the pound by some hillbilly had been at one time professionally obedience trained and she already knew how to do everything I wanted her to do--sit, down, stay, heel. Loyal, obedient and chock full of love, she was a real find and looking back, that thousand dollars was one of the best investments I've ever made.

Happy Belleversary, honey.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

He’s still got it

 Last night I looked out the back window a little after midnight and I saw a very large opossum running along the top of my back fence. Suspecting it might be trying for my new chickens, I summoned the dogs and sent all three of them out into the yard. Belle and Merida just goofed around aimlessly for a minute before peeing and coming back inside, but Murphy...ah, that dog. He never saw the opossum but he put his nose in the air, took an alert stance, and went right to the corner of the fence where I’d last seen it. I’d lost sight of it while rallying the dog troops but old Murphy scented it right off and went hunting for it. For a few minutes he paced the fence in that back corner, pretty sure that something he wanted was on the other side. He’s about 12 years old now; old for a Shepherd. He has arthritis  and can't run any more, and his eyes are clouding up a bit with age, but that old dog’s still very much alert and aware and motivated, still more so than either of the others have been or ever will be. Senior dog or not, he was all about taking the fight to whatever was out there last night. He was so beautiful to watch, and I’m proud to have him as my dog buddy. I know my home is in good paws when he's watching over it.

Always on watch, this one.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Another used-gun rack find

In other news, I stumbled across this little gem when I took a young lady out to buy her first pistol a few days back and after a bit of haggling and it followed me home. (And she got a Glock 48.)

It's an Ithaca Model 37, circa 1971, 12 gauge with a 20" barrel and 7+1 capacity. Action is smooth as a stripper's backside and it's one of the ones with the second sear, aka a "slam-fire" gun. Hold the trigger back and cycle the slide and she'll fire off eight just as fast as you can work it.

Shop seems to have not realized what they had. I nicked it for a fair bit lass than the $300 they were asking for it.

So that's the road we're on now, eh?

And no, I don't like it.

I could have accepted the result of the election if it was decided like all the others, on the night of. But this one wasn't. The returns that night gave us a winner but the other side continued to "find" and otherwise produce late ballots that tipped each close race in statistically improbable and even impossible ways. It took them three whole days to invalidate an election that the sitting President appeared to have already won with more votes than he'd gotten four years ago. Our President did not become unpopular or lose supporters--he GAINED supporters and voters. Yet it was still taken away three days later under incredibly implausible circumstances. Let me be clear: I am not and never have been a fan of Donald Trump. He's done some things that I've really liked but he's also acted in ways that have really disappointed me. That said however, I do believe that he was given a mandate to be our President in 2016 and I believe that this mandate was reaffirmed legitimately this past Tuesday but the same people who fought him for four years and viciously attacked anyone who supported him in any fashion colluded and engaged in criminal conduct to unseat him despite the voters who trusted the system doing everything right. This can't stand. Not if America is going to remain free.

If I had a Rebel flag, it'd be flying from my porch right now in protest of the declaration that Biden will become the 46th President because I consider his to be an illegitimate administration. Of course if I flew such a flag then my home and I would also be attacked, because Free Speech in this country is about gone too unless you speak the approved speech. That's not America and neither was this election.

Tomorrow my fitness regimen increases. My workouts will be stepping up until I'm fully back in fighting trim, not just healthy. More ammunition, magazines and spare parts are already on order (and some of it is already here)  because I think things are just going to keep getting worse in this divided country of ours. And I'm fixing to endeavor to persevere.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Power's back and so am I

I came back from two weeks in Mexico to a city hit by Hurricane Zeta and no electricity. Fortunately a month before I left, I bought a used generator "as-is"/non-running for $50, and it probably cost me another $50 in parts and several hours of my rime before I had it running again. It paid for itself this past week-end because I just had to run a couple of cords into my kitchen and suddenly I had a fridge/freezer, coffeemaker and microwave running plus phone chargers. But now the power is back and the generator is back offline, the cords are stowed, and I'm sitting in a bar watching election returns and regretting coming back from Mexico. 

It's a beautiful country, but not without it's problems. Nothing made this more clear than when we first crossed the borfer into Nuevo Laredo at 6am. We cleared the bridge and headed down to get our travel documents and pay the car deposit (A fee to make sure I bring the car back instead of selling it in Mexico) and we were approached at the first traffic light by two guys in a car who began shouting that we were lost and should follow them because "dangerous".  Well I'd done my homework and knew where I was going and it wasn't that way. We told them we'd follow them and then when they pulled out to guide us, I turned the other way and dove down the ramp to the banjercito where I needed to be. As we passed behind the car I noticed it had no tags. Nope, not suspicious at all. Later on we watched on a travel page for people driving in Mexico and heard how several other people had been roadblocked and stopped by these guys and others, even in broad daylight. One person posted a video that showed three cars blocking him in--two in front and one behind--and pretty sure that the car we dodged was one of them. I'm guessing we crossed over before the bad guys had their shit together and we got through otherwise unmolested. Still, I was missing my trusty sidearm and thinking about how had we been armed and similarly waylaid, we could likely have broken that ambush by unassing the car and taking the fight to them instead of sitting there waiting to be robbed. High alert down to Monterrey, but once past there, we were pretty safe save for the odd rogue cop.

Southern and Central Mexico are beautiful but Northern Mexico within a day's drive of the US is pretty featureless and dull. We drove all day and crashed for the night in Queretaro, which is an old colonial city that's doing quite well today as a tech hub. Beautiful city center, great restaurants and music, and a hotel room overlooking the square definitely impressed Beth, who had never been to Mexico before.


Monday, October 26, 2020

On the road in Mexico

Road travel here can be an adventure, especially down south and away from tourist areas and commercial (truck) routes. The smart thing to do is stay on the toll highways as they're well-maintained, reasonably safe, and have plenty of services, even though they are forever stopping you at tollbooths to hit you up for more tolls. But when going to places less traveled, that's not always ab option, so the other day saw us on a mountain two-lanes highway that was all hills and curves and few guardrails, and your speed is kept to an absolute minimum by countless topes, aka, "sleeping policemen" or "speed bumps from hell".  Now these pernicious obstructions, if gathered together in one place, likely would have been sufficient to have kept the Allies off the Normandy beaches in 1944. But here in Mexico they are spread out so much that they only slow everyone's travel to a glacial crawl and provide full employment for auto repair shops. These topes require you to come to a near stop to cross every one, unless you're driving '69 Charger with a rebel flag on the roof, in which case you'd be in heaven. Taken with any speed, they will bottom out your shocks, scrape your frame, and rearrange the contents of your car. And they are everywhere. Some are maked with signed, some are painted, and others are just raised asphalt the color of the road and invisible until you're on top of them unless you're smart enough to follow another car and watch it bob up and down on them. Topes, plus generally poor roads, turned a hundred mile drive the other day into a near six-hour trial, keeping us down to an average pace of just less than 20mph. Fun. And no shoulders, either. go off to either side and you're in a deep ditch or down the side of a mountain in deep jungle brush. There are no real passing lanes, but Mexicans don't seem to care. They pass on hills, curves on into the face of oncoming traffic and everyone just avoids each other when three cars meet on a two-lane road.

Kids in Mexico.

Kids are everywhere, and they beg like crazy. Many want to sell you things and mob your car when you slow for topes in front of their houses. (I suspect some of these topes were put in by residents for just this reason.) At places where you stop for sights or gas, they descend on you. One girl hit us up selling pieces of quartz. Useless, but she was young and cross-eyed and I felt sorry for her and gave her four coins totalling the requested amount. She very quickly swapped out a couple of them for lower denomination coins and demanded the "correct" amount. Little hustler. I'll bet her eyes weren't really crossed either. 

Sometimes the kids will team up and hold a rope across the road when you approach, bringing you to a stop so they can offer you fruit or just try to extract their own "toll". It's cute the first couple of times but it gets old fast and I did see one Mexican SUV blast right through one, yanking the rope out of their hands and dragging it down the road. It's dangerous to be a roadside bandit kid in Mexico.

Overall though, the people are friendly, everyone has something for sale, and it's easy to get around if you even try to speak their language. Violent crime is low and the only time I've ever felt uneasy is when I'm approaching one of the countless police or military roadblocks, which are everywhere. Most of the Federale force has been disbanded and replaced with a new army civil guard of sorts in an effort to stamp out corruption, and the new guys seem a lot more professional and less inclined to shake you down, but the local cops are always bad news. I've noticed that the police or soldiers who wear clean, neat uniforms and keep their kit and weapons clean and well-organized are just about their business and never a problem, but the unshaven slob in the unkempt partial uniform is always going to have his hand out. Just keep a few pesos handy to pay them and move on; it's not worth arguing and attracting more of them. Cameras do seem to scare this lot off because they can get fired for this but don't let the military guys see you taking their pictures. Since they fight the narcos, they don't like being identified even by touristas. 

Loving this place but looking forward to being back in the land of What-a-burger by the end of this week.