Sunday, November 29, 2009

Life Lived Sharp

I'm taking a few days off from blogging folks. I'll be back Thursday with some posts on turning venison into smoked sausage (cough, YUM! cough, cough, YUM), some recipes (Brown Butter Banana Bundt Cake), and perhaps more of life with the Range friends.
Now life's sometimes a battle
You just try to get what you're after
A world full of stories
You won't live to tell
But going on is all we know
Like rivers always flow
It seems the years just fly right past
While the days go by so slow
-Lowen and Navarro

At the James farm, arrowheads have been found. In my state, one can find arrowheads made out of obsidian, which is one of the more common gemstones found in this state, as well as where much of my family lives now.

Obsidian is used in cardiac surgery, 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. A obsidian knife is one of the most ancient of weapons, with a blade as dark as death, and as sharp as life.

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.
Sharpened, obsidian, like words, can be an instrument of hurt or healing. Polished smooth it is a thing of rare beauty. How obsidian 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.

I had family visit a few months ago and we went through some old photo albums, memories to share. The comment was 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 up in a fire. A notice from my 20th high school reunion. Things that touch the memory.

I grew up in a small logging town, one of dozens nestled around beautiful, forested mountains in the West. 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 incredible open sky and 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.

I had never really fit in. I had skipped several grades, starting college at 14. I was outgoing, yet painfully shy, and though I usually had one or two girlfriends, the majority of painted, attention seeking girls hated me on sight, making cruel, catty remarks if ever I stumbled, when all I wanted to do was to go to organic chemistry unmolested.

I could not wait to leave.

At the time, and still today, the biggest employers was the factory and 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. It's honest work, hard work, and dangerous work. 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. 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.

Life would have it's moments of fun, watching your kid play softball where you once played, watching the sun come up over the river. But, for many, 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. And all you have to fill those spaces were a few lonely hours with a book or out hiking a walk path, striding further and further away from yourself. Simply existing, as the daily repetition of just breathing, eating and paying a growing pile of bills, hammered you into an attenuation of wasted hope and frustrated longings as dull and pale as spiritless ashes.
I visit every few years, to see my Dad who settled there, lured by the fishing and the cost of living. Usually my family meets at a siblings, at a central location we can all get to easily so I'm not there often. I enjoy seeing my Dad, but I don't look forward to revisiting what my future might have been had I not ever left.

For when I step away from his house, I don't really belong. After 7 years of college and a substantial career, I am a stranger in what many would call my home town. I'm one of the few who left, as soon as I was old enough to get to Seattle and fill my life with books and knowledge, travel and new mountains. I wasn't the only one that went, we heard about each other 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 one summer I ran into someone at a 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 have you been?" she asks, but the question doesn't reach her eyes - beautiful eyes fragile and the color of tea, the color only deepened by the wrinkles I already see around them. I don't think she recognized me either, age and life has its ways of changing us, but she saw the name on the credit card. She asks what I'm doing now 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, now we are looking at the world from completely different places.

I can't live my life that way, in a sepia toned existence of just eating and breathing and going to a 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 folder in my desk drawer to remember why it was all worth it. 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 a stainless steel table for your review.

In this small town in which I keep to myself, I am mostly a stranger but it doesn't bother me, as those who do include me in their circles do so for who I am now, and not what they expected me to be. Those that judge or prejudge aren't those I welcome in my life. My group of friends is small, but true; people like me, those that share that same elemental feeling of living that seems to have escaped so many. Last time I was back there 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 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, breath teeming with promise. Alongside me in the truck, the touch of soft black fur against me, my lab Barkley, my companion. Like me, he is ready for today's play as we head out into the countryside, resting up against my own arm, my skin smooth as obsidian, yet strong as steel, muscles taut with the excitement of just being alive.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not Saturday without malt, brass and an old English Poet or two.

It's Saturday which means there's some cleaning to be done before time to play.
Now for breakfast.
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
A.E. Housman
English classical scholar, poet, & satirist (1859 - 1936)
My favorite outdoor range is very close to a tiny little town well north of the city. In that little town, there's a Dairy Queen right across the small street from a gun store . Can it get better than that? Dairy Queen AND a gun store right next to each other? Liberals are still aghast that no one has shot up the little town after a brain freeze from a Mr. Misty.

It's a great way to spend a Saturday. though. Go to the range, have some Dairy Queen and then wander across the street to see what is new in stock. I tend to order the same thing each time at DQ though. A small chocolate malt. I love malt. Malt is what is often used in "diner" type pancakes and waffles in place of sugar and gives it that unique "can't get at home" flavor.

Malting is a process applied to grains, in which the grains are made to germinate by soaking in water and are then quickly halted from germinating further by drying and heating.

The term "malt" refers to several products of the process, the most common we know and love in this household as beer, whisky, malted milk balls, malted vinegar and of course malt powder.

Malt powder, also known as diastactic malt powder, is pure maltose, the sugar achieved when you ferment barley. Malted milk powder is maltose plus powdered milk and other ingredients. The two are not interchangeable, so be sure to use what the recipe calls for. Malted Milk Waffles. This one calls for the malted milk powder and makes light, delicious waffles with a nice undertone of vanilla and barley. I like my beer very hoppy and my waffles very malty.

Throw in some fresh .223 and temps in the low 50's and it could just be a perfect day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

The hunters return

The hunters and their four Marlins return from the hunt

Something old,
Something new

Something borrowed

Something blued.


We were staying in an old farmhouse that belongs to a friend, empty of furniture and appliances, but clean and warm. Roughing it? No, but after last years season of public hunting ground, tents and rain, this was heaven. Plenty of room to lay out the sleeping bags.


I survived the Camp Cocktails. Propane, Coke, Dried Fruit and Rum! MMMM. I'm just kidding, we left out the dried fruit.


We ate well, with coolers and ice, and a little camp stove, taking turns cooking. The pie didn't last long.

Og made this cheesy beef, Rotel dip in a crockpot that didn't last long either. It was incredible. For breakfast, there were ham and egg sandwiches and and since someone made the remark LAST hunting trip about being tired of corned beef hash I couldn't resist throwing this in the box of food. (We didn't open it.)
There was some technical difficulties. What do you mean no one brought duct tape?
And somehow I managed to do a faceplant in a corn row while walking alongside Og  (wow Og, you can really see the detail in this soil close up:-). But still, we got out in time for the late day hunt on day one, Og bringing down a nice buck 5 minutes after he walked into the fields. That night, good food, some board games (yes that WAS an actual board game from the 80's that someone brought. Just the board itself would be a whole post). Hilarious.
(click on the picture to read the box)
Day two, we were up at 5, getting ready to head out. There was a lot of laughter. As we all piled into my king cab truck, half way to the field someone starts in with the theme song to the A Team and off we went.

Where we were hunting was a pretty good section of land. No trees of the owner to put blinds on, but some slight rises on the edges where a few of the neighbors trees were, from which we could look down into rows that had been cut a day or two before. As the farmer worked the field, a couple of deer moved out and away, popping up into these lanes when you least expected it. Sit motionless for hours in the cold. Nothing. Stand up for 5 minutes to tell a joke? Look Deer!

I can honestly say it was the most fun I've had hunting in years, Staying out dawn to dusk as a hunter you see things few do, and think thoughts that come unbidden, there in the quiet. Good times, whether you bring home a trophy or not. My grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers, ranchers or lumberjacks. My Dad's parents, were originally from this area, moving West. Hard stock. Good people. As people of the land they understand the checks of nature, the culling of a herd to keep it healthy, the sacrifices of both the land and the beasts to feed us, to keep us healthy.

I write of the farmer often here, though it's been years since I lived on anything more than a hobby farm. Seeing it out here, watching these men work such long hours, literally sun up to sun down, I came home with a renewed respect for the single family farmer, for all of those who make their living from the soil, or tend to its bounty, providing sustenance to their family with the stores of God's earth.

We were asleep by 9 and up much before the sunrise. With tags allowing us more than one deer, and a farmer with some prize corn that was happy to see the deer population gleaned a bit, we headed back out each day for new adventure. I learned how to better wield a knife to field dress and got to see a squirrel pee on Og on day two. Day three, after a lot of the corn was taken down, leaving just a small area in which there were tracks going in we decided to flush them out, if there was one or two in there still. as though we had a couple of deer, we still could get more. Two of us walked the edges of that area while the other two guys went through the middle trying to make noise to flush them out towards us. It was deathly silent, then from inside the corn rows, I hear the vocal strains of "Ode to Joy" which then segued into Back Home in Indiana, in an incredibly rich, clear tenor that blew me away. I couldn't see who was singing but I broke out in a wide smile. Then the same voice broke into a rousing chorus of The Scrotum Song. Ahhh. Hunting with the guys. You never know what to expect.

But you will expect a wonderful time. There's nothing like hunting the small hills and rows of an Indiana cornfield with people you like and trust. For our host, there is not enough thanks. We appreciate it more than you know, and look forward to returning again. For now, the rounds have been removed from our Marlins, and we're ready to load up the truck for the day.

A neighboring farm still had 650 acres up in corn, backed by a nature preserve, so a good portion of the deer were still in there. But we all got to try our hand and came home with more than one deer, with memories of a great time. There will be more, with muzzleloader and archery season around the corner, and some more deer still hiding out there in the corn, waiting for the A-team.

Thanks for all your well wishes folks. I didn't come home empty handed, though none of us got a chance at the big buck whose prints we saw in and around when the sun came up. With a lot of corn still up due to the cold summer and late harvest, the deer, bucks and does, were scarce. But, with the genorisity of a landowner and the support of friends. I got a nice doe. Not a trophy, but fat and healthy, with tenderloins which now, are resting in my fridge after processing in the kitchen. Tomorrow, some of the remainder will be mixed with beef and pork and spice to make sausage in a new grinder purchased for the future. All in all, enough meat for a couple of months for this small household. To be eaten with thankful respect.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Revisiting Dad's Favorite Casserole

We start with leftover ham. A couple cups of it. Add a few inexpensive ingredients and you've got Home on the Range Rustler Russets. (also known in various forms as church supper potatoes in many, many cookbooks).

It's beyond simple, Take a 2 pound bag of hash brown potatoes. Stir in two cups of cheese of choice (I used a smoky cheddar) two cups of chopped veggies sauteed in butter until they are caramelized (all that butter they are cooked in goes in there too), a cup of sour cream, salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder and a can of creamed soup.
Stir it up and put in a 13 x 9 pan. This will easily feed 6-8 hungry people. Even finicky kids LOVE this. Top with a generous cup of crushed corn flakes which were mixed with two tablespoons of melted butter. The buttery corn flakes add a really nice little crunch to the top.

Bake at 350 for an hour while you plan the next day's activities.
Time to eat!

If you shop wisely you can make this dish for about $1.50 per serving. An economical little treat.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road Warrior

I went and applied for a new passport Friday as my old had expired. I have one of the "red" ones for work, but I can't use that if part of the trip is for vacation/personal travel. So I got the standard blue one. No smiling, as I was told, as they took my picture. That's fine, that will be my expression after spending 10 hours on an airplane anyway.

I'm going overseas after the first of the year. A conference in London. Then a short flight, small car, a map of Ireland and I'll be all set. Though it would be interesting to go be up in Devon in England in time for Christmas as a local article on the Woolacombe Bay Hotel said "their three night Christmas break includes a packed program of entertainment, a
Crèche , excellent cuisine and a visit from Satan". And to think all I'm going to offer is ham and homemade rolls at my house.

I travel for work a lot, so actually going somewhere where I can sleep in a real bed, at my own schedule for a few days is going to be a treat. But I'll miss Barkley. Like all labs, Barkley is bred to hunt so when he gets bored sitting next to me when I write, he's turning his keen seek-and-destroy instincts, not on pheasants, but on dishtowels. If the edge of one nears the end of the counter he grabs it like a relay runner taking the baton and runs off with his prey. It's sort of been an emotionally brutal week and I'm too tired to chase him, so for today, I will sacrifice those small pieces of fabric to his primal urges.

Tonight as I do some housekeeping, I sorted out some photos from my last trip overseas. The older I get the more I enjoy these few nights at home, but the photos brought back memories of all the travel I've done in my career. By choice or not, it was part of the job. But travel brings something to you that people who live in the insular world of their home town their whole lives miss. That's not necessarily bad, some of the best adventures are on your own doorstep, in small places right around the block. But their is something about traveling far away, where the words that roll off the tongue carry a lilt of past lives. Where you are looking at things that have been in view for hundreds and hundreds of years. You look through new, but ancient eyes. It pushes your boundaries.

When you travel, you can become invisible, if that is what you choose. That is what I do, no podcast, no live feed of what I do each day while I travel. I like that. I like to be the quiet observer. Walking alone along the edge of another ocean, as it stretches away into space with it's illusion of freedom. Strolling through the celestial hush of a 500 year old square, the sun glinting off marble where the monotonous rain has washed it bright. What stories would that old building tell, what makes these people who they are? Could I live this life if I stayed here?You don't have to understand the language that is spoken, only the language of the streets, the scents, the stone. Without understanding a word around you the language becomes simply a musical background for watching the water flow onto the shore or a leaf blowing in the wind, calling nothing from you. Travel eases restrictions and expectations. No one cares if you have that document reviewed by Monday, or if you put on lipstick or checked your voice mail. You become a godlike creature of choice, free to visit stately churches, make love in the morning late, if just in your dreams, or sketch a church tower. You're open, if only for a short time, as if a child, to receive all of the world, not just your own. It is all there for the taking, multicolored flowers in bright density, the smell of fresh bread baking. You are a hunter free to explore and seek and find, and then return home bringing memories to lay on your doorstep.

My big suitcase is in the closet. There is no telling what stories it might bring back,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gran Turino

If you haven't seen the movie Grand Turino get thee to the video store. I think it's probably the best movie I've seen in the last 5 years.

Many of you have already seen it and I won't give away the ending. But the film is much less a story than a formidable testament to a man's character, as Eastwood's aging character Walt, struggles to come to terms with a changing world and his inner demons, formed in the Korean War. Living in the house he's been in most of his life, quiet after his wife dies, his kids want to put him in a "home" (while the young ones brazenly eye his beloved car and his possessions). Making things harder for him is his issue with the way his blue collar Detroit neighborhood is now overrun by other cultures and increasingly, gangs.

His new neighbors are Hmongs who at first he stereotypically despises, and then befriends, helping the two young people of the family defend themselves against local gangs. This comes to a head when Thao, the family's young son, is blackmailed by a viscous outlaw band, cousins, to try and steal Walt's Gran Torino and is caught in the act. Ashamed, he agrees to work for Walt to pay off his dishonor to him. The car is a key element in the film, more than a vehicle to the man, but a large symbol of a vanished past of men's craftsmanship, hard work ethic, community and values.

As Walt deals with his old family, and this strange new family, for that is what they have become to him, the film quietly turns down a somber path. The ending reminded me, in spirit and subtle detail, of High Noon and The Shootist.

Of course, Walt has an M1 Garand, which I had the opportunity to shoot recently. Awesome weapon. Awesome movie - get your hands on both of them if you can.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Breaking the Rules

The fashion experts says you should not wear white after labor day. . . .
Some rules I've broken and paid dearly for. But fashion is not one I worry about. When I'm trying to think of "what to wear", somehow the fashion experts don't come to mind.

Just a note - Unfortunately I'm not longer leaving comments open to anonymous and non bloggers. I will dearly miss hearing from some regulars here but I seem to have attracted a large troll.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

When it Gets Close to Home

I wasn't going to post this. It happens a lot I thought, no big deal, but then the thought, that it happens more and more now, hit me, and I changed my mind.

I have a small pistol with me whenever I'm home. Either next to me by the computer, or in my holster if I'm in the shop or the yard where someone could approach me, there under my t shirt or denim jacket. Out and about I carry heavier caliber, but at home, just puttering around, I always felt comfortable with just a "pocket pistol" or something slightly bigger in a .380.

Then a few days ago someone kicked in my back door. In broad daylight. I had only minutes before gone out the front door to walk down and get the mail before driving off to the office. Barkley was napping in one of the front bedrooms where he can watch me as I get the mail and then leave (oh, did someone send us milk bones??) So I was already out the drive and on my way when it happened. Apparently Barkley scared them off, he likely rushing barking towards the back of the house when he heard the noise. The phone was ripped out of the wall and a coffee table was tipped over. (Probably as they crapped their drawers trying to get away from upset 100 pound black haired dog with big teeth.)

None of the neighbors came to check on things. The police were summoned by the call from the alarm company, the sound of which was still blaring. You do not want to know how long it took them to get there. It was expected given the relative sense of how long those things usually take today. But whoever did it was LONG gone by then and had they caught me alone and unarmed, they would have had plenty of time to hurt me before an officer arrived.

Barkley was frantic, and after it was all clear I got him calmed down and got the broken door bits replaced. Other than a coworker and my best friend I didn't tell anyone. It had only been a couple of days prior that a girlfriend of mine and I were talking over Pomme Frites and Hangar Steak about how there were more and more houses out where I live (and more crime with it). The police said several houses in the area were hit and based on the methods and what was taken they figured it was "kids" not professionals. Still doesn't make you worry any less.

For all of you who think that home invasions don't happen because you live (1) in a nice neighborhood or (2) outside of the city or (3) have an alarm. Think again.

Think and consider these common misconceptions.


The police are going to be there to protect you, especially if that expensive little alarm DOES go off. I have the greatest admiration for our police officers, including our locals who have to cover an ever increasing crime rate. I can't say enough about Bloggers who are or were LEO's, people like Cowtown Cop, Expert Witness, Lawdog and Sean from I Aim to Misbehave, and others. People that exemplify all that is right with the men and women in that profession. My Mom was a Sheriff, my Dad was Military Police. But with budgets everywhere dropping, police departments are understaffed. They do what they can, but the law, and the budget, only allows so much.

Don't sit back, unarmed and wait for the police to protect you. The courts have consistently ruled that the police do not have an obligation to protect individuals, only the public in general. For example, in Warren v. D.C. the court stated "courts have without exception concluded that when a municipality or other governmental entity undertakes to furnish police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and not to individual members of the community." (1)

Former Florida Attorney General Jim Smith told Florida legislators that police responded to only about 200,000 of 700,000 calls for help to Dade County authorities. Smith was asked why so many citizens in Dade County were buying guns and he said, "They damn well better, they've got to protect themselves."(2)

The Department of Justice found that in 1989, there were 168,881 crimes of violence which were not responded to by police within 1 hour.(3)

It's not a matter of commitment folks, the numbers clearly show that the police can not protect each and every individual. Ten years ago there were about 150,00- officers on duty at any given time to protect a population of 260 million Americans. (4) You don't want to know what it is now.
Do the math and keep your skills up. You may not have any warning, no ringing of the doorbell to see if someone is home. Or they just think, "woman, alone, even better".

2. That little pocket pistol or granddad's old dusty shotgun is enough, I don't need anything bigger in my own home, for Pete's sake.

.22? A carefully placed and/or lucky shot might put someone down. I've also seen MANY a bad guy in the emergency room full of assorted rounds of .22 and still pissed as hell.
The .380 that's in my little Bersa I carried? (The second one from the left above.) As the folks over at Buffalo Bore recently stated, when it comes to the standard .380 ammo as a reliable means of self defense, especially against a drugged up/pain free, and/or mentally unstable attacker you're asking for trouble.

The current 380 auto frangible ammo delivers a large amount of surface trauma, but lacks serious penetration. Shoot the average sane person in the face with the .380 ammo I have in my drawer and it might take off a portion of their cheek and send a few teeth down their throat, putting him to the ground in shock and pain. But that frangible bullet, though doing some serious hurt, would not likely make it to his brain. Try that same shot with someone insane or on drugs, and he may slow but he won't stop, because only a CNS (central nervous system) hit with a 380 is going to stop him. Likewise, a torso hit to the sternum needs to penetrate deep enough to the spine to bring him down fast. If you fail to shut him down instantly, you better hope you can keep his hands off you or your family while you wait for him to bleed out and pass out.

Myself, after this, .40 or .45 (that's the third bullet from the left in the picture). Whether I'm playing sitting here typing away or out for a walk in the woods.And finally.

3. If someone comes through my door, desperate or high, I can handle it,

Someone said "would you have shot them if I'd been in the house when it happened?" Yes. Without hesitation. I'm trained for that, with that mindset. But not everyone who has a gun in their home is either capable or ready for that. You think you are, you think your partner or spouse is, but you're not. It's got to be more than buy the gun, plink with it a few times, then when the cost of ammo goes up, put it away in a drawer. You have to practice, whether it's warm and nice out or the icicles are forming on your nose.
I think Don Gwinn said it best "Because it's not about the fun and excitement of killing people. It's about the willingness to go through the ordeal of shooting someone if that's what it takes to keep yourself and other innocents safe". Yes.

My female coworker (admin type) said "well, if they'd come in while you were still inside you could have just shot them in the arm to stop them, without killing them".

Look. Shooting someone in the arm is still using lethal force in the eyes of the law, and under which you MUST be in immediate danger of grave bodily injury or death. If you are not, then you are not authorized to shoot them all. That's pointed out in CCW classes I've participated in, but some states do not require any training for CCW and the legal aspects may NOT be known to some folks. If you pull your gun, as Caleb had to do recently, and they drop their weapon and run, let them. If they run off of your property with your finest flat screen let them run. The law is specific. But if someone is approaching me and is of the size or threat where I am in danger, I'm going for center mass, not the arm. Why? I'll give you several reasons.

(1) During an event when the life is, or is perceived as being mortally threatened, the body enters fight or flight mode. The brain dumps hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the body to prepare our itself to survive. The downside, these same hormones that, increase our alertness and strength and endurance also decrease our reaction time. Why? Blood is diverted from our extremities and from the surface of the skin to decrease bleeding if we were to be injured, functions not necessary for survival including digestion are slowed or completely shutdown. ( I personally believe my metabolism entered the fight or flight mode at age 40 but that's another post)
That in turn, greatly diminishes our fine motor skills, tunnel vision may occur, and many people begin shaking, not out of fear but as a response to the hormones being released into the body.

In this state some people have lost the ability to unlock doors, operate phones, or other actions that require fine motor skills. Being accurate with a handgun is exceedingly difficult, that ability is greatly reduced. In this state, even the best of shooters may not be able to get that one shot to the shoulder, arm or elsewhere. Or you miss. And they are upon you.

#2 The bad guy probably is probably mobile. Shooting at a moving target is far different than a stationery one. Just shooting at a target that's offset, when you are used to practice shooting straight ahead is hard. The head, arms and legs all naturally move when the body moves, sometimes a lot, making them much harder to hit.

Even highly trained shooters see a considerable drop in success in hitting the target when it is moving.

#3 The bad guy is intent on harming you or killing you. Shooting at that paper target is far different than shooting him. There is less time, he's not standing still like Mr. Paper Bad Guy, and he may be armed and moving, as intent on hurting you as you, him.

#4 The human body is extremely sturdy. Trust me on this one; when someone is shot, it's not like TV where they get flung across the room, crumple up in a little dead heap on there floor. There are exceptions, a head shot will drop them pronto, but the vast majority of shots are center mass. My friends at the FBI did a study some years ago on Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness in which they state that even after the heart is hit hard a person MAY have 10-15 seconds of willful control. That's 10-15 seconds in which they will do all they can to kill you. I've shot a deer multiple times, through the heart and watched it leap yards and yards and yards before it drops.

And if you miss the heart, remember the body is capable of pretty much continuing to operate until about 20% of the blood supply is drained and far longer with a likely lethal wound to them that hasn't caused immediate blood loss. Shots to the stomach? Serious on the OUCH factor, but recently a criminal in Idaho was been shot over 20 times in that area and survived. Face it, shots to the arms or legs or shoulder aren't going to result in a blood loss that's going to stop someone, with some small ammos, they don't even REALIZE they've been shot until it's all over, what with the adrenalin going.

Shooting to kill is just that, hitting a vital organs such as the heart/lungs, in areas that will bring rapid and uncontrollable bleeding, or to the head.

Once they are dead you stop, and if they run away, you stop. Whether your life was in immediate and grave danger, if there's a bullet in the back or buttocks of the criminal YOU are now the criminal in the eyes of the court.

Just some things to think about.

Not poetry, food or humor for a Sunday, I'm afraid, but just some things I felt I had to say. Not to make a big issue of it, but to get others who think they're safe where they are, to think a little more about their surroundings, what they have by way of defense, and who might be watching them. .

I'm fine. I was more worried about the dog then myself. I got a big hug from my friend RB and a new back door. I slept OK, but had the Winchester Silvertips handy. Being in the line of work I'm in, I know all about the world not being a safe place and I've grown accustomed to the idea. We are living in increasingly desperate times. But I used to think I could putter around my own property, off duty, out away from the big city, without bother. No more. The gun is nearby, it's bigger, and by God, I may never have to use it, but if I do, I will. I will be shooting to stop.
1. Warren v. District of Columbia, D.C. App., 444 A. 2d 1 (1981). See also Richard W. Stevens, Dial 911 and Die (1999) which gives the laws and cases in all 50 states to support the statement that government (police) owes no duty to protect individual citizens from criminal attack.
2. Statement of Representative Ron Johnson in U.S. Senate, "Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1987," Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary (16 June 1987):33.
3. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics—1990 (1991):257.
4. Interview with Brian A. Reaves, Ph.D., statistician for the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington, D.C. (January 11, 2001). In 1996, the total number (estimated) of all law enforcement combined (federal, state and local) that were on duty and assigned to respond to calls at any one time—on the average—was approximately 146,395 officers. There were 265,463,000 people living in the United States in 1996 for an actual ratio of 1,813 citizens for every officer. .

Friday, November 13, 2009

IDLE HANDS. . .

Hmmmm. The cute little fridge magnet from vacation seems to have been. . . . . altered.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chef Boyar-WHO?

I admit, I keep a few cans of the canned ravioli in the bug out pantry. It's one of only a few canned foods I can happily scarf down cold when I'm tight on time and cooking means.

But if I have a few hours, why not Homemade Ravioli with Ricotta Cheese Filling. Homemade Pasta is NOT as hard as you think. You just need a mixer with a dough hook and a crimper for the edges.
Go on, click to enlarge, I know you want to.
Serve it up with some Garlic Bread. Add some roasted veggies and top with fresh marinara, or even better some Venison Meat Sauce.

Hmmmm, where would I get venison??

Photobucket
My first bow kill. Not that big, but I was proud of it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Zombieland Rule No. 4

DoubletapTallahassee - "God Bless Rednecks"

The movie was awesome! I'm off to Farmer Frank's to scout out my whitetail hunting site. If you haven't seen the movie - go now, but check the back seat.

Love - Brigid

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Battle Walls

It's been a week. That's all I can say. Dealing with the past. Dealing with the present. Work mostly, but I'm absolutely wiped out from a writing standpoint. If a zombie attempted to access my brain tonight it would be the Weight Watcher meal of cerebral activity. I'm mentally and emotionally done. The wall is up and I just want to hunker down with my best friends.

Let's just say - picture me, picture large opposing attorney type person that's going to grill me as an expert witness. Picture said attorney spying Barkley's picture on my laptop screen saver and saying "I don't like dogs, I like cats!" Picture said attorney looking at me and my black skirt and long hair like I was the spitting image of the dog loving floozy their ex-husband left their short haired visage and cats for. Blood ensued. We won the battle, but not without some scars.

Then the news tonight. I can't even talk about it without anger and tears.

So, I can only leave you with a dinner photo. Smothered Steak. Almost rare, but not quite, with a gravy made of red wine, beef gravy stock, horseradish cream, pepper and fresh mushrooms. Recipe is in the sidebar, it's beyond easy to make.


I'm off until Monday. Armed with that, I'm going to go meet friends at the theater to watch Zombieland tomorrow and call it a week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Into the blue

It was beautiful Fall day today, clear, almost cloudless, with just enough breeze to kick up a little whitecap on the lake at Eagle Creek. The water was a surprisingly clear blue, similar to much of the water I've seen in one of my favorite countries, Ireland. Barkley had stayed at a friends for a couple of nights while some work was done on the Range and there were photos being taken today for the "virtual tour". So I drove into the city after work to bring him home, listening to him pant behind me like a demented air compressor on the drive West. Passing the large reservoir on 56th street, I thought, it would be a good day to be out on a boat, if many of the boats weren't already put up for the winter that will be tapping at our door early some morning. Calling with portents of the coming cold, a Jehovah's Witness of chilly repentance for summer frolic.


There is part of me that likes the winter, the part that likes to hole up and cook casual dinners for friends, watching it snow while I watch old movies, curled up with Barkley on the couch. Mornings spent stalking an elusive whitetail, followed by an evening in front of the fire, lazing under a thick soft blanket with stories of the day and a couple fingers of Jameson's. But yet what I wanted today was just one more day of summer to get out on the water, with a boat. The free and clear call of running tides as the dawn breaks gray. A day to feel the sway and the splash, the kick of the wheel and the taut shake of the jib, the rhythm of the tasks that keep the wind in the sail, the choreography of brain and hands, wood and metal, that drive you towards the horizon.



During grad school I lived on the West Coast and seemed to divide my quality time between the sky, the mountains or the water. A vagrant gypsy life of the spray of laughter and sorrow, salt water, salt tears. After I had Brigid Jr, and handed her to her adoptive parents I sought solace in the blue, traveling from the the waters of the womb to the waters of the wild, as far out into it as I could. Flying, hiking, sailing. Environments so different, yet so essentially the same.


There is is probably a reason that many pilots are lovers of the outdoors, many owning boats. Boaters and pilots take great pride in their craft, and there is a sense of camaraderie amongst them, though they may not actively socialize when away from their favorite element. Many of my friends share this world and we all share one other thing, despite variances in gender, age or upbringing. We are people who just cannot thrive between clustered walls, walking asphalted trails to small offices, breathing in the fumes of yearning, working and dying earthbound, with nary a thought of the sky or the clouds or the sea. To stake us to a plot of earth, however shaded, safe and watered, is to watch us wither and die.



I lived for a time on a a tiny rented houseboat when I was a young student. Probably the best place I'd ever laid my head. The marina was small and I relished going to bed at night with the tremulous cadence of the water rocking me to sleep, the sounds of the cove, music to my empty heart. It was a quiet, sheltered place where no one locked their doors and people respected your things, and your privacy. Though I secretly smile when I think about the Simpsons' episode where Homer comes home with “Marge! Look at all this great stuff I found at the Marina. It was just sitting in some guy's boat !!"




In retrospect it was one of the more carefree times in my life, houseboat living between work and classes and flights with my students while tagging along with new friends and neighbors, one with a large Taiwanese ketch,; weekends of we pilots racing the locals up and down the waterways. The times were few and far between with our schedules, but the joy of those days still remains pooled in the backwaters of my mind, and I can take myself back there with just the sound of the wind filling a sail, testing it's seams.There is just something magical about the elements of water and sky, with their constant change in mood and shape, density and color. The great variances of their forms, like music, can either calm, uplift or excite; a power over the mind and thoughts of those who have the depth of soul to hear. But like the sky, the water too, has its dangers, its eddies, its currents. There are days where the whisper kiss of the wind turns into a whetted knife and you and your craft are simply a storm tossed play toy of the gods. As Sophocles's stated in Antigone: "Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man. This power spans the sea, even when it surges white before the gales of the south-wind, and makes a path under swells that threaten to engulf him".



I've seen that power, caught out in a unexpected storm, on wing or sail; where my tiny craft pitched and rolled in weighed indecision as to stay pointy end forward or not, debating as to which way was up and which way was down, into final blackness, while I frantically went through the motions of piloting it, hoping to at least get the opportunity for one last "%&#^" shouted for immortality before I left nothing but a splash of debris against the surface. It's a mistake you don't make twice, and when you size up your sky, assess your horizon, you think and remember. It's similar in many ways to climbing. It's easy to lose yourself in the drifting quiet, mesmerized by the tranquil stillness of the blue, the brilliance of the elements, and forget the strong, wild heart that beats beneath the lacy spray of white.


Like anything that tests you against Mother Nature, if you don't learn, you die. If you do learn, the danger becomes part of the attraction; not in a reckless fashion, but rather with the confidence you gain in knowing that you have choices and strengths. That with the right choices, whatever the sky, the ocean, the wild or life in general can throw at you, is not enough to destroy you, as you have the power that Sophocles wrote of, of man over the wind.


That is why after a weekend and week that were both emotionally and physically draining, I wish I could get out into the blue again, be it water or sky. One last turn to test my mettle before this long dark winter, to put my hand into it, leaving a wake trail behind me of all the worries and want and desire, to wash my mind free of all but the grip of my hands on the wheel, the clouds anchored above, guided by the flutter of wind against fabric.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Quote for the Day


"A gun is a tool, Marion, no better or no worse than any other tool, an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that." ==- Shane

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Trails

The decision has been made and in front of the Range House is a big For Sale sign. I've spent most of the last two weeks cleaning, and tending to the property, with some help on the big yard projects, as well as getting rid of years of clutter and smaller, older furniture I will not need as I downsize. It's not going to happen overnight, the house could easily take a year to sell, but the market is only going to get worse so now's the time.

I'm having fun pouring over plans for cabin type homes online with a family friend from Wyoming, Malamute Bill, who builds them, and has been a wealth of knowledge. I know the whole project, start to finish, paying cash as I go, may take a few years. I am as excited as a kid. I already have the kitchen I like in mind, one room for cooking and eating, compact, yet with enough room to create while those I love gather round. One living area, not 3, and 1 or two small bedrooms, not 4. Of course a basement to use for food storage and root cellar and a place to hang up a saddle. The shop? Well it will probably be bigger than the house :-) It may just be a weekend home for a while, as I will likely continue to live near the city for work, but it's a plan. Something I can hope for now. When it's done it will be paid for, no mortgage, modest taxes. No cows, but a garden and perhaps enough room to whitetail hunt without getting in the truck. I've only had the Range a few years and it's much bigger than I need, with a "mother in law" set up that I'd thought my Dad would live in, and a kitchen big enough to hold a Summit Meeting in. Yes, it definitely is too large for one person, but at the time it was what I needed. Big enough for Dad to live with me, close enough to the city to get to work in 45 minutes. Walls stripped and dry walled over many a long evening (and several bottles of Guinness), my favorite art on the walls; the big Bev Doolittle painting I spent a small fortune on in my family room. Many evenings in which I enjoyed the spacious rooms, the corners filled with little things I love from places I've flown or lived.


There's been some great times here while my friends gathered round while I cooked an extravaganza of food and we talked and laughed. Evenings walking through the cornfields behind this little burg, Barkley going full point on a undetected bread crust I'd tossed out for the ducks, the sky a perfect prayer of blue that mirrors the blue of the pond.

But I should have bought more land, or further out, as the suburbs are all around me now, more and more fields of corn now full of cookie cutter homes. Crime is going up as are the taxes and the thought of what it will cost to heat and pay taxes on this old place if Cap and Trade passes is frightening.


I thought I'd stay here for years, perhaps after Dad was gone, sharing the home someday with someone I loved. But it wasn't meant to happen and I realized that most big dream houses, especially the ones we build later in life, are built on wonderful ideals but often without the dreams to fill those 30 foot walls. People walk in and say "wow. . it looks like a magazine home" but I realized what they didn't, that my home could often feel as empty as it was beautiful.


Dad, then battling cancer, and having a stroke, has fully recovered and thankfully, everyone's plans changed. He's back walking, driving and doing battle with the salesmen from Lowe's where he bought me a new riding lawn mower. He doesn't look 90, he doesn't act 90. Adopting two kids 20 years after his first child was born didn't phase him, why should a small stroke? So the plans for him to live with me are done. He said that if his health takes a downturn again he wants to stay out West with my brother who has since retired. That will be good for him. But I have this big house now, empty.

My Dad still lives in the same small ranch home he bought after leaving the Air Force. I still visit regularly though it's a 5 hour flight and a three hour drive to get there. I love my visits even as I cherish my independence. Driving from the airport in the rental car, down a road we used to run up and down, playing secret agent or soldiers when we were kids, I pull into the driveway and it's like going back 30 years. The giant motion detector spotlights are still in the driveway (thanks Dad, that went over real well with my dates in high school), the fence that my brother knocked over while getting the feel of his drivers license, and the tree my Dad planted after my Mom died. Everything's still there, still the same, and the big picture window, ablaze with light, greets me with the smile of a trusted friend.

Walking into the house I see the marks of our lives there; a lipstick "art" piece I drew on the inside of a cupboard when I was 3. The old tire that used to hang in the huge apple tree in the backyard, now in the flower bed, my Dad unable to throw it away. Walking through rooms full of so many mornings getting ready for school, shadows lingering on the walls from many a family dinner. I meet my brother R. at the house when I can, remembering the secret clubhouse we built in his big closet, the elaborate train landscapes we'd set up in the garage on a rainy day. We share the memories without even speaking of them, as they are woven into the fabric of our lives. I look at my Dad's dresser now on which lives a small well loved stuffed dog that was mine as a child, and I smile. Those things we loved as children remain in the domain of our memory, and will, until we cease to breathe. Wherever we are, wherever we live, our souls somehow always hover around the places where we remember mostly happiness.
I have a hard time picturing my Dad leaving his house, where he's lived since the 50's, yet leaving my own home? I can picture it. It may not have turned out to be the home I envisioned, but there is still a real satisfaction in it, certain things may never be realized but so all the more reason to try for them. I don't regret the hard work I put into this place, for trying to provide a place where my family could be cared for, any more than I will regret leaving it for reasons that are also now very important to me.


I'll remember with fondness the changing leaves against the tall Irish Cream colored walls, the animals that shared the cornfields, evenings with my best friends. The smell of homemade lasagna fresh from the oven while we laugh with stories from the shooting range and life. I really like this place. Yet I rattle around in it alone, looking out north towards the pond and beyond, up into the sky at the smoke trail of a plane that leads off to the open land of the north, searching for things I can not see. A life of self sufficiency. A life where I don't have to say "I shouldn't buy that revolver" because I have a $500 heating bill. A life honed down to just what is important to me and those around me. Beyond the horizon is another home, a smaller cozy little home, a new dream, or a contrail of a dream, leaving to a further defined life.

And in that life will come laughter and family and shadows on the wall of those that I love. Wherever they are, there I am at home.