This upcoming Sunday night - a Home on the Range Review of the Ruger Mark III .22.UPDATE: I am heading out on the road for some work that popped up. I'll have the Ruger range report up Wednesday Night.
My best friend stopped by after work Saturday. It was a perfect 82 degree day, a brisk breeze - it was time. Time to drag the barbecue out from the barn. Data Viking and friends had dragged out all the chairs and set up the fire pit a few weekends ago for a dinner, but the grill was still under cover. But what to make? Burgers. OK, that's easy. But what to GO with the burgers?
I got hooked on coleslaw on some sandwiches and burgers after reading a Robert Parker Spenser novel in which he put deli coleslaw on a tuna salad sandwich. (Yes, I'm a big Robert Parker fan, especially the early Spenser books). I was hooked. Now, that's often all I put on my burger, except for perhaps a slice of cheddar. But not just any coleslaw that night, with a dear and long trusted friend - Bacon coleslaw. You start with some fresh cabbage, not the bagged stuff, sliced not too thin and mixed with orange or yellow peppers, crumbled blue cheese and bacon. You can even cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet over the grill so you don't heat up your kitchen. Here is the salad before the dressing. Yum.Next the dressing, made with homemade ranch to which honey and red wine vinegar are added and allowed to blend. My friend said it was more "salad" than slaw, "salads good for you, right?!"and then proceeded to eat a bowl's worth of it before the burgers even went on the grill. It was that good.
Grill your burgers, top with the cold, crunchy slaw, and enjoy. Some folks like a slice of cheese, melted on the beef just before it comes off the grill, but it doesn't really need it. (Click on photos to enlarge.) I had mine pristine - no cheese, just some slaw on the freshly grilled range beef, served with fresh bakery buns and an ice cold beer.
Blog meet gone live. The usual gang was there, with several bringing new notebooks to live blog the fun!. We had most of the outdoor seating area, with a few more folks than expected arriving. It was great to see some others there from past meets, Og, Mad St. Jack, and some folks I did not get a chance to say hello to.
In the first photo, Frank James tells a tale, while Caleb and I watch from the south, Mark Alger, Tam and other friends gather round. In addition to the usual crowd, Caleb (Ahab) of Gun Nuts Media kept us up to date on the latest show. We were sorry Breda and Mike couldn't make it but it was great to catch up. I got to meet new blog meet arrivals Nathan Brindle, and Owen of Owen's Life. If you don't have a blog meet in your state for fellow shooty bloggers you might want to think about it. Good people, great conversations, and delicious food. I had to scoot early due to some other plans that were made pre-blog meet, but it was worth the drive into the big city to see everyone for a little while.
Tom wanted me to go to the Bowling Pin Match. But I had other ideas. Sorry Tom - best you go hide with your feathered friends because Spring Turkey Season is here!I heard the first reminder at work a couple of days ago. This is a place that is 97% men. Most of us are shooters and many are hunters. It was very early, about 5:30. No one appears to be in, though the lights come on automatically sometime in the wee hours. At my desk I hear it, the sound of a turkey. Quietly, from a small cubicle way back in the far corner of the facility where my closest friend at work has a desk. It's a tree call, a series of soft muffled yelps given by a roosted bird. Generally acknowledged as a call to communicate with others in a flock. I hear it again, followed by a soft clucking. He's got a mouth call. The office falls silent. He thinks he's alone. I call back, with a VERY loud duck call. I can hear the laughing. Time to make the coffee to share with our colleagues as they arrive. It was opening day in my flat and beautiful state. We might have to work but the weekend is ours. This coming Week at the Range -Tomfoolery - Spring turkey hunting tips for beginners.
Update: At reader Bruce B's request - todays hunting recap ! The turkeys didn't cooperate but I managed to kill a box of freezer burned fish sticks.
I know a good number of my readers are shooters. But how many of you are hunters as well? How many have gotten up way too early because you wanted to? Awoken while the sky was black infinitude, only a small sliver of moonlight to guide you as you leave your house. As you roamed the land seeking, moonbeams a soft caress, sculpting your form as you climb into your blind, as if climbing closer to the sky you can hold heaven even closer.
Have you ever watched the color of the dawn? Really watched it as it turns from black to pink to orange to the brilliant white of the world. When the dawn lightens behind the stark shapes of your life, and like a rose unfolding, like a lovers first kiss, there's a quivering beginning of hope.
Most people don't. Most people hit the snooze button. Weekends I do that as well, snuggled face down, legs splayed, arms out, laid out on a king sized pillowtop alter to the god of sleep. But I know, that eventually I will have to get up and go. But today? It's Saturday. Today I don't want to. I'm not really exhausted but neither am I bound by some duty to leap out of bed, I'm simply hung up, trapped under a log in a current of time and environment, that has no direction, beneath a sullen night sky that will continue to wane towards yet another evening, toying with me, until maybe I'm shot out into the current that I was pulled into sleep from, and in the meantime it doesn't matter. For there's no one waiting for me to get up.
Except him. So with soft warm breathe and the nudge of whiskers he finds me, underneath the warm Pendleton blanket, like a caretaker, rousting out a soul found napping in a pew long after services are over, nudging me towards the door with the urgency born of prisoned spring and small doggie bladder.
It's early. TOO early. The sky is the darkness of stone formed deep within the earth, that only when split open, reveals its wondrous colour. For whatever reason, it beckons. So this morning, rather than crawl back into bed when Barkley was done with the unexpected revelry of cold snout, I grabbed my gun and stepped out into the world to watch it unfold.
Settled up with my back against a tree, I watched as the color cracked open the earth, just a hint of a smile as it shy stepped to take a bow.
What struck me were the colors. How do you describe such color? A red of a royal blue-red, that in centuries past would have been forbidden to be worn by the masses, on threat of death. Oranges and yellows, dripping like forgotten fruit into the horizon, their taste and texture, fragrant and lush against the plate of the earth. Pink and white, the colour of salt water snails found in the submerged sands of paradise, washed clean of their prison. Then finally blue, just a hint of blue, paler even than the bluest sky I remember from my last time aloft, just a hint of blue, fading, for into the sky comes the weather, thick clouds pulled up by the still slumbering earth to cover it and keep it warm.
Soon, too soon, before the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue grey gave way to grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking over the battlefield between night and dawn, leaving remnants, blood red on the ground, quickly leeching into the earth, til soon, nothing is left but a grey cloudy darkness again. And so I sit, under sunless, moonless cover, Barkley gone back to sleep beside me, the birds not yet awake, his interest only in being next to me. So dark. So quiet. I am left to trace in the early morning with my eyes closed, all those variated colors that I held for an instant, all the colors that I cataloged in memory, alone in the darkness, the lost hues and shades, sitting by a slumbering dog with hair the color of a starless night, alone, the world turning surely if slowly to gray.
But if I keep my eyes closed, closed real tight, I can still see the sun, bursting across the back of my eyelids, in the frames of memory of other warm mornings. Color splashing across blackness, set loose in a sudden spray, a thought of someone in the back of my mind, who's light feels warm and ticklish, like electricity before the blackout. Some long gone from this life, though they follow me on every hunt. With the light, there are thoughts of those hunts, those glorious days, a sudden flash of light in this dark world. So I keep my eyes closed as long as I can, to hold the picture in. Hold that memory close. I've got the first light of thought in my soul, stored in a photograph engraved on my eyes, and it will keep me until the sight of another dwindled dawn brings you to me.
Sunday was a drive through the countryside. Had it been warmer perhaps a hunt for arrowheads or other artifacts. In my state one can find arrowheads made out of Obsidian, which is one of the more common gemstones found here.
Obsidian is used in cardiac surgery and in other medical endeavors where a finely honed blade is vital, as well-crafted obsidian blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high-quality steel surgical scalpels. Even the sharpest metal knife has a jagged, irregular blade when viewed under a strong enough microscope. When examined under an electron microscope an obsidian blade is still smooth and even.
As a gemstone it possesses the peculiar property of presenting a different appearance according to the manner in which it is cut. When cut in one direction it is a beautiful jet black; when cut across another direction it is glistening gray.
How it is cut reveals its use. How our souls are cut, shapes ours. Everything we experience in our life, in some way, chisels and shapes what is left, making it sharper, or grinding it to bits.
Visiting family last week, we went through some old photo albums and memories to share, the comment made that I had saved so many pieces of things of the past, of my family. I'm not sure why. I think it's because the past has been such a tumbling series of changes that having the artifacts of memory helps me remember how each piece shaped my life. The grade cards from school, a picture of a model rocket built in junior high. My Mom's badge from the Sheriff's department. A petal from a wedding bouquet, that unwittingly survived every other keepsake of that decade being burned in a fire. A notice of an estate sale. Things that touch the memory.
I grew up in a small logging town, nestled at the base of beautiful, forested mountains. Ever present was the noticeable rotten egg smell of the pulp mill that I never noticed as a child, but is as constant as death and taxes. There were no malls, simply a main street, a roller rink, a movie theater and only two fast food restaurants. It was a town where my best friend and I could ride our bikes over streets unconfined and unhurried, until darkness or hunger for family dinner around the table brought us home. It was a town where you could raise your family in relative comfort and safety. Life was routine, life was predictable. You graduated high school, married the first or second person you ever slept with. Had several kids, a mortgage, a dog, a cat. You retired and got a gold watch and watched the next generation take over the positions in the mills. The mountains notwithstanding, it was a flat landscape of life, and one that I knew, probably by the age of 12, that I had to escape from.
At the time, and still today, the biggest employers were the lumber mills, and the majority of my graduating class, attracted by pay an 18 year old can only dream of, were working the green chain or in the pulp rooms right after high school. Like most assembly and factory jobs, it's honest work, hard work, sometimes exacting and dangerous work. If you were on the green chain, it paid the most and stole the most. It stole the youth from your bones and the hope from your horizon, for by the time you were 25, you have a modest home, kids, a bass boat and the prerequisite four wheel drive and college and a distant city are beyond thought. And the pay that was incredible at 18, required more and more shift work and overtime to provide for your family, leaving you no time for the boat, let alone a life.
Life might have it's moments of fun, watching your kid play softball where you once played, watching the sun come up over the river. But it's not what you dreamed of when you were 12 and the spaces between your dreams, once lined up like pickets on a fence, get farther and further apart. All you have to fill those spaces were a few beers with friends on Friday, or an hour or two hiking the woods, striding further and further away from yourself. Simply existing, one or two parents struggling, as the daily repetition of just breathing, eating, and paying a growing pile of bills in an economy gone sour, hammered you into an attenuation of wasted hope and frustrated longings as dull and pale as spiritless ashes.
I visit regularly, as my folks still live there, Dad settling there after he retired from the military after the war, lured by the mountains and the fishing. Dad enjoys it there. I don't think he will ever leave, and though I enjoy being at home with him, I don't look forward to revisiting what my future could have been.
For when I step away from his house, I don't really belong. After 8 years of college and a substantial career, I am a stranger in my hometown. I'm one of the few who left, as soon as I was old enough to go further West and fill my life with books, music, thoughts and questions. I wasn't the only one that went, we heard about them in bits and pieces, a scholarship notice here, a medical school graduation there. But those kids and myself soon drifted away from peoples thoughts and faded away, until we return for a visit and people look at us long and hard, as if they might remember us from a grainy photograph somewhere. No one knows exactly what to say. It's as we stepped over some invisible line in the sand when we left, and are never seen quite the same way.
Visiting Dad, I ran into someone at the neighborhood grocers with whom I played with as a child. She's been working the register as long as I remember, and although she is as pretty as she always was, there's a roughness to her, like a piece of beautiful fabric that's become worn and frayed over time. "How've you been" she asks, but the question doesn't reach her eyes - eyes fragile and the color of tea, the color only deepened by the deep wrinkles I already see around them. She asks what I do for a living, and when I tell her, I might as well be telling her I was just abducted by aliens and returned, my life so foreign to the life she leads. "Well you have a nice day" she says and I nod and take the receipt for Dad, not knowing what else to say. We're strangers, and though as children we shared bike rides and ice cream and secrets, now we are looking at the world from completely different places.
It's not the State, it's not the town, both are as beautiful as you might ever find. But I can't live my life that way, in a sepia toned existence of just eating and breathing and going to a factory or job I hate to pay the bills for people who care as little for my dreams as I soon will myself. Waking up each and every day with tastes dulled by the grind of life with no flavor; skies cloudy with the dark reassurance that living life far back from the edge gives. Comfortable, safe, and as stale, bland and artificial as a Twinkie.
I left that life, as quickly as I could. Left in a trail of exhaust from a small airplane that would as soon kill me as carry me forward; leaving it perhaps a bit worse for wear, but alive. Flying out into a night as black as obsidian, senses sharp, and ready to jab at whatever life threw my way. Yes, it's been a life of changes, of mistakes, of tears, but it's brought me to this spot, here today.
Here where I keep small snippets of memory in a drawer in my desk drawer to remember why it was all worth it. Pieces of fabric, of bone, of obsidian, a rock from Donner lake, a trip with someone I loved long ago. For memory feels before knowing remembers. It feels stronger than knowing recognizes. Memory feels with nerves sharpened by pain, and aged like wine, until every nuance of life is clear. Every choice you have made, laid out on the table.
In the town I've lived in for a while, I'm mostly a stranger as I keep to myself, but it doesn't bother me, as those who meet me and include me in their circles do so for who I am now, and not what they expected me to be. And those that are with me are because they share that same elemental feeling of living that seems to have escaped so many.
Last time I was back home I couldn't help but notice that the huge field back behind my Dad's home, where once we hunted for shiny black arrowheads, is now the parking lot of a Walgreens, and the forested hills behind me are crowded with homes, hills I could still see if not for the large Burger King sign that blocks the view. As I walked back from the store to my Dad's house I searched the once familiar sky for the clouds that fueled my flying dreams and strained my ears to hear the beloved sound of a log train. But the train no longer runs along that route and I only hear the clatter of traffic.I don't really belong here any more. Somehow today, I don't belong anywhere but here in this place, now, but here I am at home.
Would I change my past, even the most profoundly painful parts of it, knowing I would not be the person I am today, in this moment of time, in this place? A past that, had it been less stressful, might only have ended diminished and foreshortened in it's outcome. For without all of those tears and struggles and changes in landscapes, I would not have ended up in just this one spot, in just this one moment, walking the land I own, hunting for food I will put on my own table, quickened breath as I cover land teeming with promise. Against my arm, the feel of my shotgun, smooth as obsidian, yet strong as steel. Up ahead, Barkley flushing out a covey of quail, muscles taut with the excitement of just being alive.
I'm on vacation for a week! The gun cleaning post and a some others are saved to automatically post so come on back! Friends will be holding down the Range with Barkley and Brigid, Jr. and I made plans to meet up out West to see what kind of trouble we can get into.
To start off the vacation - corn waffles.
Good - but they're needing something.Blueberries.
BY THE WAY - MY RECIPES ARE ALL UP AS SINGLE POSTS FOR PRINTING ON MY SIDEBAR. ENJOY!