Friday, October 5, 2012

A Guide

By Rob Watson

The first things you see on opening my blog are three quotations. The first two are an apology of sorts for the style and content of my posts. The third is, I hope, a guide to happiness for any who would take it to heart. My description of myself is simply a warning about what you may find in these posts.

You will find, in these posts, very little to identify anyone. This is because I have a great distrust of a small fraction of the people which might be looking on. With one billion people on Facebook and the uncounted hundreds of millions more attached to the internet. It is possible not every one of them will seek the best interests of myself, my friends, and my family.

The name I chose to use, I hope, will keep my identity hidden by the vast number of Robert, Rob, and Bob Watsons in the world. I seek, and feel I shall find, neither fame nor fortune by this effort. Indeed, if lightning strikes, I shall be shocked, as many who know me might be. I write in the first person singular because the proper "one" leaves some doubt about who I am. It exposes a certainty about who did what, and gives, I am embarrassed to say, the indication that I may be an egotist. You should judge, but not harshly.

Writing has been passed to me in my genes, from my dear mother. Reading her early writing shows she had the urge. The inspiration for my style comes from my favorite writer, Mark Twain. I try to write the strictest truth but am sorely tempted by the admonition from O Henry: A tale belongs to the one who tells it best. Besides, on the internet, no one of sound mind expects to find the strictest truth.

If you divide the 1000 visits to this site by the 82 stories here, one comes up with the calculation that I have 12 faithful friends and the .5 accounts for souls lost, wandering around the internet who stumble upon it. For you, my faithful friends, I hope you find knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, and assurance that no mater how weird you fear yourself to be, there is Rob Watson who is weirder yet.

I Shot Myself

By Rob Watson

Wife thinks this is a funny story. I think it is an embarrassing story, considering I have been safely using firearms of various types for 55 years or so. "But then," says I to myself, "I have revealed so many embarrassing things about myself in previous stories, this will likely not do much harm to my reputation." Pictures to follow...

Many firearm accident reports begin, "I was cleaning my gun..." Here I am pleased to claim I have never cleaned a loaded gun. I have, however, loaded and unloaded many guns, many times... therein lies the tale.

I have a new rifle. I have a fair amount of trouble making it operate properly in the Cowboy Shoot competitions that I recently entered. There, one dresses up like a cowboy in the old Saturday afternoon matinee movies. Adopts a cowboy alias. Takes pistols, rifle, and shotgun, designed before 1900, and runs around shooting at steel targets. The score is determined by the number of targets hit and the time it takes to do so. Low time = high score. A malfunctioning firearm adds considerably to the time. A competitor might, moving from target to target, draw and fire 10 rounds from his revolvers, holster those, pick up his rifle, fire ten more rounds, lay that down, then pick up and load his shotgun, and fire four to six rounds from that. Real competitors do this all in under 30 seconds. I usually score about 180 seconds plus several 5 second penalties for misses or misfired rounds. I always finish second out of two in the senior class.

My alias is Cowboy Doc. I have actually spent time over several months thinking up an alias... even thinking of writing my friends for suggestions... One's real name is not acceptable. When challenged at my first competition, the lady doing the signups suggested a name from my past that had meaning to me. My parents had trouble calling me by name... usually my brother's name. As a crutch Mama called me Cowboy (because I frequently ran around with my cap pistols and holsters) and Daddy called me Doc (probably from the Buggs Bunny "What's up Doc?") Wife picked that up from Daddy and she calls me Doc. My teaching colleagues and frizbee golf companions call me Doc because I once explained hypothermia to the assistant principal, who wanted to know if you could "freeze to death" at 33 degrees F. (about +.5 C) . The name is OK but it lacks pnash... maybe Dorcheat Doc or Red River Cowboy...

This rifle has one safety defect that I find unsettling. It has no fail safe safety, in fact, no safety at all. You don't want it to shoot? Don't load it.  Which makes investigating functional irregularities difficult.

This is a pump operated rifle. The original design is from the 1890's. The ammunition is carried in a under-the-barrel tube like the "Winchester" rifles in the movies, but, with a fore-and-aft slide instead of a lever. Think: pump shotgun, and you will get the picture. Inside the rifle a "carrier" moves the shell from the tube to the chamber. In my case the carrier tosses the shell completely out of the rifle, or doesn't properly align it for insertion into the chamber. I was investigating this by loading the firearm and ejecting the shells.

The only way to eject ammunition from the rifle is to operate the pump and load a shell into the chamber. This process also cocks the hammer. To fire, you just pull the trigger. To eject the ammunition you must hold the hammer, pull the trigger, and slowly let the hammer down, then operate the pump which ejects the first shell and inserts (sometimes) the next ammunition from the magazine.

I loaded the rifle with 10 rounds. It almost always tosses the first round completely out of the rifle, but not this time. After successfully getting the hold-the-hammer-pull-the-trigger routine nine times, I mused on the thought of what might happen if I got the order wrong. (It clearly does not pay to think of an outcome while doing a critical operation because...) In that instant I got the order wrong.

Whenever soft lead hits a hard, flat surface at a perpendicular angle it splatters, much like a drop of water would on dry cement. In this case, half an ounce (14g) of lead hit an 80 year old concrete floor at 1000 feet per second (304m/s). The results were remarkable: First surprise, but not much because I have become accustom to making silly mistakes. Next a stinging sensation as the splattered lead hit my bare legs (I chose to wear shorts for this operation) I looked at the floor first and saw no damage was done to it beyond a gray smudge and a powder burn. Then I looked at my legs... surprised beyond measure at the damage I had done to myself. (Remember, I felt no pain after the sting or at any time after.) My first thought was to clean it up, bandage it, and forget it. There are numerous cases of lead being left in a persons body with no real ill consequences.

It would be a bad plan to hide this from Wife. Besides, the wounds began to bulge and bleed significantly. Now I became concerned. I went upstairs, found Wife and declaired "Wife, I think I made a mistake" (how do you like that for subtle?) I was behind a desk so she could not see the bloody socks and bloody legs. At this time I still held out a faint hope of cleaning up, bandaging, and forgetting it. Wife insisted otherwise after she examined the wounds, which were still puffed out and bleeding profusely. When she said "We need to go to the emergency room and have those removed" I could see the dollar signs ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching.

In my own factual mind, calling this a "gunshot wound" was not accurate and gave an incorrect picture of the damage, (especially after telling the recording nurse it was done with a 45 colt rifle)... I didn't actually shoot myself. A fact that confounded every description of the event for the three other people who needed to know... Nurse, doctor, sheriff deputy (gunshot wounds have to be reported to the authorities). They all wanted to know "How am I suppose to write this down?"

During her initial examine, the nurse asked, "If you had been wearing jeans would the lead have penetrated the jeans and your legs?" To which I had to admit "No." When you look at the picture you will see numerous tiny pricks and only a few slightly larger wounds. X-rays (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) showed only a half dozen tiny bits of lead actually penetrated.

The doctor ((ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) came in and needed to hear the whole story all over again. She then looked at the x-rays and described removing the lead, but, she would not remove the bit very near my shin bone... too much danger of significant damage. While she was injecting the anesthesia (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) the deputy came in and needed his recounting of the events. He concluded his visit by showing me a recent picture of a girls ankle and foot where she had shot herself with a 22. No, I definitely did not have a bullet wound.

When the first wound had been deadened, (the five injections hurt far worse than the initial wounds) the nurse and doctor began probing for the bit of lead. As time ticked by (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... ) nothing could be found because fresh lead is bright and shinny, reflecting the lights, tissue, and blood. After about 20 or so minutes the first wound, becoming longer and deeper, I asked "What happens if we just clean it up, bandage it, and forget it?" The answer, "That may be the best idea" followed by a recount of lead remaining in people for years with no real ill effect.

So, after all the ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... that is what we did. The lowest left (your right) wound is six stitches closing the unsuccessful probe for lead.

Wife wants me to buy one of the Winchester model 1894's in 45 colt because it is much safer. What she doesn't know is that it will cost about twice what the emergency room bill will be. (ka-ching... ka-ching... ka-ching... )  

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Great Northfield Pumpkin Raid

By Rob Watson

On the last of my pumpkin growing years, Friend allowed me to use about a acre of ground for which he was caretaker. A year or so before, we had dug a well nearby. He used his tractor to break the ground and prepare it for planting. I purchased some 200 hybred pumpkin seeds for $ .33 each. The variety promised 75 to 150 pound (34 to 68 KG) fruit.

I further broke the ground with my tiller, spread fertilizer, installed a drip irrigation system, and planted the seed. As the pumpkins came up, so also came the weeds. Near the plants I weeded by hand, The tiller worked the ground further away. My friend, a farmer of many years experience, oversaw all my efforts with a critical eye.

In time pumpkins began to appear. More time revealed one was much larger than the rest. Every day, when I went out to weed and water, it got special attention. A few others showed potential to be large as well. Most of the other 200 plants seemed destined to produce the smaller fruit.

I got it into my head that I should enter our pumpkins into the state fair. I looked up the application on line, filled it in, and sent it along with the required entry fee. I had chosen the 'Large Field Pumpkin' category. I was sure my big boy would win first place.

Three weeks or so before the fair, on my daily work detail to the pumpkin patch, I strolled out to admire my pride and joy. It was not there. All that remained was a large bare patch of ground where it had been. The vine had been moved and the stem had been broken.
I looked around, hoping I was at the wrong plant. All evidence showed my big boy had been stolen. My dismay flashed into anger.

As I stalked angrily around the patch, I could see where a few other pumpkins had been taken. This observation struck me and I hurried to check out the other larger fruits. They were unharmed. When I reported to my friend and partner, he was as angry as I was. This surprised me as he is usually a kind and forgiving man.

Controlling my anger is one of my few useful skills. I redirect the excess energy into more acceptable actions. In this case, everything pointed to finding the thieves. Less than a block from the pumpkin patch, I found a teenage boy cleaning a busted pumpkin from his driveway. He suggested a name as a possible vandal. Casual observation showed he was picking up the remains of my big boy. I helped him clean up and took the pieces of pumpkin into my truck. Driving around town, I found the remains of three other of my produce. My determination to find the wrong doers grew. Hope at finding them slacked. I called the sheriff.

The plan that formed never had my confidence. I would go out at night and watch my patch from my friend's storage shed which was near by. I would dress in dark clothes, carry a camera (because I have a terrible memory for faces and names). I would lie in wait and photograph them in the act. The thought that dragged down my hopes and confidence was: Only really stupid vandals would do the same thing two nights in a row.

Skip back in time a year or so. I supplemented my income by substitute teaching. A local family had three distinctive looking children. One day, in an english class, one of them was mildly misbehaving. "Mr. FamilyName, you should never be caught making trouble. You are very recognizable."

Skip forward to the night after my pumpkins were stolen. I decided a two hour watch from full dark to midnight would have the most chance for success. As I sat in the dark, hiding between the storage shed and a trash barrel, I felt like a silly fool. Not two nights in a row, nobody is that dumb. I realized I would have to be there every night for a month to stand any chance at all of catching the troublemakers. Then, if I did catch someone, it might not be the same ones who stole the big boy.

Feelings of being very foolish grew with every tick of the clock. Only anger and determination kept me in place. Then, out of the blue, lightning struck. A car with a very distinctive sounding engine (It must have been missing on three of its 8 cylinders) drove up to my patch and stopped. Jackpot! A number of adolescent boy voices chatted excitedly as they walked across the field and into the pumpkins.

Nothing could be seen in the dark. I waited for some of the voices to return to the car, while others remained in the field. I had the camera out and ready as I approached. A streetlight some distance to my rear gave a minimum light on the action before me. The camera gave a beep and a preliminary flash before taking the picture. The boy nearest to me was the very one I had told to never be caught causing trouble. I almost laughed out loud as I said, "Mr. FamilyName, didn't I tell you not to be caught causing trouble?"

The car trunk was slammed and denials of wrong doing came from all around. Fortunately the photo showed four young men with their faces averted, a pumpkin in the trunk, and the license plate. Daylight showed five pumpkins had been picked and dropped in open ground near the car.

Friend was pleased and excited when he saw the picture. I intended to speak to the known parents and find the remaining thieves. Friend wanted to come along. These parents expected us.

Wife, who supervised a number of people doing community service, in a former job, suggested these young men clean up a lot covered with rocks and weeds, that was an eyesore and an irritation to the community fathers. (they planed to clean it up and charge the owners $300) It belonged to a non-profit group. The father of Mr. FamilyName agreed to organize the effort and a time was set.

Men are usually hard to read, but it was clear this father (as opposed to the attitude I frequently encounter) was determined to make right the actions of his child. Movies always have a sympathetic figure, drawn into the action as a victim, but who stands tall in the face of adversity. In this movie that would be the mother. Friend expressed a conviction that she was a good person and a good parent. This was repeated in later discussions as well. Her actions in support of her husband bear this out. When I showed the picture of the boys, faces averted, and began to identify, she interrupted saying, "Don't you think I can recognize my own son."
After all had been settled, the better of the county deputies called and offered to "handle" things for me. I told him that it had already been handled and thanked him for his time. No names were reported.

Later I learned, the rules for entering the fair competition required two pumpkins. The loss of Big Boy, neither harmed or helped... I won second place in the state fair... second out of two.

Friend and I discussed what would allow kids from a good family, with good parents, to do troublesome things. His contention is that everyone has a conscience to tell them right from wrong. After a time I was caused to recall my own youth. I was involved in an incident, that even though I actually used the word "stealing" to describe it, it never occurred to me that I was doing something wrong. I contend the thought that they were doing something wrong never occurred to these boys... until they were caught. And, so it was with me in my youth. This mother reminded me greatly of my own. A mother's love, Tough Love, Half a century before someone made a fortune writing about it.

Under the Right Cloud

By Rob Watson

My best friend, here in State, is an older gentleman, farmer, and mechanic. One of his goals over his 86 years has been to make things better, for his family, his friends, and the world in general. He seems to have a soft spot in his heart for most everyone, even those he regards with caution.

We spend a lot of time "checking things out" around his modest farm. During the last few years, State has endured a severe drought. Friend's 14 acre lake declined, all the fish died, and it finally went completely dry. The death of the fish, which we frequently fed, struck friend to his very soul. Ever the optimist, Friend enlisted my help in anchoring a float in the deepest part of the dry bed. The goal was, should the rains ever return, the lake fill, and the fish be reintroduced, the solar powered lights on the float would attract bugs for the fish.

Friend, in one of his restorative moods, spent a pile of money (well, to me it was a pile) rebuilding a dam, that for many years, retained a duck hunting pond for the former owners. The dam had been washed out many years before by one of those infrequent gully washer, toad strangler, rain storms.

On this day we surveyed the dry lake and the to-be-pond. Friend voiced his often expressed fear that he would not live to see water in either of them again. We also visited the several fields planted by his participating tenant. (more correctly described as partner and friend) Most of what we saw was rather sad looking crops, retarded by the lack of water. The last fields to be examined brought us to a seldom used path between two fields. At the top we could view everything for many miles in every direction. The crops on our right and left were milo and sunflowers, both of which looked healthy, vigorous, and productive. The beautiful, extended view and the appearance of the crops left us both in an elevated mood. We went off to the casino for lunch and a spot of blackjack. (I broke even, Friend won $5, and it was not the end of our good fortune)

That night the weatherman reported that moderate rains were expected, but not for everyone. "To get rain", he said, "you have to be under the right cloud." That evening and night, huge dark clouds formed north of Town. They produced continuous flashes of lightning and rolling thunder. I concluded we were not under the right cloud. But, Friend's farm, dry lake and future pond might be. Daylight showed less than a inch (2.5 cm) of rain had fallen in town.

8 AM sharp brought a phone call from Friend suggesting we go "check things out", as he had heard enough rain had fallen to have "Running" water. (necessary to raise the water in the ponds). Off we went in bright sunshine and cool winds, with high expectations. Travel along the ten miles of dirt roads to the farm, revealed many places where the ditches were full of water and the roads themselves had been flooded... more excellent evidence to promote hope for the dry ponds. The rain gauge at the lake read 3.5 inches (8.7 cm).

Either of us would have been pleased to see so much as a puddle in the lake bottom, from the road we could see the 14 acre lake had recovered half its area and 1/3 of its volume. The float we had anchored the day before floated quietly in the center.

The road to the restored pond was too muddy to travel. Water was still running off the fields and into the drainage that would feed that pond. We decided to wait to see it at it "full" height.

The next day things were dryer and firmer so Friend decided to risk driving to the restored pond. We were required to walk across a field to get to the pond. Friend, minding his heart condition took it slow and easy. I, not being so hampered, walked on ahead. Being a former resident of Big State, I was familiar with ponds and dams and associated possibilities. I could see from a closer look that the new dam had washed away. The gap was 30 feet (10 meters) wide... a good 1/3 of its length. A quarter acre of water was all that remained behind the destroyed dam. As Friend walked up to the dam, disappointment shown on his face. "Friend", I said, "I don't think this is what you came out to see."

I took a series of pictures and surveyed the area. As I walked over the overflow bypass, formed to protect the dam from high water flow, it was clear, the water in the overflow was more than 3 ft (1 meter) deep and several feet wide before water topped the dam and began to wash it out. A local rain gauge showed 4.1 inches (10.3 cm) had fallen near the restored pond.

We walked slowly back toward the truck, not much was said. As we got to the truck, Friend said "Rob, you are right. That is not what I came out to see."

Dead or In Prison

 By Rob Watson
The other day I had cause to recall a number of the bullies I encountered as a child and teenager. If you are sensitive about the use of mildly foul language, the punch line of this story includes one such phrase.

The first bully I encountered was the brother of a friend. At the tender age of six years I had gone to the friends house to play. It was decided to play a game of baseball and we enlisted First Bully, a neighbor friend, and his sister. More than 60 years later, all I recall is that I developed a life long loathing for Big Bully, that he took every occasion to refresh. He seemed to prefer an audience and took great pleasure in embarrassing me if the two of us were part of a group.

The one vivid memory occurred when I was a freshman in high school. I was a tall skinny kid from puberty until about the age of 20 and may have weighed 120 pounds at this time. I was "water boy" for the football team. Big Bully was two years older than me and quite large. The incident took place in the locker room as the team dressed for a game. Big Bully stopped me as I walked past and placed his hands around my thigh. He pointed out to all present that his arm was larger than my leg. The team got a big laugh from that. Me, not so much.

Medium Bully and Last Bully were players in a later incident. Three friends and I, myself being small and the others smaller, dug a "fishing camp" into the side of a creek. It was no more than a dirt dugout for sitting and fishing. The fish were much too small to eat but catching one created significant excitement for a handful of little kids.

One day, as we were fishing, Medium Bully and Last Bully came walking down the creek. They saw our "fishing camp" and decided they liked it. They declared they liked it and told us to go away as it was now their "fishing camp". They, being older and larger, we complied. A couple of days after this, we smaller boys returned, in the absence of the two bullies, with shovels and picks and destroyed the place.

In later years I read of the demise of Medium bully and then First Bully. To quote Mark Twain... "I never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction."

It happens that one of my faults is that when taken by surprise, my mouth, and the heir of my mother's sharp tongue, may show themselves at their quickest and sharpest.

The other day, Wife and I were driving into HomeTown. Beside the road Two men were selling watermelons. We had been looking for such and stopped. After engaging the two in conversation I introduced myself. In surprise one of the men said "Do you remember me? I am Last Bully." (using his real name of course)

Taken by deep and complete surprise, my fault surfaced. From deep within my soul, my honest opinion of the boy-become-man sprang... " Son... of... a... Bitch" I exclaimed. "I thought you would be dead or in prison by now." (by 'dead' I ment murdered. Here again I reference Mark Twain: "The difference between a good word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.")

Fortunately, though visibly taken aback, he took it as a joke and returned... "I have to say the same about you."

I bought two watermelons and went along my way.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wheat Harvest Report, Southwest Kansas

By Rob Watson

:::: dateline early June :::::
Disclaimer: Most of what I know about judging the wheat harvest, was learned yesterday. My teacher was a friend who has been planting and harvesting dry land wheat for 60 years or so. Taking my opinion as anything of value would be exceedingly hazardous to your financial conditions.

The time for harvesting wheat here in southwest Kansas is drawing near. It should probably start in two or three weeks. My own plot of 1/4 acre is looking pretty good except where the deer and local kids have trampled it down. (I irrigated mine with a water hose)

Friend (and teacher) invited me to lunch in a nearby town. On the way we passed a number of wheat fields. Friend began to shake his head and bemoan the condition of the crops as we passed. After lunch Friend wanted to take the "Scenic" route home to look at more fields. All of the fields we passed were judged to be in poor condition.

"Say, Friend" says I, "in church today we prayed for rain. Won't that help these fields some?"

"No, not much. The flag leaf is dried up" (The flag leaf provides the plant with the starches it stores in the grain.)

"The grain heads are mostly big and golden tan. How can you tell they are in poor condition?"

"See how all the heads stand straight up on the end of the stalk. They are empty. If they had grain in them, they would start to tilt over to the side from the weight."

Mine was the last patch we passed before going home. Lots of the grain heads were tilted over where water had been generously applied. Other parts of the patch did not look so good.

::: Dateline Labor Day :::
My friend imposed upon a friend of his to harvest my 1/4 acre (160ft by 60 ft) or (50 meters by 20 meters). Unfortunately I was out of town at the time and did not get to see how the harvester maneuvered his huge machine about my tiny patch in order to accomplish the harvest. The yield was about 6 bushels (180KG).

My grain cleaner was made from a 2x4, two pieces of peg board, an exhaust fan from an old oven hood, and 9 small cardboard boxes.  I pour the grain in the top. The fan blows the materials out the side. Heavy items, grain, fall in the nearest boxes. Lighter items fall progressively farther away. The first box is almost pure, clean grain. The last box is almost pure chaff. Everything in between is some mixture of both and needs to be rerun. The last step is to pour the cleaned grain, by half-cup fulls into a pan, shake it around and pick out the remaining chaff.

One of the byproducts, in the lighter material, seems to be several pounds of immature grain. Each of these grains appears to be the seed germ with almost no starch. Wild guessing leads me to think this is very high in wheat germ oil, wheat protein, and bran. It was probably formed in the dryer areas of my patch and is the product of the wheat plant's valiant effort to reproduce.

In any case, I now have lots of my own, home-grown, Hard Red Winter wheat to be ground into flour and used in my almost famous "Whole Wheat cinnamon pecan pumpkin waffles.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day

By Rob Watson

Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and other times as well, veterans are asked to identify themselves. Almost always, someone or some few will pat me on the shoulder or shake my hand and say "Thank you!" I am truly humbled to be so recognized.

Usually I will pass it off with some form of "Aw, shucks. It weren't nothing." In my soul, I truly feel it was really nothing. I worked, mostly in an air conditioned shop. Was paid a fair wage. Learned a trade that became a significant component of my life's work. Came out with a good record that lead to good jobs. Yes, I feel I earned vastly more than I paid out.

I signed the same contract as all the others. That being a blank check, payable to the United States of America, for anything of myself, up to and including my life. I took the same oath as all the others... to protect and defend... against all enemies foreign and domestic...  I still feel bound by that contract and that oath.

Some of these others paid a little, time from their lives, small injuries, pain. Some others paid a lot, lost limbs, mental problems. Some had to pay the whole contract with their lives. Me? I paid nothing.

Words cannot express, pats and hand shakes, cannot convey, the gratitude I feel toward those who paid something on that contract. I am also exceedingly grateful for those, like myself, who willingly sign the contract and take the oath. Because, it takes all of us, plus taxpayers and citizens together, to make and keep the nation we have.

I am highly honored to claim and be called a veteran. With confidence in John Milton, "They also serve who only stand and wait." In gratitude and humility, I accept your pats on the shoulder, hand shakes, and kind words.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Delivery Issues

By Rob Watson

The last two weeks I have been having delivery issues with Big Delivery Co. It brought back to mind one of my favorite stories from the Gun Store Era.

I had a customer buy a 10ga double barrel shotgun. He wanted it shortened  to the legal limit (16"). This takes a special operation... separate the barrels, shorten them,  re align, re-attach. So I sent off the gun to a shop that specialized in that operation. I was promised to have the firearm back in 10 days.

In my Electronics Sales Period, I sent and received tens of thousands of packages via Big Delivery Co. Not once in five years did I, or my customers, have a lost package, or late delivery. So when the Specialty Gunsmith said he had shipped my customer's gun and it must have gotten lost, I knew he was not telling the truth. I actually got the gun three weeks later... shipped three days before date of receipt.

The amusing part of the story comes later. Customer was a big man, 6'6" or better, all muscle. 275 pounds. He rode around his ranch on a beautiful draft horse 18-20 hands at least. Now he has a huge double shotgun.

It seems he was having a property access dispute with a neighbor and the county. A lawyer, also my customer, went to see Customer and relates this story...

"I went out to Customer's property and was stopped by a locked front gate. As I stood there considering what to do, I see, off in the distance, what appears to be an average size man, on an average size horse, carrying an average size gun across the saddle, riding toward me. When the distance closes, I can see there is something wrong with that picture. When Customer arrives, I see it is a huge man, on a huge horse, with a huge double barrel shotgun... very intimidating." (which I suppose was the point all along)

Federal Agents

By Rob Watson

I know I have written about my gun store and my encounters with federal agents before... Wherever it is I cannot find it, So here I go again.

If you are a federal agent, you should know I have the greatest respect for you. I know that your job is sometimes dangerous and always thankless. I rank you along with the combat soldiers who do, or have, put their lives on the line for me and my country. No exceptions.

My encounters with federal agents began when I became part owner, then owner, of a gun shop in Colorado back in the '90's. These people I will describe may come across to you as complete idiots. What I think they were is educated, highly trained, federal agents, acting like complete idiots, in the hopes they would catch me being a complete idiot. (I know it is a near thing in my case, but I am not always a complete idiot)

The first encounter began on a slow business day. In the beginning there were a lot of slow business days. A man and a woman walked into the store. Neither could be said to be TV quality federal agents. The woman picked out the cheapest pistol in the store, threw her drivers license on the counter and walked out. The man took the license and began to fill in her information on the "Yellow" sheet. (the federal form that is a permanent record of a firearm sale.) "NO, NO, No" says I, "She wants the gun, she has to fill out the paperwork." (Federal Law) We tear up that sheet. He starts to fill out a "yellow " sheet. Every blank on the form is filled out wrong. We tear up that sheet. For the third "yellow" sheet I tell him to describe what he wants to write before entering it. I tell him how to write it correctly. Then he wants to buy the gun picked out by the woman. "No, No, No," same reason as the first time. (one person cannot buy a firearm for another person... Strawman sales are against federal law). Woman comes back and they decide to leave without the pistol.

Some months later I get a phone call, The caller wants a machinegun. "Sure" says I, "one of my business associates is a 'class 3 dealer."

"No, No, No," says he. "I want one under the table." "

"You, Sir are crazy, I do not have that information, and if I did, I would go to jail for passing it along" (those who know me in unguarded moments, will recognize I cleaned up the original statement.)

He hung up.

A year or so after that, another phone call. "Do you know how to make a bomb?"

"Well, yes. I have a degree in chemistry and books on the subject." (chemistry, not bombs)

"Would you teach me how to make a bomb?"... my response was very similar to the one above.

The last encounter demonstrates what I call the dual personality that most federal agents of my acquaintance seem to have. This young man stomped into the store and demanded to see my "yellow" sheets. I showed him the four foot long drawer full of them. The chip on his shoulder was so big his coat did not fit right.

After an hour of his shuffling through the several thousand sheets, I wandered over to watch him. He had a small scrap of paper and was apparently looking for a match to the name written on it. "I have that all on my computer, if you can tell me what you are looking for." He handed me the paper and asked if I knew the man. "Well, yes. he has been a customer for years, but he has gone back to England... You have his name spelled wrong" 

When I went to the computer, typed in the correct name and brought up the numbers of the customer's yellow sheets, You could hear the chip fall off the man's shoulder. (Treat them like human beings and sometimes they change into one.") I pulled all the sheets and the agent inspected them.

"Did you sell this customer a Colt Python?"

"No, That would have been my partner, before I got this computer."

The British police checked his firearms when he got there. The Python came up stolen... sometime before you sold it to him. They asked us to check the man out. I explained the customer was a good, honest, business man as far as I knew.

The agent then asked about the customer's sidekick. I looked up that customer and pulled his yellow sheets. In these few minutes the agent and I became fast friends.

If you do not know, removing the serial number from a firearm can get you 10 years in federal prison. Possessing one caries the same penalty. I asked my new friend what I should do with one that had come into the store before I realized its defect. (if he had still had his chip, he could have cuffed me right there and hauled me off to jail) He suggested I strip all the usable parts from the gun and toss the serial numbered part in the lake... I did exactly that.

All of this was brought back because I am selling a rifle on line. A question from a potential buyer asked why I insisted on following the rules strictly. The answer, of course, is They are everywhere watching every one. You want free room and board, free medical care and be a male wife... just screw up once.

An Add-on... Sept 2012...
On my recent travels, I stopped at a rather large gun store. In conversation with the owner and son, the topic of federal agents came up. It seems that on a recent inspection, done by the ATF when a gun store renews its license, the agent in charge came with friends and inspected every single item in the store, storeroom, and warehouse. Each item not properly documented was subject of a lot of yelling and lots of paperwork. The agent in charge had a bone to pick with the owner and son. It seems that as a new agent, Owner and son had great sport at her expense when she came for her initial inspection.

In contrast, when Wife and I got our Federal Firearm License (FFL) we were visited by a new agent.. He sat with us, answered our questions, and was pleasant in all respects. We were pleasant, respectful, and cooperative. Three years later, when this same agent returned to do the inspection for the renewal of our license, he made a brief inspection of our paperwork, engaged in a short pleasant conversation, and went on his way.

I could have told Owner and son about my experiences, but I didn't. Instead I silently recalled a quote from Mark Twain: "A person who will pick up a cat by the tail, will have a lesson he can get in no other way." (or something like that.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

France for the Novice.

By Rob Watson

First Wife and I had a few extra dollars, so we decided to spend them visiting my brother in Spain, by way of Merry Old England, Scotland, Belgium, and France. People in each of these, other than France, were courtious, friendly, and helpful... Well, there was one old gentleman in London who was somewhat put out by my driving on his side of the road.

In each of England, Belgium, and Spain, people spoke, or tried to speak English when speaking with us. Later visits to Germany, Denmark, Singapore, and Mexico  people tried the same. France, not so much. My feeling while in France was that many of the people understood me fairly well, and pretended not to understand at all. I am told the French will loosen up some if one tries to speak their language. At the time I only spoke and understood one word "thanks" and I still cannot spell it. Later I learned "I cannot speak French" and " enter, if you please". At times "Go to Hell" would have been something I might have used, but I doubt it would have been helpful.

We arrived in France on the ferry. After renting a car and driving a ways, we decided to stop and eat. The place was a small cafe in a small town. We and a group of, apparently, locals were the only customers... mid afternoon. We were given a menu, which I could not read. First Wife had taken French but she could not read it either. I noticed the locals got what appeared to be a huge bowl of french fries and fish. It is fair to say I did not then, nor do I now, know the words for "Yes, I agree". I am sure, however, the French for "NO" is very similar to the American word for "NO".

When the waiter returned, entirely in French, he asked what we wished to order... I think. I pointed to the table with the locals and said, in English, "WE want that" The waiter entirely ignored me and said the French words for "Steak and Fries" (I recognized those words from an article about France which advised never order "steek and frees" pronounced with long "e".) First Wife (A self explanatory term) recognized the words as well and also ignored my insistent No! No! No! and kept saying Yes, yes, yes in English. (Now if the guy could understand YES in English, why could he not understand NO in English?) The end result was a few french fries and 8 ounces of round steak, fried to shoe leather, for the princely sum of $28 each. ( back when $9.95 would have bought you a fine Porterhouse in any fancy American restaurant)

We drove to Brussels (then and now, the most expensive city in Europe) and began to look for a place for the night. In the first hotel, the clerk addressed me in French. to which I responded with "Uuh". He then switched to perfect English. ( perhaps uuh is French for DUH, or more likely, " I am a dumb American, in way over my head") I inquired as to the price of a room and was told $120 (when $20 would have gotten you a nice room in Holiday Inn) I thanked the man in English and left. We went a few blocks along the same street and stopped at a hotel whos external appearance was not as sharp as the previous one.

When I entered, the clerk addressed me in French. (I don't think I look French, two grandmothers and one grandfather are mostly of German stock, and a bit of Scotch Irish) "Uuh" was still my only utterance. The clerk immediately switched to perfect English. His rooms were $140 a night. As I left "I'm going the wrong way down this street." escaped my lips. We went back to the first place, where the clerk welcomed me back in perfect English.

Next day, after wandering around a bit and unsuccessfully looking for well hidden relatives, we headed for Paris. At the French border, there were numerous road signs explaining... well, I don't know. First Wife could not read them either. (Next day at breakfast, before I discovered the car had been broken into and everything except our money and passports had been stolen, First Wife points to the wrapper from the butter and says "See this says there is salt in the butter." I admit I was very wrong to reply "I can taste the salt in the butter, what I want to know is what the road signs say")

I thought our next task should be to report the theft of our luggage. Our desk clerk told us to go to the American Embassy, and gave directions... In English, no less! At the embassy, the gates were closed and locked, A holiday in France or the US... I found a bell and gave it fits. After a bit A marine in his dress blues (I love that uniform) came to the locked gate. He carefully explained the embassy was closed for the holiday. We could not come in, we should come back tomorrow. Inside me things were starting to boil. I stuck my head into the gap between the bars, looked the young man in the eye, and in a firm voice said "Son, I watch the news, I know these gates can be scaled, let me in or I will climb over!" He took me at my word and found someone to let us in, the easy way.

The Marine and one other person were all we saw there. The other person was talking on the phone, apparently to American Express. At directions from the phone, he tossed several thousand dollars in American Express Travelers checks into the trash. His reaction and mine were the same, complete astonishment.

The embassy man turned to me and patiently listened to my story. At the end he said he could not help me. He suggested we find a police station and report to them. Outside, a few yards from the embassy gate, we found one of those quaint little 2 foot square guard houses. Inside was a French policeman (Yes, I know they have a special name but I can't spell it either).  He eventually made us to understand there was a police station a block away, but it was not the place to report crimes. He did not know where the correct station was. I can say, without fear of contradiction, he was correct, and among all the native born French I met in that country, He is a hero and the most friendly and useful Frenchman I met there. Truely!

None of the other French police we met for the next six hours knew half so much as he knew. We got a first class walking tour of the main street there (NO, I can't spell it either) Along the way we took in the famous tower and the famous art museum (spelling). The flower gardens along the way were spectacular. I bought some film for my camera, $10 for a $1 roll. While resting outside the famous art museum, we met some other Americans who were also resting. They listened to my tale of woe. At the end the subject turned to prices there. The man concludes "It is one thing to have your stuff stolen, and entirely another to buy something and know you have been robbed."

Late in the afternoon, we were trying to quiz another policeman, and getting the same wrong answer, when an American businessman injected himself into the conversation. After translating both ways, he came to the same conclusion as I had. He suggested we go to our hotel and ask the clerk there. Back at the hotel, the clerk gave us proper direction to the correct police station. (I guess, if you ask the right question, you get a useful answer.)

At the police station we were lead to a detective's desk and he took our information and listened to our story. His English was good and he was pleasant and helpful, under the circumstances. At the end First Wife asked what were the chance we would get our luggage back. While the detective considered his answer,  I surmised "A cold day in Hell." The detective looked positively crushed.

We went to our airline office, conveniently located on the main street there. They suggested we should stay in Paris for another week before they could get our tickets replaced. ("Cold Day in Hell" came back to mind but I did not say it.) After a short discussion, I determined the tickets could also be replaced in Spain, where lodgings with my brother would be less expensive.

Next morning we took off driving for Spain. On this trip I learned that potatoes were "pomes de terre" and ham was "Jambone" or something like that. I could now order a ham sandwich. Near the end of the day I realized we would be traveling through Spain at night and had no Spanish money. We pulled off the super highway into a small town. I went into the nearest bank and asked the cashier if he could take my French Frank travelers checks and give me Spanish money. His reply "Of course I can". I signed over all my travelers checks. He started counting out french Franks. "Hey" says I, "You said you were going to give me Spanish money." His reply, "I can't give you Spanish money." Things were about to boil again, but he was out of reach. I stomped out of the bank and went across the street to a small bar. I didn't know the word for Beer but I got a ham sandwich, which was pretty good.

It was dark, we were approaching Spain. I was very unsettled over the money problem. A gas station appeared and I decided to solve one problem at least. After waiting several minutes for service, no one else was there, I pumped the gas myself. I made a note of the amount and took it out of my large cache of French money. After a few more minutes, the attendant came out, cleared the pump and spilled about a gallon of gas on the ground. I held out the money in my hand. he took it then began yelling in French. I decided getting in the car and driving off would be a bad idea so I just stood there while the attendant yelled, not talked, yelled. This went on for a minute or so until an American Businessman came rushing over. He asked, above the yelling from the attendant, what the problem was. I explained, above the yelling, what had happened. "This man wants you to pay for the gas he spilled on the ground". Well, he could have said so... I looked at the pump, counted the French equivalent of a dollar or so and all was peachy. I thanked the businessman, climbed into the car and headed out into the unknown.

So far in this story, I have been the victim of my own vast ignorance and social mistakes. For the rest of the story, The mistakes keep coming, but I get to be my own hero.

When we got to the Spanish boarder there was a huge plaza and several glass enclosed booths, like a set of toll booths on an American Highway. It was late by now. there was one attendant, and one car ahead of us. That car showed his papers and pulled ahead about 50 yards then stopped. I pulled up and showed our passports. The attendant inspected the passports, handed them back, smiled big, and waved us on. I knew we were on a toll road. I tried to explain that I had no Spanish money. Big smile, big wave.

In the meantime, the other car had been surrounded by half a dozen heavily armed police. The occupants were removed and the car was taken apart. Spare tire came out, seats came out, door panels were removed... I began to wonder how I would be able to put my car back together after my "Turn".

Several minutes went by before one of the police turned and looked at us. He frowned and angrily waved us passed. I hit the gas and didn't look back... onto a toll road, in the middle of the night, in a country whos language I could not speak. and with out a single paseda (worth about 1/4 of a cent).

Time was on my side. As we drove along there were service centers... food... gas... shopping... bars. Ah Ha!! Bars! Drunks will do anything for money! Next service center, I pull in, find the bar and wander inside. Two People. Bartender and drinker. All the lights are on. I walk up to the drinker, hold out a 100 frank note and say "Peastas" (The name for Italian money, I later discovered) The drinker looked at me as if I were nuts. But he appeared to be willing to give me another chance. I pushed the frank note in his direction again and repeated "Peastas" again. After about the fourth time he looked over at the bartender to see if he could make out what I wanted. The bartender shook his head then brightened. Clear evidence of another smart man. He said a single word "Pasedas". "Si, Si" I exclaimed, and handed him the 100 frank note he handed me 1500 pasedas (the correct exchange was 1900, I later learned. For reasons I hope you understand I have never begrudged this man his commission.) $25 was not going to go very far so I held out another 100 Frank Note and said "Pasadas". He nodded and counted out 1500 more. After two more exchanges I thought the $100 accumulated would buy food, gas, and tolls to Madrid. Fortunately I was right.

In all ways, England, Scotland, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, and, except for the cost, Belgium, were delightful places to see, visit, and tour.   It is clear to me, if you go to France, you should either learn the language, or take an American businessman. To end the tale, I must tell about the tickets.

When we arrived in Madrid and made contact with Brother, we went down town to find clothes. Three, going on four, days was long enough for the only things we had on our backs. We decided to eat first. In the restuarant there were several items of various prices. I chose a less expensive item. The most expensive would have cost about $20. When we went to buy clothes I got jeans, a shirt, T-Shirts and underpants. If I had known three pairs of underpants were going to cost $20. I would have gotten the expensive dinner.

Next we contacted the airline. They would be happy to re-issue the tickets if we could supply proof we had paid for them. They said someone in the US would have to send them the proof. I called my boss back in Texas. "Say boss, you want me back to teach those computer classes? Well, you have to call the Airline and get them to call the folks here to verify I have paid for those tickets" Boss deligated that task to Co-worker. Co-worker eventually spoke to the president of Airline. Promises were made.

Each day, after being grandly entertained by Brother and family, I would call the airline. I was told to come to the airport on the morning of our original reservations. First Wife and I arrived an extra hour or two early, to be sure all the paperwork was OK. We were met by a very pleasant woman, who had been handling our problem. She informed us she had not yet received the final confirmation but expected it momentarily. She then went off to check. She had gone down a nearby hallway.

Now, I don't know a single curse word in Spanish... well maybe one... But, as the lady was walking back toward us I could tell she was exercising her vocabulary of choice words. When she exited the hall, she was all smiles and apologies. The confirmation of payment for Madrid to New York had come. All Airline had sent was confirmation of reservation from New York to Texas. No confirmation of payment.

In response to her repeated apologies I said "Madam, I cannot swim from here to New York, but if you can get me that far, I can walk to Texas." She printed tickets to New York. In New York, Airline, after hearing my story, (and checking their computer) printed tickets to Texas.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


By Rob Watson

Over the years wife and I have gone to several "Tax Sales". If you are not familiar, the local government offers, for sale, a lien on real property, to cover the unpaid taxes on that property. Eventually, the real owner comes along and pays the taxes plus penalties plus interest. As the holder of the lien, I will pay the taxes and the penalties. When the owner pays up, I get all my money back and the interest. The local government handles all the paperwork and sends me a check. Some places just offer the liens to a local bank and regular folks don't get the chance for them.

In the rare instance that the owner actually abandons the property, I would pay the taxes due for the period, usually 5-10 years, then get a tax deed for the property. After some court costs and lawyers fees the property becomes mine. I have actually gotten a property... beginning in the tax year 1997... next year (2013) I may have full ownership rights... 120 acres stuck off in the Wyoming mountain wilderness.

Here in State, the process is different. County will not offer property for sale, for unpaid taxes, for ten years. They apparently hound the original owner for their money for those ten years. At the tax sale you bid on the property. The highest bidder gets the property, and after the county attorney processes the paperwork I become the owner... no hassel, no additional paper work, no courts, no lawyers.

"The Ranch"

Five years ago, Wife went, unsupervised, to a tax sale here in Town. Her goal was to buy three city lots at the corner of town, a total of nearly 3/4 of an acre. (which she accomplished for the paultry sum of $1,000). Most of the properties went for $50 to $100. This was sold so high because the owners of the house next door bid against her. Those who follow me on Facebook will recognize it as my pumpkin patch and my current wheat field. For an additional $657 she bought a small house. ( $600 bid and $57 processing fees) And, therein lies the story.

One of my regular readers complains my stories are too long, so... to be continued.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Passed Pets

By Rob Watson

This is a postscript to the stories of my pet cats, Sandy and Dusty. You may choose to read those before this.

On top of my chest-of-drawers is a shrine, of sorts, to my pets. I have a picture of each, the cremated ashes of each, a favorite toy of each, and a picture of them together. As I spent a moment there today, I began to consider their spirits.

After Sandy died, it was a long while before I could feel his spirit near me. He had died at a vet's office while Wife and I were away. I was always afraid his spirit had clung to that place. His death was an especially sad affair because I was too cheap to find him a competent vet after we moved here. Near the time of Dusty's death I began to feel Sandy's spirit around.

Dusty died in my arms. He had signaled his willingness to go when he stopped eating and drinking. Because of his fear of his regular vet, I got a stranger to come to the house to put him down. The drugs put him to sleep and he died a short while later. During this time I would pat my chest and tell him I wanted his spirit to stay with me. Whenever I think about it, I feel his spirit around me.

The legend of the Rainbow Bridge says our pets wait there for us until we pass on. They come running when they see us approaching the bridge to Heaven. If so, I expect a crowd: Prince, Tippy, Lady, Tramp, Boots, Socks, Bernard, (all my dogs) then perhaps Jasmine (put to sleep because her owners thought she bothered us) and Sandy and Dusty. Then we all cross the bridge together... if I make it to that particular bridge.

Some people think all animals have spirits. The ones who have been loved go to Rainbow Bridge. The others to their own special place. Others say animals, humans included, have neither spirit nor soul. If the former is correct, that special place must be crowded with cows, pigs, chickens, deer, etc. I don't wish to sound insensitive, but if mosquitoes have souls and spirits, I hope they all go there, not the rainbow bridge.

I speak to the spirits of my cats. Dusty liked to sit on my lap in front of the TV. He would watch programs that had action and especially liked football. Otherwise, he would nap. Today I will pat the blanket in my lap and invite his spirit to nap in his spot. Sandy's spot was the bed. He never needed an invitation. Wife or I getting into bed was all the invitation he required. When I stand before my chest-of-drawers I tell my boys I love them and miss them.

You, the reader, may have decided that I am loony... something not outside the set of possibilities. For myself, I can see me and Wife sitting on our cloud, with Sandy and Dusty in our laps, watching the world below go past. I take comfort in that vision.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hunting Hogs In Texas, Illustrated

By Rob Watson

If you are upset or bothered by the death of animals, and pictures of them, you will not want to read this Blog.

I have hunted many animals, killed most of those that were easy to find, and just hunted the ones that were hard to find. Until now, I have not gone on a professionally organized hunt. This is the story of that hunt.

About September, I was seriously considering what hunting I should do in the Fall. In searching the internet I found a website that offered feral hog hunts for a modest sum. The offer ended that day. After a short discussion with Wife, we decided it would be an enjoyable outing, and affordable. So, I signed up. (Next day when I went back to the site, the offer ended that day instead.)

I made several phone calls to the place for various bits of information. None of which prepared me for the reception we got. Arrival time was set for 3 pm. "We will meet you at the gate." I was told. We arrived at 2:30 and were met by a 16 foot fence and a locked gate. Some other hunters drove up shortly after us, saw the locked gate, and said they were here for the second year and were going to town until the gate was opened. Wife and I decided to follow.

We drove a few miles into a beautiful little South Texas town, looked
 around a bit then headed out on the wrong road. Fortunately we had gone only a short way before I noticed the error. After some more wandering around we got back on the right road. When we got back to the ranch, it was about 3:20 and we were met by a 16 foot fence and a locked gate. After a bit I called the phone number and got a person who offered to come let me in. I was somewhat unsettled by my perception of the level of service to be received. Things got better organized after we got in.

A meeting of hunters was held when all the new hunters had arrived. we were told where to go, when to be there, and given the chance to ask questions.  We unloaded our stuff in our room, fixed our beds, and headed to supper.

The "Ranch" was one mile (1600 meters) square; the hunting lodge was in the very center. The entire ranch was fenced with the 16 ft (5m) fence. For the right price you could hunt any of the animals
there. The buffalo is the lone survivor of 8. He seemed to take an interest in the goings on, as we ate our supper in the lodge. As did the horses.

The hunting lodge was outfitted with two TVs, with cable, large comfortable recliners for the 20 hunters, a pool table and a large card table. A little rearranging could have made spacious accommodations for 50 or 60. It was decorated in a western hunting motif with huge windows on three sides.

After supper we had a two hour break before going out hunting for the first time.  This "hunt" consisted of having the guides sprinkle corn ("Deer" corn supplied by me) around an elevated hunting stand.  We drove part way then walked to the stand, climbed in, then sat there waiting for something to happen.('we' is Wife and I)

It was 7:30 pm when we sat down. Sunset was about 8:30. We were to stay until 10pm. As we sat, we discussed what we should do after
dark. (I had read about hunting feral hogs on the internet and most hog hunting was done at night.) I had brought several flash lights and we discussed keeping a light continuously on the corn (as suggested by one web site) or just lighting the area when we heard something. Eventually it was decided to just light the area when we heard something. We sat quietly waiting. It got dark, really dark! No moon dark. Then we heard the unmistakeable sound of a hog munching dried corn. It was loud and it was close.
To the surprise of us both the prearranged plan worked flawlessly. I pointed the rifle at the sound. Wife pointed the flashlight at the sky and turned it on. She brought it down slowly until it lighted the animal. Fortunately, he did not know that lights ment people and people ment danger. (Other animals were better informed, as we were to discover the next night. ) I placed the sights on the neck (so as not to ruin meat) and fired. Our victim fell over and lay still. I shot him twice more, in the head, with my pistol, to be sure.

 One of the things given us was the cell phone numbers of the guides. We called, they answered, they came and picked up our prize. The 132 pound pig was taken to the lodge area and our soon to be new best friend, Sal, skinned, dressed, butchered, and wrapped it. And, me with not a drop of, well, anything, on me. (Anyone who has cleaned anything dead, knows how that feels.)

One of the things, not given us, was how to indicate our location. The guide asked where I was... "Hell, I don't know"... "is it the blue
 blind"... "well maybe"... "We'll be right there."  Look --> does that look blue to you? (Turns out the fence, 20 feet behind me has numbers on the posts, which they told us next morning, before the stalk hunt.) I was, in fact 1/2 mile due south of the lodge and have no idea how I was found, but, We suffered no undue delays.

Actually it is sort of a mystery. I checked in with Eli, who is the only person who had a way to associate my face with my name. Cody, 
who spread the corn and placed us in the blind was never given my name. (I thought Eli was Brad and only learned correctly two days later. I called "Brad" and identified myself by name, to come get us and the pig... Go figure. It was the only shots fired, maybe somebody was listening.

Next morning before light, we were taken back to the same blind. Pictures of the pond, pastures, and sunrise (all the pictures, were taken by Wife) were taken then. Lots of corn still lay on the ground.
Perhaps the other animals lost their appetite after all the shooting.

We sat in the blind until breakfast. After breakfast was a rest period then the "walk and stalk" hunt until lunch and again after lunch until supper. For the walk and stalk, the 20 hunters were divided into two groups. (Here you need to picture a square clock face set at 6:00.) Our group was the small hand lined in a line toward the 6 o'clock position. We were spaced out about 30 yards (meters) apart. Our task was to sweep around, like the hand of the clock, toward the 12
o'clock position, looking for pigs to shoot. the other group was to start at the 12 o'clock position and sweep around to the 6 o'clock position. The whole arrangement was to keep the two groups from shooting each other.

Our group moved slowly and kept our alignment pretty well. We saw nothing. When we got to the 12 o'clock position, there was an hour left before lunch so we decided to continue on around, presuming the other group was now about the 6 o'clock position. When we got to
the 3 o'clock position we walked up on the other group, apparently, scattered all over the woods and blazing away at... shadows? We came to a road back to the lodge and took it.

The plan for the afternoon was like that of the morning, except, the initial position of each group was swapped. Rumor had it that there was a herd of 20 or so hogs in the area we searched in the morning. Neither I nor any of that group believed it, so we took our afternoon assignment in good heart. There were a couple of sitting positions
near where a recent flood had "compromised" the fence. I secured those for Wife and myself.

Our agreement stated we could kill a total of two pigs. We already had one. Our instructions for guarding the hole in the fence were: "Kill everything that tries to get out, even if it is 30 animals.") Not to worry. I had 4 shells for my single shot rifle, six for my pistol, and Wife had 7 for her rifle. I expected any more than a half dozen, trying to get out, would surely find their freedom.

We sat quietly for our time guarding the hole in the fence. Every once in a while we would hear a shot or shooting. Then we would see someone sneaking through the trees. Near the end of our time, a small pig came through at half speed. As I raised my rifle, Wife says, "No, don't shoot it." and I let it pass unmolested. A couple of minutes later three hunters came through, hot on the trail. After they went past, Wife says, "Well I should have let you shoot it"... well, next time. The pig drew some fire but made good it's escape.

After supper I requested the same blind we had before. By now I was certain there were few or no pigs left in the place. Corn was generously piled under the stand and across the little pond by our faithful guide Cody. Sal, the butcher, helped as none of the hunters had gotten any animals in the afternoon. Within a few minutes a herd of half a dozen elk cow looking animals came to help themselves. They noticed us in the stand and decided to eat elsewhere.
Just at 90% dark we heard the sound of hogs eating corn. It was coming from across the pond, just under the tallest tree in the picture above to the right. The phantom herd of 20 hogs had made their appearance. When I raised my rifle, half of these wisely decided to eat elsewhere as well. Through the scope I could make out a large spotted hog, but settled on a smaller one. My shot took the animal down immediately, but it was off a bit. I had ruined two perfectly good pork shoulders by hitting behind the neck.
After my phone call, Cody and Sal came to pick up the pig. It weighed 67 pounds. They gutted, skinned, quartered it, and put it in the freezer. As before, my hands were not soiled.

It should be noted that Wife is a pleasant companion. She is not, however, a killer. I was not surprised when she agreed to come on this hunt with me; but was surprised when she carried a rifle. (Sometime, a few years in the past, while we were chasing some elusive varmint through the mountains of Colorado or Wyoming, she
had declared she was done with "armed hikes".) Probably, she was recalling our last pig hunt, where she had to shoot one in self defense. (another story all together)

Wife is also a sturdy helper in the field. After the game is down she has always helped in any way necessary, usually carrying two packs and two or three guns, after lending a hand with skinning and field dressing a deer or pronghorn. This is to explain why she loved this hunt. Her hands were never soiled, and her heaviest load was her pint
bottle of water, besides the six pound rifle. She had two hikes of just over a hundred yards each and a 2 1/2 mile Stalk. No cooking, no washing dishes over campfire, a queen size bed to sleep in, no food to hide from the bears... just doing her thing: wandering around taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. Wife loved this hunt.

I can honestly say I was pleased as well. If I had more money, or were less attached to the little I do have, I would do this a lot.

The food was the weakest point. (New cook) There was plenty to eat, just not much selection. The guides were pleasant, knowledgeable, and accommodating. The butcher, and former cook, was skilled at his assigned task. All of them worked 16 hour days while we were there. When I asked, each declared he got time off and made good money, including tips. The buildings were way more than large. They were pleasingly decorated and furnished, and well designed. The only thing to keep it from being a five star hotel was, you had to handle your own bed linens and the outhouse was a separate building.

The fellow guests, as are most people, pleasant and easy going. A few were jerks. We had no problems with the groups with which we associated. The second night, a new group of hunters had come in. They spent the entire night talking loudly outside our room, instead of over in the lodge.

We had harvested our quota by the second morning and did not go to a blind. After Breakfast we socialized a bit, paid our bill, left a generous tip, picked up our packaged and frozen meat and hit the road for home. A grand time was had by all.

Two days ago we had our first rib roast, not highly seasoned, so as to determine the quality of the meat. It was great. Only 78 pounds left.

An Apology For Hunting Hogs.
Sis-in-Law, for reasons, beyond my imagination, people from all over the world read my blog. I fear some may not be entirely honest. I try to avoid identifying information on anyone. I also hope there are enough Rob, Robert, and Bob Watsons out there to make me difficult to identify, while remaining identifiable to my friends. If you re-read my Christmas story you will find yourself identified only as Sis-in-Law, your daughter as Niece, and your husband is Brother... all useful information to scammers.

As you may know, feral hogs are becoming a problem in much of the southern US. Some of them were imported for Game farms and some are regular domestic pigs that have escaped. They do a huge amount of damage to farms and crops by rooting. One place Wife and I hunted, some years ago, was covered with rooting holes three feet deep and ten to fifteen feet across… not the thing one would want in his corn field or cattle ranch.

At this "ranch" the management buys the animals from area farmers. The farmers have traps and bring the pigs to a holding pin by the main gate. All but one of the pigs we saw butchered were male. My guess is, the farmers are keeping the captured females to breed with good domestic stock, and selling the males, for which they have no use. If you look back at the picture of my pig, you will see it has almost no fat. And, unlike domestic pork which is mostly white meat, these feral pigs are mostly dark meat. (probably from having to be active to find food.)

Other farmers and ranchers with large land holdings are leasing their land out for hog hunters. It is becoming popular because it is mostly unregulated, the amount of meat a hunter gets is a lot more than one would get from a deer and, the pigs do not carry the wasting disease (Deer version of mad cow disease). Pigs are actually quite smart. When one learns about humans, it becomes very difficult to capture or kill. This "ranch" entertains about 3,000 hunters a year. Sal tells the story of one identifiable hog that survived for more than six months before someone was able to harvest it. It was black and white spotted like the one I saw on our last day hunting. (most of these animals are all black)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012



By Rob Watson

A couple of days ago, I watched as several young people received a special blessing from the bishop in our church. As I watched, my mind drifted back to a warm evening in late spring. It was the 23rd of May 48 years ago. I was standing outside the auditorium of my high school waiting to process down the isle and be graduated.

As I stood there I knew I would change the world. I knew I knew how and I knew I would. I had already made a bet, of one case of whiskey, that I would be the first to make a million dollars… That was back when a million dollars would actually buy something… the winner was to pay the loser.

In evaluating this 48 years I can fairly claim that I have changed the world. In one sparkling instant of time, I was the instrument for changing the whole world.

I explained to a software engineer how the hardware interrupt sequence of the TI 990/12 worked to cause the computer to behave as you would have it behave. The software engineer changed the way the computer software code behaved and taught engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratories how to install it on their computer. This computer, using this new software, received the first close up pictures of the rings of Saturn. You can look it up. Just Google Voyager 2 pictures  of Saturn's rings.

Later, recent pictures are better. (Google Cassini Saturn Photos.) But it took them nearly 30 years. And they were second behind me.

In reality this changing of the world could be pictured as two pyramids point to point with me between. The lower pyramid is of my computer instructors, science teachers, then other teachers, then parents and friends and the institutions that made my life and learning possible. The upper pyramid is the software engineer, the JPL, the astronomers, then scientists, professors and students…

Back then I saw myself as captain of my ship, navigator extraordinare. Two days ago, the whole truth made itself known to me in a flash of inspiration. We in that church, like those people waiting in that auditorium those many years ago, were casting their children upon a wild and stormy sea, in a small and leaky boat, hoping for the best.

A few quotes I picked up recently:

"You know you have hit rock bottom when the man, who hanged his predecessor in a military coup, says you have character flaws." Charlie Wilson's War

"Never argue with an idiot. The best outcome you can hope for is that you won an argument with an idiot" Anonymous

"I suffered from chronic hypochondria for years. Eventually, I went to a Naturopathologist and was cured with a course of broad spectrum placebos." M. Cullen

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Self Defense is the Best Defense

By Rob Watson

DISCLAIMER: Follow these rules and suggestions at your own risk. I am not a self defense expert. To the best of my knowledge my suggestions below have been tested only once. That person violated all of the rules, save one, and is alive, well, and unharmed. ( The rule she followed was to give the target a chance to run, which he did.)

Serious emergencies have, from time to time, been a part of my life. (My stories on the Merry Bee, "Attempted Robbery", or the "Fear…" pieces being examples.) Other events, the 1956 hurricane or the 2007 Big Freeze could have been problems but were not… not that any actually ended up being harmful to me in any way… just lucky so far. It could all be summed up: I thought I was in danger but I was wrong.

My favorite pro-gun statements are: "When seconds count, Police are just minutes away." and "Gun control advocates tell you, a woman, raped and strangled with her own stockings, is somehow morally superior to one explaining to police how her attacker got his fatal wound." A case in point happened this week when a social worker returned two boys to their father. His reactions caused her to fear for the children's lives. She called 911. For various reasons the dispatcher did not think it was an emergency and notified police 20 minutes later. Any delay would have been fatal and was. The father locked the doors, cut the boys throats, and set the house on fire from the inside. While nothing could have changed this tragedy, You can hope your emergency call reaches a different dispatcher.

One night while living in a house with the bedroom in the basement, I awoke to the sounds of the floor above creaking. The creaking moved slowly as if made by someone walking slowly through the house. I drew my large magnum pistol from its place beside the bed and advanced slowly up the stairs… Rethinking this situation in later years, I have concluded I made a huge mistake. In short, seeking out trouble is surely the best way to find it. (The sounds may have been made by a resident ghost, as I never found a thing opened, unlocked, or out of place)

There is a sign, sometimes found in gun stores: "There is nothing in here worth risking your life for." Or in my case, I have nothing, except my life, and that of my wife, that I wish to put myself in danger to protect. My new plan is to move to the most defendable position in the house (woods, mountains, etc.) with my large magnum pistol in hand, and wait for the other person to seek out trouble. (The other theory here is to have a pump shotgun… the loading of a pump shotgun makes an impressive sound in a quiet room.)

Once faced with one of these situations the question becomes "who to shoot" and "when to shoot?" I began reading the news papers at an early age. A story that sticks with me was of a 12 year old girl who went outside, at night, to quiet the family dog. As she walked back to the house, her father walked out the front door and shot her with a 12 ga shotgun. Her last word were "Oh, Daddy".

Another story from only a few years ago, is of a man who lived in a dangerous neighborhood. He went to the gun store and bought a handgun for self defense. One night he heard a person walking down the hall in his home. He came out shooting and killed his 18 year old daughter. A study shows this happens about 30 times a year in the US. On the other hand, armed citizens kill about twice as many criminals  as do police. Firearms may be use as many as 1,000,000 times a year, for self defense, without being fired. (Many people secretly, really, really want to shoot a criminal. If you have that urge you need to get control of it now.)

Police, people in constant danger, kill about 300 innocent people a year. A case in point: A trucker saw a police officer being fired upon and pinned down by armed criminals. He took his large handgun and ran to "help". The officer turned, saw a man running toward him with a gun in hand, and shot him dead. Or place yourself in this picture: You hear a person trying to break in your house and you see he has a gun. You call the police and report an armed person outside your home… You frighten them off with your own gun and are standing in the yard, gun in hand, when the police arrive. The best you can hope for is to be disarmed and arrested. Or, you could become one of the 300.

My thought is, one should pre-plan one's confrontation with a dangerous person. A police officer on the Dr. Phil show recommended carrying a roll of one dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band… the bigger the better. When confronted, let the criminal see the roll, throw the roll in one direction, (preferably behind the attacker, such that he has to turn around) and run the opposite direction. they probably won't shoot. ( of the ones who shoot, a huge percentage will miss entirely. Lots of the few hits will be non disabling.) Plan B is if a person uses a firearm to try to abduct you… run!!! Being shot will certainly be preferable to what they wanted to do to you. (Every victim who has ever survived an abduction will tell you the criminal fervently promises to not harm you if you go along, and they are all LIARS)( Promises like I will kill your… wife, friend, lover, whatever… if you run, only means you will both be killed when the time comes.)

Never draw your firearm when you are within easy reach of the criminal. He will just take it away from you and shoot you with it. Run first. Then draw your weapon and fire only if necessary. I do not believe in warning shots, especially if the other person is armed.

98 percent of criminals, and other bad persons, when faced with an armed citizen, will flee if given a chance. If they are not armed, give them a chance. Shouting "RUN STUPID" may get their thinking back on track. It will save you a lot of legal problems. The other 2 percent are mentally defective. They either think you will not shoot, or they think they can take your firearm from you. If the person does not flee after a few seconds, they need to be shot… the smaller your weapon the more times they need to be shot before you stop shooting. Four bullets, center of the target will EVENTUALLY be fatal. NOBODY EVER FALLS DOWN DEAD ON THE FIRST SHOT.

As a hunter, I can assure you, unless I hit an animal in the spine or the head, it did not fall down dead… no matter how big the rifle was. Humans are the same. In combat, unless the wound is disabling, 65% of soldiers do not realize they have been hit until some time afterwards.

You should hope, along with me, that we never face an armed criminal. If my weapon is put away, there are way too many questions to be answered, if and only if there is no place to run. If my weapon is out, loaded, and safety off, and there is no place to run. My plan is to shoot first and ask questions later.

In close quarters, with no place to run, there are other considerations. Your firearm and the criminal firearm may be partly or totally disabled if either is within easy reach. Most handguns have an exposed hammer. When they are cocked, anything between that hammer and the ammunition will totally disable that firearm. They all have triggers. Revolvers and double action semi auto pistols, prior to being cocked, have the trigger in a forward position. Anything behind the trigger, inside the trigger guard, will totally disable that firearm. Also, anything covering the ejection port of a semi auto pistol will disable it after one shot. The "anything" in these cases is the hand, or parts thereof. A firm hand on the cylinder of a revolver will keep it from being cocked. If the web of that hand is down in front of the cocked hammer, your revolver has been reduced to an extraneous object.

Parts of clothing also are an excellent way to disable your own firearm. Sleeves and pockets work best if the weapon is held close to the body. Scarves, handbag straps, and other articles of clothing on or near the handgun can do the same disservice. This leads to a simple rule: When shooting someone, keep your weapon clear of your clothes and his hands.

There are non fatal means of defending ones self. Some better than others. Read my post on "Tasers Don't Work" ( On this blog, September 2011 ) Pepper spray works well on all but determined attackers, where it works not at all. I have no experience with rubber bullets but I would guess they would work only if the target was wearing light clothes, like a T-shirt and shorts. I have seen shot bags fired from shotguns. A center of mass hit was impressive. The cutest one was a net fired from a shotgun, except it needed some distance to work. But, if you are using a shotgun anyway, one of the above might encourage the target to make an exit, and still be easily followed by lethal projectile(s).

Another consideration might be, where will the bullet(s) go after being fired. 9mm and larger arms will frequently exit the other side of normal sized humans and small animals. (This is less of a problem with smaller weapons.) For clean misses off target, even a .22 rimfire will penetrate five or six layers of sheetrock and still deliver serious or fatal wounds. ( Family members in other rooms)

Glazer bullets were made to limit this problem. They become non lethal after a couple of layers of sheetrock. They also become non lethal after two layers of heavy clothes. Here shotguns have an advantage even when loaded with bird shot. Almost any bird shot will be fatal within 3-4 yards. And, at any range it will be "discouraging" to most targets.

Choice of weapons? A sharp chefs knife is very short range but easy to operate and easy to reload. (and nonfatal in all but the most energetic applications.) It will need training to be used effectively. Small caliber revolvers and semi autos .22 to .38 should hold 6 or more rounds. Five shooters do not leave much room for error. Stopping power is right up there with the chefs knife.

Semi autos are an operational nightmare… what else need I say. Yes, all the TV cops use them. But there if they screw up a scene they get a do-over. You never will.

Larger handguns are more effective with fewer hits on target. Unfortunately they are harder to control and harder with which to make hits. Shotguns lack portability, not going under the car seat or in the glove compartment. Rifles, in anything but .22 rimfire, have way too much penetration.

A friend was recently given, what I consider, a fine compromise. An N-frame, S&W, Polished stainless steel, .38 special, revolver. Smith and Wesson revolvers are among the best made. (Reliable) The N-frame is the largest they make, along with the polished stainless finish it "shows" well to those inclined to act normally when faced with a large handgun.  It can easily be mistaken for Dirty Harry's .44 magnum, "The worlds most powerful handgun". The combination of large frame and .38 Special makes the weapon easy to control, easy with which to practice, and easy to find all sorts of ammunition. The bullets are inclined to stay in the target. While not the most lethal caliber, it still has a moderate sting. The weight will make it useful, once the ammunition is expended, against genitals, knees, adams apples, and skulls. Portability lets it fit in medium size handbags, under car seats, in glove boxes, and beside the bed. No safety, just point and shoot.

On the other hand, I once saw a small revolver, painted with pink and purple teflon (To protect it from rust.)  It was very difficult to take that dangerous weapon seriously... and now manufacturers are selling handguns in designer colors. TOYS!. They look like toys! They will not inspire fear in anyone.

A good choice for home defense is the Pump shotgun, 12 or 20 either. Some are made especially for home defense. They are at the top of the reliability scale. Once loaded, it is impossible to disable them on the first shot and difficult to stop follow up shots. The only catch is the safety. In a quiet, dark, room, the sound of operating the action of a pump loudly exclaims, for all interested parties, "I have a large gun". "It is loaded". and "I know how to use it." ( Here it is best not to be between the target and the door… Target will run you over trying to get out.)

In the end, the rules are simple:

1. Ready your weapon. (loaded, cocked, safety off, clear of clothing and obstructions)
2. Identify your target. ( It is best not to shoot friends, neighbors, relatives or unarmed criminals)
3. Show your weapon to the target. (a little light helps with all of the above)
4a. If target pauses, then runs, let target go. (No blood or legal issues to clean up)
4b. If target does not run, or advances, shoot four times, center of mass. ( Target is clearly a danger )
5. If target does not go down and does not run, keep shooting until target does either.
6. After danger is past, return weapon to ready condition.
7. Call 911 or the police. ( it is best to know how and what to do here, way before step one above )
8. Return weapon to secure place. ( greeting police with gun in hand may be fatal.)