Saturday, March 31, 2012

Off I go

Can I take my favorite toy and your sock??

HOTR will be posting from Amish Country next week and beyond.

Two people who are not related by blood, but are my family, had a necessary trip to make, but no one to watch their homestead and animals (including a retriever). It looked like they wouldn't be able to go. So I volunteered.

I raised my hand to work on a tedius but necessary project with squirrel central in a virtual capacity for a few days. When that is done, I would use my leave time, since the long flight to see Dad is out for a few a couple more months (knee still not doing long sit times well).

A LEO friend is taking care of my place and Barkley is coming with me. By the time you read this I will be making a stop to play lumberjack this weekend with Midwest Chick and Mr. B. to take care of some downed timber with the Og family (warning, mayhem may ensue). Tonight, dinner with a few of my favorite people, with whatever pies she and I come up with this afternoon.

Repeat after me "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK. . "

Cheers!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NCIS Meets Dragon Leatherworks - Armed and Hungry

Regular readers have heard me talk about how much I like my Dragon Leatherworks holsters. D., the artist behind them, is a friend. Now, I don't review products for money, but I will share the talents of friends as well as products I just flat out love. (Yes, that's a HOTR photo heading up his website, taken with a homemade light box). Recently he told me about a special project he made, NOT a holster. I was intrigued. When we talked more and he told me the story behind it, I had to just share. For what you see above, is not his usual holster. It's a lunchbox for Abby on NCIS, to be used on the actual show, crafted by the Dragon himself.

For you see, the amazing and quite persistent Mrs. Dragon had contacted some folks out in Hollywood, including the prop masters for my favorite TV show NCIS, and they had Dennis design a Flatjack holster for a female character who was complaining that all the holsters made the butt of the gun stick out or dig into her ribs.

Long story short, the FlatJack was a hit, the actress could wear a blazer-type jacket and not print...all was right with the world.

Then came a call from the NCIS prop master last week with a special order request. It was built in one day and shipped the next. A leather goth themed lunch box (I so want one). I think he did an amazing job with it given their brief description of what they wanted. He is not sure if the scene it is in, will air, or be on a cutting room floor but I guarantee I know at least 5 people (Midwest Chick, Mr. B, and me and the Dragons) who will be glued to the set that night like we usually are when NCIS is on.

Since I had a novelist/reader ask a question about small of the back holsters today so I thought this would be a good time to put up a review of my first holster made by Dragon Leatherworks.

There's good holsters and bad holsters out there. Most of us end up with the 'big box 'o holsters' that most shooters acquire over the years. Trying one, then another, searching for the perfect rig. There's soft ones, hard ones, some that only MacGyver could love and some that are to artistic design what plastic forks are to fine dining. Still most of them are durable if not functional.

Designs I'm NOT fond of are are the “small of the back” and ankle holsters. The “small of the back” holster has some problems. The draw is difficult and therefore dicey. There is a danger of sweeping the muzzle of the gun in directions you don’t intend to cover. This is an easy holster to disarm. Someone can come up behind you and grab the pistol, and from where it is on your back, it's going to be hard if you aren't trained in tactical to stop them from taking it. Lastly, should you fall on your back, the small of the back holster is a steel bar across your spine that could accentuate the impact of hitting the ground. If you're small boned to begin with this is NOT a good place to be as the injury could make you an easier target. The leg holster is only really valid as a backup option and it’s not really great as a backup. The ankle holster is great concealment, but unless you are a professional or one of the Amazing Walendas the draw is so problematic that it is almost useless.

There's another one recently out, designed by a woman for women, that carries just under the bustline. No, not the waist, but right underneath the bust. I admire the woman for the idea, but it seemed to me the perfect way to get a accidental fire into the femoral. I can't even see my FEET, how am I supposed to instantly get the gun out from underneath Sigfried and Roy, not to mention the risk of now having a clear field to draw up and away from the holster, let alone doing it in a stealthy manner. A rapist may not be looking at my hand down by my waist or hip but I guarantee he's going to notice my hand going for the twins. (As well, it it just being ripe for those punch lines. . . if the bad girl is wearing one, do you shout out "you're busted" when going in for the arrest). Sorry, but you get the picture. I'm all for free enterprise and the promotion of self defense, but that just seems like a bad idea.

No, I wanted a holster I carry on my hip. One that is well designed, functional, with quality workmanship and that new holster smell. So I got a Dragon Leatherworks holster.

Modeled here last January, is my holster, which D. made for me and asked if I'd post about it only if I liked it. I LOVED it..

Dennis had been working on a new pancake holster for the 1911 in honor of the 100th anniversary of John Moses Browning's most celebrated design, and I was anxious to see where that has taken him. His craftwork is all 100% made in the US, not machine stitched in Albonia and then sent to the U.S. for assembly so someone in marketing can attach a "Made in the USA label" on it. Even better, it's made out of America's greatest renewable resource, leather! (Bacon holsters might be nice, but they wouldn't last as long).

The first thing I noticed when I got mine was the smell. I'm a person who is very much in tune with the senses, sight, smell touch, feel. That's probably why my cooking is generally more gourmet than Tatar Tot. Why I love the feel of leather on my skin, and the smell of good quality leather and dye.

The holster was beautiful, polished black, smooth to the touch. The stitching, tight, defined, perfectly even (is luxurious too much of a girly word?). There was no roughness on the outside, no loose stitching. It was pristine. Dragon Leatherworks has come a long way from the Fugly, the dependable but ugly sidekick may a gun has welcomed. The fit of the Talon is sweet, and its beautiful enough to serve as an Open Carry accessory even with my best little black pants.


Holsters should be designed by need first, not looks, finding the solution, then crafting the holster to be as visually appealing as it can while still doing its job. There are a lot of holsters, especially those crafted to draw in the female customer, that are designed to appeal to the designer in you, NOT the shooter. I don't need embroidery, fancy lines or froo froo, I want a holster that allows for comfort in conceal AND quick draw. I want one with good looks AND functionality and the Dragon Leatherworks Talon fits this bill, worn forward of the strong side hip, proper placement on the hip being a secret of an efficient, fast draw .

Out of the box, I noticed that this is not some puny little holster, made out of thin material, machine stitched and easily collapsible. The holster was form fitted to a Colt M 1911 A1 5" semi-auto pistol, but grabbed on tightly to the Kimber 1911 Tactical, the interior being a rough surface that gripped the firearm, but still gave it up when I needed it to (come to Mama), to draw rapidly if need be. It's not likely to be grabbed by someone else easily, or dislodged by accident. Even held upside down, with an unloaded weapon inside and trying for the tactical version of the Dance of the Seven Veils, the Kimber did not want to dislodge on its own. It liked its new home and wasn't going to come out until I wanted it to.


As a female, I like that it holds the weapon outside of my pants. I'm very particular about what gets in my pants, and a clunky, bulky holster riding up and chafing between fair skin and jeans that may already be a wee bit too tight is NOT something I want. I prefer the holster to be outside of the pants, under the belt, a perfect fit of form and design. Yet, like some other models of that type, the Dragon Leatherworks holster is not bulky at all, and on other than the most petite of women, would not be too big to carry a .45.

The rear panel is extended and flat and stays flat, hugging the body comfortably while the front panel gets molded to the gun. The pancake design hugs the curve of the hip while at the same time, the combat cut body shield facilitates grip and draw, quickly, if necessary. The holsters belt loops slots were a perfect fit for the belt loops on female jeans, fitting nicely in between the belt loops on a couple of different style of jeans I tried. The belt used was as much fashion as function, showing that even with a lightweight belt it held up well. I've found, as have other women shooters I queried when talking about this holster, that other manufactures holsters are sometimes too big and we find that our jeans will bunch up badly on the holster side. This didn't happen with the Talon even with a belt that wasn't really heavy. (Just a note: though the Belt slots are standard, optional Yaqui-style belt tunnels are available.)


For myself, I like the under the belt cut, where retention is good with no additional features I do not need that will add bulk. It pulls in tight, so it's very concealable as well under a lightweight jacket or an over shirt or blazer. I could wear it all day and not really think it's there. For all day comfort in the field, I do NOT want the Victoria's Secret Push Up Holster, that rides, chafes and gives me a rash.

Face it, I'm never going to be some tiny, little delicate thing,  I'm tall and curvy with a smaller waist than hips. I'm not one of those gals you have to shake the sheets out in the morning to find and I usually carry a very large caliber, even concealed. The Kimber 1911 is not some little girls gun, it's sturdy. But the weight is distributed quite evenly in the Talon, the design naturally fitting where my thumb would rest, making it easy to hold the platform steady while the gun was removed for a quick draw.

I admire any holster that cares more about a commitment to a product that will fit the average adult form than trendy style. Dragon Leatherworks is also now offering the Talon with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. If workmanship of the holster fails during normal use to the original owner, it gets repaired free of charge. If it can't be repaired, it will be replaced with a brand new one. I don't know too many companies that will that any more without you paying an additional fee.


Male or female shooter, a good holster makes the carry much more comfortable and with comfort comes safety. A good holster will allow you to carry a heavier gun with less discomfort and greater concealment.

In the first photos of just the gun and holster, the leather was still a little stiff and the gun didn't seat all the way in. That is not unusual for a brand new holster made of thick, quality materials. But you may wish to make sure you get a "break in" time before wearing it for self defense. Just as I wouldn't try to run from a pack of zombies wearing brand new leather boots, I'm going to wear a holster a little time before taking it out in the field, giving the leather time to release its newness and embrace its new friend.


After I'd had time to wear it a while, it really started to fit like a glove. With just a few hours to break it in from the "new holster stiffness", the trigger fit into the holster as it was designed, and with more wearings, over time, would be even better.. The price, less than $100, half the cost of some other accessories we carry.

A good holster is a blend of quality materials and commitment to quality, designed by a mind that knows form and purpose is more important than flash, something that will hold up in thick or thin. Like those we choose to keep company with, strong, yet flexible, designed of stern stuff, giving and dependable.

The perfect partnership of design and function. Now, I just need a niftier lunchbox.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Timely Quote From the Land of Lincoln


And in the end,
it's not the years in your life that count.

It's the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Girl's Day Out - an Indy Adventure

Today was "girls day out". The plans were special to me as this was the first day since my Christmas knee surgery that we'd all been able to do this. I just hadn't been up to the walking and standing. So I was really looking forward to it. I loaded up the truck, grabbed the cheap "point and shoot" camera, and arrived at the famous "Porch" at Roseholme Cottage to pick up Tam and Roberta X and off we went!

First, a stop at bd's Mongolian Grill, for the all you can conquer buffet. The place was busy, as always, and we were really happy to see a new mural on the wall. Can't go wrong with Marauding Hordes and a good train.


There's a big buffet of meats and seafood, pasta and vegetables (plus a salad bar). You load all your selections in a big bowl (there's a pile of rib-eye, there under the vegetables in mine) with an egg to be scrambled into it, stir fry style, with sauce and spices. I chose General Khan which is similar to General Tso to which I added fresh cayenne and red pepper.


Then you get to watch them cook it up, entertainment in its own right.

With it you get hot tortillas (to make a wrap) and/or white or brown rice. When your plate is done, they bring you a new bowl. If you go home hungry it's your own fault.


After lunch, a stop at Penzey's. The cocoa is going to be a homemade German Chocolate cake, the other things were picked up for blog friends who had expressed an interest in trying them. I was looking for some Thai seasoning, not sure what peppers are used for the heat. I'm one of those that asks for "Thai Hot". I think Roberta just orders with "Try and Kill Me". We love our spicy food. I didn't see anything and the clerk was busy so Tam was talking into the magic elf phone trying to look it up.

". . used on Thai food?".

Followed by

"Not "HOUSTON Thai Food", you idiot!"



Supplies in hand we were off voices raised - "TO THE MOUNTAIN OF GEESE!"

You thought I was kidding. There he was in the parking lot, peeved he had to get out of our way so I could park the bat truck.



Someone looking for a green wookie suit?


Russian ammo in a sardine can.


I got some ammo and my cohorts made several purchases. We did look at firearms, but in the pistol department I didn't see anything that made me want to spend that much money today. But I'm always pleased by how quickly I get service at the Indy Gandor Mountain gun counter, within a minute, a clerk behind the gun counter always asking " Can I help you?". Trust me, as a female who regularly looks at, and occasionally purchases, firearms, you don't always get that at a gun store. That's the reason I bought my hunting rifles here.

Loading up the car, I placed my one bag, of .45 acp in the back. It was fairly heavy. Then Roberta's bags, one of gear, the other containing a small box or two, lightweight, and rattling like small arms. .

B: ".22 ?"

They were Good and Plenty's.

The G and P box cracked open, were were off for a drive to World Market. As we headed up north we spotted a increasing number of businesses gone bust in this affluent part of town, wondering now many of the many, many McMansions around here were underwater. Still, there were a few new places open. Cafe du "what??" and of course, some old ones including our destination, the always fun, World Market. As we drive we're discussing everything from food to geology

B. - "Is it Stalactite or Stalagmite?"

Roberta: "Watch out for the Transvestites. One of those could come crashing down."

Tam - chuckle

Roberta: "Seriously, there's some neighborhoods you want to avoid."

Tam and I: major giggling

Roberta - "don't laugh, some of them are heavy!"

While we were there we picked up a number of wondrous items, teas and some teacups, a couple cool things for a friends birthday next week, some kitchen and cooking gadgets, English biscuits and even a little plastic sandwich container that would be perfect for Colt bits. Not to mention. . .

Bacon Hot Sauce sauce with a fire breathing pig? I so have to buy this.

I can use this new brew to put out the fire.


Soon it was time to head home. It felt good to get out again, even if we missed coffee at Café du Merde.

Cheers! - Brigid

HUNGER GAMES - Coming to a Freeway Rest Stop Near You


I guess there's times you're driving down the freeway, stomach empty and rumbling and you think. "Dang, I wish I could have a giant prepackaged lukewarm dill pickle right about now."

If you're traveling, travel safe, the weather is pretty ugly tonight up north of the Ohio River Valley. If you're home asleep, consider yourself fortunate to be in safe and warm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I don't care. .

if Top Gear is on.

I can't steal your socks if you don't take your shoes off.

Blog Meet!


It was perfect weather for a day outside, or time with friends. Broad Ripple was humming with activity. With the outdoor seating at the Brew Pub full not long after a couple of us arrived and our usual family area seating spot hosting a kids birthday party, the waitstaff took us to the ("are you all over 21?". . . uh, that would be a yes) pub area. It was darker, but very cool and comfortable with lots of seating.

Our beautiful and charming hostess Roberta X.was not feeling well so we missed her (get well soon Bobbie!) However Midwest Chick and Mr. B. ,who weren't able to join us, sent down a classic sci fi book for me to deliver to her, one involving ham radios and cool spaceship technology. Thanks you two, I'm sure she'll enjoy it.

Tam, our blogmeet co-hostess arrived and took her place at the head of the table, passing out copies of the latest Concealed Carry magazine (yay!!) with our favorite back page authoress in fine form in each issue.

From 12 o'clock - Tam being the one with the green St. Paddy's Day "Moustache on a stick!" (impress your friends, scare small animals, soak up beer!) that I found in my travels.

(You can click on the photo to enlarge.)
Moving clockwise, Tam, my empty seat, Nathan, The Jack , Kerry (official Lurker #1), Old Grouch, Engineering Johnson.

Arriving a few minutes later (still playing with brand new camera, our blog photographer got a really lousy photo of the full table), were Mad Saint Jack, and official Lurker No. 2, retired military aviator and shooter of all trades, Don.

There was cheese dip with fresh bread and giant pretzels, fish and chips and chicken planks the size of well, actual planks. Of course, being gun and knife show weekend, there were conversations on that. I didn't go, still enroute from the wedding in yesterday's post, but Mad St. Jack had some finds in personal protection and Tam scored with a purchase we'll let her tell you about. Mad St. Jack gave a few of us a copy of "God, the Gunman and Me" by Jeanne Assam, a true life American hero (a full book report will be coming up later this month). Conversations were varied as always, adventure -"340,000 volts under the Sea!", why XD's aren't taking over the gun range, Glock grips, food, physics (please read Newton's laws of motion before trying to straddle a beam, just a word of advice), engineering marvels and stupid human tricks.

Too soon it was time to head home as a couple of the folks had long drives ahead.

Till next time!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blog Meet Weekend

It was a busy weekend, gun and knife show for those in IND, attending a wedding with EJ  (and yes, I wore actually girly girl clothes) and plans to meet up with more friends later. For there's a blog meet planned. I'll have a report and a photo or two on that tomorrow, but til then I will leave you with a musical interlude - EJ plays Bach.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beasties in the Night - the Bond Snake Slayer


If you are confronted with a deadly beast just kill it. Don't appoint a National Beast Czar and wait to see what happens. - Brigid

I spend a fair amount of time outdoors (by choice, not restraining order as Red Green would say). Often I have a choice of where I am. Other times I do not. I've been on the side of a mountain or two, more jungle than I like, thank you, and the"Island of the Giant Spiders in My Hotel Bed". The humidity, bad water, and those bugs the size of Volkswagens are one thing. Throw in some bio hazards and locals from other lands that occassional want to shoot at you and the fun meter drops rapidly.

But that is not the reason I wear really stout, high boots. For it's the small snakes in the grass that will do you the most harm.

I remember one work site that was in the Everglades. To this day I remember the sound as we walked down into the sawgrass towards the scene, the slithering rustle of what sounded like hundreds of snakes getting the heck out of Dodge. I about wet myself when I reached into my lunch bag later and touched the rope of black licorice I had forgotten about.

The one I've run into most often is the coral snake of which, world wide, there are over 65 recognized species.They really are not all that large as snakes go, tending to be very secretive fossorial snakes, happy to stay buried in the ground or the leaf litter of a rain forest until ready to meet your foot or your ankle, which they do with fangs that are also considered small, fixed to the front jaw and normally only if they feel you are a real threat.

Due to the time it takes for the venom take effect, coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike larger and more obvious vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately.


Despite their relatively small size, and a reputation for not being historically aggressive, their venom is a powerful neurotoxin.

In the far corners of the world, death awaits, and it often waits in colorfully deceptive form.


Which is why I was happy to try out a firearm known as the Snake Slayer.

A colleague purchased one to add to his collection and let me go try it out. The Snake Slayer IV. It was small, but heavy with a crossbar safety, as well as being single-action. Assuming you have some basics in firearm handling, the risk of accidental discharge on this is reduced to about nil by the engineers that designed it.

What ammo to take? There's an assortment around here. The Snake Slayer has interchangeable barrels and can take the .410 shotgun shells, but for that day it was going to be chambered for .45 Long Colt. Good thing there's some of that around. The rest of the ammo was going to be left home.
The 45 Colt originally was a blackpowder cartridge, but modern loadings use smokeless powder. The original blackpowder loads called for 28 to 40 grains of blackpowder behind a 255-grain lead bullet. These loads developed muzzle velocities of up to 1000 feet per second (1).

Because of this power and its excellent accuracy the .45 Colt was the most-used cartridge of its time, succeeding the .44 WCF (also known as the .44-40 Winchester). It was said that the cartridge was powerful enough to knock a man to the ground in a single shot and net lore has it that the US Army apparently asked Colt to go back to the drawing board and produce a less-powerful version of the cartridge for Army use as there were complaints from professional soldiers about it's "hard hitting" even firing it out of 7-1/2" barrels from a full-sized Colt Single Action Army revolver.

But even with today's less powerful modern factory loads, this little Snake Slayer had almost no barrel at all (3 1/2 inches) and none of the mass of the Colt to absorb the recoil. Weak wrists need not apply. Bang OW! Bang OW!

There was a young man next to me at the range who was giving the gun and me, the eye. I'm not surprised he looked over, the noise got his attention. He had some .45 acp for something in his bag and was shooting a Glock 9 mm. He looked at the Bond and said "oh it's so tiny!? (snort). "Does that hurt your widdle hand" (snort).

Rather than get defensive for his attitude, I batted my big green eyes, smiled sweetly and said "do you want to try it?" giving it to him, safety on, and a couple rounds chambered.

"Sure!"
He was so eager to show me how the big boys shoot he didn't notice how big the bore of the barrels were.Bang OW! Son of a Bitch!! Bang OW!

Once the little bit of smoke cleared, he grinned at me and said "Awesome! ! Where'd you get that?"

I know. I'm bad.

I checked for accuracy. Nothing close to a bullseye but I didn't expect that with a derringer. I do not know if this unique to just this model but the trigger actually pulls back and down. When I pulled it straight back the trigger pull was a lot more, around 10 pounds I'd guess. But if I pulled down and back in the same motion the trigger pull dropped to what felt like less than half that. With the short barrel, that helped from keeping the barrel from being pulled down and lowering the shot. Good to know. In any case, the accuracy was decent. In up front self defense, it would definitely hurt someone. Just the psychological effect of the noise and the smoke would be such that if you discharged it on some dark street, any felon in the area would be half way to the nearest bus station before you fired again. That's if he wasn't your target and was still walking after the wound cavity a short distance .45 LC is going to give out of that barrel.

It's not a gun for the very first time shooter or the weak of hand. Let's face it, this baby lets you know you've fired it. But you are using it for up close self defense, not an afternoon of plinking. It was pretty heavy for its small size, bulky but not too much, and they have some good holsters available for it on their website. It is built by Bond Arms, a well known, dependable and trusted American company, something I like to see. The quality and care that goes into the manufacture of this firearm definitely shows. In all, I was really glad I got a chance to try it out. It was a nifty little gun, discrete with attitude, likely able to take care of any "beasts in the night" you might meet quick, close up and personal.

(1) John Taffin (July 2001). "The Custom Loading .45 Colt". Guns Magazine.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Supper Chop Chop!

Only those of you who remember Bonanza will likely get the reference, but as a little kid watching new and old Westerns, I remember Hop Sing and his "chop chop" as he prepared the fixings for the residents of the Ponderosa. (He always seemed to have a big cleaver in his hand, probably why no one ever complained about the cooking).

Since everyone's been calling me "Hop Sing" around the kitchen since the knee injury and surgery, I added an Eastern touch to the Sunday Range Supper with a friend. For today, a blend of Western and Eastern cuisine. Spicy roasted potato wedges topped with traditional stuffed baked potato fixings, including white and smoked cheddar and BACON, with a sour cream based sauce flavored with Thai Chili sauce and Lime. (click to enlarge the photos). Add to that some steak with garlic/parsley butter and everyone was happy.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

Field Dressing

If you open my closet, there are two sections. The "Joe Friday" section with dark blue suits and white shirts, black pants and turtlenecks. The other section, clothes in my favorite color, camoflauge. Plus in the hall closet there are tactical vests and gear to cover up the bright red hair so I don't give away position. And one little black dress.

I tend to shop quickly, seeing something that fits and is on sale and buying six of them. That ought to keep me out of a clothing store for a year, right?

But I have an invite to an afternoon Spring celebration of sorts in a few weeks and nothing I have is appropriate to be on someone's arm with, unless we are heavily armed. So I had to put on my big girl pants and go to a woman's clothing store, where I'm about as comfortable as a chicken at a wolverine convention.

But I came away with actual girl clothes
(don't faint)

Including, as close as I could get to tactical undergarments, the 007 knickers.


I think I'm prepared, though I'm not sure where THIS is going to go.


And please don't tell my knee about the shoes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Posts from the Road - Falling Up

The bat phone went off this week, and I will be busy for a bit, but there will be saved posts to come up. Til later, enjoy each and every moment that you have with those you love.
As kids it seems we tumbled to the ground on a regular basis, the knees on our jeans mended with these iron on patches that never quite matched the denim. Such repairs weren't a sign that our parents were thrifty and wouldn't buy us new pants, it was an unspoken badge of courage that we could wear out our pants faster than our Mom could take us to the store. Score one for the team!

We grow up and seem determined never to fall again. But we do

I was walking along, heading back to the truck from a farm field where we'd all been scouting out a spot to put up a blind for bow season. We were moving pretty quickly and I was rambling on about something or other and the last thing I remember seeing was a crack of yellow sky and I went down. I hit the ground, inhaling the scent of Tinks and dirt, the sky falling away."Are you OK?" from Og, leaning over me in concern. I'd managed to catch my foot on a piece of corn infrastructure and went down, face first, not even time to put my arms out. Think farmland mammogram.


"No problem", I said as I got back up, not wanting to let on that it was all I could do not to cry. I laughed and brushed the dirt off my nose and continued on as if I'd meant to do that.

What else do you do? Falling is never easy. Sometimes you have to practice.Like learning to ride a bike.The wobbly start on training wheels, then finally free form freedom, and the inevitable resultant crash.

When I was in my 20's falling got a little more serious. I liked to head up tall mountains on my time off. Understand now, I played no part in any overly difficult assents, anything requiring any serious mountaineering skill. Technical hikes at best. I did my excursions with a ragtag bunch of hikers and outdoors people rounded up from the local airport where I flight instructed. We were young, and we were fearless still, for some reason drawn to each other and drawn upward. The treks were amateur, but we looked on them as daringly anarchistic ripostes to the militaristic expeditions we'd all read about. Fueled with youth and trusting the God that hopefully looks after children and idiots, we simply roped ourselves together and headed uphill.

In some sense, all things wish to ascend, evolution to a higher form, people of God, towards a higher spirit. Ancient civilizations honored the high places because they sensed they were the homes of the Gods. For us, it was just an awareness of a promise, of something we couldn't explain, a chance if just for a few hours to be above all the decisions we were facing, poised on the edge of adulthood. So we hiked and if we found a steep face of rock in our way to the next trail, we climbed, and in rising up to the home of the ancient spirits, there was more than a metaphor; there was a means of discovery.

It was on of these climbs that we met an older gentlemen, an ordained minister, one who shared his faith more by deed than by the spoken word and who joined us for a day or two. Frank believed that all things came from grace. But grace comes from hard work as well as trust, and trust is learned on the mountains. One morning at 8,000 feet on the side of Mt. Rainier he produced a Bible and a small flask of whiskey. Cutting off a chuck of week old bread with a vintage hunting knife he conducted the most moving Mass I ever expect to attend. He left behind the knife and a memory of what articulate grace in the face of stone hard reality really means, an important picture for a group of young adults.


We all went our separate ways after that trip, though we still talked regularly. But as we got older it seemed we bragged more of successes and shared less the stories of failed adventure. Was it because we were just loath to admit it, or was it we were trying less, settling down into quiet suburban lives of mowing the lawn every week and doing what made others happy, not what made us happy. If we mentioned climbing or going up and hanging upsidedown in an airplane, G forces be damned, the spouses would say, no, that's dangerous, stay home and cut the lawn. So we did, we mowed, we carpooled and we gave up on those days when the distance between security and death was only a measure of feet.

I was no different, ending up on a small farm, married. I'd watch the cattle be born, and then we'd feed them, watching them live their lives in tame oppression, never roaming far. Sometimes after a strong storm, a whole section of fence would go down. but the cattle would stay in, content to be where it was familiar and food was plentiful. We'd watch them grow fatter and softer and tamer until one day it came time to cull. And we'd judge and point and with a dispassionate nod of the head, some of them would head off in the truck, never to return.


There are many good things about that life. There was steadiness to it, living each day on an even flat plane of daily chores. But there was something to be said for those repeated motions that reminded us of what our fathers toiled for. Nature was the biggest unknown. There were years we cut hay between squalls.There were floods and drought, illness and blood. There were days of cold desolation, miles from the nearest convenience, and other days where Cardinals flew around me, hovering in the air about my shoulders like a colorful sweater as I worked in the garden

But my life now has more balance. I've shed the cattle but not the love of the farm or the land, for a subdivision life lost it's appeal pretty quickly. I still occasionally get to rappel in somewhere where I can bring home scrapes that would make the neighbor kids proud. I have fields when I need them, and friends who are never hesitant to pick up a firearm and head out with me for the adventure that will always live in us.


Sometimes you will fall. But don't let it stop you. Dust yourself off and climb up that mountain and wake to a dawn scented with promise, the stars immortal in the sky. What is ahead is unknown, you can treat it with fear, dreading that feeling as the ground falls away, the tiny rocks clammering down like the first throw of dirt on a pine box. Or you can treat it as perceived feast, like a wafer on the tongue. A leap of faith for all you believe in, a willful jump into a place free of time and regret, where all the names and the faces of those you love surround you, as below you, the wild things that call to you, run on ahead of soundless guns.


It's your choice. Stay in the safety of the jeep or get out and wrestle the giant Anaconda. There are no guarantees. Just as in climbing, the negligible distance between your hand and the wall may be inches. Those are inches that seem like miles as your eyes look at the chasm and sense the impending slide down into despair or death if you give up. But there are other sorts of distances, other sorts of helplessness that lead to worse things than death.


I'm not sure why I thought of all of these things. Perhaps its the work of the last couple of days. Perhaps it was the thought of the placid cattle wandering off to their own doom, as I lined myself up with other bovine to board a plane a couple days ago. I don't always know when I will return, and always, if I will return. I have many answers about how life ends, but my own will be a mystery. When I last view that yellow sliver of sky, I expect it to be a complete surprise.

In the meantime, I'll listen and I learn, following the compass of the heart's hard turning, and the brain's slow learning, what paths to take and why. And I'll watch out for that ninja corn.