Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Memories

Trick or Treating was big in my house, even as it came with its own set of rules. It was on Halloween, not a Friday or Saturday or what was convenient or politically correct. School night or not, we were out and we were going to get our loot.

My earliest memory of it was early grade school and that Cat outfit mom bought.  She was recently out of the hospital following cancer surgery and didn't have a lot of energy to sew one (she made most of my clothes with her little Singer machine), so she splurged on a store-bought costume.  I still have a photo of me in it, the black pants and top with a big glittery cat on the front, my cheeks flushed with the cold, one front tooth missing and a smile that said: "Look at all the candy Mom!"  As we got older, she encouraged us to make our own costumes, to spark our creativity (note to self - wearing Superman Cape does not enable user to fly).

As an adult, I do the same, though it's a rare party I'll go to, preferring a home cooked meal with the company of just one or two people, or even myself, to a crowd.  But sometimes I will venture out if the people are those I really enjoy spending time with, showing up with a smile and something hot from the oven to add to the table.

One party at a doctors house, I wasn't sure I'd be off duty so didn't get a costume. A friend from work, also invited, was going and he was in the same predicament.  He was a pretty tall guy and ex military, so I had an idea. I had him bring over a pair of fatigues. I wore the top half, which fit just down to mid-thigh, with flesh colored tights beneath. He wore the bottom half with combat boots and a flesh-colored T-shirt that I'd picked up with the tights at Wal-Mart.

We showed up and the guests, most of them as well, in the medical field said - "What ARE you two?"

Upper and Lower GI !

As adults, we can still laugh, even if it's sometimes just at ourselves.

Childhood Halloween traditions never varied. There was always Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin to watch.  For dinner we'd have hot dogs with sides of orange jello and some carrot sticks and a glass of milk.  Then we'd suit up as quickly as firemen, eager to be out the door, out into the night where the cool Fall breeze shivered and stirred the grass where the leaves had long since fallen.

I paired off with a brother who was older. We were limited to where we could go but we had pillow cases  that would hold a LOT of goodies.

There would be an occasional homemade caramel apple, popcorn ball or another such treat from a couple of older ladies up the street, but they put little commercial address labels on the wrapped treat with a note so our mom's knew immediately who sent it and that it would be good to eat.  But the occasional popcorn ball aside, what we were after was the commercial loot. Hershey's and Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Stripe gum, Sugar Daddies, Smartees, Milk Duds (still a favorite), Crows, Skybar, Nestle Crunch, Dots, Pixy Sticks, Big Hunk, Boston Baked Beans (those were given away, I still don't like them), Gobstoppers, SweetTarts (more, please), Charms, those little candy necklaces, Necco Wafers, Slo Pokes, Jolly Ranchers, Chic-o-Sticks, Bazooka gum.

The only thing Mom wouldn't let us keep was the Sugar Daddies. For some reason she thought those would just ruin our teeth and would hide them away with a plan for them to be rationed out one by one over time. Usually however, after a month, she'd forget about them. We'd run stealthy espionage missions into the kitchen until we found her hiding spot and would capture them and hide them in our secret fort to ruin our teeth at our own darn pace.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, imaginations running free, flashlights shining into a future as exciting as we could imagine.
One year I was a ghost, that year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill having laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost.

To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand. Trick or Treat, though with my front tooth missing, more like Twik or Tweat. Still, that missing tooth got me extra candy (oh aren't you cute).

One house, always anticipated, had its owner dress like a witch, press on warts and all, and she'd have a steaming cauldron of dry ice and spooky music playing. That was the best part of that whole street. We'd approach the door, it would open with a haunting creak, the interior of the room blooming with light, a flutter of slender muscles in our arms as we held out our bags, trying to show we weren't really scared. That's just some kids Mom. . right? She really doesn't turn into a witch every Halloween? Then she would laugh, more of a honeyed laugh than a cackle, blue eyes, sparkling, holding us silent with her lifted hand from which would pour down sweet goodness, not toads or bats or other scary things.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, after dark, by ourselves, just kids, with scores of other kids, flashlights in hand. Out in front of us, two whole blocks, dozens of houses, the darkness slung low with lights, the night blowing cool and full of promise.
One year I was a ghost. That year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill having laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes was sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost. Pity the poor kid who was the pink ghost, he was going to get flattened like a pancake next time the boys played dodgeball. Other years, the costumes were as wide as our imagination and bigger than all our fears.

In our garb, we hovered over places of play, breathing sugar-fueled dreams like air, ashen figures gliding through the night on silent feet. To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand.  The houses weren't decorated up the way they are now, but on the porch would often be a lone jack o lantern, eyes shining from a candle or some fake cobwebs along the porch (those aren't fake! ack ack ack, get it out of my hair!) We'd pass each other wondering just who was that superhero, who was that under the Casper mask? We scurried along, hands waving, quick steps in time to the chatter of chilled breath, the blocks of a post-war suburb stretching out, the dim lights of small-town America.

As ghosts, cowboys, baseball players and Superman, we covered ground, drawing in deep breaths of it all, unutterably aware of how brief this night would be. I think even as kids we know that too soon we'd have to put this other life, this other identify away, as we melted anonymously back into our regular life, with wistful longing and the taste of sweetness on our lips.
Even though we were told to just do two blocks, we always went ahead and did that third one, or as much of it as we could fit in before our little watches told us it was time to back. We advanced, trudging up the steps to that first house, looking over our shoulders as if we could already see our Mom scolding us. We hit about six more houses, with other kids from our street, before as a group we agreed to go back. We swear each other to secret, the words not spoken but carved into stone upon which lies a nameless and forgotten effigy, those secrets of childhood we bear with us always.

There up ahead, the lights of our house. Home! We cross the empty lot where a new house was going in, following a faint path were dozens of small feet had worn the rotting leaves down to the soil. We clicked off the flashlight, whispering there in the dark about Great Pumpkins and Ghosts, where overhead, Chestnut trees thinned against the skies.
The wind had blown the clouds away, leaving a bright starry night, imaginary bat wings beating in the trees, a black cat crossing the road under the silver echo of the stars. Smoke hangs on the air suspended, the ash of burnt leaves that once rattled on the ground like tin.  I stretch out my hand into the vast expanse of darkness as if to clutch a star, to save a sweet fragment of the night to tuck into the book of that day.

Too soon it would be time to go in, the night rushing past all too quickly, stolen moments of sweetness there in the dark. As children we live in the moment, we live in a sugary world where not all is a warning, where people are inherently good, and the goblins and witches and demons take off their costume and reveal a harmless smile. We know that in recollection, we see how quickly it all went past, and holding a sweet piece of time with blurred eyes, I realize we all have lost part of that, the innocence and the wonder, forever, even if memory remains.
When we got back to the house, Mom sorted through our candy, tossing anything not completely wrapped, being careful. But we appreciated that she let the two of us go without parental oversight those last few years; Big Bro being big enough to keep me safe in the street. There were so many other kids out, the streets full, an adult not in sight but for the ones with little tiny kids. She had to worry, it was dark after all, we were hardly isolated, but we were alone.

We probably didn't even look back as we ran out to start our night of fun. But if we had, we would have seen her standing there, evanescent and forlorn, even as she put a smile on her face and waved, so we'd venture forth with hope, not fear.
There weren't many more Halloweens with her there. Too soon we lost her. Too soon we were adults living on our own and learning that too much sugar can make you fat, and that roses often draw blood. Too soon we'd understand the night's promise of unease, the dangers that lurk in the shadows, finalities that go beyond a grave. But she let us live with our innocence as long as she could, while preparing us to be fighters and risk takers, teaching us to be not fixed, but flexible in the light, no darkness to flee through and notrhing we could not handle armed with faith and occasionally a firearm.
Tonight, the wind is silent and the house stirs, shadows gathering in the basement, a dark pine forever trying an ancient latch on the window of the room in which I sleep. I smile at a taste of sweetness on my lips, a stolen moment of childhood nibbled before bed. Around me are homes, some dark and cold, no pumpkins yet in the yard, the doors shuttered against laughter. There are always those that look at childhood dreams like viewing something through the glass, behind which is only vacuum, from which no sound emits and which, too soon, fades to where they simply live anchored, until they simply cease to exist.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Caliexit - The Anthology is LIVE!

My novella -- "Freedom's Ride" -- is in 

  • which has gone live on Kindle or

When California declares independence, their dreams of socialist diversity become nightmares for many from the high Sierras to the Central Valley. Follow the lives of those who must decide whether to stand their ground or flee!

In San Diego, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group One finds his hands tied by red tape, even as protesters storm the base and attack dependents. In Los Angeles, an airline mechanic must beg, borrow, or bribe to get his family on the plane out before the last flight out.

Elsewhere, a couple seeks out the new underground railroad after being forced to confess to crimes they didn't commit. In the new state of Jefferson, farmers must defend themselves against carpetbaggers and border raiders.

And in the high Sierras, a woman must make the decision to walk out alone...

There are stories by many well-known authors you will recognize along with a couple of new authors, It was a great group of men and women to work on this with and I think we are all very proud of the effort and the organization by Old NFO in making it happen. Thank you, everyone, for supporting it.

If you'd like to read an excerpt please see my guest post today at the
blog and click on the colored links to order from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

For Those of You Who Miss Him Like We Do - A Barkley Memory

Mom - I need more squeaky toys.  You leave, you're gone for days and you come home all tired out, without any squeaky toys.

I remember that day, my fiance (now husband)  was visiting me in Indiana and we had a few errands that needed to be run before our Fall wedding.

First a stop at the BigBox store for some cleaning stuff ("hey look - the WalMart Brand of foaming bathroom cleaner with "Scrubbing Bubba") and a trip to the UPS store to pick up all my mail.

Then off to PetsMart.  We'd not been to one before.  He had another groomer that was co-located with his doggie daycare, and most of the time when I needed something, I'd order it online.

But here we were, on our first trip.

 I wasn't sure how Barkley would do, as he hates tile floors, but once he saw all the toys and the smells and the other dogs, he just charged right in pulling his "Dad" like some sort of Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
Look! People!
Hmmm, giant tub of dog Cheetos or the chewy snacks. Can I have both?
I think we need the "Beware of Dog" sign to intimidate that wimpy mixed breed terrier next door.
Oh look, it's dog adoption day!  I'm so lucky to have a home, I hope some folks will take these dogs home today and give them treats.

From the distance came the sound of several squeaky toys going off in a single round and the rest of the pictures were just "dog shaped blur"

He did behave himself at the check stand while his treats, a new leash and a  $1.99 sale toy were bagged up. (The duck was on sale apparently due to a pneumothorax.)

See Barkley - you behaved so you get a toy of your own.

squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeakkkkkkkkkkk!!!! OK, that's enough toy for now Barkley.
You can have my duck when you pry it out of my cold, cold jaws.

Yes, I think everyone had fun! (look carefully at the sticker on my shirt)

So many good memories Barkley while you were with us, and so many new ones now being made with our Senior rescue Abby Lab.  We miss you every day, but Abby has brought great joy into our lives.
Look Mom - I got a scarf from the PetSmart groomer that matches my squeaky elephant! 

Don't I look adorable?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Calexit - The Anthology

click on image to enlarge

I'm going out to visit my Dad for a week or so later in the month while Partner finishes some pre-winter renovations on the house and stays close to home as his grandma is not doing well. I'd wait, but I can't say Dad's health, at almost 98 will wait, so it's best I get on out there.

The book should be out when I return. I was very honored to be part of this and we had a great time working on it. Thank you, Jim Curtis (Old NFO), for putting it all together.  I've known Jim some 25+ years, from when I first flew him in a Sherpa to the city where he was based in the military, and it's still an honor to be his friend and fellow writer.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Outdoors 9-1-1

This last weekend I had a chance to get a long walk out in the woods out past the city where the corn starts growing. I took a light coat in case of rain, as it's been unusually cold and wet, and of course, a trusty .45 in a Blackhawk holster. This is my "outdoors hiking, moving, fall and winter holster". It's not as sleek as many other holsters I own, but in the clothing I wear outdoors it works, and works very well for what I need it for. This particular holster is unique in that there's a locking mechanism that keeps the gun in place during other than just strolling movement, as well as acts in preventing someone else from grabbing it. Yet with a little practice, it is as easy as pie for you to draw.

Cabela's says "Thumb breaks can slow your draw and get in the way when you re-holster. But you won't experience those drawbacks with Blackhawk's patented SERPA Technology™. It engages the trigger guard as you holster your firearm and secures it until you release using the normal drawing motion with your trigger finger alongside the holster. No snaps or straps to get in the way. The textured Carbon Fiber model can be worn on a belt or used as a paddle holster."

I've had mine four years and it works without a hitch and has held up very well. The one thing I noted when I first put this on was how SECURE it was. I could pole dance with this thing and it wouldn't budge.

It's home to a .220 and draws with the finger indexed where it is supposed to be, off the trigger. Unlocks easily, re-holsters easily and locks with no insertion force. This is a holster that's NOT going to make it easy for someone to take this gun away from me.

The drawbacks? The paddle attachment that comes with it really grips my jeans when I'm carrying. That's wonderful from a retention aspect, but at the end of the long day, sometimes it's a bear to get off. The belt slot attachment works better with belts up to one and 3/4 inches (when you remove the two spacers). I would recommend practice with it as well, quick firing capability is there, but it's something you should practice with, as it might be different than what you are used to.

But it is my favorite holster for being outdoors with a vest or jacket on to conceal the bulk that's more than some holsters.
I've spent a lot of time in the back country. All of it alone. I've camped, but not in a "National Park", because frankly, until recently, as a lone female, I wasn't going in one unarmed. If you're in the outdoors and you have an encounter with a criminal or an aggressive animal, there is no 9-11 box where you can call the police. And just like in the suburbs, 9-11 isn't going to do you a lot of good if you're staring down the face of a knife in the hands of some thug and the police are not going to be there in the next 10 minutes.

There were four bear attacks in parks last year that I know of. Small risk when you consider the millions of visitors. But think again. Bears aren't the biggest danger. The last year I could find statistics on violent crime in the parks from was 2006. For some reason, they haven't posted them where they are easy to find since then. In 2006, there were 116,588 reported offenses, including 11 killings, 35 rapes or attempted rapes, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings and 261 aggravated assaults.

Crime and violence are working their way into our rural areas and our parks. The days of mellow nights under the stars with perhaps your only fear, that of cowtippers or Yogi the Bear stealing your picnic basket, are over.
Urban problems are creeping ever outward, with alcohol or drugs being part of most violent incidents. Hideaway methamphetamine labs and marijuana fields in rural areas and forests are one reason, society degrading as unemployment skyrockets is another.

When the "guns in national parts" debate was ongoing the detractors said that guns would "ruin the outdoor experience". I don't know about you, but some whacko defending his meth lab intent on raping and killing me would certainly ruin MY park experience.

I don't fear the local four legged predators, the most common around here being coyotes. I fear the two legged animals. So I carry when I'm outdoors. Like the coyotes who share my land, I am alone even when I'm in my pack, dispossessed except for those times I am in the outdoors, for it is only the outdoors that feeds and nourishes me. I haunt the shadows of the wilderness that my own race continues to destroy. Yet, like the small field rabbits that are the coyote's prey, I just want to go about my way, unmolested, free to travel in sunlight or darkness without fear.
Some say we are safer out here in the country, in these small towns of America. Despite the country setting, and red white and blue speckled mailboxes, there is no truly safe place anymore, especially for a woman. Though there are certainly more crimes where more people live or where the the law-abiding are disarmed, the heart of evil roams equally at will through asphalt and country roads. Predators are among us, watching from a line at the corner market, waiting in the darkness of a rural parking lot or that untraveled, unbeaten path. Waiting for that sign, that manner, that tells them that you are un-toothed and un-fanged, a soft and vulnerable target.

Our primordial past is closer than we realize. Watching us.
So I carry something large, and black as night, in a holster that holds up to it's job. Because not every creature in the woods is some furry gentle creature seeking sustenance at my door in the night.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Flopcakes and Screwdrivers - a Typical Weekend at the Range

How can you screw up a pancake? Well you can.  

After a hard week, I had a serious craving for them. Work had me where I could sleep at home (albeit briefly) the last few weeks which was good and on my first morning off  the house was chilly having gotten down in the 40's overnight..  A perfect morning for pancakes. I was seriously tired, (when your eyes look like Chinese flags even VISINE® is not going to help) but was determined to make them, turning down Partners offer to make some eggs and toast..  I decided to try a new recipe using some self rising flour.  Once on the griddle, I noticed how, well, thin, they were.
They weren't puffing up at all. Partner looked in on them and said "are we having French crepes?"

No, Flatjacks.

I looked at the counter at the two flour containers.  *%#@  I used the NON self rising flour.  I was making hardtack.

OK, I can make another batch, except I was out of eggs and butter and though the store is just a 10 minute drive, it IS kind of cold out.  To the Internets!  I found a vegan pancake recipe on a blog, made with no butter or eggs and the picture looked like regular pancakes.  I made them as instructed and they looked like the picture.  But let's just say, assuming they have a long shelf life, they'll be perfect for the first aid kit to pack wounds. Absorbent, not edible.  Another failure.


Attempt #3, with fresh butter and eggs from the store (and look, bacon fell into the cart!), went much better.
But I realized, until I catch up on my sleep,  it's best to putter around using the simplest of tools.  Perhaps like 3 or 4 new screwdrivers that showed up on the Range last weekend.

The screwdriver, the tool that likely every household has at least one of.  It has long genealogy, with Archimedes considered to have invented the screw in the third century B.C.with others saying it was Nebuchadnezzar II who did. Actually, what Archimedes of Syracuse invented was designed to transfer motion (as in the continuous worm of a worm and gear assembly), rather than to fasten two things together, so I'd say he didn't really likely "invent" the screw, though no one really knows for sure.  What we do know is that  around the first century, screw shaped tools became common,  with early  screws were made from wood and were used in wine presses, olive oil presses, and such.
If you have enough books, you'll find there's historical records on everything, tools, cars, party boats (which according to famed tool guy Red Green, date back to Cleopatra and the crew of the Exxon-Valdez). But there is a ton of information on the Roman Era and the many developments in tooling and building that came about during that time. Romans had most of our other hand tools and also invented the stiffened backsaw, whose blade is reinforced at the top. This prevents straight-through cuts, but in combination with a miter box, can be useful for cabinetwork.

Cranks showed up in the The Middle Ages, as did the carpenter's brace.  The handsaw, too, is even more ancient.  Archaeologists have found metal-toothead Egyptian saws dating back to 1500 B.C., with  broad blades, some as long as twenty inches, curved wooden handles and irregular teeth.
A soft metal was used, copper, which required the saw to be pulled, not pushed to keep it from buckling.  Since during the pull you can't bear down on the cutting stroke, sawing wood for the Egyptians must have been about as much fun as plumbing.  The Romans used iron for the blades, making them stiffer.

The Romans also added something to the world's toolbox of cutting tools that was beyond ingenious for its time. The frame saw. A fairly cheap narrow blade is held in a wooden frame and is kept taut by tightening a cord. Wooden frame saws worked so well that they continued as the most common type of saw well into the 19th century and if you look at your hacksaw in the garage closely, you can see the principle is still alive (though if your spouse catches you in the shop fondling and staring at your hacksaw he or she  may cut off the beer supply).
The first metal screws used as fasteners date back to the 15th century. They had square or hexagonal heads and were not turned with a screwdriver, but a wrench. Screws also appeared as a spinoff from Renaissance warfare, keeping the parts of a matchlock rifle linked. The screws of the 16th century were hand-cut which is both expensive and less than reliable, but they were needed for timepieces as well as armaments. At the end of the 1700s, screw-cutting lathes were developed, making screws more widely available and consistently sized.

But when did the "screwdriver" show up on the scene?

Scottish crafts manuals from around the time of the American Revolution give screwdrivers as "turnscrews"; the same word in French, tournevis, turns up in 1723. .But the origin of the screwdriver itself is obscure and not widely mentioned in texts even though screws were evident in many applications during this early period.
Now, there are multiple types of screwdrivers, cabinet screwdrivers, stubby screwdrivers, electricians screwdrivers, spiral ratchet etc, and assorted tips, Parallel tip, Pozidriv,  Phillips, Clutch, Robertson.

Some handles and shanks can take multiple tips, and one of them here, even has a magnet built into the shaft.  You might laugh at the Ronco Food Dehyradator/Flashlight/Auger but combination tools have been around since ancient times, the two oldest woodworking tools being the ax (timber!) and the adz, with its blade turned ninety degrees, which is then used for dressing the timber.  The Minoans in Crete were using it  long before the Romans started getting that bigger tool box.

Some of the modern screwdrivers have the head as you see in the pictures here, others have a bulbous head, which  provides a little better grip, with a greater area of surface contact between paw and tool, but that's just my preference.
But the other day, there was a Sears Hardware going out  of business and well



Need I say more.
Just a few were picked up, with one deciding difference.  Something you all may know, but I didn't catch on to immediately.

Square versus round shank.  What's the advantage of the square?
You can place a wrench on the square shank so you can apply torque with one hand and downward pressure with the other which is more effective than simply trying to twist the handle, especially when you don't have the upper body strength of most handymen (but more than Justin Beiber).

It's also more effective in stripping out slots on screws on 1960's British Cars.