Monday, December 23, 2013

Charlie: Depot Hack Therapy

By Rob Watson

In the eight years Charlie and I have been friends we have worked together on about three Model T restorations.  Mixed in were a few repairs, upgrades, and tuneups to his and other folks jalopies.  The first with which I had helped was an assembled pile of junk seen on a used car lot while passing through a nearby town. A later restoration began as a request by one of Charlie's friends to "tune-up" a depot hack the friend acquired... well, here is that story:

The friend had gone to the entertainment mecca of Branson Missouri. One of his choices of entertainment was to attend an automobile auction there. As the auction moved along, a number of rather nice autos came up for bids and sold. Then, a very attractive Ford model T depot hack was driven onto the auction block. Bidding was slow so the friend decided to throw in a bid. You know, just one bid to move thing along. His one bid won the day, so to speak. He failed to notice, until later, that the car was pushed from the stage.

In attempting the tune-up, it became clear the whole motor/transmission assembly needed a complete overhaul. With financial assistance from the friend, and technical assistance from another friend, The job was accomplished with excellent results. In the process, Charley became enamored with the depot hack idea.

You see, depot hacks are all custom made. Charlie's research showed there are hundreds of them and no two are exactly alike. The primary feature they have in common, other than a model T frame, motor, transmission, and running gear, is they are all made almost entirely of wood... finished, varnished, and polished to a high shine. (They are also the most likely forerunner of the "Woody" station wagons of later years)

The third leg of our triangle (desire, knowledge, means) came in the form of a model T frame, motor, transmission, and running gear, supplied as a gift from the owner of the depot hack described above.
In the following picture, Charlie's future depot hack sits on the trailer as it was delivered.

It is said this "gift" sat in a pasture, fully exposed to the weather for over 50 years, including being fully submerged during at least one flood.

My job has always been that of minor assistant: instances requiring extra agility such as crawling under the car... fetching tools... cleaning parts... sandblasting... Observing Charlie's restoration processes have been an education in the conservation of money and dogged persistence.

Our first task was to recover and restore the engine. Most of the engine parts were rusted to most of the other engine parts. Cutting tourches, big hammers, punches, various forms of lubricants, rust dissolving agents, and patience were the main tools. With some paint and a few replacement parts we got this:

A trip to the lumber store got us two sheets of very nice plywood ($78) for the sides and front of the body. The structural parts of the body were made from refinished wood recovered from a piano ($0) and the sideboards ($0) of a cattle truck. The seats ($0) we rescued from a discarded school bus. Fenders, running boards, and other body parts were "in stock" or traded with the "model T old boys club" ($). Most of the nuts bolts and screws were purchased new ($?) as was the rubber covering for the roof ($?). Below is the result:

The reader should remember that with Charlie, everything exists as a work in progress. There is always room for improvement and he is the one to try it. Below, me, Charlie, and his other able assistant, Jake, take the depot hack to town for coffee.

 Therapy? Charlie's lovely wife will sometimes gently remind him that he is no longer young. I counter with the declaration: "Working on these old pieces of junk is what keeps you alive."

Memories of Christmas Past


I tried to move my Christmas story to the top of my blog but have been unsuccessful. To find it you should click on 2011 on the right if this then on December (if it does not automatically open). The title should appear, then click on that.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Laugh 'Til It Hurts

By Rob Watson

It is possible that you had to be there for these to be funny, but our kittens have on two occasions paralyzed Wife and I in sidesplitting laughter with their antics.

Our kittens are about 5 months old on this first event. Unlike most cats we have had, they seem not to mind traveling, as long as the air conditioner is on. If the air is not on they complain until it is. They know what the small crate is for... to move them from one place to another. Usually, we open the crate and two of them will quickly wander in. The third will not be far behind. They do not distinguish between transfer from house to car, or car to vet, or any other transfer. They get in and go... until...

A few months ago we drove 14 hours from our new home to the old one. We needed to pack up the last of our stuff and haul it to the new place. This was the first time the kittens had ridden in the covered bed of our large pickup. We put them there because it was vastly more room than the cage they usually travel in. They have food, water and a sandbox in either.

On arrival at the old place, we needed to get the kittens into the small cage to transfer them to the old house. When we opened the cage one walked in. I grabbed the second and shoved him into the cage. when we tried to put the third in, one of the others crawled out. Then both tried to get out. We would grab one of the escapees and stuff him back in only to have another one to squeeze out. In. out. In. Out. In. Out. Never more than two in the cage at any one time, until we both began to laugh and lost control. Several minutes later, after we regained self control, we got all three in the cage.

These days, the kittens are 8 month old. The boys are 10 pounds each and the girl is about 8. During their exercise periods  they dash around the living room, alone, or one in pursuit of another. There is no obstacle that cannot be traversed. A leap of four or five feet is common. Floor to recliner to pet tower to another recliner... zoom, zoom. zoom.

We keep our TV tables, each by our respective recliners, each with a place mat for when we eat in front of the TV. One of the boys came dashing across the room, leaped from floor to the arm of my recliner, and followed immediately with a leap of five feet or so, laterally across me and onto the place mat of my TV table. The table top, being polished, offered no resistance to the lateral momentum of the 10 pound cat.

Cat and mat continued to fly together, as if on a magic carpet ride, for another five feet or so until the two landed on the carpeted floor.  Our uncontrolled laughter continued for several minutes. The cat, apparently, embarrassed by the outcome, cut short his exercise and curled up in another chair, eying the two us with a hurt look on his face.

Well, I guess you had to be there.

A Celebration of Christmas

By Rob Watson

Recently, I had cause to attend a religious service celebrating Christmas. It was of such a unique nature that I thought I would share it with others. Of course, it may be old and common to some folks, but it was new to me.

The choir was the Northwestern Chamber Choir. This is a group of 32 college students. They sang all but one interlude acapella. The service began with a choral piece. As the choir sang, the lights were lowered to near complete darkness in the church and the participants processed in and took their places. The pastor, entirely by the light of a single candle, greeted the congregation and read an opening prayer.

The core of the service was nine readings from the Bible. Each reading was related to the Christmas story. After each reading was a choral interlude of one or more religious pieces. During each interlude, two acolytes would come out and light a few candles. By the end of the service 80 candles lighted the front of the church.

The service was held in the Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The main alter is a large and ornate structure made in several tiers, each supporting candelabras of different sizes. There are also side alters to the left and right of the main one. These also were made in tiers, each with candelabras.

The last reading was followed by the congregation joining the choir, singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"; followed by a final blessing from the pastor. As the participants processed out, the congregation joined the choir in singing "Hark! the Harold Angels Sing".

The choir was excellent. For the size of the group, it made a tremendous sound. If there was electrical assistance, that was done well enough so as not to be detectable.

Before the service began, two men hustled about handing out programs. These listed the readings and the musical pieces in order. Also included were the words to the two songs sung by the congregation. I, of course, sang without that assistance, as the building was still almost completely dark. (congregational participation thinned considerably on the third verse of each song.)

After the service had ended, the lights were turned up, and the audience gave the choir a very well deserved standing ovation.

The readings were:
1. Genesis 3: 8-15
2. Genesis 22: 15-18
3. Isaiah 9: 1, 5, 6
4. Isaiah 11: 1-9
5. Luke 1: 26-33
6. Luke 2: 1-7
7. Luke 2: 8-16
8. Matthew 2: 1-11
9. John 1: 1-14

May the peace and blessing of this holy season be upon all of you of good will!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Three Wishes

By Rob Watson

Surely you have considered what you would wish for if you found a magic genie that would grant your three most desired wishes. Think back. Say to the last year of high school. What is it you wanted most in and for your life at that time. Forget my babbling here. Take some time and recall what you really wanted... then look at your life and see what you have gotten.

It has always been the same three wishes for me. First I would have wished for true love. My second wish would have been for an adventurous life. My last wish would be for money. So, how have I done?

True love... that was a rough road. As I look back over those long ago years. Today I see those times as wandering through a field of beautiful flowers. Opportunities at hand for the thing I was seeking but I did not see, or did not reach out. Maybe I was looking right when that I sought was on my left. Perhaps I over reached, right past what might have been, to strive for what would never be. Fortunately, the story does not end there. I am sure I have found true love. I have been able to share it these 28 years with an especially loving and caring woman.

An adventurous life... I set one of my life's goals as to sail around the world. How boring could that be? As a substitute I bought a plane ticket to circumnavigate the Earth. I have gone most of the places I have wanted to go... well not the moon or one of the stars... but interesting places, battlefields, museums, national parks, cruises, hikes to the top of mountains, an 18,000 mile driving business trip that touched nearly every state... Canada, much of Europe, a touch of Asia. Hunting trips and many more to numerous to mention. I built my own car, drove it, raced it, scared the bejesus out of myself and others.  Sang the Messiah (chorus, base) in public performance. I even watched my team, The Saints, win a Super Bowl. (How unlikely did that seem until a couple of years ago) I keep chipping items off one end of my bucket list and adding to the other.

Money... I cannot recall ever wanting for any necessity for more than a few days. If I wanted something or needed something, I found a way to get the money. Early on I would pick up pop bottles and turn them in for the deposit. Later i worked in my parent's store. In college, I mostly did odd jobs.  After the Air Force trained me in electronics, I was able to fill time with temp jobs or actually use my education to do substitute teaching. Most of my reasonable desires and a fair number of my wildest dreams have been purchased from money in hand. My pile of money would impress very few. Still there is a little bit for charity, for the church, and an occasional visit to the gambling tables. It may even be enough to keep me in room and board until the end...

Now think about it. Money, a genie would have fixed me up with a lot more, but I have had enough. An adventurous life, I could have climbed a higher mountain, driven a faster car, bet a million dollars on one roll of the dice.  Then, true love, maybe a genie could have made the wait shorter. However, he would have had to work to find someone prettier, sexier, more loving, more caring.

I have to say I got my three wishes. What about you?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My First Deer Hunt

By Rob Watson

About the age of 13, my father thought it would be good to introduce me to deer hunting... At the time, deer hunting season in State was the week of Thanksgiving. The first two days of Thanksgiving week was also the time of the state teachers convention in the capitol. Therefore, school was out all that week. Daddy had a customer who would let us hunt on his land. Daddy even bought me a box of slugs for my shotgun. (I still have that ammunition, five .410 gauge slugs. I have often wondered, when I come across this box, whether anything short of sticking the gun in the deer's ear would cause it more than a minor irritation.) In any case it did not matter. The fish and game people canceled the deer season... I heard because they wanted to punish deer hunters for using dogs. (highly illegal in State)

Twenty or so years later I finally got the chance to go deer hunting. I was working for a large computer/electronics company teaching technicians how to troubleshoot and repair their computers. A coworker. (who has become a lifelong friend) invited me to join him and his family on their deer hunting lease out in West Texas. (You can find the area on the map of Texas, just northeast of the Big Bend National Park.) Twenty miles south of Sheffield Texas. (the next year the hunting leases were sold, rumor has it, to a vineyard... I had a chance to visit Sheffield a year or so ago. With the hunting gone, and being bypassed by the interstate highway, Sheffield is a sad shadow of it's former self.)

While I still had my trusty .410, I purchased, for no good reason, three other fire arms. One was a sporterized  Mauser '98 in 8mm. The second was a old 1903 Springfield in 30-06. The third was a Remington .221 fireball. (an exotic looking pistol.) When the invitation to join the hunt came, and I had paid my share of the lease, I began to develope hunting loads for my toys. When the truth is told, it will be clear that I had very little idea about what I was doing, but I did get lucky.

As in former times, hunting began Thanksgiving week. We departed some hours before daylight and breakfasted about dawn in a small Texas town. The rest of the day was spent driving across the vastness of the Great State of Texas. Near sundown found us in Sheffield. We ate a steak dinner at a nice restaurant there. I was told this would be our last good meal for a while. ( it was a lie, we ate like kings the whole time.) After dinner, we drove the 20 miles to the lease. We set up our popup camper. The rest of the family was delayed as one of the nephews was playing in a championship football game. They bought a moderately large camping trailer. It became the center of non-hunting activities.

On this first night I learned a lesson that was to serve me well over the next many wilderness hunts. Do not drink a lot of beer ( or any other liquid) before going to bed. My bed consisted of a thin sheet of plywood suspended four feet (1.3 meters) in the air, a thin bit of foam rubber, and a thin sleeping bag. (that had served my brother on his geology expeditions twenty five years earlier.) Here you might think  it would be relatively warm in late November this far south (You did look this up on the map, Right?) But, you, like me, would be wrong. In Texas they have a saying: "That wind is blowing straight off the North Pole and the only thing in the way is a barbed wire fence... and I think one of the strands is down."

Nature called me three or four times during that night. To speed up the process, the first time, I went out in my undies. It was cold in the popup. It was really cold in the icy wind outside. Things got so cold they did not want to work... if you know what I mean. By the time I got back inside I was near hypothermia. Later calls went no better. Putting on freezing clothes before going outside took away any body heat accumulated in the interim. (The potty being a nearby bush) By the time I had warmed up enough to go back to sleep I had to go out again. Lesson Learned!!

I have decided to tell the whole story of this adventure. You should plan to be reading for a while. The first day was Friday. Deer season opened at daylight on Saturday. ( I shall call my companions Carl and Carl Jr.) But Quail season was open so Carl Jr. and I set out to find supper. Fortunately there was backup in the ice chests. We chased Scaled Quail all over a good portion of West Texas with no result. (if they could, these birds might borrow a quote from Winston Churchill: "Nothing is more exhilarating than to be shot at without effect.")

For weeks Carl had been warning me that the hunting would be tough. We would start out before daylight and return after dark. There were mountains to climb, rivers to cross, and all manner of hardship. I took his advice and planned accordingly... backpack, food, water, emergency equipment... etc. To be fair to my friend, he was right about the start time that first day. And, he was right about when we came back after dark. We wandered around in the dark until daylight, hunted for a couple of hours then came back to camp. After resting a bit we went out for a couple of more hours then returned for lunch and a siesta.

After the siesta we, the 13 of us, discussed the lack of animals and the best way to hunt during the afternoon. There was a lot of finger pointing and directions... which I obviously did not understand. Each person took up his equipment and struck off in his assigned direction. After about 30 yards (meters) we hit heavy brush. When I came out the other side I was very much alone. I picked a trail up the side of a mesa and stopped to look around when I got nearly to the top.

Half a mile ( about 1 kilometer) west of me I saw a number of the others walking along the high side of a gully full of brush. In the gully, three deer crept carefully past the hunters. I shouted "Hey... where... are... you... going...?" The reply, an informative: "You're... going... the... wrong... way!!" My direction was irrelevant, but the deer seemed pleased with their choice of direction as they made their way to safety.

As in all cases, where I go wandering in the wilderness, I had memorized the topo maps of the region. I knew where I was, I could see the camp clearly from my elevated position. Landmarks abounded. I decided, as is usual with my sometimes obstinate nature, to go my own way. Therein lies the tale.

On top of the mesa I wandered along until I came to a well used trail. The trail had numerous cloven hoof tracks and pellet like droppings, just like any good hunter would expect to find when hunting deer. (However, one should also know sheep leave exactly the same signs.) I decided to follow my "Deer" sign and see where it lead. After a few hundred yards (meters) I saw three doe. They saw me as well and dashed off into the scattered brush of the mesa. These deer had been following this trail.

I wandered off into the brush to look for my game. Then a bright idea took root. If these animals were following the trail, then others might follow it as well. I found a comfortable looking pile of rocks and sat down to ready my ambush for the next travelers to come along... and shortly thereafter fell fast asleep. When I awoke, the three doe were about 50 yards away, checking me out. I had the 8mm Mauser in hand, not pointed in the proper direction. As I moved, those doe decided they had seen enough of me and hightailed it back into the brush.

Still laying in the rocks, I looked around. A nice buck was about 90 yards away looking directly at me. I froze. He apparently did not know what a human was if the human was reclining. (I experienced this same reaction among Wyoming Pronghorns.) When he looked away I slowly began to move the rifle. He took a long look back at me, then looked away over the canyon, perhaps to look in the direction my companions had gone.

I very slowly raised the rifle, took careful aim, and fired. He toppled over without taking a single step. I lay where I was for several minutes, allowing him time to die. The precaution was unnecessary this time as the bullet cut all of the blood vessels from the top of his heart. He had died instantly.

After my experience of the morning, I prepared for the afternoon by leaving my carefully prepared pack behind, taking only water. When I got to the buck I realized I had no equipment except my pocket knife and absolutely no knowledge about how to field dress a deer. Hey, I took Biology. There can't be a great deal of difference between cleaning a chicken (A skill, practiced many times under the watchful eyes of my parents.) and field dressing a deer. Plus, there are no feathers to pluck. And, it is so.

After dressing the deer I tried to pick it up to carry back to camp. It was a no go. Many West Texas deer are about the size of a large dog. Easy to lift, easy to carry long distances. Mine was almost too large for me to lift. Once I got him up, I looked down and saw my rifle and the knife. It became clear there was no way I was going to carry all this and the deer the half mile back to camp. After a considerable struggle, I was able to hang him in a tree.

As I pondered my situation, I heard my salvation coming across the mesa toward me. One of the hunters, an older gentleman with one good arm and half another, was driving his jeep, with a companion, directly toward me. To make sure they saw me I climbed upon a rock, about four feet tall, took off my hunters orange jacket and waved it over my head. About 200 yard away they turned right, and seemed to be going away. To attract their attention, I pointed my rifle into the ground in their direction and fired. The muzzle blast of a high powered rifle was bound to draw some attention. They kept on going and did not turn back.

In reconsidering my dilemma, I walked back to camp to get some help. I found Carl Jr. and asked him. He agreed. The older gentleman was there and offered to help, riding being better then walking, we agreed. The event I relate here is summarized in my post "Fear".  Our driver had been drinking a fair amount before we started. He took another beer, holding it in his good hand, and driving with his stub of a arm. He took off at high speed over rough and rutted roads. At the edge of the mesa we came to a road directly up the side. The road was narrow with steep drop offs of fifty or more feet on both sides. With time to think, I decided I had a great chance of dying then and there. I said a prayer, asking God for forgiveness of my sins, closed my eyes and expected to die.

Much to my great relief, we reached the top of the mesa. I knew about where we were and directed the driver toward the deer. When we got near, there was a field of large rocks. I suggested Carl Jr. and I go get the deer. Our driver, ignoring my warning that he might damage his machine, drove into the boulders and promptly broke his steering rod. Being familiar with the steering of that jeep, I crawled under it to examine the damage. It was broke and would need a new part or a skilled welder to fix. The driver wanted me to tape it back together.

Carl Jr. was a distance runner in track and volunteered to run back to camp to get help. Unfortunately, he decided to stop at the edge of the mesa and shout down to the camp. In camp, four guys got into a four passenger Bronco  to bring us the gasoline. The last of the daylight was fading when the rescuers arrived. The older gentleman got in the front seat. Carl Jr., the deer, a spare tire, a can of gas and myself shared a space roughly two feet by five feet by four feet tall.

The entire eastern edge of the mesa was bordered with a fence and a road. Go east, you get to the road. The rescuers drove around until they got to the edge of the mesa, turned around and drove until they got to the edge of the mesa again. On the third trip to the edge of the mesa I got out. I told them I knew my way back and I was going to walk. Carl Jr. jumped out as well and said; "I'm going with Mr. Watson." There was a fair amount of shouting about the two of us getting lost. I took a minute to show my young companion how to find the north star and told him, if we walk North we would get to camp. Our rescuers would have none of that. More shouting. Finally I decided I had to save everyone myself. I showed Carl Jr. the Seven Sisters constellation (Due east at the time)  and began to walk that direction. More shouting. At last, I told the driver of the rescue truck he was pointed east. He must not turn his wheels or he would get lost. We got back into the truck, drove 50 feet and came to the road.

Back at camp, around the campfire, I found the two who had passed me up on the mesa in the afternoon. "You boys didn't see any deer up on the mesa this afternoon, did you?" They answered, "No, we didn't see a single one." "I can explain that," says I. "Anyone who cannot see a six foot, 200 pound man standing on a four foot rock, waving a bright orange jacket and firing a rifle at them, Ain't gonna see any deer either."

A day or so later I was charged with cooking the chili. After throwing everything together, Carl mentioned that his wife had given him a pint of jalapeno peppers. On a normal day I might have added a few. This time I just dumped the whole pint in the rather large pot of chili. It came out a little hot. (OK, OK, the cast iron pot glowed a cherry red from the heat, it was hot stuff) Next morning, for some reason breakfast was light. and a number of the hunters were dallying about the table when one asked if there was any chili left. There was. I was still hungry so I asked for some. then other men asked for a bowl as well. With us were three or four adolescent boys. You could tell from the looks on their faces they would sooner pick up a rattlesnake than eat another bowl of that hot stuff. However the pressure to be like the adults was too great and after a delay they each asked for a bowl.

Carl's brother in law was a jokester. He made a point of laughing up any goofs made by the people around him. One morning as four hunters drove of toward the mesa, a very nice buck showed himself beside the road. One hunter jumped out of the truck, took aim, and pulled his trigger... Snap... he had forgotten to load his gun. BIL retold the story a number of times at the expense of our companion. Next day, again driving toward the mesa, a number of quail appeared beside the road. BIL jumped out, with his shotgun, declaring he would get us some fat birds for supper... Snap, Snap... went his double barrel shotgun. It also ended the jesting at other's expense. 

At the end of four days hunting I had gotten my two deer. Carl and Carl Jr. each got one and one other man got one. Everyone else went home empty handed. There is more to this story but I am headed to bed. Will have to write it later.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Best Friends

By Rob Watson

More than a half century ago, when I was six years old, My parents had a retail business. In the block, half the businesses faced East and half west. A small alley ran behind the buildings. The rear of each business opened onto this alley. Here trash was deposited and collected every few days. In the days before large plastic trash receptacles and dumpsters, the businesses used large cardboard boxes. Two of these businesses were furniture stores. Thus a large and ready supply of large cardboard boxes was available to everyone.

It was not unusual for the children, such as myself, of the business owners to play in and around the trash boxes. They made great fortresses and hiding places. Large trash trucks would drive down this alley to pick up the trash. Also, some of the employees were volunteer fire fighters. When the city fire alarm sounded, these men would race down the alley, in their cars, to get to the fire station two blocks away. It was the greatest fear of these parents, that one or more of their children would be killed by one or the other of these means. None ever were, protected as we were by vast ignorance and total disregard of our parents demands and commands.

One day, of unknown date and time, Jim and I met, we claim, crawling through the same trash box. He was seven months younger than me, but a whole year behind in school because of state law. Together we were in Cub Scouts, boy scouts, little league baseball... We were great adventurers, at least until real life raised its ugly head. Separation by time and distance would mark the whole of our friendship. We lived on opposite sides of town. They built a new school. He went to the new one, me to the old. He worked in his parents store, me in mine. Just as we were to be in high school together, his parents sold out and moved to another city.

After one year of college we were together again. After a few months my parents bought me a small house trailer. It was 40ft X 8Ft (13m X 2 1/2m). Jim moved in. The college town was 'dry', and, the nearest liquor store was 22 miles away. A wet bar quickly popped up in my trailer. It became the center of activities after adventuring, studying, and work were done. The long term result being a very close, relaxed relationship. In later years we would sit for extended periods without speaking, sipping tea (we both mostly gave up liquor after college) and watching the woods behind his house.

It was during this time that I developed most of the principles by which I relate to others. Cook the meals together. Wash the dishes together. Clean the house together. Repair all the broken things together. Getting mad solves no problems. Keeping the mouth shut and walking away keeps things from going bad to worse. Keep track of all expenses, food, utilities. Settle up at the end of every month. When he does something nice for me. It is my task to find something to do nice for him. Honesty in thought, word, and action is a must. (But, there is such a thing as being too honest, at least with words.) I respect your choices. You respect mine. When they conflict, compromise. Then, there are such things as too much together and too much help. Not every problem needs an immediate solution.

There are always people who want to give too much. Fortunately only a few try to take too much. Fair is fair. I accept those things you wish to do for me. Then, you must allow me to do things for you. Over the years, when a relationship seemed out of balance, I would ask myself, "how would I behave if this were Jim?"

My plan, over all these intervening years, was to move near Jim and we would spend our retired years as great adventurers again. When Wife finally closed her business and we became able to execute this plan. On a Saturday before Thanksgiving, on my way to visit my friend of more than 60 years, I got a call from his son. It was the notice of the ultimate separation. "Mister Robert, Daddy died last night."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Charlie: Shotgun

By Rob Watson

Over the years, Charlie had restored a lot of old farm equipment.  In the early years it was of necessity.  Later it became a hobby.  One day an old farmer was persuaded, by his wife, I think, to dispose of his collection of Ford Model T parts.  Being near at hand, Charlie was offered first dibs.  To the apparent irritation of the old farmer, Charlie negotiated a lower price, help in moving the junk, and a larger amount of materials than the original offer.

Among the parts was a body that had been used for target practice.  It had numerous bullet holes.  Being the patient man that he is, Charlie began to repair the holes by pounding out the defect and filling it in then smoothing it over.  Having finished repairing one of the holes, he wanted to show off his handiwork to his New Year's party guests.

One of the guests challenged his decision to repair the holes, declaring they gave the car character.  Seeing the wisdom of this suggestion, as it would save a huge amount of work, the decision was made to leave the bullet holes.  The car, completely restored and running, now an individual with much character, (bullet holes), required a name.  Bonnie and Clyde was suggested, among others, but Charlie settled on "Shotgun".

In following years, Charlie drove Shotgun many places.  It became his trademark.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Charlie: Beating The Rap

Charlie: Beating the Rap

Charlie's first auto accident happened when he was 85 or so.  He was driving in Bigtown, had stopped for a traffic light and proceeded when the light changed.  His car was struck by a pregnant young woman who ran the red light while talking on her cell phone.  Being a gentleman, and unaware of the protocol controlling accident investigation, he moved his car and his bumper, torn off by the other auto, so that other traffic could proceed.

When the police arrived and examined the scene, Charlie was, falsely, found to be at fault and was ticketed.  When I heard of the accident, I suggested he pay the fine and forget the whole thing.  He declared he was not at fault and was going to fight the ticket in court.  His greatest fear was what might happen to his car insurance rates.  In the months before the trial we discussed this several times.  Because I had never seen anyone successfully fight a ticket, I repeatedly advised him to pay the fine. He repeatedly refused and was determined to argue his innocence.  I saw a disaster in the making.  I saw a big lawsuit for damages to the unborn child and the mother, based on the courts finding of fault.  Charlie saw complete exoneration.

He consulted a number of people about court proceedings and discovered what needed to be done.  He asked me to go with him for his trial.  On the appointed day, we both dressed in our best business suits and went to face the music.  The court dress code was obviously casual.  The judge was in shirtsleeves and the prosecutor wore jeans, as did everyone but ourselves.

As each case was called and judged, it became clear this was a "hanging" judge.  There was no mercy or leniency shown to any defendant.  I was getting really nervous.  Then the bailiff called Charlie's case.  We both stood as the charges were read... then the prosecutor interrupted the bailiff and told the judge the charges had been dropped.  No reason was given.

With this opening Charlie was left to find his own explanation, always given when the story is retold: When the court saw the defendant and his high-powered lawyer, they quickly decided not to tangle with the pair.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Charlie: Introduction

Charlie: Introduction
By Rob Watson

I have been thinking about writing about my friend Charlie for a while now. These stories could be said to be the history of a friendship but they are really the history of a unique character who happens to be my friend.

Charlie is over 6 feet (2 meters) tall, weighs about 220 pounds (100kg)and is a second generation American of German immigrants.  He can be heard, from time to time, speaking in his families native tongue and even recognizes the few words I know of that language. As of this writing he is 86 years of age, the second of 6 children. He and his wife raised two adopted children to successful adulthood. The son died a few years ago in an auto accident. Because of his generous nature, he treats all the children of his daughter-in-law as his own grandchildren, even though only two are the natural children of his son.

Six or so years ago Wife and I bought a commercial building in State. While wife cleared up business in the old state I was here getting things in order and starting on my new job as science and ecology teacher. One Sunday after church I went to the popular and only restaurant in town. Every table was taken. An older gentleman and his wife occupied a table for four a few feet away. The gentleman, Charlie, invited me to join them. This began our association.

Born in 1927, Charlie grew up during the great depression, the dust bowl days of this region, and served during the last years of world war II. He speaks of the hardships and challenges of those days infrequently, usually only if asked. He does frequently pass along the advice given him by his father: "Put your labor where the money is." He is also very conservative when it comes to parting with his hard earned cash. Most of these stories will document how we made things from the piles of junk he accumulated over the years.

Do not be mislead by the above description. When an investment is needed there is no hesitation. However a bit of patience usually yields the needed item for a greatly reduced price. Often acquired from someone who has it and no longer needs it. He has many sources.

The second thing I learned about Charlie (The first being he never met a stranger) was that he knows everybody and everything about everybody. While he seldom speaks ill of anyone, there are folks with whom he will not do business, ask for, or grant favors. I have traveled with Charlie a great deal. In all the places we have stopped, all the places, he will find one or several folks he knows and calls by name, discusses a mutual interest, or catches up on family events. We never hurry anywhere. While driving through the local area, a radius of 50 or so miles, He can give you the name of the owner of nearly every parcel of land, the genealogy of the owner, and whether they are good stewards of their land.

The thing we most often disagree over is what is fun. Charlie's idea of fun is driving around the country examining the crops. He will stop in the road, stroll into a nearby field, dig up a sprouting seed, or pluck a grain head, and patiently explain, to me, the condition of the crop. He thinks work is fun. More than that, no job is ever finished. you will see this frequently in the chapters that follow. The closest we ever got to fun was the time I talked him into a trip to the casino. His usual response to such requests is "I'm a farmer, I don't need to go to the casino to gamble. Everything I do is a gamble." My winning argument was "At the casino You only risk $5. And, the payoff is seconds away instead of 10 months." He won $5 playing blackjack. We almost went fishing once, as well.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Most Beautiful Woman In The World

By Rob Watson

I have been thinking about this for three days now. I saw the pictures of Miss Whats-her-name. I have to comment. First, I think somebody is trying to sell movie tickets. Who could resist paying $15 to spending two hours watching "The Most Beautiful Woman In The World" cavorting around on a 20 foot (6m) high screen. Heck, she might even shed some of those clothes. Then one would really see "Most Beautiful Woman In The World". Why, on a screen that large, if one of her assets were to be exposed, in a closeup it would be twelve feet across.

 What I really think is this: I am over 60. I know a few women my age who have not "gone over" yet. Lets take the same money that Miss Whats-her-name and her producers spent on her appearance. I'll pick four of the women mentioned above and we will do the following...

First take the four and spend three days in a fancy all-you-could-want spa. Just to get in the right mood. Then we go to a foundations designer and get some appropriate underwear. You know, a little squeeze here a little pad there.

Next we go to a clothes designer. Every woman would get custom designed clothes for her figure, match her color wheel, etc

A hair dresser for the stars would be our next stop. Maybe a touch of color and a style that accents each face. Throw in a manicure and pedicure...

Next everyone moseys over to the makeup artist to get the top of the line "war paint". Lastly...

The five women are lined up side by side, like the finals of the Miss America pageant. Anyone who says one is more beautiful than any of the others is a liar or a fool... or he is looking to make a bunch of money off his new movie.

PS: Any man,  married or dateing, who does not commit this to memory, is leaving himself open to the biggest trick question ever devised by woman!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Civil War Battle Re-enactment: Pleasant Hill, Mansfield

By Rob Watson

As a student of the American Civil War, having read Bruce Catton's four volume set and Shelby Foote's three volume set, along with numerous other books, and watched the Ken Burns series twice, recent events have combined to expose my massive ignorance on that subject. The first event was a series, in a small local paper, of the history of the Civil War in Louisiana. The second was a three day excursion to Pleasant Hill Louisiana for their 33rd annual reenactment of the battle in that tiny town.

Bruce and Shelby, both, mostly ignore the events in Louisiana, except for a page or two on Port Hudson and New Orleans. When, in reality, there were frequent clashes around Morgan City. Baton Rouge exchanged hands twice. The Red River Campaign was an effort to capture the rest of Louisiana and all of Texas.

In March and April of 1864 40,000 soldiers and sailors under Union General Nathan Banks, supported by Admiral David Porter's fleet of river gunboats set out to capture the Red River valley, the capitol of Louisiana in exile: Shreveport, and Texas. They captured Alexandria then Natchitoches. On the afternoon of 8 April, they met General Richard Taylor (son of President Zachary Taylor of Louisiana) Three miles south of Mansfield.  Discouraged by this group of Louisiana and Texas Rebels, the Union boys lost interest in their quest and retreated to the even smaller town of Pleasant Hill. Here, on the afternoon of April 9, Rebel forces under Taylor engaged Union troops under Banks and fought the largest (and almost universally ignored) Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. (to add insult to injury, the National Park service preserved the Mansfield battle site and ignored Pleasant Hill)

Fortunately, the owner of a part of the four square mile battlefield, and descendant of the original owners (and participant in the battle) established a re-enactment of both battles on his property. His descendants carry on the events. The house seen in The background of some of the photos is that original house, on the property during the battle at Pleasant Hill.

Friday was "School Day" for area students to visit the encampment and talk to the participants. Visitors were encouraged to wear period clothing...

Saturday: the parade was at 10am this morning. it was disappointing. There were lots of local people and cars and fire trucks etc. a small group of cavalry. a small group of union infantry and a smaller group of rebel infantry. Below is Union Infantry riding to the parade. They marched in it. The Rebel unit was smaller.

I looked up the guy from the cowboy shoot-em-up that had given me the information on this event. I visited with him and a small group from his unit before the first "battle". I spoke to him again afterwards. They were assigned to be Union Soldiers and operated their cannons on the union side. (The union and rebel cannoneer uniforms are similar, red caps, sky blue pants, just change the coat... which they all had.) These guys had done three events in Louisiana this year. They are going to the 150th anniversary and reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg in July.

While waiting for the re-enactment to start I shared my shade tree with a woman who's family has just gotten into re-enactment. They started four months ago and this was their fourth event. The husband, two boys, and their girl were all in the battle. All but the girl were in the union cavalry. The mother and their youngest child were in period dress. They are from Palestine Texas and home school their children. Below, True Southern Ladies visiting the troops.

The battles both days were held on the ground of the original Pleasant Hill battle. The land has been in the same family from the 1840s and the re-enactment was started by a descendant of the original land owners. The announcer was a great... nephew of those people. The original house still stands there but I did not take time to see it... maybe Sunday. The event Saturday was a re-enactment of the Mansfield Battle. Sunday is to be a re-enactment of the Pleasant Hill fight. Below: Recruits in training. You are missing several photos and a video of them trying close order drills.

For the individual it is less expensive to be in the artillery. (about $300 for the uniform plus the infantry must buy a musket for another $300-$400 plus leather belt, cartridge box, plus...) The guy who owns the cannon, of course, is several thousand dollars into it. Some had just cannon. The unit I visited had four. (They tow them onto the field with their trucks.) some have caissons (ammunition carriers) and one group had cannon, caisson, mules to draw the hardware and horses for the cannoneers. (This guy was the one who sold the powder... at nearly half price... for all the weapons) At $10 to $18 a pound for powder, most cannons shoot 1/3 pound charges. The powder supplier has a larger gun and shoots two pound charges. The regular cannon make a big blast. The big one can be felt as well as heard. Below is Robinson's Battery lined up in the rear of the union position. These are full size, civil war era, field piece replicas. (12 pounders)

The large cannon, caisson, mule team, outriders and gun crew:

From time to time the viewers would see a simulated shell explosion... a large white puff of smoke not associated with a cannon:

The battle opens with a small rebel unit advancing onto the field: at the side is the first of five rebel cannon.

 Followed by a union artillery barrage, answered here by a rebel barrage.

Larger units: The dead are on the ground. Being dead is voluntary. I asked how one determines when to die. The answer: when they get tired of the goings on. Some dead lay there for more than an hour as the battle raged around them. On the second day the big cannon fought for the rebels. When it rolled onto the field and set up over ground where an infantry fight had occurred and several dead lay, the dead resurrected themselves. Later, a Union Cavalry officer was "killed" near me. He spent the rest of the battle trying not to be trampled by his own horse (which was remarkably calm considering the dozens of cannon blasts and thousands of musket shots all around him)


 The big cannon being loaded:

and fired:

Next April 5, 2014 will be the 150th anniversary reenactment of Mansfield/Pleasant hill. The organizers hope to have an extraordinary show. If you come, plan for three days. April is a pleasant month in Louisiana, sometimes cool, sometimes damp but, otherwise pleasant. If you bring black round toe boots, sky blue pants belt loops removed, suspenders, any old dress shirt with the collar wings cut off, a slouch hat or straw hat and $100 for the uniform jacket of your choice, you can help fight for your side (or both sides if someone loans you the other jacket) in the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill... probably in the artillery.

The doctor, keeping his records:

Of his amputations:

A rebel cavalry unit advances onto the field:

Poor Choices

By Rob Watson

I believe that at least some of you readers have made poor choices from time to time. This blog is a chronicle of a small sampling of my poor choices. The subject came up a few days ago and was renewed yesterday by a visitor to my new home, my Fishing Cabin as I call it.

This cabin is surrounded by a forest. The trees are mostly 90 feet (30 meters) tall. Outside the area of the yard, the underbrush ranges from thick to impassable. Lots of varmints live there. I have seen squirrels, rabbits, and one coyote. I have caught three mice. Evidence abounds of wild hogs, mostly rooted up sections of my yard. Though Wife and I have made an effort to limit varmint access to the area under the cabin, it is not unusual to hear thumps, bumps, and gnawing in the night.

Because the floor under the bath tub has been damaged (and desperately needs repair) there is a hole through that area and varmints like to take up residence there. One would think rats or squirrels would be fairly quiet but they are not. My cursing and energetically pounding the sides of the cast iron tub, seems in no way to discourage what ever is there.

Though I am an occasional hunter, I am not a killer by temperament. Even bugs, flys and mosquitoes excepted, get a free pass if they stay outside my home. Therefore the idea of killing my visitors came slowly. The first prompting came when I caught a mouse alive. I put him in a 30 gallon trash barrel and fed him mouse poison. Took him nearly a week to die.  Next I saw a mouse dash from the living area to the kitchen. Speeding up the killing process seemed prudent. I bought a trap and set it in the kitchen. When it snapped I found the mouse, caught by the nose, and very much alive. I took him outside and smashed him with something. I hate to see animals suffer, even mice. The third mouse was fortunate enough to put his whole head in the trap and died instantly.

Things got serious when some varmint, most likely a squirrel, caused $300 damage to Wife's van by chewing through three of six spark plug wires. I have a tendency to let things slide but this was a bit over the top. Wife, on the other hand, elevated herself to mortal enemy to all varmints. (Due to shoulder injuries she cannot fire a shotgun so now I am in the process of creating shot shells for my revolver.) This sent her looking for the poison I had used earlier.

This brings us to the poor choices with which I began this post. A mouse, in search of food, had gnawed his way into the box of poison and eaten some.

Wife bought more poison, conveniently packaged in little trays, and put it out under the van, the motorcycle, and my truck. It is not clear if the spark plug wire culprit "got his" but the poison keeps disappearing. I, being the cheapskate I am, buy the poison in whole boxes, without the convenient little trays... I just reuse and refill the ones remaining after I ran over the one under the truck.

The varmint under the tub has died. I found him while crawling around under the house trying to get water to a sink in the laundry room. He has been replaced. Nearly a half cup of poison has disappeared from the handy trays in the last 24 hours. The trays have been refilled and I have high hopes that the new resident under the tub will continue the poor choices of his predecessors.

First Dates

By Rob Watson

My alternate title for this piece was "An Idiot on the Loose". As you will see, this was an accurate description of my first dating experience. So, lets begin, jumping forward three full years from the incident related in my post: "Fear". Never having asked any girl for another date.  (You may recall, I claim to have been unsuccessful with the females. In this almost year long relationship DD never directly expresses any form of affection toward me and allows exactly one kiss... You be the judge. But then, six or seven years later I end up living next to this girl. She tells my first wife, that I am the one that got away.)

By some forgotten sequence of events, I am in the lake cabin of the neighbor of one of my high school teachers. Present are the cabins owner, his wife and their 14 year old daughter (lets call her DD to save typing). The time is the Autumn of my freshman year of college. The older ones have put on a humor record by Rusty Reynolds. By the record jacket one can see Rusty is a rather attractive red head. She is also the flithiest mouthed woman I have ever encountered.

The wife and mother notices that I am embarrassed to the absolute limit of my ability to cope. She takes this as a sign that I am the boy for her little girl. I am, thereafter, invited to their cabin whenever they are in town. They live about 50 miles from the lake, and, 50 miles from my college.

DD is physically well developed for a 14 year old, (or for a 20 year old) has a pretty face, keeps her auburn hair well fixed, and dresses to accent her figure without "over exposing" it. I eventually learn she emotionally flashes from warm to cold and back again at short intervals that are unpredictable in all respects.

Sometime along the way, I ask for a date and we begin to correspond by snail mail. (actually, back then, a letter deposited at the end of the day at college would be delivered 280 mile away in the next days mail... Also 50 miles away) DD liked the attention of receiving a daily letter and was quite put out when I failed to deliver. She, however, only felt the need to write once or twice a week.

While at college, my only mode of long distance transportation was hitchhiking. One week I was invited to DD's home for the weekend and hitchhiked there. Her mother picked me up and transported me to the house after I got to their town. I knew hitchhiking after dark was an iffy enterprise and, at the end of my visit, I asked to be delivered to the road back to college in late afternoon... too late afternoon.

I stood beside the road for an hour, until full dark, with my thumb out. Then, having classes the next day, began to walk. At the time it was in vogue to do 50 mile (80km) hikes in 24 hours. (a resurrection of some Teddy Roosevelt thing) I had just over 14 hours. Walking being my main mode of transport otherwise, I had developed my own technique for racewalking and switched into high gear. A faster mode, developed and fostered by the boy scouts, was to run 50 steps and walk 50 steps. As time began to get short, in the later hours of the night, I switched over to this mode. I never failed to present myself as a hitchhiker to any passing vehicle until the last one.

An hour or more could pass between cars on the road. I got very tired and decided to take a nap on a bridge... you know the footing of the bridge side rails. I was awakened by a car passing a foot or so from my nose. Thereafter I kept moving.

At 4:30 AM. I was 5 miles from my destination when I heard a car coming. I decided my ego could not stand another rejection and I ignored the man as he zoomed past. He jammed on his brakes and backed up. He asked if I needed a ride... Yep!! Forty five miles in ten hours, nap included, must be some kind of record. Heck, I could have been a Teddy Roosevelt Marine twice over, or a Stonewall Jackson Foot Cavalry, or an Idiot on the loose.

The last I saw of DD (until six or seven years later) began with an outdoor party the following summer. She, or her mother, invited 20 or so people, our age, for a weenie roast beside the lake. I spent most of the evening following DD around as if I were a lost puppy, and being totally ignored. After an extended period I began to feel like one and stopped following her. Within minutes she came and punched me in the back, wanting to know why I was ignoring her.

The next evening, we were suppose to have a date. She was out, standing on the dock, when I drove up in my family's car. I walked out to her and she turned. "Go away. I don't want to see you any more." was all she said. I said nothing, turned and walked away. Six or seven years was not enough time for the anger to go away. I lived next to her for a year and never remember speaking a word to her.

The good news was it opened the door for the Merry Bee (and Mary B. ), and, the girl from Dallas, and, more tales of an idiot on the loose.

Notes on the above: President Theodore Roosevelt  initiated  the requirement that the Marines be able to march 50 miles in a day. Someone brought this up again in the 1960's and it was the in thing to do at the time, for non military boys trying to prove their manhood.

During the American Civil War, Infantry usually moved 10-15 miles a day. Cavalry moved 25 miles. General Thomas J, Stonewall, Jackson frequently moved his infantry corps 50 miles in a day, earning the moniker: Stonewall's Foot Cavalry.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

All You Can Eat

By Rob Watson

Those who know me understand I like to eat. I am a fair cook but, eating in great homes and good restaurants is better. (You might look back to Wife's post: Eating our way through Louisiana.) In moving to New State, Wife and I were hoping to find some good places to eat, as Last State had slim pickings. (Having been a long time resident of New State in a former life... You may be from New State if... You find the food everywhere else slightly disappointing... Has been mostly true in my case. My apologies and condolences to those other places I have lived for the last 1000 years.)

Without looking very hard, and being seduced by their 30 shrimp add, wife and I decided to try Red Lobster here. I looked up the address of the local restaurant on the internet and programed the trusty GPS to take us there. On arrival, it was a vacant lot. a local resident informed us it had gone out of business years before. So, then the search began in earnest.

The area had a number of places near by. The first we passed touted fresh seafood, steaks, and sushi... too many things to be good at any of them... There were two cars in the large parking lot. Other places were about the same... big signs, big parking lots, two cars. Then we came upon a small place with six parking places and nine cars parked around. My fried catfish was served, along with hush puppies, coleslaw, pickles, and fries, on a beer tray... you know the ones you see on beer ads all the time. Eighteen inches (Half a meter) in diameter and 2 inch (5 cm) high sides. Oh, yes, it was $11 each.  Beer not served.

I use to say, in my gun business, If you need an excuse, almost anything will do. So when Wife and I could devine a good excuse, we went there for great food and good service. The bad news being it is fifty miles away.

Near by our fishing shack, places to eat out are as slim pickins as in Last State. That is until the restaurant near by, 13 miles (17 KM) got mad at the world and closed down... leaving an unfriendly comment as a headline in the local newspaper. The business was taken over by another entrepreneur, remodeled, and reopened.

Wife and I passed by the place a number of times but did not stop due to forced fiscal responsibilities, brought on by over indulgence in other areas. We did, however, notice fair numbers of cars and trucks stopped there at meal times. Today, we felt able to treat ourselves after an uplifting Palm Sunday Service. The food was great... Fried Catfish... and one other thing, if you are considering visiting in our area...

You have heard of places that offer "All You Can Eat", right? These two new places offer twice as much as I can eat for about $10.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Small Tornado

By Rob Watson

Everyone has seen the destruction done by large tornadoes. Whole towns, even significant parts of cities destroyed. The average tornado is 75 yards (meters) wide. An average of 55 touch down in State every year. Here I would like to show you the effects of a small tornado. This property belonged to my friend Charlie. This first view is of an equipment building that was blown down.

The august person in the center of this second photo is your humble correspondent. Notice that the large, full, grain bin in the background is undamaged as is the small empty one in the foreground.

The tornado bypassed these empty grain bins as well...

Here is a combine head for harvesting sunflowers... it is mostly undamaged.

 In the background is an undamaged animal barn.

Below, the large bin on the left was empty. The small one in the middle was used to store odds and ends.
Here, part of the roof of the equipment building rests in the shelter belt north of the place.

The rest of the roof landed about 200 yards (meters) north of the shelter belt.

The trail of this tornado wandered across a milo field for a few hundred yards before doing the damage seen in the pictures above. The corn in the foreground of this last picture shows it was still on the ground  a few dozen yards after the row of trees. Then, no doubt satisfied with itself, it lifted and went to that great thunder cloud in the sky.

The Song In My Heart

By Rob Watson

The other day one of the love songs of my youth came back to me. I sang it to myself. Today it came back to me in the early predawn hours. I sang it again. It set me to thinking of songs and their relationship to my life. For many years I was a closet romantic, or at least, an unsuccessful one. I entertained myself with songs, lots of songs.

"The Wayward Wind" should have been my lifelong theme song. I have lived in nearly 30 places in my 60 plus years and traveled to hundreds. Trouble is, I never thought of myself as a wanderer. I always loved coming home to rest. After about two weeks of wandering I was ready for my own house and bed. I didn't grow up to the sound of the "outward bound" and I always found train whistles in the night a great irritation, as opposed to a calling.  I have made a number of train trips but they never really attracted me either, as departure time always seem to be 12 midnight. "Wandering Star" from "Paint Your Wagon" is one I sing frequently, for entertainment, because I would like to identify with its theme... but do not.

"The Impossible Dream" from "The Man of La Mancha" is one of my favorites. I use to spend a lot of time dreaming... impossible dreams... in former years, mostly about the girls. This is no longer necessary as Wife is an amiable and satisfying companion.

The love song, learned early in adolescence, that I frequently immagined myself singing to a girl, went like this:

When I was young and dreams were new, I loved a girl a lot like you.
I saw her face in mountain streams and lost myself in dreams.
but we were young and tossed away our precious love along the way,
we parted strangers and set our hearts to wander aimlessly.
But looking back, somehow I see, how seldom love has come to me.
and I confess, I think of her, remembering when...
If I were young, and dreams were new, I'd love a girl a lot like you.
I'd hold her close if she'd agree to love, perhaps, a boy a lot like me.

Trouble is, there was never a "her" or a "we". No face to see "in mountain streams". No "love" to "toss away." The truth to tell, is, I had a serious lack of boldness. If there ever might have been a "her" I was too cowardly to make it a "we".

The song I really always sang and really resonated in my soul was "On The Street Where You live" from "My Fair Lady". I would walk, ride my bicycle, or drive past the home of my crush de jour singing that song.  This lasted well into my college years, until... One very pleasant day I took a rather attractive young woman on a fancy evening out... Dinner at a fine restaurant, and a movie: "My Fair Lady". In the process I learned my favorite love song was sung by the looser. This fact struck way too close to the truth. I was truly a looser in love. I do not recall if I ever passed another young woman's home again, but I clearly remember never singing that song again.

The character trait women want most, in their man, is self confidence, a quality I was wholly lacking until the middle years of my life. Then I met Wife and have lived happily ever after.  An impossible dream coming true. That is the reason love songs now seem to come only from a long, dark, and distant past.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gun Bans

By Rob Watson

Back in the day, August or so of 1994, I was in the gun business. I had a retail store and, for the first time in 3 years, was making a significant profit from it. The profit making would end in three months. The profit making began when President Bill Clinton proposed banning fire arms. This prompted good, law abiding, citizens, who had never owned a gun, and never seriously considered owning one, to go out and buy. Many bought more than one.

The profit making ended when 12% of gun owning democrats voted republican in the November congressional elections. After more than 40 years of dominating congress, Democrats lost a fair percentage of their seats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. It would be 12 years before they regained control of Congress, and that by a vastly slimmer margin than previously. This last because the democratic "Solid South" started turning republican.

With political history behind us, lets turn to the guns and magazines that were "banned". (Careless people have taken up the habit of calling "magazines" "clips". I find this irritating but will pass on it for now) Any magazine that held more than 10 rounds of ammunition was banned. Any pistol that weighed more than 56 ounces (3.5 pounds or 1.5kg), was semiautomatic and had a removable magazine was banned. Any rifle that had more than three banned features was banned. Banned features? What are banned features you ask. Removable magazines, semiautomatic actions, fore grips that prevented the user from burning his hands on a hot barrel, flash hiders, muzzle breaks to reduce recoil, bayonet lugs or bayonets, and a few other features that I don't recall. So, let us look a little closer.

You may think of a magazine as a metal or plastic box, open at the top and enclosed on the four sides with a removable bottom. Inside is a false bottom forced upward by a spring. The open top is formed such that the contents, being forced upward by the false bottom (also called the follower) are held in place until pushed forward by some part of the firearm. The magazine is held in place inside the firearm by a spring loaded latch. Press the latch and Sir Isaac Newton removes this magazine for you. (or, more correctly, Sir Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity).

Banning these was silly because... First off, the removable bottom (and the cleverly crafted law banning high capacity magazines) allowed the original manufacturer to remove the bottom and install a spacer between the follower and the bottom that restricted the magazine capacity to 10 rounds of ammunition. The new owner needed only remove the bottom of the magazine, remove the spacer, and replace the bottom to return the magazine to it original capacity. (which may have been slightly illegal. But if one were to go murder a school full of kids, this slight infraction might get over looked) Or, secondly, one could just buy several of the millions of extra magazines manufactured between the proposal of the law and its passing and effective date. (predating bans being against the law here)

In fairness, many original manufacturers eventually redesigned their magazines to hold only 10 rounds. This resulted in some odd looking devices becoming even odder looking.

Of course, if one were to shoot up a theater full of people, one only needs a container full of 10 round magazines. The one or two seconds required to change magazines couldn't allow that many targets to escape. Shooting up a mall full of people could be more of a problem in that the shooter might have to aim to hit his targets instead of just spraying bullets indiscriminately.

Now, to the firearms themselves... A 56 ounce pistol... that is 3.5 pounds without ammunition. What perp in his warped mind would carry a pistol or two (most mass murderers bring more than one weapon) that heavy. After all, the gun ban is going to require him to carry a bunch of magazines.

The AR15 is now the ultimate assault weapon. Prior to August 1994 it had a semiautomatic action, a removable magazine, a foregrip that protected one from burning ones hands on a hot barrel, and a flash hider. After the gun ban you could no longer buy one with a flash hider. Or, if you really, really needed a flash hider, for shooting up darkened movies, you could buy one of the preban, Grandfathered AR15's. (after the previous gun ban expired a few years ago, manufacturers added the flash hiders to their new rifles)

So,  a mental defective can now, and in the future, go into a legitimate gun dealer, purchase a preban (or not) weapon, and preban (or not) magazines, any amount of ammunition, pass a federal background check, and do as he pleases until 23 minutes after he shoots someone. (23 minutes is the average response time for 911 calls, or longer if the responding officer waits for backup)

The alternatives are an extra brave officer who does not wait for backup, as in Texas a few years back, an armed off duty deputy at a theater in Phoenix, AZ (The day after Sandy Hook Elementary) or an armed citizen. Unless you go into one of the places that ban law abiding gun toting citizens.

Research shows that prior to the 1994 gun ban about 20 mass killings occurred each year. During the gun ban, 1994 to 2004, about 20 mass shootings happened every year. After the gun ban expired in 2004, about 20 mass murders occurred every year. So much for gun bans. Research also showed, in the 38 shooting investigated, one or more people were told, in advance, by the perp, of the plan to shoot up a bunch of people.

Mental defectives, and those proposing gun violence, are not in the data base used for background checks. They need to be put there. There is a method for being removed from this database if one is a law abiding citizen, with proof of such. I have seen it. It is inconvenient but it works. And background checks need to be made universal. A little gun training wouldn't hurt either.

The only way to stop a bad person with a gun is by a good person with a gun... NRA