Saturday, May 26, 2018

Teaching My Fingers to Fight

Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth
my hands to war, and my fingers to fight
-Psalm 144:1

Today is as good a day as any to think about such things for I have seen hell. . . . .

. . . . . and it's Wal Mart on a holiday weekend when it's  almost 100 degrees.

The photo above was the outside temperature at the Range at 2:30.  Really too hot to do anything,

But Partner in Grime has been gone for work for a week and I need to make him a homecooked meal.

"What's for supper B?"

"HOTR Hambush surprise?"

"you'll like it,  bring eye protection."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Pocket Pistol Protection

I've owned a number if inexpensive "pocket pistols" to varying degree of success.  By success, I mean, not actually having to use it to defend myself but not being known at the range as "Noodle Wrist Johnson" or drawing blood (because if I want something that BITES me I'll get a pet alligator.)

Many of those guns are polymer, which makes them both light, and cheaper to make.

I'll be honest. I had never been a fan of guns made out of polymer. But then I added a little Smith and Wesson M and P 9 to the stable after firing one a friend owned and really liked it, and heard the praises of the Glocks from many of my colleagues.

When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have when things went south in a hurry. I still felt that way most days, so when one of the Indy gun bloggers first brought one of the smaller Glocks to the range I had to try it.

I wasn't sure what to think.  I mean, It's PLASTIC.  When I thought of going to a gun show and buying one and coming home with friends asking "what did you get!" all I could think of is the Charlie Brown Halloween special (heavy sigh) "I got a GLOCK".  Because frankly folks, to me anyway, most plastic guns have all the aesthetic appeal of a sippy cup.  Face it, I love revolvers. I love 1911's  I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Put a wood handled tool in my hand and I just want to craft something with it or at least take a chunk out of one of my fingers so I can practice some new words in the shop.
But I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911, John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.

I wasn't a fan of those first Glocks I fired, only for the feel of the grip than the quality or the handling. But then I got a chance to shoot one of their Glock 21's.  It soon made its way to the Range to make a home because frankly, compared to Glock's I'd fired, the 21 was still a barrel of fun but it didn't have that "blocky" feel to the grip I sensed in other models I'd tried with hands which have a small palm, but really long fingers. It now has a custom made laser sight on it, near where I sleep in case of a home break in as I know it won't let me down. But a Glock 21 is not a "budget gun" which is our featured today.

So though I passed on the cheaper Glocks and a Bersa was added  to the collection.
It's a weapon that's been out for a while, and there it was again, for sale at the gun store, at a price I was really surprised at. I picked it up, liked how it felt in my hand and REALLY liked the price. Certainly, there are a lot of small weapons for sale and cheap, but not all are made with good craftsmanship and quality materials. Holding them up, they may look good, but the metals may be poor, zinc or some sort of mystery metal that may be too heavy or too soft, certainly not guns I'd stack up against someone attempting to attack me on an isolated street. I was looking for something for concealed that wasn't just cheap and light, but was made well. Not for a trip to downtown at night, but something small and light that I could carry running errands or in environmental conditions that result in less bulky clothing or as a backup gun.
When I first spotted one, the store owner was quick to point out that this .380 is similar to the Walther PPK/S, including a seven round magazine with a plastic floor plate extension. I did a little homework. On-line reviewers tend to rate them as reliable, well-built, and strong enough for the average "social situation". There are people that want a gun, but aren't into owning more than one or two, or paying a lot of money. So for me at the time, the Bersa was a nice option.

As shooters it's easy to dismiss inexpensive guns as simply being "junk", and all of us wish to own some fine quality firearms.  But history has a way of showing that over time, for many an ordinary citizen, a cheap firearm may be all they had to defend themselves with.
On the table sits an old-fashioned revolver, as finely tuned as a musical instrument, carefully tended and cleaned and oiled.It simply sits, no hand upon it, musing, steadfast, not threatening in its form, yet carrying with it a weight of responsibility.The weapon is old, the barrel black, as if fire singed, cauterized by fury and fight, turmoil and threat.It is a weapon of history, of a hand that raised it in response to such things, taking stock of their principals and courage.  This is my land, this is my family, these are the things that my hands bled to gain.  I may be one man, one woman, but gaunt, tired and undefeated I will take up my arms and not flee.

 I live in a world totally foreign to the original owner of that old revolver,  yet I too bear the weary, indomitable outrage against those that feel that they can come in and steal what I have worked so hard for.

I wonder what a resident of a 19th Century Western landscape would think of us today were he transported here? For back in the days of the old West, it wasn't just the cowboys and gunfighters that were armed, but the farm and the shopkeeper,

Firearms were prevalent, not only to protect against wild animals, Indian raids and the likebut also against the rustler and the poacher, to whom the laws, gun or otherwise, meant nothing.

But in the later days of the old West, such ordinary folks were unlikely to carry a more pricey six-shooter on their hip.  Many of them got a bulldog, and NOT the canine variety

The “British Bulldog” was a basic double action revolver whose design can be traced back to Philip Webley and Son of Birmingham, England in 1872 and were subsequently copied by gunmakers in Continental Europe, particularly in Belgium and the United States
These had a reputation as being good, reliable handguns. It featured a 1.2 inch barrel and was chambered for .44 Short Rimfire. Most of the ones we have seen weren't made by Webley, but by smaller shops where a few gunsmiths with mostly hand tools, could turn simple forgings into function firearms, have them proof stamped, and  then send them off to foreign markets by the dozen.

Popular in Britain and the American West, US Army General George Armstrong Custer was said to have carried a pair at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, though it didn' exactly make his day end well.
Intended to be carried in a coat pocket, many have survived to the present day in good condition, having seen little actual use.  However, most Belgian copies were not particularly long lived.  "Soft parts" wear quickly, which gives way to timing and lockup problems.  But that was not an era where people had the ammo to go "plinking" for fun or practice, so such firearms, kept clean and used sparingly, would usually go "bang", not "*#(@!) when necessary. It wouldn't be useful at ranges much beyond a few feet, but many a shopkeeper or bartender kept one  under the counter and I guarantee more than one woman of the old West had one nearby when he man was far away from the homestead.

Myself, I prefer a stout looking big barreled big brother - which says more "leave me alone", but too, have a "pocket pistol" when taking the trash out, or walking to the corner store for something quick. Still, back in the day, I don't think I would want to have looked down the shooty end of one of these guns.

Sales of cheap firearms didn't slow down even as the U.S. economy and standard of living increased, paralleling the manufacture of their more pricey counterparts.  For every Smith and Wesson high-quality firearm turned out, there would be a budget minded copy made at Harrington and Ricahrdson. Many of those designs were almost identical in looks to their more expensive counterparts the differences being metallurgy and heat treatment, as well as fit and finish.
Pictured is the Range Harrington and Richardson Hammerless .38 S + W.

It was manufactured sometime prior to 1904 I believe, given the caliber and very low serial number and like all first models of the H & R Hammerless, both large and small frames, it was manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures (a give away for that being it doesn't have the caliber stamped on the side of the barrel and there are no horizontal notches on the side of the cylinder).
Like the (Belgian) British bulldogs, they were not likely to hold up well if shot regularly, but they still served a defense function and someone of average means could sav up a few dollars and order one of these from the Sears catalog.  Having a function al sidearm compared to NO firearm is a no brainer.

Next up is a little pocket pistol that meetings two functions to qualify as a cheap firearm.
(1)  It's a firearm
(2) It's cheap

That's about all of the nice things I can say about it.

The Valor SM-11.  These come up occassionally for sale, usually for less than $200, and I've seen one as low as $25 (which screams run away! right there).. This is not one I'd recommend.  They usually come in two forms, mint in a box with a box of vintage ammo or parts guns.The owner of this example lost the front of the slide downrange using ordinary factory ammo. The mint ones someone probably bought, shot once, vowing never to fire that particular firearm again, the putting it away for years.
“What’s that?” you say,”Is that pot metal?

No, it’s probably Zamak, which is way we city folks say high strength pot metal. Apparently. in order to avoid the cost of forging or machining the frame and slide, they were die cast instead. Sure it's cheaper and faster, but Zamack is NOT the best material based on its inherent brittleness and corrosion issues.

Over time, the pot-metal frame corrodes even when carefully stored, just from the action of Oxygen on it, and the frame weakens to the point where even a .22 short can blow it up and the barrel alignment to the cylinder is also commonly poor. Shooting at a bad gun only to have the barrel fall off might make a good comedy movie, but it is not smart.

The cost cutting didn’t stop there.  Compare the internal workings of the SM-11 to the much higher quality Colt 1908 parts. (this is a Range firearm)
The pocket hammerless is another design by firearms legend John Moses Browning.  Manufactured by Colts's Manufacturing Company from 1908 to 1948,  it was originally said to have been presented to Colt Management before the turn of the century but they passed on it, allegedly in efforts to produce a larger caliber pistol that would help them secure a military contract.  Their loss was Frabrique Nationale de Herstal's gain as FN welcomed the design, producing Brownings self-loading pocket pistol and the FN Model 100 both chambered for the Browning introduced .25 ACP (Automatic Colt pistol) cartridge.
The European market fell in love with it, a loss which was felt by Colt as their European sales took a hit. Colt wasted no further time in brokering a deal with Browning and FN to produce the handgun for US sales, marketing it as a small concealable firearm which could be easily tucked into a gentleman's vest pocket for discrete carry

The moving parts in the Colt were milled, heat treated and usually ground to a good finish.  Certainly, you don't have to have such a clean finish on EVERY part of a more economical firearm, but when you're looking at parts that keep the gun from firing when it's NOT supposed to do, it's vital they be milled properly and more rugged. Now you may not need to have such a clean finish on every part of a more budget oriented gun,
In the Valor, there are several parts made from stamped sheet metal and a few made of plastic (including the safety, yes, I always think plastic when I think safety)  A quick check with a file makes it clear that the steel bits, maybe aside from the barrel, were not heat treated.

The firearm's basic design is not that bad, modeled off of the Walther Patent Model 9, which is a decent little pistol.  The Valor is easy to field strip, acceptably ergonomically sound, and aside from the safety lever, ( and if you get the one that's not starting to rot from the inside out) probably functional.  But the choice of materials, for me personally, is a deal breaker  Between a brittle slide and the plastic safety block, this is not a gun I would even FIRE, let alone concealed carry.

Now contrast the SM-11 to the ‘cheap guns’ of today, the Glocks, the Keltecs, the Bersa's the Hipoints and more. Some may be plastic, and some may be blocky but if cared for well, they should not let you down and the HiPoints are surprisingly rugged. It's not the one pictured below - but you can get a Hi-Point Model C-9, a polymer-framed, semi-auto,blowback-operated pistrol chamber iun 0 x 10 Parabelluls (and rated to accept+P ammo) for around $160.
Another US-made economical firearm that a colleague who is a retired police officer swears by for his pocket pistol is Keltec.  I've never owned or shot one,  but he loves his little K-11, a compact, semi-auto, short-recoil operated pistol chambered in 9 mm Luger.

Another one I'm going to check out soon is the Chiappa M-22. The M9 Semiautomatic is a 9x19mm Parabellum pistol that was adopted in 1985 as the official sidearm of the United States military after winning a competition in the 1980s, beating out many other contenders. The 92F survived exposure to temperatures from -40°F to 140°F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped repeatedly on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud and snow. Additionally, the 92F proved a MRBF (mean rounds before failure) of 35,000 rounds, the equivalent to five or six times the pistol’s service life.

Want a Revolver? You can pick 8p a 8sed Taurus 82S for less than $300.The .38 Special with a 4″ barrel is a timeless classic as well as a reliable handgun with very few parts to ever fail. A .38spl cartridge has resulting in the bad being being on the short end of the losing side and it would certainly comfort this gal if my front door was kicked in.

So there we've covered a bit of what's out there in cheap handguns, the good and the bad.  And since there 's usually a third term used in that phrase, I present you 

The Ugly,
Remember, whether you get an old classic or a new plastic piece remember, it's about function, not admiration. With some cheap firearms,  you may not get oohs and aahs at the range, but you'll have a piece of defense on your hip or in in your pocket when you need it.  And THAT, my friends, is priceless.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Words in the Wire

A young woman walks out to an old rural mailbox and pulls out a couple of letters, standing in the cold as she looks through them, for in her haste, she wears no coat. Her eyes are alight with hope, as she scans the postmarks, almost naked in their pleading.  But there is no letter from him today, no news that he is still safe.  Her eyes grow quiet, two shining gloves in which a world at war lurks in profoundly small scale.  The mailbox shuts and her hope draws itself in, like measured string being rewound into a spool

Thirty later, her children, one at the edge of the field, one away in a straight line about 30 yards away, connected only by two paper cups and a taut piece of kite string. One speaks, the other listens, and hears  "there are 4 of them to our two. But we have the water balloons!" The words are simple but they are personal, shared between brothers in arms, even if one is a sister.

Another thirty years later, miles apart, a simple message  "hi, it's me just landed, I'll call after I get to Dad's, stay strong."
How our methods of communication have changed over the years.  Not long ago, sitting behind me in a Thai restaurant, four 20-somethings in casual business attire, all texting or surfing, the server unacknowledged but for an order made without consulting the menu, not a single word between them as invisible food was consumed with invisible fingers and invisible thoughts.

Just the other day, I sat in the airport reading a classic novel, on paper, no e-reader, while all around me people are texting. Now there are times that a text is better than silence, a quick stop to let someone know you are safe, or that you care, but too often people are doing it at the expense of the actual written word.

What would the books on my shelves, or the one in the hand of the young lady seated across from me be, if simply summed up in text?

Deliverance - tourists XperENs local hospitality

Frankenstein - Science progress big FAIL w genRL public. Ptchforks say STBU.

War of the Worlds - LEgl aliens wnt evrtng 4 frE

Twilight -  join d undead az alternative 2 college

Pride and Prejudice -i longed 4 him i married him crp

Soylent Green - locals hav isUz w regional cuisine

Romeo and Juliet -  Dny thy fathR n refUZ thy name, o if thou wilt nt, b bt swrn my luv, I'll n lngr be a cpult,

The Manhattan Project -sum of aL fears comin 2 a rogue n8tN near U

The Audacity of Hope - DBEYR srsly

Bridge on the River Kwai - brits cn whistle despite stiff uppr lips

The whole way the world interacts, communicates, and connects has changed since our parent's age. In a trunk in Dad's attic I found those letters my Mom wrote my Dad during WWII, carefully tired with still taut ribbon, the handwriting faded, words that traveled thousands of miles to England and back, carried by mailman and ship, to gather dust that gets in his eyes when he talks of her. In those letters she is still with him, still young, more than just a shadow-bound to him with a shadow of ribbon.

Now, we instant message, we Skype, there's Facebook and web-mail and blogs, wherein the means of communication are many and the word "friend" has oft been reduced to an anonymous sign of popularity from total strangers.  ("Hi,  I'm Kim Jong-un, please LIKE me on Facebook!").  Maybe I'm alone in this, but to me, friendship is not something granted to random strangers simply because they wish to claim it, but to those who, through shared experience, through laughter and listening and time, become part of a complex life, on and off a computer.
Yet, this mass means of communication has its advantages, we know more of decisions being made that impact us, that threaten our way of life, even if much of it is twisted by the media.  We have to dig, dig hard for the truth, but at least the words flow mostly free, our view of the world, not just one radio show, or one newspaper dictating how we should think. From the lies, we have to glean the truth, but there are still so many avenues to get to the truth that previously were simply withheld.  There's also the sheer learning of it, so many things at our fingertips to explore, to share.

But in a world where we are constantly chirping and texting, too often,  very little is actually being said, reducing human emotions to punctuations as if somehow a smiley could convey the nuance of a heart.  I look at Dad's letters, then, and his letters now, the degradation of the handwriting a sign, painfully clear, that he is declining, soon to leave me.  But his words are still as sharp as his mind, even as his hand sometimes fails him.

He writes of the family and the "steelhead that got away",  words of humor, of inspiration, of compelling faith. Sheets of paper that over 30 years have charted a course for me through adulthood,  abiding strength still radiating from his descriptions of love and loss, the papers having a weight to them of his life. A weight that will keep me anchored.
He first started writing them when I went off college.   I'd read them on a train, for that is how I got back and forth to my home on the occasional weekend, not being able to afford a car and tuition.  As I traveled, I penned my letters back, my fears, my thanks for Dad's support.   How could I have imagined this world today, where such things are expressed in acronyms and emoticons.   How do you explain what it feels to live, to breathe, to fear, to fly, in exchanges briefer than epitaphs, as personal as commands?

All those years ago,  I'd sit in that car and write my trains of thought,  words flowing in sturdy motion and time, their spaces containing the heavy load of pride and longing,  fear and desire. The train barrels forward in steady progressions as moving clouds fly overhead and shafts of sunlight peer through sliding cars, into their depth. As others transmit through satellites and space, I watch the landscape from the viewpoint of the train. Structures of iron lace, the suddenness of buildings, clouds of morning mist all crossing my line of sight, my muscles straining with the curves through fog-shrouded landscapes, moving with the train, thundering through empty fields of past loss into meadows washed with light.

But now, 30 years later, I am writing these words on a computer, miles away from the one I'd most want to read them, the mailman driving past as I sip my coffee, no longer a troubadour for distant lovers, but simply the carrier of pizza coupons, junk mail, and bills. The computer sits in front of me, framed in the window like a stage, the words in my head now, like the beginning of thunder, as loud as a whisper, and as electric.

There are still paper and pen, solitary objects of unspoken promise, of thoughts that flow, but I do not have them here.  I have this, and whether short words or long, I'm speaking my heart.  As my fingers clatter against keys, the words pick up speed, splaying themselves out along the tracks going forward.  I am back on a train, running into the rain as the cars gain speed, waters cleaning the windows on which I look out on life.  I hurl words into the darkness of an upcoming tunnel and wait for their echo.
 - Brigid

Monday, May 21, 2018

Barkley Memories - Road Trip!~

Winter 2013. It was time for the weekly commute to work, a several hour drive in the usual heavy truck traffic. I left early, to get here before dark, but with what was left of an accident closing all but one lane, it took over four hours.

I'd driven this route for a couple years already while dating my now husband, no accidents and no tickets.  The secret is -

(1) drive a vehicle with an engine that sucks fuel like a CF700 turbofan  engine
(2) don't break any traffic laws
(3) don't break them as bad as anyone driving around you.

#3 is easy.  Find the worst possible driver in the world (which is not hard to do on I-65) and when you spot him or her, stay back at their 8 or 4 o'clock position, whichever keeps them between the Highway Patrol on the median and you.

Or simply draft behind the trucks sharing the road responsibly until that smile and glazed look (brains!) in the eyes of the Dart Guy on the back of the truck creeps you out and you have to pass.
Barkley would with me, with a harness that assured in a sudden stop he couldn't turn into one of the Wallenda's.  It did, however, allow him JUST enough room to sit with his rear end on the seat and his front feet on the floor. 

You think I'm kidding, that was  how he sat at home when he wasn't napping.
When we finally got to the crash pad,  he would be all excited, RUNNING to the back door in the garage.  Then he realized, this was the small place, with no "Dad", with less toys per square foot, no squirrels to bark at and his pretty friend who took him to the dog park when I worked wouldn't be here until the morning.

And the sulk began.

No one can sulk like a lab.
At least he didn't have to go on call at midnight like some people.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

DIY and Dad Update

Just a quick note - Dad is doing much better.  The delirium was from fever due to a UTI, and antibiotics knocked that out pretty quick but he did have a brief hospital stay.  He is home and muttering about "those little furry bastards" (the squirrels that are raiding his bird feeder) which is a good sign.  But thank you, (airline I won't name), for charging$3010 for a round-trip ticket on short notice if I needed to get out there.

We now have him on 24-hour in-home nursing care. At $20 an hour, I have no idea how I'm going to pay for the additional hours, but he is NOT going into a nursing home if I can help it as that would break his heart after outliving two wives and two kids in this house. (So go buy Calexit - OK?)

I'll have a post up soon.  We spent the day putting up a partial railing on the house of an 88-year-old widow that belongs to our church.  Her steps had no railing, and with the winter weather and even the rain, we were worried about her falling and breaking a hip as the steps themselves were uneven due to their age. So  Partner made one that matched the other ironwork around her 110-year-old home and painted it to match the house trim.

She only wanted it from the top step down, so that the people that clean the gutters on the two-story home can put a ladder behind it and that was easy to do. But the degradation of the steps themselves and tweaking to get it aligned and mounted securely was a 5-hour project.

I think it turned out nice.

I'll be up with a longer post when I catch up on my sleep. - Brigid

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Prayers for Dad.

I will be off-blog for a few days. Dad's health is suddenly declining and I'm going to make sure he's OK. (he turns 98 in a few weeks). I'm not asking for prayers for healing, honestly, he's so ready to go to his reward, I'm just asking for prayers for God's will.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

For Mother's Day - Homecomings

For Mother's Day, a Chapter from Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption.  Saving Grace didn't get the literary fanfare that The Book of Barkley and Small Town Roads did (both won major literary awards) but it went on to be a #1 bestseller in 4 countries.  I think the themes of animal and people adoption are universal.  I especially enjoyed writing it as I got to share more stories of my family, including my Dad and Mom as well as work through with words, the death of my beloved brother.  They are both very much missed today.

Chapter 3 - Homecomings

Thinking of my brother comes naturally whenever I’m driving. Because the story of Allen and me began with a car ride, the first with our mom and dad.

Mom and Dad grew up in Montana, playing together as children, marrying as soon as Dad got home from serving in the 8th Air Force, stationed in Great Britain. The only reminders of that relationship I have left are letters and pictures, carefully packed in a trunk that lay in the attic until my brother and I liberated it.

There are so many photos of an 8th Air Force Liberator flying among flak as thick as snowflakes, soaring desolate above land whorled with unrest, the craft solitary above the destruction that it would rain. There underneath the photos lies a stack of letters. Mom and Dad wrote to one another for four years while he was overseas, not returning Stateside once during that entire time. Reading them feels a little like eavesdropping, as you can almost hear the words as they formed---heartfelt, intimate. I opened one; it was just one single page, and I thought of the way their day stopped at the brink of it.

In these letters bridging the time and distance they had to be apart, there was talk of how much they missed one another; of how their families were faring; of good coffee and how Dad missed vegetables from the farm; of burning heat and a cold on the field that would murmur to your very bones. There was playful affection, there was unstated passion and stated promise. Some was in Mom's flowery script, the rest in Dad's meticulous, indomitable hand. "Is everyone there well?" Mom would ask, and Dad would reply that they were (though some were now only well beyond Lamentations). "How is the homestead?” Dad would ask, and Mom would reply, "Fine," not telling him that they were occasionally going hungry.

They spoke of the future, of their past. They did not speak of the aircraft that limped back to England only to crash on approach, their violent end felt through the ground like a vibration rather than heard. They did not speak of her working two jobs after her dad's death while logging, to support two younger brothers and her mom. So much spoken and unspoken, like two mourning doves calling back and forth across an endless summer---all now just held together by a blue silk ribbon.
Not all missives that went back and forth over the seas were good news. Just up the road from Mom's, the week after Pearl Harbor a neighbor stood by the mailbox with a piece of paper not even big enough to start a fire with, the envelope fallen to the ground as bland words exploded one by one and that family’s grieving began. There was only the notice, there was nothing to bury---though you don't need a wooden box to capture the form of courage and sacrifice.

I wonder how many millions of messages like that went out in old wars, not taking long to read, as there was no real time in it; not in that demarcation between the hope that someone lived, and that place where you knew that was no longer true,  when you wished that this moment existed only outside of time. There were only moments in which a written word hung in the air as if hopeful silence had been so long undisturbed that it had forgotten its purpose.

I look again at those letters Dad kept. The actual forming of the characters is uniform, flowing, like words pent up too long. The letters are sixty-some years old, powdery and delicate in my hand. But sixty years were just a moment ago for my dad, something as fierce and encompassing as war always standing out in his memory, no matter how many years distanced him from battle.

So he returned to her, they married, and my mom immediately became pregnant, only to go into labor many weeks too early. Their daughter lived only days, while Mom battled an infection that would leave her barren.

They were together, their dream for years. But although it was an abundant life---Mom working as a Deputy Sheriff, Dad getting his CPA license and finding a job with one of the big timber mills---their home was missing the sound of children.

So the long, sometimes painfully long process of adoption was begun. When it didn't happen immediately, they applied to be foster parents---however they could get a child in their home, just to hear a child's laughter. I don't have all the details, but Allen and I came into their lives when we were very young.

Mom and Dad had intended on getting just one child, but having completed the paperwork, when they heard there were two of us there was no real discussion, only logistics. For they only had a child seat for one, for the three hour drive home. My brother Allen, being the oldest, got the seat. They put me in a box.

Well, it was a large box, carefully padded with coats and a pillow, and lashed in tight to the back of the seat with a seat belt.
Still, years later I can hear my brother lean over with a grin on the re-telling of that story with "They liked me better!" and how we would laugh.

We came home to a post-war subdivision, houses popping up starting in the late ‘40s, with new streets like ours hubbing off them in the 1960's as the town prospered and people expanded their families in a time of peace and abundance.

Dad still lives there all these years later. Going home now to visit him as an adult I'm surprised how quiet it is outside; the kids all inside the local school, neighborhood moms and dads both working much of the time these days. Off in the distance, the wail of a police siren. The ground is hard and knotted, the houses stare silently forward, not acknowledging anything that exists in their peripheral vision. The morning light falls down upon their steps in silence. That lack of sound does not seem odd, it is simply winter.

Dad slumbering in the back room, tiring easily at age 94, I sit in the chair by the picture window and look out at the same homes I saw as a child; and I think back to those glory days when Mom and Dad brought us home, how this whole neighborhood came alive. Mom's been gone many years; Dad outlived both her and my stepmom in this house. And although the family dynamic is different, the sounds of this home remain.

Especially during summer the neighborhood took on another depth of sound. There was the bright, disorderly cry of lawnmowers firing up; the small tidy yards of an older neighborhood not taking all day to mow, but the precision of their care reflecting the owners’ pride in their homes. There were no homeowners association rules. One neighbor's bright purple door stood out at attention, but with the colorful flowers that normally adorned the front and the deep rosy hue of the brick, the color suited the house. There were a couple of kids on bikes, zooming up and down the sidewalks as off in the distance their dog barked for their return. Far away the sound of church bells, there in the month of white lace and showers of rice, paced faithfully and serenely; like shafts of light among the soft green leaves, yellow butterflies dancing on the grass like flecks of sun.

The sounds would continue into evening: a summer shower off the lake releasing the scent of flowers into the damp air; crickets sawing away in the grass with an intensity you could almost feel as a tickle on the skin. There was the wave of a neighbor as he brought in the paper; the clink of a couple of glasses of Kool-Aid, sweet like nectar on the porch.

There was no formal neighborhood watch here, but we did look out for one another. Our parents noticed when the newspapers piled up at someone’s house and would check to make sure they were OK.  They paid attention to a strange car parked on the street, a teenage boy just stopping to visit with the pretty teenage girl down the road.

They would know who had a new child by the toys that sprouted in the yard like colorful flowers. Our moms would trade recipes and gossip over a fence, finding out who had been ill, who might need help with a new baby. For this wasn't just a neighborhood, this was a community---neighbor helping neighbor, the kids welcome at pretty much any home, stopping in on someone's mom if we needed a drink or the use of the bathroom.
Now, a lifetime later, the houses are the same but the neighborhood is not. I note the silent homes, a sign gone up for a quick sale, the owner having passed away; time consuming not just courage but muscle and bone until nothing is left but a frail form draped in a white sheet, like a piece of furniture unused. We don't notice the exact time of leaving but can't help but speak of the remains. I note one house in disrepair, empty, likely a foreclosure; the factory's shutting down taking with it not just jobs but a lot of hope.

Ours was a good house to come home to, though; a place of refuge for two lost little birds.

As I sit in the quiet, a small sparrow blows onto the sill like a bright scrap of paper, his heart pumping in his throat faster than any pulse. He looks into the house, then away, then into the glass again as if listening, only to dart away as the clock chimes on the hour, then ceases. The chime fills the whole house. Perhaps it's just sound---or perhaps it's all time, grievance, and grief manifesting as sound for just one instant as planets and gears align. It's a moment wherein time seems to stop, the sparrow frozen on the sill. Only when that sound stops does time come to life, and by then the bird is gone.

The only sound now is that of breath and the tick of the old clock. I don't deliberately listen to it, the ticks seemingly beyond the realm of hearing; then in a moment, with that one tick your ears respond to, you are acutely aware of the long diminishing train of time you did not hear. How many ticks in this house in 50 years? How many after I am long gone? Yet I feel the presence of others that have lived here, for they perhaps aren't truly dead but simply were worn down by the minute clicking of small gears. The echo of those who sat in this room do not disturb me; they are part of this house. Just like the sound of wood, its creak one of murmuring bones; and the air that taps on ancient glass speaks of deep winds that witnessed more than time.
Dad resting quietly, I take a quick walk before making his dinner, after which we will call Allen to catch up before seeing him on the weekend. As the neighborhood ticks a slow and steady beat outside, there comes the rumbling of the trains, the tracks a half mile away carrying a sound on the air that is as comforting as childhood. I watch the movement that is static serenity and labored exhaust, a rhythmic click-click as it moves away through eternal trees, faded to thick sky, the train displacing air.

Shadows lengthening, I hurry back to the house. The tick of my watch and the sound of the train dissolve away as if running through another place, someplace far from where this life ended up. I approach the house I grew up in, the porch glistening with a sheen of ice, its empty lattice the front guard of circumstance waiting for summer flowerings.
I think of the inordinate ticks of chance it took to bring my brother and me to this home, through which we were so blessed to be here. In the air scented with trees I ascend the steps, clutching the old key to the back door, there on a little ring with a train etched on it. In the growing dark I don't really see it, but I feel it in my hand, clutching that little anchor to a life lived here long ago---a life unexpected but as welcoming as home. 

The house sighs as I open the door. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, moving away from its reflection into the warmth, my form darting out of sight; the sound, tick-tock-tick-tock, a wisp of air that breathes life back into this home.

Friday, May 11, 2018

On Infinity

Fate lies within some blades of grass,
the cosmos in the morning dew.
Tread infinity as you blindly pass,
and lose what you never knew.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Cloudy With a Chance of Cheeseburgers

 Partner in Grime gets home late this evening from Texas.
 The bacon fumes should have cleared out by then
 If he asks. . . .
I'll say the ashes in the driveway are from a squirrel spontaneously combusting. . . 
While I nibbled on salad.