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.