Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On the Hunt - Rain

The rain hangs like sheets, whipped by wind, the air as sodden as fabric. I can't see 100 yards, but I don't need to. I might be treading water today, but I probably won't be hunting.

Deer camp in a rain storm. The deer aren't moving now. and neither will I. It came up quickly, things in the high country don't meander in slowly. One minute the sky was a pale grey blue, a tuft of cotton building up against the peak. The next, all if that water just emptied out of that gentle hue, sluicing from the sky as I rushed for shelter, too far from the camp to get under real cover.

So I sat and waited. It's easier when you're not alone.

This last year the deer hunt weather was perfect, clear, and cold in the morning. We'd crawl out of our sleeping bags in the dark and didn't get in again until almost dark, putting together the evenings libations. There wasn't a TV in sight, no computer, no cell phones. We played board games and told stories, of a hunt in Africa, of loves and children and just how many bowls of venison chili we could eat without exploding.

Waiting out the wet and the dark is easier when you have friends. You can play cards or always do that shadow puppet thing on the tent wall ("Hey, that looks like a Grizzly head - Holy *&#* grab the rifle!). You can laugh and hoist those small thick glasses of heavy amber that sissies and womenfolk sniff at, but hunters sip with reverent communion.

But when you're alone, it is different. Time drapes across your senses, the water and the wind drowning out more than the hunt, but that heightened state of awareness that is the first kiss of perception. Then comes the rain, and you settle back, knowing nothing was going to happen soon, no matter how much you wished for it. Anticipation is the best part of anything and the rain only wets the desire to see that which waits for you.

Stay put or leave, the decision quivers there as I sit under a poncho trying to look more like a rock and less like a lightning rod. The water washes the landscape bright, trembling with heat, branches laying like gifts on the forest floor, a place both pagan and serene. With a splash of light, the late afternoon sun breaks free, warming me. Sun rays dance on that small piece of skin peeking beneath the camo, such a small space of flesh, evocative of all lost nights and transcended delights, flowing there like honey in sunlight.
Should I stay or should I go?
Despite the tales to the contrary, deer do move in the rain. Not the torrential downpour, but in that quiet trickle that is the end of a violent argument between cloud and sky, the deer will move, sometimes becoming less wary, figuring you are in someplace near the fire instead of creeping on sodden leaves to spring. Like men, deer seek comfort, seeking out cool havens in the hot weather and snug shelter when the cold is brutal. They don't like blustery winds, but in this gentle rain, there on the backside of the storm, they will be out, if only I am patient.

But it won't be an easy hunt, for their reluctance to come out and play in the rain is not about discomfort. The deers most effective defense mechanisms, the ears and the nose, are less than effective in the rain. Your movements are muffled when everything is wet, scent is washed out, not carrying well. They're going to be in the thickest cover they can find, that big buck relying on his eyesight to see you hunting him. But the playing field is more leveled, as you yourself aren't going to hear him unless he is equipped with a Brinks alarm that will go off as he bolts.

There's a reason many hunters just chose to wait it out in camp. You're not going to climb into a blind and wait for him to come out to see what the rain brought, you are going to seek what you want. You're going to stalk, in slow, methodical and deliberate movement, that which you seek. I think about these things as I wait.

I take a peek out, the rain is but a light spray, the branches barely bending. It's close to sunset. This will be the time is there is a time today.

Still I hesitate, waiting for some sign, waiting for a sound from the woods, like music moving, the sound of deer creeping past my camp, the cry of a jay startled by their presence, the sound a cloistered bell in the woods. The others had already gone home as I waited, pacing their fleeing shadows, waited because to not wait was to admit that I had made the wrong choice in being here in the first place.

Just a few more minutes, as the sky clears. I will wait, but not too long, knowing that to wait is often to lose. Time and tide wait for no man, or woman, and sometimes as you sit in quiet comfort of what you think is yours to keep, it slips away from you. One moment you're just sitting, listening to the voice of the woods, the Cicada sound of the earth spinning in space, thinking that although you have no wish to change things, all is right in the world. But someone else is watching you, contemplating that moment when you must act or remain forever silent, and you don't. You don't even notice they're gone, only the fading smell of sweet musk in the air writhing like cold smoke in their wake.

In that hesitation of inattention, you're left with nothing but the breathing of darkness and the cold that surrounds it. Nothing behind or ahead of you but the heavy heartbeat of silence you never conceived of there in the systole of a summer night. A moment in which as, the song by Hinder says, you "shoulda woulda coulda" but it's too late to act.

As a raindrop drips from a tree branch, I touch my tongue to my lips, tasting sweet salt. I've waited long enough and I gather my things, creeping from my sheltered spot, firearm in hand, out into the drawn green shades of approaching sunset. The air has gone cold, wind stroking with a touch that's neither caress or dismissal. Under my gear, a murmur of silk, breath a panting whisper. If I stay here I'll have nothing but cold and empty hands.

I stand slowly, walking out gingerly, looking and stopping. Which way is the wind coming from, which way would they have gone? I move steadily out into the shadows; a slow release of silence like protracted desire. Look. Stop. Take a deep breath. Decide. There's a whole forest in front of me, and no one holding me back. The whitetail are out there, and soon in those woods, the sound of our need will move toward a blackpowder crescendo, released like held breath.

I see a fresh scrape. I light a match and blow it out to test the wind. It blazes like a dying star, drowning in the shadow of my passing as I disappear into the trees.
 - Brigid

Monday, October 20, 2014

On Freedom

Government is by the people for the people, not the elected individuals pride and ego, but the service of those that put them in office.  It's a free government of free men, until it fails to remember to let men live free, not beneath it, but beside it.

When it fails to do that, it is not free government, it is sovereignty, and that's something our nation shed it's blood to be rid of.

Remember that when you vote here in the near future, remember that as you pick up your phone, sign that petition, that letter, tools of the law abiding, to let your voice be heard.

They may be small things, but small things wielded by thousands have changed history. We can only hope that is still true.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tag - You're It! Favorite Meals

Everyone has their favorite meal, one that if calories did not count, or you didn't know if you'd get another one.  For me it would be tough, homemade mac and cheese, bacon and pancakes, steak and a baked potato, Halibut fish and chips, (fresh caught out West, not frozen) Caesar and oriental chicken salad, homemade tacos, sourdough bread, grapes, apples, watermelon, it's hard to have just ONE favorite food.
One of my favorites is also one of the simplest, something Partner made for me one night after the long weekly drive home. Beef Chow Mein.  It's pretty simple, garlic, soy sauce, black pepper, a splash of Worcestershire  a pinch of sugar and a bit of corn starch to help it stick to the meat, pan try in a little oil, reduce heat and add a half a can of beef stock and simmer two minutes, remove meat, simmer a couple handfuls of veggies until tender and serve over crunchy chow mein noodles.

It's the best beef dish I've had that someone else has made since Mr. B's Pepper Steak and something I could eat every week.

Sometimes, a favorite is the most simple of things.  Warm Australian Damper bread with butter and golden syrup, a recipe originally made to bake down in the coals of a campfire.
Partner, however is happy if I just make  him a plate of bacon with biscuits and  country gravy for Sunday breakfast.
Or a pot of coffee with scones with maple/bacon/whiskey glaze
 So, if you had just one, what would be your favorite meal.
Cheers -

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starlight, Starbright - Home and Emergency Supplies - the Right Candles.

For years I used the typical decorative candle that smelled like apple pie or cinnamon or such.  I also attributed the constant sneezing and sniffing when I was burning a decorative candle to seasonal allergies.  But when I started prepping and canning and doing more things from scratch around the home, I looked into a better, cheaper option.  Well, beeswax isn't cheaper, not at first glance, but it is SO much better, an ultimately, a good value.

Hundreds of years ago, candles were made from beeswax.  Over time, those beeswax candles were gradually replaced by tallow (animal fat) candles, and then in the last century by paraffin candles.  If you look at the candles in your home, that's likely what you have. But what exactly IS paraffin?

Well, it's made from the goo found at the bottom of barrels of crude oil, which is then treated and bleached with chemical solvents such as benzene and toulene  to "clean it up".  This is AFTER the stuff to make asphalt is extracted.  There's a reason such candles put out soot and smoke when you burn them, along with some tasty carcinogens.  To get around that natural "diesel fuel" smell the makers add synthetic fragrance oils, many of which can be toxic if burned.
No wonder I was sneezing and sniffing.  The minute particles of that sludge byproduct, over time, can also stain walls, and drapes.

Then I discovered 100% beeswax candles.

Not only do beeswax candles not put out the pollutants, they also help clean the air, for as the candle burns, negative ions are emitted that clean the air.  How?  Negative ions are drawn to positive, and positive ions attract and hold on to airborne things such as mold, dust, bacteria, viruses and odor causing pollutants, and are suspended in the air.  The negative ions latch on to the "contaminated" positive ions and weigh them down where they fall to the ground.  It's similar to a the cleansing of the air you see after a thundershower a negative ionic event if there ever was one.
I have no hard science as to the allergy connection, but several friends for whom I gave beeswax candles as gifts, say they have seen a marked improvement in their allergies, burning a beeswax candle in their bedroom for about 3 hours before sleep.  I burn one for a few hours in my small home prior to a visit from a friend that's sensitive to pet dander and she says it helps immensely.

But Brigid!  You're Scot!  You're a spendthrift!  You refinish and reupholster throw away curb furniture and bake your own bread.  Those candles are rather pricey.
100% Beeswax candles burn 3 times longer than traditional candles.  Considering that, they are quite competitively priced with  most high commercially sold candles. It's dollars well spent.

Home Emergency Supplies - candles are a part of most smart folks ready reserves for natural disaster or electrical outage.  Not only does the beeswax candle burn cleaner, nice in close quarters, but it has a flame that's much brighter than traditional candles, with the same light spectrum as a ray of sun.  I keep one in the glove box of my car, in case of an on road emergency requiring a bit of natural light and heat without polluting the cab of the bat truck.
But (there's always a but).  Not all Beeswax candles sold are 100% pure. Labeling in the US requires only that they be 51% beeswax to be pure (much like some of our food labeling).  Look for the phrase "100% pure beeswax" and note the  unique and fresh, subtle honey fragrance.
I get mine from  Morningsong Gardens.

They are a family owned, Midwest basedCompany and their bee balms (from unscented to my favorites lavender/vanilla or almond/vanilla) have saved my hands for years from the constant scrubbing that is sometimes part of my day. The bee balm, especially the Calendula Pomegranate is wonderful for the skin of folks going through radiation with cancer treatment and I try and send a jar out to bloggers I know are going through that or have a family member who is. It's also a natural SPF 15 with no chemicals that I will use on my face on a daily basis for light sun protection (though being redhead, if  I'm out in the strong sun for any long period of time,  I need a hat, SPF50 and a few of those tiles they use on the space shuttle).
So, when I saw they also made 100% pure beeswax candles, made in the USA with pure cotton wicks (no lead). I ordered some and have been so happy with the speed of shipping and the quality.

 Plus I have the little animal ones around my tub now instead of those Ikea tubs o'tealights for ten bucks, which just sooted up my shower curtain. These candles produce NO smoke and last SO long, while your drapes, walls and air stay fresh and clean.
 Whether you are a candle lover, a prepper, someone who loves their "Calgon Take Me Away" candle accompanied baths, or live in an area with power outages, add some pure beeswax candles to your supplies. You might just like them because your house is full of dog hair and you're sneezing all the time.  For whatever the reason you, will find the slight amount more you pay has benefit beyond compare.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Range Menu - Mock Armadillo ?

This is the Gerber Mark 1, a smaller version of the Mark 2 combat knife. It's not really good for field dressing, it was designed to stab in and right back out, a design that's a thousand years or so old, and it's not been bested for that particular design use. But for day to day use, pretty much limited to "See I have a knife ! " displays, mall Ninjas..

Not to be confused with the Carnival Ninja. . .
or spearing a tasty roast tenderloin out of the pan.

Like this one, a favorite.  Known in the Range household as "Mock Armadillo" I posted a version of recipe a long time back, but several people have asked for it again.

click to enlarge photo
You take a mixture of half low sodium soy sauce and half real maple syrup. Fillet a pork tenderloin (one that length wise would fill a bread pan) or two and marinate for a day in the mixture, enough to cover. About 3 hours before dinner, slice some green onions and a carrot into tiny matchstick sized slivers and saute in a little olive oil with a clove of garlic. Add a twist of ground pepper but do not add salt as the soy sauce has enough already. Veggies should be limp but not overcooked. Remove meat from marinade, unfold the meat, stuff with veggies (amount up to you, I use about 1/2 cup per tenderloin, "seasoning" as opposed to "filling"). Wrap in raw bacon and secure with toothpicks. Pour some of the leftover marinade over the meat and bake, loosely covered with foil, in bread pans in a 200 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Serve over bread stuffing, or rice after pouring off remaining marinade.
Worth getting out the fancy boot knives for. But you won't need them, you can cut this with a spoon.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Voice - One Vote

The elections are a few weeks off and the TV is off, where it is likely to stay until late tomorrow night. There have been many words on the TV, words on the Web, some that make you wonder, some that just make you wonder if someone was hypoxic. Here at the Range, it is just Thursday morning.  I've a cup of coffee and a hour to write,  and just relax before my work day starts. There is no lamp light, only the glow of a keyboard and a candle lit, the match then snuffed like a dying planet in miniature, extinguished with just the rush of breath.

I can not tell you who to vote for, where or how. But think about it.  What seems to be monumental at this moment to the world is, for my world, for yours, just one vote, just one action. Actions, that when taken, can not be undone.

I've never had a tattoo. One of my  closest girlfriends has several, but they aren't really tattoos, they are works of art, incredibly detailed and delicate history etched into flesh. They are hidden by clothing so it was some time before I was even aware she had them, until changing clothes together for a formal occasion, they were revealed as her clothing fell to the floor like flower petals and I was struck by the beauty against alabaster flesh.
 But I always hesitated to get one. For starters I have a pretty low threshold of pain, which apparently is not uncommon among redheads. Then there is the whole "what would I get?" I have enough freckles that if someone were to connect the dots on my arms with an ink pen as a prank while I'm asleep, it might resemble a tattoo (don't ask how I know). But still, it's a big choice and a permanent one.

Some tattoos are crafted with months, even years, of thoughts and stories behind them. Others are done on the spur of the moment at the urging of friends who say "everyone has one, you need to have one too!" Both end in that moment when you unclench your hands from the pain, fingers filling again with blood and you realize that the rose, maple leaf, or big battleship with the words "Wanda Forever", or whatever it is that your heart clasped firmly on to, will be marked on your body for the rest of your life.

Such are those moments in early adulthood, when one is proving points as much as themselves. Two members of my family had died and the rest of us scattered in our grief, myself wandering the skies of a big world far from anything familiar. What I yearned for was the smell of fresh baked bread, sewing machine oil, fresh cut grass, the long ago sound of Mom laughing as Dad sang "Barnacle Bill the Sailor", chasing the little ones down the hall. I wanted family dinners around an old table, the sound of happy voices, the tender touch of hands that uphold and forgive. What I had what was life handed me, and no amount of wishing can bring back dreams that weren't yours to craft.

But I can remember those days as if it were today, the sounds, the throated roar of an engine, the whisper of wheels on the pavement, the oily smell of jet fuel and asphalt that lay heavy on my skin as I wandered. I had the tools to take care of myself, yet I unknowingly was looking for someone to anchor what had somehow been set adrift. Looking back now, I think "how naive !" But unfortunately, the future of individuals, indeed, a very nation, can lie in the actions of those so unaware of the true costs of things.

It's not long after, that I awoke one morning with a slight headache from jet lag, wondering, for a moment, where I am. I've awakened next to a stranger. Not really a stranger though, we had known each other a little less than a year and agreed on this venture, much to the delight of his family anyway. But now I just see a stranger, mouth shut in a firm line, no tenderness in it, a head tilted away from me, no longer listening. The cheap hotel a.c. blows over my legs like sweatshop silk, dust laden light glinting on a ring on my left hand, put there at some little "church" in a desert town where nothing seems permanent except loss.

I was not the girl he had wanted to marry but I did not know that at the time. That girl was not suitable, according to his parents. I was the girl they wanted him to marry, to come into the fold with, a big farm to inherit someday, a big future. Myself, I wanted that absolute of family, mine torn asunder. I was at that age of my 20's where every parent, every magazine, it seems, was urging one to marry.

I spent the next 10 years paying for the mistake of not being that girl, the hopes of laughter giving way to sounds no louder than a sigh but filled with such fury.
Actions. At the time we do things for reasons known only to us, and then looking back on those choices, years later, at the scars that only show when the cover of fabric falls away, do you wonder -What WAS I thinking?

So I don't make choices quickly any more. The people that share my life, my table now, are ones I've known for years. They know my strong choices and uphold them, they know my poor choices and forgive them.  As well, I accept them for what they are, not attempting to change them to fit something I need.
They are around me when it comes time to celebrate something. They are dinners, bad puns and zombie targets, tools and discovery, songs and music, too long dormant. They are there when the rain falls like knives, simply warming me, their flame drying me from the inside out.

There are some that might rightly say, that when all is said and done, just one action, just like one vote, will not change the course of the future. But it will let me sleep, knowing that for this moment, I made a choice. It's not the choice of a naive child in an adult's body, looking for someone to provide for me what I was capable of providing myself. It's the choice of one who has worked and lost and cried and fought, and will continue to do so as long as God gives me strength.
Yes, it's just a voting booth, just the motion of a hand, a moment in time. As the hand moves, so does that time, so much longing and loss, hopes dashed and restored, lies told out of the depth of our hearing and whispered softly in our ears, the clang of coins filling a pocket or scattering on the ground like tears. It's just a vote, it's just a simple action.
Or is it?

I curl up with my coffee and my notepad, looking at the photos on my desk of those people in my life that taught me to love and trust again, smiles of shared moments, a touch that is like gold in the hand, firm and secure. I look at the shelves against the walls, so many books, some patches, some awards, merits of years given and service paid to something I still feel is more important than just being popular. There's a flag and a small cross, ceremonial shapes of mortality, reminders that some choices are everlasting. There's a tail from a whitetail, taken in a hunt, some spent brass that guarded a life, a piece of old uniform fabric, the scents of verbena and gunpowder and freedom that soak into my skin and bones like ink, to stay with me til the end of days.

It is just one small voice - but it is mine.
 - Brigi

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bites and Sound Bites

I'm actually home after the bat phone ringing a couple nights in a row recently. Thank you- posts written previously.  Though I did have time for a few emails with people I like (chatting online for me is spotty at best, as there are just not enough hours in the day, many days, to even check email, let alone maintain good communication with a lot of the people).

Tonight, no real thought, probably little entertainment, just a note on what's on my mind tonight.

Ebola -  The world is crazy enough, with ISIS consuming the Middle East, beheading innocents and inciting lone wolf jihad on folks on social media that are identified as military.  Then we add in Ebola.

I can't get the Elmer Fudd "Be Vewwwy Afraid" out of my head.  That's about all I can say on it, but the sign at the CDC cafeteria right now probably reads like this:
But there was a really bad new CSI episode about an Ebola-like virus in Las Vegas. The forensic procedures were greatly amusing and included wearing high heals in Hazmat environmental suits, and people in full on protective gear wandering around waving exposed needles in each hand like the Robot in Lost in Space, to better puncture their own suits. (Danger Will Robinson! Danger!) As my friend Roscoe said, having watched it - good fun, really horrible science.
TBOB - On a much cheerier note--I just finished autographing 30 copies donated to be placed in baskets (you do not want to see the mayhem that is my table) of goodies to be auctioned for the Hendricks County Humane Society Wine Tasting and Silent Auction event Nov. 7. The first Hoosier "Range" was in Hendricks County,  so even though I now longer have a house there, it has a warm place in my heart.

Writing the book was easy (but for the tears). Marketing it is NOT so easy. Monday, I missed chatting with my favorite Pilots and LEO's (and LEO pilots) at Scotch Night, due to the whole bat phone issue. However, I sent the following in a text as they were discussing TBOB, the first copy having been purchased by our fearless leader--
"If the Scotch Club guys want an autographed copy, let me know.  I'll even write naughty Sea Shanty's in the inscription--look, I'm a newly published author and a NA-265 driver--I have no shame."

THANK YOU, all of you, who continue to share it, link it and review it. All of my readers have heard about it, but now comes the hard part...getting people outside of this immediate community to see it and read it. I sent free copies to a few people outside of this blog network that said they would "read and review" but so far....mostly  the sound of crickets. People are busy,  know, other things come up.  It was worth a try though.

So I'm telling everyone, and asking others to spread the word, in and outside the blogosphere. If you enjoyed Barkley's life and want to share the message of love, faith and hope that he left, please tell others.
But it's sold 576 dead tree copies as of Oct. 6 (plus Kindle and  Nook) and the proceeds have helped with a major household repair for a blogger (with some funds donated by a few others of you as well), helped another couple who had a profound loss in their family, raised a few hundred dollars at a Fundraiser for a Rescue organization back East, provided help to Dad for transportation and care and helped raise money for Prostate Cancer Awareness (OK, and I bought the BIG tub of cheddar popcorn at Heidi Pops).
I've also provided a bunch of copies with notes of "thanks for your service" to Veterans Homes and also to some folks that wanted to read it, but their budget didn't allow for that. My friend Vic MD is also working on doing the reading for books on tape for the blind for a organization in Kansas.  I pay for cost of doing it, and I don't make any money on it, but we thought that was a great idea and she's been a reader for this particular organization before.
So I will ask again, please spread the word.  I didn't write this to get rich, it's a whole lot deeper than that.  If you can, please request your local library get one.  So far 33 libraries have ordered a copy for their shelves. All it takes is your kindness, and a phone call.
Abby the Rescue Lab - She's good, asleep on the floor. We have two wonderful providers for her on the night's we are both gone, either staying in the home or one having her over to their house with their pets. It's not often we are both gone,  but it's great she's so happy with others she trusts, in an environment that's "home".

She's adjusted really well. But she does NOT like water, rain or mud puddles, and walks when it's really wet out as if the ground is electrified. But she's getting better at it and is very gentle on the leash unlike  "ripped my meniscus out Lab".  I miss Barkley every day, but she is love and devotion throughout the healing.
What's in the KitchenMake Easy Muffin Tops - Just use the Walmart Great Leaping Horny Toads! Brand "non stick" spray.
And finally - for Dad - because my family is why I started this blog (you all are just like extra bacon).
Someone is looking forward to Halloween.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fights For a Life

Fighting for something. We fight for status, position. For tenure and safety. Some people take it to the next level with physical fighting skills, not just cerebral ones.

The thought of physical threats is never a pleasant one. Some people would just as soon close the blinds and pretend the danger does not exist. But you only have to look at a few law enforcement blotters and missing persons reports to get you thinking about the dangers that women carry with them, the dangers that men bear just by walking on a predator's turf.  Almost weekly ,it seems, I read of a young woman missing, another one found, but not alive.  This is a long post, and one I hope you will read, or share with the women that you love.

A former neighbor, a young Pharmacist in her late 20's was a black belt and an instructor at a local studio. When she first moved in, we'd sit out on one of our decks with a cold beer and compare scars, both of us new to the area and not dating anyone.  I taught her how to cook, and she taught me some advanced karate, to enhance my quite amateur skill level and some of the philosophy for that mind set.

I earned the kind of belt that, definitely wasn't black, but it kept my shirt from falling off. Some of my team, and friends, are former special ops. My squirrel partner is also black belt. When I was hanging around one of them one day, off duty,  I asked him to test me on my defensive skills against someone determined to hurt me, to see how badly my skills had degraded with age and a promotion which meant a lot more "desk" than "field". I trust him, we have to in the field, or we can get hurt.  So I figured I might learn something. Size wise, he was a only a couple of inches taller than I and about 200 pounds to my 164 pounds. Not a tremendous size difference, right? Wrong.
We didn't use an actual weapon, this was more for the purpose of timing my response, as to my draw.  If you're going to do something like this with real firearms, you better be training with the pros. in a proper environment.  So, a simulated weapon (Rice Crispy Treat) went into my holster to see how fast I could "draw" if that was more prudent than fight or fighting back. Again, it was NOT an exercise of my gun skills, simply my reaction/defensive skill degradation after too much desk time.

We started up close and a few feet apart, strangers that met on say, a jogging path. In this case I played "blissfully unaware" of his intent and had my hand away from my holster. When he sprung, he was on me before I could even get my hand to my holster. In a nanosecond he had one hand on my chin/mouth area and other grasping my head, and I got a very delicate but firm little twisting movement, and a "surprise, I just rent your vertebrae, you're on the floor dying". It didn't hurt me at all, but I definitely felt the pressure and incredible strength behind those hands and knew that he could have done it, easily. I hadn't even touched the rice crispy yet. All Righty Now. Let's try something else.

Then we did the "come up from behind" scenario. (No way was this man getting near my nasion or my philtrum). There I am happily walking along that "walking trail" and I got a knee against the back of my knee. I go forward and the simulated Gerber Mark II (a finger) had stabbed into the right side of my neck and then forward (at which point I started laughing as it tickled.). Again. Dead. I still was open mouthed as how quickly he closed the distance.
So much for handling the surprise attack at very close range. We did another one where I might have a chance. I went about my business around the rooms, crispy treat in the holster, covered up with "the house is 65 degrees outer wear" which I might wear running errands or out for a Fall walk.  It was a simple sweater type jacket with long sleeves, but not bulky.  He got past me and about fifteen feet downwind and then made his move. I got the .45 acp rice crispy treat out before he got to me (how do you move that fast?).

Had that "weapon" been in a purse or underneath a large, thick coat I would have been toast again. But one problem arose. In the second or two while I fumbled to fire (darn Rice Crispy Safety, they moved it!) he had my arm to my right, and then applied a movement to my arm, surprise, I had a simulated broken elbow and was NOT going to be able to shoot with that arm. It didn't hurt me at all, intent not pressure, but I was glad for a moment that I can eat Rice Crispy Treats left handed.

The good news, you're likely not going to be up against someone that's a former Ranger, trained in those types of maneuvers. Your weapon will have a trigger in the right spot, not blue packaging material. Your attacker may be buff but he is as likely to be as out of shape as the average Joe. But, as well, they might be 19 years old and 210 pounds of youth and muscle and you might be 5 foot nothing and 100 pounds. The thing is YOU CAN NEVER ASSUME. You MUST practice, keeping those hard earned skills up and you must be aware of what your situation is so that your weapon is easy to access, and you are ready.
I learned one thing--my limited martial arts training does me little good if I don't keep up with it. And if I don't stay focused to a threat and where my hand is when that threat is around and what my "outs" are, I'm only going to come out ahead if my attacker is a yard gnome or a rapist wheeling his oxygen canister.

It was an eye opener. Shooting a 1 inch group at a stationary paper target isn't going to help me if I haven't practiced in six months, in varying conditions, using my non dominant hand as well.

Shoot when it's hot, when it's freezing, with gloves and with cold, cold hands. Draw and shoot from the holster (check with your range as to rules on such practice), draw and shoot from low ready.
I remember my first day in sub zero temperatures at the local range when I moved here.  Pretty much no one was there but the officers who were range officers. But Tam showed up, which didn't surprise me, as well as a couple  of others. We shot with bulky gloves.  We shot with bare hands. There, it warmed up to all of 30. We took some pictures, not as "selfies" but to see later-- our stance, our grip, our posture, to be reviewed later, to learn.
But, practice or not, a gun won't help you if you're weighed down by an overly large, bulky coat or too many shopping bags, etc. Having some basic shooting skills for the attacker isn't going to help you if he has training on how to take your gun and you don't. Even if you think you are big and strong, remember, mass is everything. A guy that outweighs you by even just 20 or 30 pounds of muscle (about 10% more than your muscle mass) can easily take you down.

And nothing is going to help you if you let your guard down and don't stay on alert to behavior around you. If there ever is a point I will beat with a stick it's this.  Situational awareness is everything. Keep those ear buds out of your ears, don't be texting and walking alone, stay sober and alert if you must travel alone, especially after dark. Call a friend, call a taxi, but don't wander the streets at night alone, ladies.  I don't do it armed, without someone else armed with me,  you shouldn't do it unarmed.
Concealed Carry -  If you choose to carry conceal, think about HOW you carry, because carrying improperly is as risky to your person as any threat out there. For concealed carry, there are a variety of holsters. I have a Dragon Leatherworks holster for my primary weekend carry piece and Dennis's holster fits that firearm well and distributes the weight evenly.  But holsters notwithstanding, there are three basic ways to carry this firearm (a 1911) concealed.

Door #1 - The hammer is down and the chamber is empty.  This means you have to manually cycle the slide before you fire it.  Then, to return the firearm to its previous carry position you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, and reload and reinsert the magazine, all without doing something stupid that's going to put a hole in anyone, including you.  You might as well carry a two and a half  pound hammer as a self defense tool.  It's likely quicker.  Carrying for quick self defense with an empty chamber poses more of a hazard to you than the criminal who is coming right at you.
Door #2 - The chamber is loaded with a round but you must you cock the hammer with your thumb prior to firing.  If you've fired a single action revolver with a large hammer whose purpose IS be cocked by your thumb, you're familiar with the concept and it doesn't feel odd.  Still, this requires that you pull the trigger carefully and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber prior to re-holstering the firearm.  Not only is that an extra step between the bad guy and the defense of your life, but this condition can be quite unsafe in that you have a hammer down on a chambered round which can lead to an unexpected discharge if the firearm is dropped or struck on the rear of the slide hammer.

Door #3 - The one that makes the Eek - Point at Firearm! People™, old ladies and small yappy dogs shudder in their shadow and that, my friends, is cocked and locked.  This means the hammer is cocked, the chamber is loaded with a live round and the thumb safely is ON.  This means that the weapon is ready to fire NOW. All you have to do is click the safety down, pull the trigger while maintaining your grip and click it back up after the threat has the prerequisite hole in it. That's something that Barkley could even manage had he opposable thumbs.

But remember, when  the gun is cocked and locked, the sear is blocked from releasing the hammer. Further, unless a firing grip is on the pistol, the thumb safety swept off, and the trigger is pulled, the gun will not go off.  In my opinion, for a trained responsible firearms handler, that's safer than the carry condition of some firearms.
Again, it's a personal choice,  and it is MY personal choice but I prefer Door #3.  Instant readiness.  If that door opens and a bad guy rushes in, intent on harming or killing, you can react in an instant.  That is why I carry a .45 for self defense in this manner.  Not to be considered cool in the tactical sense, nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity, but to get the firearm in action when my life may depend on it, NOW, with the fewest opportunities for mistakes.

Some armchair gun enthusiasts like to say that you shouldn't carry a 1911 cocked and locked "because it requires more training than other guns".  I humbly disagree, at least for this particular model.
I'm no expert.  The gun manufacturer's don't pay me or give me freebies to write reviews and I doubt any of them will read them. I'm a better shot than much of the population, I'm a worse shot than a lot of my readership, I'm sure.  I've demonstrated proficiency in the basics.  I keep practicing the basics.  As such, I can say that I found the operation of this particular 1911 cocked and locked IS instinctual and functional. And I SO did NOT miss that very long and dreaded trigger pull on some double action autos that is like waiting at the doctors for that "you'll just feel a little pinch".

Again, my opinion, for me and my firearm and some info to discuss with your , shooting partner or instructor.  And as I tell anyone that reads here, for a new firearm, simply because it's been a long time since you went shooting, OR you are new to shooting in the first place, get an experienced NRA instructor like my friends on and off the net-- Lynne F. Keads and Bill at Eastern Iowa Firearms Training  and get some "dual" on it as  we pilots would say. My long time friend Dann at God Gals Guns and Grub, with his wife, an avid shooter herself, have a new business in Central Ohio offering on site firearms training specifically targeted to the beginner, and especially women (their college bound daughter is a Champion 4-H shooter).
I learned a lot of things with this, the most important being that although I risk having someone take it from me, I risk far more by not carrying a weapon . For I'm too aware of the world that is out there in the shadows.  Perhaps it's because of my education, both in and out of the classroom. But the world is NOT a safe place, and it won't be by ignoring it. Being in a small town may reduce the odds but it doesn't protect you.

You may go the rest of your life and not meet up with evil, someone bent on hurting you or killing you. If you don't, what have you lost by this mindset?  Nothing. Not your innocent belief in all that is good. I lost that in 2011, a few weeks after I took a solemn oath, upon my flag, my God and my Country.
But if you do meet up with evil, and you are not prepared, you will have lost something. For, if you live, you will be looking back, to that parking lot at the bank or library or grocery, back to the untainted time and smell and taste of when you HAD that choice, of where you walked and what people you let into your space, when the denial process won out over the actuality of human nature. Back before you were a victim. And you will ask yourself, over and over again, in long, lonely silences at night, when you've lost a part of yourself you will never get back. WHY didn't I see the signs? Why didn't I take action before it was too late?

I was a volunteer at a family violence center for a few years. It's not necessarily a pleasant task at times, but one that needs to be done, by those that care or who have seen it firsthand. That type of violence doesn't just happen to the poor, the uneducated the needy. We see women of all walks of life in there that just share one thing in common, that they have been scared for so long that they just get used to being that way. Sometimes you'd just find them in their room in the warm and cozy shelter home, in the dark. You can feel people in a dark room. You don't need to see them. Sometimes they're just asleep, catching up on that precious commodity, sleep where you know someone who cares is watching over your safety.
They don't sleep well, for years, violence going to bed with them each night, often drunk, normally angry. They'd lay there in the bed, trying not to move, trying to make themselves smaller and smaller so not to be noticed. Trying not to breathe for when they breathed they could hear them, hear that dark mass of anger sizing them up for what is only one persons idea of fun or a fight. They could feel the blood in their veins, the little involuntary twitch at the corner of their eye as they're shut tighter and tighter as if by doing so you will not see what you know is coming. It takes a long time to sleep well after that.

So, there in the safety of the shelter, if their bedroom door was not blocked you'd just knock and say a soft hello and tell them you'd wait outside. They'd sit there in the dark of their ruined life, sometimes with a chair propped up against the door, afraid that even in this refuge they would be found. But soon they would come out, into the light, amazed that with tools and training, they could learn to live a life of comparative inviolation.
Violence can wear the hand of a family member, but we deal with that, with what we can. But it also shops with us, drives with us, peering at us from a van in the shopping center parking lot, or from over their shoulder as they bend to tie their shoe as you jog on past, down that blind canyon of trees from which you will not return.

A few years ago, there was a talented young woman who was kidnapped by someone she struck up a conversation with her in a national forest, a kindly looking old guy who then went on to terrorize her and kill her. She was young and very strong. She was a Black Belt. It was a sobering revelation.

Martial Arts is a wonderful tool, but it's naïve to think that is a representation of street self defense, in that you obviously aren't going to execute pre-planned patterns of memorized movements against an attacker. And if you learn it you must keep up the practice and skills. It's not just a force. It's a tool, a habit pattern of strength. It's a pattern of practice. It is a mind set. The teachers will teach more then the moves. They teach you mental discipline. Some of the instruction to me at first seemed silly, balancing something on my outstretched hands, etc., but that was to teach me humility, not so that I would consider myself a lesser form, but so myself, or the other male students, would not feel the need to "prove" ourselves. Just because you can kick some one's butt doesn't mean you're better OR bulletproof. I've spent many a afternoon compiling what remained of those that thought they were bullet proof.
You need to be proficient and you need to anticipate. Anticipate the unexpected. I also personally think you need to have a plan "b" when just blocks or jabs are not going to deter what's staring you in the face.

I am glad I took the martial arts training I did. But what I got out of it was the knowledge that it was not to turn me into Chuck Norris (I'm more like Chuck E. Cheese) but rather, designed specifically to get rapid, combat-useful responses built into my reflexes. The constant motions and endless repetition of the same movements become incorporated into my muscle memory, there waiting to be used instantly in a reaction, completely or nearly completely without specific conscious direction. THAT is an invaluable tool whether you carry a concealed weapon or not.

But for someone my size and gender, that may not be enough to help me if I have an arm full of groceries, my gun is buried somewhere in my purse, and a guy is walking towards me with a weapon I may or may not be aware of. Just something to think about.

Your choices for protection are yours. I won't preach to you further on why you should carry; I will only tell you why I do. My family is all, male and female alike, law enforcement, defense or military. Strong people made of strong stuff. Some of that rubbed off. But I will tell you that there is no mind set, no background that will protect you if you do not look, be aware of your surroundings, and practice.
Here are some basics:

Listen: dump that MP3 player or phone. Not only will it help alert you to Mr. Mugger it will alert you to Mr. Oncoming Bus.

Look. Look up, look at people. REALLY look at people. Sit or stand up straight and look them in the eye. Criminals are predators and they will normally exhibit predatory behavior in preparing to attack. They will look at their intended victim far more and for longer periods of time than social norms. They will move when the prey moves. They will stop and look around for witnesses. They may make more than one pass by you, be it walking or jogging to see how you react or get a layout of how they will strike. They will move with you, around you. Think sharks with shoes on.
When I've counseled women who have lived with violence, without exception, they saw the behavior early on. Control. Restricting their movements, reading their mail or monitoring their phone calls. Possession Anger. They know now how to see those signs and run. Do you know the signs out in public that you are being targeted by a stranger?

Stay with people. Under no circumstances let yourself be taken somewhere, for where you are going has a name. It's called the "secondary crime scene", where your worst nightmare will enter your soul. Do NOT get in a vehicle, do NOT walk around the building into the alley, stay where others will see you, if you can't flee to safety, drop to the ground. Let him PICK your dead weight off of the ground, and if he tries, fight like hell. If he says "don't scream or I'll kill you", he's probably going to kill you anyway, don't go out quietly. He doesn't want to get caught. He LIKES this. Run, crawl out a window, go to lights and others. Make noise. If you are in a car and being followed do NOT drive home, drive to your nearest fire station (staffed 24 hours) or police station (though they may not be open 24 in 7 in all jurisdictions) and start honking your horn. DO NOT get out of your vehicle until the threat is removed.
If he's a viable threat, and safe removal of yourself from the scene is not an option, put a hole in him, and cease firing immediately when the threat is removed.  Self defense is your right, don't be afraid to exercise it.

Block. Barriers are good. doors, windows, STAY IN YOUR CAR. Put the muzzle of a .45 between you and his hands. The more likely he is to be discovered or injured the less likely he will be to continue. . 
Train: Whatever you are comfortable with to protect yourself be it physical conditioning and maneuvers or the use of a firearm by the law abiding, practice, learn, watch those with experience, learn from professionals. It isn't about you on film with your latest gear or some great tactical geat on. It's about staying alive. What you are looking for is "Practiced Proficiency” where the draw and point of the weapon to kill becomes second nature.

Use your strongest weapons against their weakest targets. Practice this regularly. If you are female and are going to learn martial arts, don't take 4 lessons in "rape prevention" and call it a day. There are many forms. Don't go to the first place that has a fancy store front and sign up. Talk to a master, talk to others who study that discipline. If you are going to get training to use a gun, get proper training, full spectrum training to include retention techniques. As competent retention techniques wander into the realm of unarmed hand to hand, you will find any martial arts muscle memory skills may assist you. (but only if you practice!)
There will be a lot of discussion on this post, pros and cons. All I know is what I am comfortable with, given my age, training, profession, size and gender, all of which influence my thinking.  I will watch and I will listen, but to me the choice for self defense is obvious. A gun in the hands of a proficient user, hanging on that belt that just keeps my pants up.
 - Brigid