Friday, July 29, 2011

Saved for a Rainy Day - Barkley's Busted

Uh oh, someone's home early.

No, seriously, I was just returning your slipper which you carelessly left laying around.


You know that they say if you can't look someone in the eyes, you're lying. Not true. Really. (Ask any politician.)

But I'm just too adorable to be in trouble.*

I did not have slipper relations with that footwear.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lockerbie - A Reminder

On the news this morning, more on the Lockerbie bomber. I'm not sure which makes me more angry, that experts announced, that after his hero's welcome after his "compassionate" release, that he really isn't on the edge of death, and may live at least ten more years and there really wasn't any hard evidence that he was dying when he was released. Or that he now continues to show up in public TWO YEARS LATER, now at a rally to support Gadafi.

I sit in safety, warm and peaceful, and though I may complain about long weeks, nights often spent in the wet and iron chill of the places in which I sometimes make my living, I have much to be grateful for. A career that's a steady challenge, people who mean the absolute world to me, and around me, photos of family and a life well lived.

After a disaster such as that you see the pictures in the paper, the photos of the dead, strangers, stand out in relief to the pictures of the familiar. Strangers, yet all dear to someone.

In my mind those pictures of lives left unlived, mix in with the the pictures of the life I was fortunate enough to have experienced. There's foreign ports, and distant mountains, and a blur of days that run into the setting sun. I look down at the photos and see the last 40 or so years as a bystander to my own life. It is like drifting along the river on a boat, floating effortlessly and without volition upon moving waters as your life goes past, those years in which your youth vanished.

But still, though past, a life lived. Something the victims of Flight 103 were denied.

When my Mom died, I was filled with anger for her leaving us so quickly, but I was also filled with respect for her being strong enough to say, unplug the plugs, I'm ready to go.. She achieved what Richard Hugo wrote about in one of his last poems,"Death in the Aquarium."

Where should we die, given a choice?
In a hothouse. Along a remote seldom traveled dirt road?
Isn't some part of that unidentified man in us all,
that wants to die where we started?

Life is not fair and nature and fate sometimes knocks when we'd rather not answer. But to have the very breath of what we are taken away in a deliberate act of violence is a sacrilege, not something to be be flaunted in public like a celebration. We should remember rather, the tragic mute bones that could have withstood anything life threw their way, if only left upright and undisturbed.

This morning, I will turn off the TV to the reminder of the travesty which was a decision made. Today there will be only a moment of respect for those souls that seemed to have been forgotten by one court's decision. A moment in which I will look skyward, wishing their souls godspeed as the light vanishes with a soft sigh.

As I look to the sky I grieve for the way they were taken as much as the senseless "why".  I grieve for a world that gives succor to terrorists and those that recognize with honor a man who may well have stolen all that could be, from them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Savage Arms 93R17 - putting the fear in Zombie Squirrels everywhere

Varments in your yard? Meet the ultimate anti squirrel device.

The Savage Arms.

The Savage Arms 93R17-BVSS is a heavy barrelled contender in the varmint gun section. Savage has stayed with a field-tested design, a single bolt action, and a basic tubular form with near mid-mounted bolt handle, sited just forward of the trigger common. The bolt knob itself is fairly small, but it lifts easily and with adequate clearance for any scope mounted that came to mind.

The weapon is fairly sleek and light (about six pounds), easy enough for a teen hunting with a parent or a petite woman to handle for long periods in the field. Personally I got my muscles from hauling an 8 mm Mauser around the woods as a kid but don't want to drag a Brinks safe around all day. This is fairly light but most definitely not a "little kids" gun.

I bought it on pricing and frankly, I liked the looks of it.

Savage has always meant value, a quality gun at a fair price, but I found the looks of them sort of basic "meat gun". This one, frankly was two steps above that, with a polished barrel (polished but not so bright it'll blind you in the field), a really well-proportioned thumbhole, a laminated stock and AccuTrigger system. Yes, the butt plate is plastic, as is the trigger guard and the bottom iron is blued, not stainless. But I'm not buying this to show it off, I'm buying this to have something that's accurate and versatile, with minimal recoil. Something I can take to a range that doesn't allow larger firearms and ammo, or out for an afternoon of stalking small varmints. A tight, light but not wimpy, rifle with the looks of full bore.

The laminate stock was a camo pattern with some nicely done cross hatching that was pleasing to the eye. Love it or hate it, laminate is normally weather resistant and should hold up with minimal upkeep. The stainless barrel is really striking, combining a nice polished finish with a varmint heavy profile. You'll find this one has the classic Savage step to the barrel profile and comes out to just a frog hair under 21 inches. The total firearms length is 39 and a half, a trim little firearm for any body but unlike a lot of light rimfire rifles I felt like I had a an adult gun, and not some kid's toy.

What I liked best was the trigger. The 2.5 pound Accu Trigger was flat out sweet to shoot and the part of the firearm I like the best. Clean, crisp with a predicable trigger let out, just the right amount of travel before the sear is released. The trigger can be adjusted from 1.5lb to 6lb weight by the shooter, as a unique safety bar ensures only a safe let-off, no matter how much you adjust the trigger. The Ruger rimfire may have had more rounds in the magazine and a longer barrel. but I just couldn't get past it's crunchy, lawyer proof trigger. This trigger is awesome.

Another nice feature is the 5 round detachable box type stainless steel magazine which just barely sticks out from beneath the stock, and is much less an interference with the bottom lines of the rifle than the 7 round magazine that the Marlin has. Sure you lose two rounds, but unless I'm being attacked by a Zombie Chipmunk swarm I don't think it will make much of a difference. The in-line feed functioned without incident but the magazine release and retention was a bit awkward the first couple of tries, likely to get much easier with practice.

Feeding was reliable. I ran through two boxes of ammo right off the bat and straight out of the box it feed them all smoothly. The action was smooth and worked with less force than the Marlin.

The safety was a simple two position one. I found it a bit stiff, but that may be the newness (or I need to lift barbells with my thumb). But it worked. Can't ask for much more than that.

The rifle doesn't comes supplied with sights, but has Weaver style bases installed. You will be thanking yourself for buying this after you DON'T have to tangle with the grooved receiver scope ring mounts that are standard on most rimfires. Trust me. My Savage soon got a little mounted scope with the aid of some rings picked up at Wally World
.A lesson on scopes for the beginner will come up another day, but what I can say if you are new to scoped firearms is the lower the scope the better (and I don't mean power). A scoped mounted up close and personal with your firearm ensures proper cheek weld on the stock for a stable firing position and allows for rapid target acquisition. (But be careful that the bolt action clears and the scope doesn't contact anything in operation but the scope rings.)

I picked a Redfield Revolution 3-9 x 40 mm scope, not wanting to put a whole lot of money into a firearm I won't use all the time. For just shy of $150, it's got a really good usable field of view, and superior light transmission For absolute long-range precision, (with the Savage, probably a prairie dog at 100-150 yards) the available Accu- Range™ reticle provides hold points to 500 yards . These things are waterproof, shock proof and fog proof and are tested to a level that would make the gang on Mythbusters proud and have a lifetime warranty. Not many products can say that any more. For ammo, a few boxes of Hornady.

HMR is based on the .22 Magnum case necked-down to accept .172" diameter bullet making for some high velocity, flat shooting, and most accurate rimfire small game and varmint cartridge ever produced. They won't work on game birds, and I'm not sure if it would be enough for a big coyote, but for small ground game, oh yes.

When CCI, Remington, and Federal began providing .17 HMR ammunition, also loaded with 17 grain varmint bullets, the sales of both rifles and ammunition took off. Other manufacturers soon followed and the rest is interweb history. The manufacturer and shooters stated it can deliver a velocity of 2,550 fps , 25% faster than the 22 WMR. In the Savage you'd be looking at around 2100 fps but with the accuracy, the 17HMR caliber is well earning the attention they've received in print.

This will be a very accurate load, but suitable for small critters only. The weight of the .17 makes it susceptible to outside influences, such as foliage, rain, high wind etc, that would have an effect on it's accuracy at long range. But for "fair weather" shooting, small game should be looking for a hidey hole.

The Conservation Club where I sighted it in does not have a long range rifle area yet (it's in planning) but shooting at an angle into the berms on the larger back bay I was able to get enough distance to sight it in that first time, with a later sighting in to be done elsewhere. Using traditional bore sighting in a bolt action you can get a good preliminary sighting in using a target only 20-50 yards away.

Once that was done, time for the final step in the initial sighting. The three shot group. Always fire from a rested position when doing this steps and if you used a boresighter, don't forget to remove it prior to loading (hello Blondestar??)

(1) fire a shot

(2) If you're a few inches off of center, (ahem) make an appropriate amount of adjustment to move the reticle to the center of the target

(3) carefully fire a three or four shot group

(4) Use the center of that group as a reference point for the final adjustments to windage and elevation and

(5) holding the rifle steady, center it on the bullseye and carefully turn the adjustments without moving the rifle until the crosshair is on the center of the group. (i.e. if your shots are two inches low and three inches right, and assuming you're sighting in at 100 yards, you'd want to make a 2 MOA adjustment up and a 3 MOA adjustment left). If you do that your next three shot group should be close to the center of the target

At 100 yards the Savage will shoot sub inch groups right up there with the more expensive rimfires and do it all day long. So buy or borrow one if you get the chance and head on out to test her out in some open land. And watch out for the zombie squirrels. I hear they aren't after brains, only nuts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Girls Day Out - Part Two. Powersporks and Zombie Squirrels.

It was girl's day out Part Two.

Miss D. and I drove the BAT(Big Ass Truck)mobile into the city and grabbed Tam and we hit the road before Miss D. and her airplane leave in the morning.

Lunch at the Belgium Brew Pub - Brugge Brasserie.

Would you like large fries with that? We barely made a dent in them and the twelve dipping sauces before the cheese and fruits and little nuggest of meat goodness, crepes and salads arrived. (Is that goose liver pate??)

It's a restaurant AND a brewpub.

Then it was a dash to Penzey's Spices where I bought some surprise spices for Shannon and Oleg and Tam got some goodies for Bobbie and Roseholme Cottage. Look Cake Spice! (but no Win Spice). Then we were off to Mountain of (likely liverless) Geese for ammo. They had no Hoppes No. 9 car air freshners left but we left with an armful of shooty goodness. The final stop was Kahn's, a specialty liquor store that has more Irish spirits than anyplace I've seen as well as an assortment of tasty and unique brews. "Look, a yellow airplane!"

Conversation was the usual, guns, dogs, zombies, hippies, concealed carry, literature, science and after Tam got to feed Purina Giraffe Chow to the tall ones at the IND zoo a while back, a discussion as to whether there a Purina Chow for Everything.

Miss D. "Purina Zombie Chow - brains!"

Me: "Purina Snail and Slug Chow - Sodium Free!"

And a short check to see what the neighborhood gargoyle was wearing before waving goodbye and driving home.

I go back on 24 hour call in the morning for the next couple of weeks. Miss D. is getting a little nap in now preparing to leave very early in the morning for home and husband while new and old friends get back to a more normal routine.

For the rest of you. . . tomorrow a real gear review.

It's either going to be a "The Power Spork" review. Spaghetti night at Mr. B. and Midwest Chick's house.


Zombie Squirrel Weaponry, a review of the Savage HMR 17.

You never know WHAT you're going to find at Home on the Range.

Cheers - Brigid and Barkley

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fuzzy Dice, Beer and a Bear

What a day! Fuzzy dice and brief blue skies. Miss D and I stayed up until 1 a.m. chatting like school girls and finally got to bed for an early departure. Morning dawned clear and warm and it was going to be the most excellent of days.

It's really a sweet little airplane. Enough horsepower has been up in that if she goes on floats she will be able to get up on the step without waiting for the curvature of the earth to drop away. Miss D. has really done a great job with the rebuild.

When we were leaving the airplane after tying her down, a pilot came over and said "are you girls going to Oshkosh? "My friend grinned and said "My husband is in the other direction" with a smile that would make anyone understand.

Homemade Croissants.


After that, we headed into the city. As we were leaving Fresh Market in Broad Ripple, Miss D. said, "Is that Tam?" Sure enough, it was! She was riding a Broad Ripple SUV. We yelled out the window "Tam!" and honked whereupon she hurried up as if zombies on Rollerblades were after her, and off down an alley while we tooted again chasing her with the truck. It was like the chase scene in the movie Bullitt, except we were in a parking lot full of hippies so it was like Bullitt without the speed and excitement.

As we lose sight of her, I called Roseholme Cottage, a short distance away, and we were promptly invited over to visit with she and Roberta X. Alas, with temps in the 90s and perishables in the back of the truck, we couldn't stay long.

I successfully avoided buying one of these at Fresh Market. I've lost almost 20 pounds in the last six weeks. Another 10 to go and I will be back at mumble mumble pounds, my weight prior to the January surgery and recovery. Woo hoo! Besides if Miss D. needs some pre flight goodness, there is still the little key lime cheesecake that I made left at home.

click to enlarge (evil laugh)

But in anticipation of frosty beer at the Broad Ripple Brew pub we hiked a couple of miles up and back on the Monon Rail Trail.

A member of the shore party is going off the beaten path, and he's wearing a red shirt. We'll never see HIM again.

Then a brief pass by the Art Park. Hippies, arts, crafts, you name it. Trails to hike, stuff to climb on. Bees!

Ah, a cold one to cool off and surveil the damage. Broad Ripple Brew Pub.

One last word of advice.

If you are out and about among artists and Bohemians and you rip out the back of some very well worn shorts, and a nice lady among them offers to quickly patch them at her little establishment so you are not arrested. . . . . . . and she's a theater person . . .

Well, you should EXPECT to get Winnie the Pooh on your ass instead of, you know, denim or camo fabric.

Tactical Pooh. Oh bother (sigh).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

ETA - Bacon!

Some of you may have noticed photos of a little yellow airplane on the blog. That is the airplane owned and flown by my friend Miss D., otherwise known as Mrs. Bayou Renaissance Man.

Miss D. restored this historic little bird and is flying it all the way from Alaska to return to her husband and home. A 4000 mile journey, she followed the Alcan Highway from Alaska to the USA, a route taken by tens of thousands of aircraft before her (mostly in the other direction) during World War II and afterwards. The road generally follows the Northwest Staging Route set up for Lend-Lease aircraft being shipped to the Soviet Union during World War II. Most of its airfields are still in operation.

For a wonderful account of the journey and the people she's met on the way take a visit at her blog, On a Wing and a Whim .

The best part of the trip? She is making a little dog leg in her route and stopping to visit Barkley and I for a couple of days! She should be here later today. Barkley was caught on the guest bed giving a look that said "but I'm just making sure it's comfy for her". I'm chopping veggies and marinating various beasts and chilling wine. (I asked her her preference for meals for the weekend and she said "Spicy, MEAT, veggies"). Did I mention BACON! There's also a homemade key lime cheesecake lurking in the refrigerator. And Peter, don't you worry about us, two female pilots, weapons, wine, a dog and a cheesecake.What trouble could we get into? Really, any stories you hear about two females who smell like aviation fuel and bacon singing sea shanties at the local Irish pub. Just rumour.

It's been a joy to hear about the trip as she flies it. We've been chatting throughout the days through the joys of electronics and phone cameras, sometimes late into the evening, as she camps under the wing or catches some sleep in an airport pilot lounge.

Friday evening she sent me this photo.

In front of the gas pumps is Sylvester, queen of the airport. No pilot may get gas without without paying homage. She is facing off Oliver, airport lurker, that little fuzzy spot with paws there on the right hand side of the photo. Oliver will not let any pilot get within twelve feet, but does his part in keeping the grass mouse and gopher free.

I've loved sharing her stories, and she's shared some of mine, though my time in Alaska was a long summer break, between jobs.

There is just something about Alaska. For many people it's on the list of places they want to visit before they die. For others it's a journey ending with roots taking hold deep into the tundra. I was one of the former. Not wanting to wait until I got older, retired, had an empty nest or lost those 10 pounds, I just went.

I met some interesting people as well along the way. A retired Baptist minister who ran a trading post and made sure I had enough bottled water and Beef Jerky for my afternoon jaunts. And there was the time I offered a ride in my airplane to two French tourists who had come up for their idea of adventure, paying probably $10,000 for the privilege of camping out alone for a few days, then a carefully orchestrated raft or hunting trip they could go home and brag about. They had missed their pilot who was to drop them at their camp. Since I was taking my plane up that way to check out an eagles nest I'd seen from the air, I told them I'd drop them off where they were going to camp as I was flying there anyway. I'd like to say that they were gracious, joyous people and we had a wonderful experience, but they were the rudest, nastiest couple I'd ever met in my life. It got to the point I gave up being polite and started to burp and pretend to nod off at the controls muttering the phrase "boy I wish I hadn't drunk that bottle of cough syrup".

Another time I landed at one lake on which there was a beautiful cabin. There were no roads to it, you could only fly in and the nearest place was 20 miles away by dog team or snowmobile. A widow lived there, the wife of a Alaska Airlines pilot, she'd never been to the state until she fell in love with a resident and moved. She offered me some gas and coffee and I ended up staying for two days, sharing stories of life in the wild, and learning just how deep love will lead you into the wilderness of your heart.

I'm so glad Miss D. got the chance, with the support of a loving husband, to complete the restoration of her airplane; to follow her dream. Even if it takes her somewhere else than her beloved Alaska, to her home with her beloved. For the true harvest of your dreams will always be as intangible and indescribable as the tints of an Arctic sky. A landscape of magic, held onto, if only for short moments in time.

Miss D, I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing the journey, even if earthbound. We'll be there to fetch you at the airport shortly!

Is she here yet?