Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Posts from the Road - Rules of the Stagecoach

This listing of rules for Stage Coach Passengers was found in a very old Durango, Colorado Newspaper.

1. If the stage team runs away or you are pursued by Indians, stay in the coach and take your chances. Don't jump out, for you will be either injured or scalped.

That's OK, he'll buff out.

2. In cold weather, abstain from liquor, for you are subject to freezing quicker if under the influence than if you were cold sober. But if you are drinking from a bottle, pass it around. It is the only polite thing to do.

3. Don't smoke a strong cigar or pipe on the state especially when women and children are present. If chewing tobacco, spit to the leeward side.

4. Don't swear, snore or lop over on neighbors when sleeping. Let others share the buffalo robes provided in cold weather.

Buffalo robes are not to be confused with the Buffalo Snuggie

5. Don't shoot firearms for pleasure while enroute, as it scares the horses.

6. Don't grease hair with bear grease as travel is very dusty.

7. Don't discuss politics or religion.

8. Don't point out sites where robberies have taken place.

9. And don't imagine you are going on a picnic, for stage travel is inconvenient.

You all travel safe now!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts Laid Out in Black and White

I carved our names upon a tree
simple words marked a plaintive plea
The text incised on darkened wood
with trembling hand as best I could
But in so writing tears would fall
for the bark's surface was far too small
Still my hand etched away in vain
with faith that it would be seen again
hope that these small woundings of a stem
might speak to someone who passed by them
I hope they see past the mark or stain
to small etched cuts of the heart that remains
Brigid 2010

Did you ever cut your initials into a tree? (and no, it's not a great idea tree-wise). Or etch the name of a secret crush back in school days, absently in a journal, not being able to think much beyond the words that made up the name of your beloved?

Short words are easy. It's the long strings of words that can break us, or make us. In the middle of a presentation today I had a blank moment and what came to me was "I lost my train of thought".

Where did that expression come from? Though we use it for everything from absentmindedness to excusing our disjointed ramblings by its loss, it was elaborated four hundred years ago by Thomas Hobbes in a somewhat different meaning:

By Consequence, or train of thoughts,
I understand that succession of one thought to another which is called,
to distinguish it from discourse in words,
mental discourse.
When a man thinketh on anything whatsoever,
his next thought after is not altogether so casual as it seems to be.
Not every thought to every thought succeeds indifferently.

Hobbes was quite the thinker, probably why Bill Watterson chose the name for his sardonic tiger in my favorite comic strip.

My personal lumbering boxcars of thought, speeding on through this railway station we call the Internet, is fueled by very early mornings, and a couple of cups of coffee, needed to get me moving as my days often start well before sun has risen.

Train of thought. The term just doesn't seem to fit our new age, when abundant discourse is sent forth in the click of a mouse, words and and ideas flirting between computer terminals in nanoseconds, with voluminous paragraphs abbreviated to simple text messages. In an age where entire freight cars of words are reduced to tiny particles of matter, the term "train of thought" seems to be a disappearing trail of smoke in our vocabulary. Sonnets and poetry reduced to . ;-) and "luv ya" in our rush to our next appointment. People spend hours each day texting and twittering without as much as a spoken word to someone they care about. If Hobbes were given a blackberry instead of a quill, would he have written Leviathan?

Log trains passed behind my house when I was a child. Passed down through the forested hills where we romped, grew up, fell in love and carved our names on trees. As they traveled down those hills towards the timber mills at night, their path would cut shadows across our neighborhood. I remember as a small child how the sound would intensify as my Dad would read to me at bedtime, as shadows would slide over the wall above my bed, over the model boats and planes and trains my brother and I played with. And with the shadow came one of the first sounds of my memory, the mournful wail of a train, competing with my Dad for sound, so he would speak louder and more clearly, forcefully driving each word outward, the phrases connected and intact and uninterrupted and in that moment I discovered my love for words. And for trains.

In daytime we'd ride our bikes along the tracks, looking for diesel smoke in cold air, throbbing engines, hoping for a quick glimpse. The yard at the timber mill had more than one track running into it, and as two trains would arrive, you'd hold your breath in fear of a collision, only to have one veer off and stop, while a long line of cars safely passed. I think of the missing man formation, in which a squadron of fighter planes performs a low pass, one separating and flying off to the heavens. A ballet of mighty machinery.

I'd memorize the names on the cars going by, forming the words in my mouth while smelling the fresh smell of wood going into the paper mill. So many cars, so many words. Each leaving a memory, branding my thoughts with its impression, burning into my head with the sunlight streaming through the slats. Carrying it's load of mighty trees fallen to make paper for which the words will one day affix themselves. Paper clean and bare with promise.

Behind my house, a new train, miles of unexplored tracks to walk, tracks crossing across the landscape of this new life, when viewed from the air, almost forming letters, writing of new adventures. A poem composed of ancient ties and abandoned depots, a sad lament to the forgotten forms of old trains, to lost thoughts and the art of speaking in deep clear sentences, now reduced to emoticons and abbreviated texts. How do you reduce your feelings to 3 or four letters, and quick clips of syllables that mean so little? Words sent through space, silently with no weight.

My Dad no longer reads to me at night, but he sends me letters, real letters, though his household has email and a cell phone. The letters are written in clear, flowing script that belies his 88 years and in which he talks with steady and unflinching repose, of watching all his friends pass on, of navigating life in a body that aged long before his mind. He writes of the family and of his days of laughter and prayer, words of humor, of inspiration, of compelling faith. Sheets of paper that for years have charted a course for me through adulthood. Sheets that lie carefully tended, fragrant and dry in a drawer, where I will have them years after he's gone, abiding strength still radiating from his descriptions of love and loss, the papers having a weight to them of his life. A weight that will keep me anchored.

How do you do that with a text message, how do you convey such feelings of family in a smiley? How do you explain what it feels to live, to breathe, to love, to fly, in a twitter message? For those thoughts make up boxcar after boxcar of the steady motion of thought, sturdy boxes of space and time, their spaces containing the heavy load of lust and longing, pride, fear and desire. A train barrelling forward in steady progressions as moving clouds fly overhead and shafts of sunlight peer through sliding cars, into their depth. As others transmit through satellites and space, I watch the landscape from the viewpoint of the train. Structures of iron lace, the suddenness of buildings, clouds of morning mist all crossing my line of sight, my muscles straining with the curves through corn shrouded fields, moving with the train, thundering through empty fields of past loss into meadows washed with light. I rush into the rain as the cars gain speed, waters cleansing the windows on which I look out on life. I hurl words into the darkness of an upcoming tunnel and wait for their echo back.

Train of thought rushing on. Life viewed as a passing landscape in which I live in the midst yet best write about it only as it has passed my window, a memory behind me trailing in the smoke of the engine. I don't have a blackberry. I don't MySpace, Twitter or Facebook. Only on rare occassion do I text. I blog. I blog for me, to release words that need to come out at the end of the day. The stories may be too long to catch the interest of the masses looking for quick, short entertainment, of which there is plenty among the white noise of the Internet. My communications outside of here as well are lengthy strings of words, heartfelt messages splayed out on paper, their sincerity driving their movement, under my pen, the words stringing out behind me. Sometimes I hit send, somethings they just stay, hesitant to go beyond the confines of my longing.

But the words will always will be my own, the track they follow a mystery until that next bend is rounded. Words composed of past journeys on ancient rails, washed clean by wind and rain, and tempered by time. A story written to the mournful sound of a train whistle echoing through abandoned dreams and ancient memories, waiting for the echo of my words.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Blog Meet - Part 1

The IND blog gang is meeting over two days due to everyone's schedule. (As always, thanks to the talented Roberta X for putting it all together). I was still feeling a bit pale and puny, after a bad stomach bug, so I just hit Saturday where it was going to be just close friends. We tried something different, the Claudaugh Irish Pub. Tam, Shooty Buddy, Roberta X, Og and his friend Mike, Midwest Chick and Mr. B., (in matching red shirts), Old Grouch, Joanna and myself were all there. The food was awesome, the beers. . well Irish.

I rolled in early, in the big black truck, "Bad to the Bone" cranked on the stereo only to apparently get mooned by Og. I'm still not sure if I actually saw it, as I was adjusting the volume. I remember a giant flash of bright white something and I hit the brakes while grabbing my radiation glasses. My reflexes and my tummy held steady. When the blog meet starts out this way it's only going to get more interesting.

Conversation was varied

Talk from gun show purchases.

"I got a . . . . . "

"And I got a . . ."

Midwest Chick . . . "I got a SIG".

Og (in a perfect, sad Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin monotone) "I got a Glock"

Then some talk about the trips there.

Midwest Chick, Mr. B., Og and Mark all carpooled down for the gun show.

I saw the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine broken down on my road on the way in.

Seriously, just sitting dead by the side of the road just a few miles south of where I live.

Ruh Ro.

See that long dark shape laying in the road underneath? Hey, sorry to break it to you meddling kids, but it appears your drive train is now a ghost.

The beers arrived out on the outdoor patio where the temps were nice and the wind picking up only to have a tactical menu take out a Guinness and drench Midwest Chick. We raised our glasses to our fallen beer, and she got some bar towels and sympathy from the server.

More food and conversation.

Three cheese mac and cheese pictured and around the table in a flurry of dining was, Irish stew, pork loin wrapped in bacon, shepherds pie and all sorts of good sandwiches.

Even as the forks flew, the conversation never let up.

There was the usual round of several conversations at once involving a really cool compass, a book on humans as computers, electronic gadgets (Old Grouch always having the latest) and how you really can program a robot to destroy the source of bad music. Tam brought some copies of Concealed Carry magazine with her latest monthly articles and last months issue that had my favorite partner in shooty squirrel adventure on the cover which was also cool. We even got Tam to autograph a copy of her last article. I'll never wash my issue now.

Then we shared even more stories.

Why you can't have too much bacon

The chances of Og spontaneously combusting in Mr. B's Prius on the carpool home due to the whole matter/ anti matter thing

And my personal rendition of "snakes on a plane"

All followed by some coffee and a Galway hooker (to go!).

We missed Shermlock Shomes and his beautiful wife, and Rich from Rich's Garage couldn't make it. I imagine Sunday will have an even more diverse crowd.

Until next time. . and for those that will meet at Broad Ripple Brew Pub on Sunday at 3 PM on 96th street (I'm off to catch a flight out again) - Slainte !

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday Firearm Follies

Time to load up. Yes folks, that's a truck that actually gets used as a truck, and has seen been "off road" a time or two this week. Washing it can wait, for I have an invite to a shoot out at the conservation club.

It's up northeast the city, an easy 45 minute drive for me. Look a billboard!

click to enlarge photo
I love this part of the country!

Soon I had arrived.

It was a quiet afteroon at the Atlanta Conservation Club. Several of the IND blog group are members and were supposed to meet me there but I don't see much sign of life.

Friday at an outdoor range in late Fall normally isn't bustling, but a request was made to help move match equipment to a new building. I bet that's where everyone is.

Looks like a work party was in session, the men volunteering to move match equipment into a beautiful new pole barn that was built. So they had a half dozen strong guys to move the stuff. The stuff was a bit heavy for me but I wanted to help so I volunteered to walk a fine four legged friend who had come along with his master and had been patiently waiting in the truck. He and I had a nice jaunt around the whole place, peeing on all the appropriate places (the dog!, the dog!).

When the men were done, it was time to set up.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and most of the folks left. Probably resting up for the State match tomorrow, but you could almost hear the crickets. On the plus side, I had my favorite spot to myself.
Fine, more room for my stuff on the table.

For warm up, I was going to shoot the Sig .45 with some new home loads to try out.

And then one of the groups XDM in 40.

And of course a favorite wheel gun.

We set the barrel up to shoot from 50 feet to do some qualifying type shots. I've been shooting only twice for just fun since Spring; with a death in the family there was little time. I went once with Miles for a ZAP match (Zombie Apocolypse Proficiency) and once with my Atlanta friends. It's probably not going to be pretty, but I warmed up with a few rounds from the P220 .45 using a sticky target on the much used backdrop, while someone got the paper targets stapled to the rest of them.

Not my best, but at distance not cringeworthy.

But I think that backdrop needs to be replaced or covered with a real target. Looks like an army of .22 attacked it before someone with a large caliber placed the killing shots to the head at some point.

Next I'll try two magazines, .45 acp, rapid fire, timed on the 50 foot target. Still getting some shots low. I'm either breaking wrist down, pulling forward or drooping my head. I'd ask RB what he observed but he was probably NOT looking at my hands (that guy thing). AT 50 feet, it's OK but I need to get out here more.

Next summer, hopefully things will be back on schedule. I miss going every week or so.

This is going to be fun; RB showed up with his IPDA XD in 9 mm to practice for a match and offered to let me try it.

As they say in the ads "I have an app for that!"

I love the XDM in 40 which I have reviewed before. But what about its " little brother".

From a distance you might think Glock like - polymer framed high capacity, autoloading, the little trigger safety flange thing Glock is known for, but that is where any similarity ends. The forged and milled slides reminds me more of one of my Sig's, as do the takedown lever and slide release. The grip angle reminds me of a 1911 while the grip shape hints at days with a Browning hi-Power. It also has a grip safety, like the 1911.

The XD may look like a double action but it's not, and it doesn't quite shoot like one. When the slide cycles, the striker is fully cocked, not partially as you would find in a Glock. First time long shots can be as good as a 1911, with the 5 pound trigger. It's a trigger clean enough to make good shots, for fun or in competition without being so wimpy that that the lawyer standing next to you is getting nervous it doesn't have more external safeties. Theh trigger is not going to break like a glass rod but it's really clean compared to other 9 mm weapons I've tried, about a quarter inch of take up, a hint of creep and then it breaks boom. (the creep part is where the trigger is lifting the striker block which serves to prevent the pistol from being fired in the event that it is dropped.

It feels good in my hand, it's accurate and it's fun.

In short, - I WANT ONE !!

The sun's getting pretty low in the sky, a few rounds with the Vaquero and it will be time to drive home.

The sun's fading and the mosquitoes are making an end run against the Deep Woods Off so it's time to go. First picking up brass.

I hope this person figured out it shoots better if the primer isn't in backwards.

Time to go, the place was quiet, the night almost upon us. A setting sun bidding adieu to a fun afternoon.

Rangebuddy waves goodbye as he drives off into the West. He's teaching a friends two college age daughters how to shoot for the first time tomorrow (avoid any grip it 20% tighter jokes) and is off to get things ready.

Soon, home to see Barkley. I think he's still a little miffed he didn't get to go shooting with me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Growing Up

Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.
- anonymous

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hunting and Fishing Breakfast Essentials

OK, I only slept 12 hours but woke quite hungry and with three days outdoor R and R planned. There were just the staples on hand, bacon, butter, bread, milk, sugar, seasoning, essential hunting and fishing electrolyte replacement liquid. (I'm a Jameson fan myself, but you have to make sure you have enough medicinal supplies for the whole family or crew).

What to make?

French Toast with Bacon and Maple Bourbon Butter

click to enlarge photos.

If your idea of a good breakfast is tea and toast, remember. I learned long ago, if you are going to hang around with the HOTR folks (pictured - the honorary Canadian HOTR division), you need to learn to make a HOTR breakfast.

And don't forget the electrolyte replacement. Don't want you all getting faint out there.