Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn Is Here

The weeds are turning. Lots of salsola varieties, or tumbleweeds as they are usually known. I've always been partial to weeds, especially as they assume their winter colorations. For a little while this particular variety will assume a deep red with purple tinges. There are about a hundred varieties of tumbleweeds, and in the winter the winds will stack them up along certain fences (usually the north-south running ones, depending on terrain) so thickly that you cannot see the fence itself. It comes as a surprise to most folks that this symbol of the American west is actually an intruder from the Ukraine. Seems like nobody is actually from where they currently are. Which also includes the Native Americans, but that would be another topic.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Political Work Ethic

"Is my understanding equal to this or no? If it is, then I use it for the work, as an instrument put in my hands by the universal nature. If it is not, either I hand over the task to a more skilled labourer,— save only when some further consideration of duty bids me persevere,— or do it as best I may, calling in the aid of one able, with the help of my reason, to effect what is at this juncture opportune and beneficial to the community. For all that I do, whether through my own unaided efforts or with the assistance of another, must tend to this one goal,— the public good and harmony."

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VII, 5. (Jackson translation)

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was Emperor of Rome, 161-180AD.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Places in the Heart

We all have places on this beautiful planet that stir us in powerful, primal ways. We feel a visceral connection with them that may be esthetic, or it may be something more, something deep inside our very core. I have a few of these special places in my life.

The picture above is one of those ur-places for me. It was taken from the top of a tiny road that leads back over the mountain pass to my "home village" in Ireland. Out there, across Dingle Bay, lies the highest mountain in Ireland, and to my left, out of the frame, is the second highest— the mountain to whose peak St. Brendan is said to have gone to meditate before he set out for the Western Lands in his tiny boat, waiting for him in a little harbor at the foot of the mountain.

For twenty years this has been the central venue for my Irish cultural trips, and it's a sight I have seen many times. Often it is a scene that contains a little sadness, for I frequently see it as I make my way east, at dawn, on the way to catch a plane that will return me to America. For the time being, anyway. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Low-light stuff

One of the advantages of having your own ranges out your front (and back) doors, and no neighbors, is that you can shoot whenever you want.

I don't know what the stats are, but I would bet that there are about four or five to one odds that a self-defense incident involving firearms will occur in poor light. So about every month I go out around dusk and burn a few. I have 2" and 3" steel swingers and a 12" gong that I work with from 7 to 50 yards. My goal with the freshly painted gong is to put about 100 rounds on it and have them centered for the most part in a 5-6" dark grey cluster for all ranges.

Tonight I worked 'til the muzzle flash was distinctly distracting (a good thing) and I could not see the sights any longer (not so good). But it was a good session and I recommend that sort of thing to anyone who carries a handgun, even occasionally, for defensive purposes. Shooting in well-lit circumstances all the time is dangerously misleading. Shoot in bad light regularly, if you can.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Or at least "been gone" for a couple of days. Two things... 

One, I'm trying to revive a couple of websites that have been moribund for quite a while. That means finding software, learning it, and starting the whole re-design process. I'm not a natural born computer-geek so this is a stretch for me. I'll hack my way through it, but it takes time and attention.

Two, every six weeks or so, whether I want to or not, I have to slog out to alleged 'civilization' to recharge the pantry at a decent grocery store, gather some other supplies, enjoy a little hooman-bean type communication (usually considerably overrated but pleasant nevertheless), eat a store-boughten meal, and otherwise splurge on the dubious pleasures of off-ranch offerings. The nearest towns with such blandishments are due east and due west, each about 120 miles one-way. Whichever direction I choose, it's an all day expedition.

But I had a good time, of which the best part is always coming back to the home place to happy dawgz and a resumption of my  solitary existence.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Star PD

The Star PD was among the first of the small, lightweight .45s to enter the market. It's a sleek, well-made little pistol that was very popular with LEOs in the late 70s and early 80s as a back-up, and in a few cases that I know about as a main weapon. It was only made from 1975 to 1983, when Star fazed it out in favor of the Firestar. Big mistake, as the Firestar was a heavy pistol that in no way appealed to those who had appreciated the PD.

My PD is accurate, reliably feeds just about anything, and is pleasant to carry, but I never could become really fond of the grip frame. It's OK, but it never felt "right" to me like a 1911 or a Browning. It felt a little cramped and my hand never was able to settle in on it like it belonged there. Still, it's a nice little pistol that weighs only 30 ounces loaded. The adjustable sights were a welcome touch.

Mine is definitely minty as it never got used all that much. Since replacement parts can be iffy at best I have decided to relegate it to the safe until it finds a new home, which I am not really anxious to look for.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ain't he cute, that Joe dude?

I saw in a recent news item that Joe Blow was trying to cement his rep as a regular guy by feigning good ol'boy anger about the thought of losing his favorite clay-bird guns.

One of rural Democrats’ biggest fears about Obama? That he’ll come after the Second Amendment. Not so, said Biden — and he’d better not try.

“I guarantee you, Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey,” Biden said angrily. “They’re going to start peddling that to you.”

“I got two, if he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem.”

Biden has said he doesn’t hunt, but shoots skeet with his two firearms. “I like that little over and under, you know? I’m not bad with it,” he said today.

Gracious me. He even used "ain't"! Now ain't that quaint? Reminds me of Hillary downing shooters with the underclass in some grubby bar she probably couldn't wash off her hands quickly enough after leaving. Does this sort of personal abasement really fool anyone except the perpetrators thereof?

I call this sort of tactic "shifting the center of discourse" and in this case it involves a prolonged and carefully modulated process of turning the 2A into a document that deals with hunting and skeet shooting. It's pretty slick really. Without his Brown Shirts backing him up Adolf might have used much the same ploy.

Conveniently unmentioned is the unmistakable historical fact that the Founding Fathers created the 2A and gave it such prominence in order to protect the Republic from opportunistic tyrants. They didn't even exempt themselves from those that needed watching. Where does that leave our good ol' boy Joe?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A wee note about Will

A pet peeve of mine— minor but annoying— is people who say things like "Shakespeare said, 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be...'" Blah-blah-blah. Shakespeare did not say that: He had Polonius say it, among other things, in order to make Polonius out to be a sententious bore. He had a lot of other characters say a lot of other things, too. Some he may have agreed with, and some clearly not. Will was a popular dramatist. He wrote plays that people would pay to watch, he didn't write philosophy or even high-minded literature. That the product of his day-job has become that, after the fact, is beside the point. He wrote quickly and he wrote for money. Today he'd probably be writing for HBO or Dreamworks. So remember, Shakespeare didn't say it: he had Tony Soprano say it.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled mumbling about shootin' arns, dogs, gardens, big snakes, and miscellaneous high plains stuff.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The End of the Garden

Not quite yet, but very soon. We are now, on the 20th, a little overdue for a killing frost. So this afternoon, with heavy heart, I went out and picked what might be the last of summer's bounty. Squash, tomatoes, and peppers are still producing, but the end is nigh. Nothing quite punctuates the end of summer like that first freeze and the death of the garden.

Long ago Whittier wrote—

The Night is mother of the Day,
The Winter of the Spring,
And ever upon old Decay
The greenest mosses cling.

We can only hope, as we always do from year to year.

The S&W Mountain Gun

When Smith brought out their first "Mountain Gun" in 1989 I figured I needed one pretty bad. It looked to me like a near-perfect woods gun and revolver-of-all-work.

When it arrived its K/L roundbutt gripframe wore a pair of small Pachmayr Compaq rubber grips that seemed out of place, but had been mounted for their recoil absorptive ability. I replaced them pretty soon. Notice that the grips it now wears don't fit it perfectly. They are off an L-frame snubbie. But they'll do until I get something a little more elegant for it.

Basically this revolver is an N-frame .44 Special with a heavily chamfered .44 Magnum cylinder. It weighs 39 ounces dry and 44 loaded with six 240-grain Keith SWCs in .44 Special cases. An N-frame by any other name is still not a lightweight. My 624 .44 Special with 6-1/2" barrel weighs 46 ounces with the same loads. You could argue that for the extra two ounces it would be worth it to tote the 624 for its 2-1/2 extra inches of velocity, but there is always the greater convenience of carrying a 4" and also the matter of the availability of full-house .44 Magnum loads when needed.

Truth to tell, I rarely shoot Magnums out of it. There are no grizzlies hereabouts and well-crafted .44 Specials do everything I need from this gun. I particularly like 7.5 grains of Unique with a 240-grain bullet. This load is plenty powerful, reasonably pleasant to shoot, and about as accurate a load as can be had out of this revolver.

There isn't any reason why this pistol couldn't or shouldn't be used as a carry piece for self-defense. On the negative side, of course, are it's weight and difficulty of concealment, and possibly the follow-up shot complications if using full-bore ammunition. On the positive side, particularly for open-carry gun-belt wear, it's definitely a can-do piece in the spirit of those who have carried Big Revolvers for their health for many, many years of our country's history. The clincher is probably that it won't really do more in this role than a good lightweight 1911, and maybe a good bit less in terms of the overall picture.

But there is no denying that it is a fine revolver, and surely one of the finest pieces that an outdoorsman could carry. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Newcomer?

Probably not. I'm sure he's been here all along. 

This morning I saw a shucked snake-skin sticking out of a hole that leads into the foundation of the old bunkhouse right behind my house. About two feet of it was visible. I pulled as carefully as I could to extract the whole skin from the hole but lost some of it. What I was able to reclaim measured 69". I posted a couple of weeks ago about Emma's assassination of another good-sized bull snake ("A Bad Day for Mr. Snake"). I just hope she leaves this one alone and lets him do his job.

That's a 16" barrel on that Winchester.

Come quick! There's a BIRD!

Emma has been spending a lot of time patrolling the garden fence lately. The other day she came and got me and made it clear I was to follow her. I did. She took me to the garden fence and mounted a nice point. Silly dog! Well, I was the silly one. Some little ground-nesting bird, as yet unidentified, had moved into the squash patch and Emma wanted me to know about it. I didn't believe her point at first, but I finally went in through the gate and by golly if I didn't flush it. Emma was delighted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

High Plains Feng Shui

It's a good thing I live alone. What woman would be able to stand my idea of room decor? It starts just behind the front door, what with the gun belts, targets, rifles, etc. I just counted up and in the living room alone there are seven rifles leaning against the wall in various spots. Also one heavy-barreled varmint rifle on a bipod sitting in front of the hutch. The glass-front bookcase has a dozen or so handguns that I am currently playing with, along with several dozen AR, 1911, CZ, and Walther mags, plus piles of speedloaders and lots of loose cartridges. This doesn't even count the targets, ear-muffs, wind-meters, rangefinders, field glasses, varmint calls, holsters, and bricks of .22 rimfire ammo. 

One thing living alone prevents: foolish utterances such as "When are you gonna move all that... junk?"

.45 ACP Shot Cartridges

Bird hunting season is coming up. I was curious to see how those CCI shot cartridges would work in .45, since Miss Emma thinks snakes are for biting in half and I'm not sure she would make distinctions between rattlers and harmless ones. I will be toting a shotgun, of course, but sometimes a 12-gauge can be a little much in a close-in situation. Anyway, I was curious and that's enough justification whether I actually use them or not.

I included a 10-pack in one of my recent orders from Midway. $14 for 10 rounds. The cartridges are Berdan-primed aluminum and hold 1/3 ounce (146 grains) of #9 shot. About 210 pellets, according to the box. They looked a little long to me once in a magazine, but they fed just fine.

I fired three rounds ($4.20 worth!) at 3 and 5 yards. The 3-yard patterns seemed to drift left a bit and weren't all that consistent. One measured about 6" and the other 8". The 5-yard pattern measured about 10".

The ammunition fed and ejected from my Kimber without any failures— keeping in mind that only three rounds were fired. I'm not sure how useful these will actually be, but I will be hunting in some rattler areas and it might be comforting to have a couple of them first-up in the Kimber. I'm mostly a beat-'em-with-a-stick type, but sometimes there just isn't a stick handy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Real 1911

This one left the Colt plant in October of 1917 after being inspected by Col. Gilbert H. Stewart. Whether or not it made it over to France I cannot say. Like most original 1911s that stayed in military service, it's not still completely as it left the factory. The grips and the arched housing are two of the changes made sometime during its life with the U. S. Army. Unusually, it appears to have never had an arsenal rebuild as most 1911s did. I base this on the fact that there are no arsenal rebuild marks anywhere on the gun and that the pistol has not been parkerized as almost all rebuilds were.

In the mid-20's when Colt began the A1 changeover there were quite a few exterior cosmetic changes but virtually no internal modifications as far as I can tell. The quick-clue that this is a 1911 and not a 1911A1 is the absence of finger-cuts in the frame behind the trigger. There's no mistaking the fact that this is an old war horse. 

I was given this pistol by a mentor. I mentioned to him once that I "needed" a .45 and he reached into his desk drawer, rummaged around under some papers and stale cigars, and came up with this pistol. He tossed it onto his desk and said "Like this?" Yes, exactly like that. How much did he want for it? "Take it," he said. "I got others." Having asked for it I could hardly now take it as an outright gift. I finally convinced him that honor demanded he accept some kind of payment. He wouldn't take more than $20. As a pauperish college student it seemed a princely sum at that time but one that I was happy to part with. This was my first big-bore autoloader and it came complete with one magazine and seven rounds of 1942 steel-case hardball.

Last fired about twenty-five years ago, it lives in my safe now. I take her out now and then and wish she could tell me where she has been and what she has seen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

And a few more...

With some late calves. I'm sandwiched on the west and the north by about 90,000 acres that supports a bison herd of 5000 animals. Some of the county roads run straight across this spread and it is common to see "road-blocks" made up of buffalo. The bulls can easily go to 2000 pounds. They are in no way domesticated. 

Them's buffler!

Yes, they are. And they have a friend. On my way back from the GY ranch the other day I came upon these guys. To the left of this picture there was a group of about thirty buffs with half a dozen pronghorns grazing among them. But by the time I stopped and unlimbered the camera the antelope had moseyed over the hill, leaving a single sentinel standing broadside to me. By the time I made the shot he had turned and started away. He's that little y-shaped blip just to the left of center frame.

I didn't realize he'd be so tiny in the final picture. Clicking on the picture will bring up the larger version which makes it easy to see his smiling face.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A High Plains Ramble

Over to some neighbors again, on County Road 205, delivering veggies from the garden and helping out with some chores that needed an extra pair of hands. This is one of my favorite treks. It's eleven miles to their place and I never fail to see something interesting. Right at this spot last fall, on my way home after a fine meal, a small mob of antelope suddenly came rushing out from behind a hill to my left. I had my lights on so they saw me just in time to swerve off with some going in front of my outfit and some behind. They were led by a nice medium-sized buck. I sure am glad they didn't come inside with me. There's always something to see on this little trip.

The Aftermath

The day after the attacks in America, my friend, who had returned from Dublin, told me that everyone wanted to do something for us and that they were going to hold a Mass of Consolation for us that Friday the 14th. My small group and I had spent most of the day before in front of the television, trying to get our minds around what had happened. We had gone out and visited a couple of archeological sites, but our hearts weren't in it. We felt sadness, a sense of dislocation, and a growing sense of deep anger. 

On that Friday morning we walked over to the little Church of St. Gobhnait, the patron saint of the village. We were early and the church was about half full. The children of the little two-room school house had taken charge of the decorating. Hanging off the front of the altar were two hand-made paper flags, on the left was the Stars and Stripes and on the right the Irish tri-color. Later I was told that although they had looked everywhere they could not find an American flag and so had made one out of paper. But I know they had plenty of tri-colors of all sizes. So as not to make the American flag look second-rate they had chosen to make their own flag out of paper as well, so the two flags would match. This was never mentioned, but I was deeply touched by their sensitivity.

The service, conducted by the parish priest, was in Irish. This is a Gaeltaecht church and it is required that services be conducted in Irish. There was singing by the children from the school. There was music from a local fiddle and a flute. There were tears. It was a very powerful experience, and I think it was exactly right for us at that time. I was asked to say something at the end of the service. I am not fluent in Irish, but I had just enough to thank them for their kindness and tell them how much it meant to us that they had come together in this way for us, and for our country.

After the service, a steady stream of people came up to us and told us how sorry they were. I remember a young couple, strangers, had come to the service. They approached me and said, almost apologetically, "We are English, but we just wanted you to know how much we regret what has happened and how deeply sorry we are." 

As long as I live I will never forget that service or the gentle kindness of the people of the village. As confused as we Americans were, and yes, even as angry, they had come forward and done a sweet, wonderful thing.

They had seemed to really regret the lack of an American flag. When I got home I called my congressman and arranged to have two flags flown over the capitol on the next St. Patrick's day. On my next visit I brought them the flag, along with a certificate telling that it had been flown for the people of the village on 17 March 2002, in appreciation for their kindness on 14 September. I kept the second flag for myself. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Perfect Rainbow

Yesterday was overcast and rainy, all day. An inside day. But as the sun dropped below the cloud cover the late afternoon brightened with rosy-gold autumn light and a perfect ground-to-ground rainbow appeared on the eastern horizon. I hurried inside for a camera before the fairies reclaimed it.

As a child I had always heard that there was a pot of leprechaun gold at the end of the rainbow. I was never very impressed, since it seemed that if that were really true it would be easy to claim the prize. I had not seen a rainbow that touched the ground on both sides until I was in Ireland. Suddenly the story made sense to me: You had to choose which end of the rainbow you went to, and if you chose wrong— no gold. Until yesterday I can't remember seeing a rainbow in the states that touched down on both sides.

The lens wasn't wide enough to get both "feet" so I had to do a stitch-job on two frames. Thus the weird electric wires. They don't really make 'em like that out here, but in a windstorm they can look pretty much like that sometimes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Just as for the assassination of JFK, we all remember exactly where we were.

I was asleep in my bedroom in Ireland, after an early run to the airport in Shannon to pick up someone joining one of my groups. A friend, who was on his way to Dublin, called me on my mobile told me to look at CNN, that a plane had had crashed into the WTT. I thought "small plane, accident," and went back to sleep. He called again. This time he said "Your country is under attack!" I went down and turned on the TV. I felt so helpless, so out of place, and wanted to return home immediately.

But the Irish people were wonderful. Everywhere, even on the wee roads of our neighborhood there, they would stop me and hug me tearfully wanting to know what they could do for me. I was deeply touched. But not as overwhelmingly touched as I was that Friday when a Mass of Consolation was held for us in the village church. With homemade American flags, courtesy of the school children, a chorus of school kids, and a piper, a fiddler, and some other musicians. The church was full of crying people. The service was in Irish, as is mandated for that church, and to this day I am most thankful that I had enough Irish to speak to them and thank them in their own language.

Like so many other Americans, it is a week that will live forever in my memory.

On the 14th, its anniversary, I will post about the Mass.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Galco Matrix Holster

I confess: I'm a scabbard nut. Always have been. The art and science of toting a handgun has long fascinated me and I have studied it for quite a few years. One of the side effects of such a "study" is that the holster accumulection just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Recently I added one of Galco's thermoplastic rigs to the museum. It's their M7X "Matrix." I bought the one for the the 1911 and clones.

The label on the packaging says it is for all barrel lengths of AMT, Colt, Kimber, Para, S&W, Springfield, and EMP 1911s, and even lists the Star PD. (While the PD does in fact fit in the holster, I wouldn't really call it secure. If I were Galco I might consider removing the PD from the list.)

I should admit that I do not like plastic containers for fine pistols. That said, I will admit that I have a few of them. Curiosity perhaps, or maybe a latent and tardy desire to get with the program. You tote handguns in leather. Nevertheless, I strive always to learn and adapt.

This holster affixes to the belt with a double strap-and-snap system, the first such holster I have owned. I don't like a holster to wobble around the belt, so I was sure this system would not be very secure. I was dead wrong. In Galco's iteration of the design it is even more solid on the belt than a tight loop would be. It does NOT move or shift one iota. (I'm wearing it on a very heavy-duty Mernickle 1-1/2" belt.)

Which is a good thing, because this is one tight bad-boy scabbard. The first time I tried to remove my Kimber CDP Pro from the Matrix made me suspect Super-Glue as the holding agent. It takes a mighty, ripping tug to free gun from holster. It snaps into the holster most reassuringly. It is then THERE for the foreseeable future. Wyatt would have been a dead man. Galco recommends some neutral shoe polish on the interior surfaces. I tried it. It helped a little.

I emailed Galco and there ensued an exchange with a very nice and helpful fellow who took quite a bit of time with me. He suggested shoe polish and I said I had done that. He suggested silicon, which I hadn't done since I have none at hand. It's now on the WalMart list for my next foray into so-called civilization. He also said that leaving a gun in the holster will not cause it to shape itelf. Repetitive drawing and re-holstering is the recommendation. He ended up by saying that maybe the holster "wasn't for me." Fair enough. I even have an El Paso Saddlery rig that "isn't for me" along with several other respectable makes.

But I'm stubborn. I really like the way this holster clings to the belt like an over-achieving limpit, and I like its clean, minimalist lines, and the way it holds the pistol high and tight just like I prefer a 1911 to ride. I'm now working on doing some subtle reshaping of interior surfaces with some emery paper. If I ruin the holster I will chalk it up to experience and stupidity and throw it in the mistake bin where it will no doubt quickly make friends with some of its betters.

By the way, it absolutely loves my Gold Cup. So much so that it refuses to give it back. Seriously, it is not a holster for the Gold Cup . (My Galco man said, "Well, the Gold Cup isn't a 1911." OK. Next topic.) The Matrix deals with my WWI 1911 about the same as the Kimber. Same for Springer. I've already mentioned that the PD is a bit loose for my taste.

Some good points of the Matrix: It would be my holster of choice if I were a deep sea fisherman or a rodeo rider. Seriously, for a horseman it would be a good choice. Or a back-country ATVer. Likewise for someone who spends a lot of time around the water and fears losing a pistol. Also, a gun-snatch from this rig is highly unlikely. An off-angle grab just isn't going anywhere except wedgieville for the wearer.

I'm going to stick with this holster for a while longer. (I wear it as I write.) Don't get me wrong: the pistol can be drawn from the rig. It just takes a mighty yank worthy of Paul Bunyan. I tell myself it's getting a bit better. Either that or I'm getting stronger. Either way I'm ahead of the game.

Addendum: Today (9/11) I tried some Meguiar's premium auto paste wax. Much better. Then, later, I tried some silicon spray. Brilliant! The holster now works like I thought it should in the first place. I'll keep working with it. Now I'm curious about how often I will have to 'recharge' it with the spray can.

Emma thinks

I don't know about what exactly, but she's definitely having a think.

On these cool days she will sit like that on the front porch for an hour or more. Just looking out over the prairie and glancing back and forth across our yard, her brush piles, the cottonwoods. After a while she'll get up and either take a walk into her domain or come to the door and bark for me to come and let her in.

I'm inclined to think that dogs do indeed have a rudimentary esthetic sense. Last summer I lost my Rottweiler, Murphy, to bone cancer. He was probably the most esthetically inclined four-legged I have ever known. He had a pad on the front porch and at dusk he would want to go out and lie on the pad and watch the sunset. I would go out and sit on the steps and he would put his big head on my leg and we would watch it together. When we would travel or go camping he also demonstrated a liking for streams. He could lie along a swiftly moving stream, watching or peacefully snoozing, for so long that I would have to find him and make sure he was all right. The pleasure he took in these times was plain to me. I miss him very much.

So I have no doubt that Emma is also having a think. Perhaps not as deep as Pascal's nor as incisive as Voltaire's. Nevertheless, I respect her pensive times and try not to intrude too much.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Feel my pain!

Where is Bill Clinton when you really need him?

Imagine my ordeal: every day forced to eat a plate (usually two plates) of vine-ripened garden tomatoes. Sweet and juicy, at the very peak of their readiness. O, woe! How long must I endure this?

(These small ones have been copiously drizzled with balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese, and then attacked with cracked pepper. Just awful.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Winchester 1892 Carbine

A long, long time ago I owned a Winchester 1895 carbine in .30-'06. I hated it. It was probably the hardest kicking rifle I have ever owned. No fun at all to shoot. I took it to a gun show to see what I could find. What I found was a beautiful Model 1892 saddle-ring carbine in .44-40. Bingo. It was love at first sight. Good finish, lovely wood, mint bore, old '73 ladder sight.

Let the haggling begin! Fortunately the guy was as drooly-mouthed for my '95 as I was for his '92. I was 16 and I'm sure he felt victory in his grasp. Neither one of us was letting on about our lust for what the other had. I was young, but not a novice. It took several refusals (ME: "Nah, not today," followed by a walk-away with '95 enticingly in hand HIM: "You don't wanna go home today without this sweet little carbine, young feller!") but we finally edged closer to a deal. I got the '92 with 200 rounds, 500 bullets, a set of dies, half a can of Unique, and a mold plus $20. He was happy, I was happy. In those days vintage Winchesters were not the Gems of the Orient they are now. I had paid $65 for the '95 and had seen plenty of '92s in the same price range, but not .44-40s. Yes, I was a happy boy.

That gun was my constant companion for the next few years. It took so many marmots and suchlike varmints that they took out a contract on me. I loaded for it, of course, and it consumed a steady diet of hard-cast 205-grain original pattern bullets. It got the reputation of "radar gun" because it didn't seem capable of missing what it was aimed at.

It's with me still, although it doesn't get the daily use it used to. I hope she's enjoying her retirement. It's been earned.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

S&W 686-CS

This is one of my favorite revolvers. It's the last revolver issued by the U. S. Customs Service before the changeover to autoloaders. I was able to obtain two of them NIB a few years ago, one for myself and one for my son. 

The 686, an L-frame, is not a small gun. While it certainly shares all the family genes, it is not a small and elegant pistol like a K-frame. It is a hefty, full-time magnum-capable platform and for an owner that shoots a lot of full-on .357 ammo it's a very reassuring piece of equipment.

I really like a three-inch revolver. They combine the handiness and concealability of a snubby with the shoot-ability of a four-inch. The sights are pleasant to use: a nice wide notch and a plain black pinned front sight. After many grip trials I have fitted mine with standard after-market Magnas and a Tyler T-grip. It feels perfect in my hands. Mine has had an action job and is very smooth. There is really no need for single-action with this revolver.

It weighs thirty-nine ounces loaded. Well, I said it wasn't a lightweight. It's meant to shoot .357s and shoot them well for a long, long time. For a short-barreled magnum it is extremely accurate.

I no longer know what they are worth, mostly because I have no intention of parting with mine. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Governor Palin

The jury is still out on her as far as I am concerned. Oh, I know, as a 2A person I am supposed to be enthusiastic about her. Actually it's all the unbridled enthusiasm that's causing me to have reservations. When there's a sudden, almost euphoric, popular rush toward something it always causes me to have that reaction. Think Obama.

She's a physically attractive person which is always a Good Thing for a politician, and she seems to have most of the right credentials— at least we are told that she does. Nevertheless, I see her selection as a cooly tactical— and not a little cynical— move by McCain. So far it seems to be working.

But I'm waiting for a few more counties to be heard from before I join the placard wavers. There have been a few rumbles from the far north country that might (I say might) indicate that all is not well. I don't like hearing about censorship and family-related pressure tactics in the public arena. I'm usually pretty good at picking up the whiffs of bias and ax-manship. My sense of the spurious. If that's what these turn out to be, then so much to the good.

I'll vote for the ticket. There's just too much at stake not to. But I don't have to do any gushing and fawning just yet.

Toad Wrangler

My new part-time job. 

My house and shop building are connected by a fenced area into which I can turn my dogs at night or at times when I need to confine them with access to the shop (where they have big couch for pleasant naps). Lately, a very large toad has taken to visiting that area after dark. Anything that runs, hops, wiggles, or fies is fair game for the Shorthair and so I have been going out with the dogs at night to be sure she doesn't assassinate the visitor. I've tried moving him (or her) away with a shovel, but he always comes back.

Toads excrete a powerful, noxious substance from their backs when frightened and it's clear that Emma hates the stuff, but she still can't keep her distance when Mr. Toad starts hopping around. It's just too much temptation. Shorthairs are very footy and I'm afraid she's going to quit trying to pick him up and just do him in with her feet.

Thus am I a toad wrangler and body guard.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Shrinking Garden

My garden is shrinking! The cool nights are the culprit. It's too early for this nonsense. (38° at 0700 today.) It's still producing well, although the peppers have fallen off a bit. Plenty of nice, plump jalopeƱos out there still to pick. I hope I can get another month out of it. I'm going to miss the squash and tomatoes particularly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I really enjoy the seasonal changes on the plains. (There are two: from winter to August and then back again!) The temperature differentials create some wonderful cloud formations and the panorama of the Big Sky makes for a heckuva show. I never get tired of it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crimson Trace Laser Grips

I broke out of my troglodytical ways just enough to acquire my first laser sight. First I had to decide which handgun would wear it. That was a no-brainer since the sight designed to fit Smith K, L, and N square-butts would fit a whole slew of my battery. So the Model LG207 Crimson Trace got the nod.

The grips arrived today, from good ol' fast-shipping Midway. I could barely wait to try them out, so I installed them on my S&W M18 4" .22LR Combat Masterpiece— a gun I use a lot. 

Installation was a snap. About a 2-minute process. The dot was almost perfectly lined up with my iron sights, but needed just a bit of tweaking. The first group fired was 6-shots at 7 yards, not going for speed. The first three shots went into a tiny lateral string in the center of the target, just above the staple. I thought I had completely thrown away the second three, but when I went up to the target they had fallen in among the first three. The whole group could be covered by a quarter. Say, I think, this is maybe a worthwhile gadget!

I took it over to the next range and worked out on steel for a while. Seemed like you could hardly miss the 5" swingers at 10-yards. On the 12" gong at 10-yards I was able to place six-shot groups in little smudgy clusters anywhere on the gong I wanted them.

In the picture, the targets clustered around the M18 are an informal comparison of iron sights versus the laser. (These are six inch paper plates, a favorite target of mine.) I tore the left one removing it from the staple, but you can see the holes from two rounds at 0630 and 0330. The sixth round is in about the middle of the torn spot. I won't get any awards for groups like these, but I sure am having fun.

It'll take me a while to learn to use this new sighting system up to its potential, but so far it looks pretty promising.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Way to Cook a Squash

Enough somber reflections of tempus fugit

On to the food!

My garden is being especially generous this year with sweetly delicious yellow summer squash. I never bother with the dread zuchinni because I much prefer the taste of the yellow crooknecks.

Usually I steam them. Cut them into slices, put them in the steamer insert, and give them just enough time to tender-up but still retain a bit of chewy succulence. Too much cooking just ruins any veggie.

But there is another way to prepare them, one that I have used quite a bit this summer. The grill. Just slice them in half longitudinally, score the insides with a knife, sprinkle sugar on them (I use a sugar substitute), and plop 'em on the grill, round side down. Don't worry if they begin to crisp up a bit on the bottom: that's mighty tasty, too. This is an excellent way to use those fellows that are just a tad on the large size for the tastiest steamers.

Serve them as is. Slice them on the plate with a sharp knife. Even the bigger ones are tender and sweet and taste like "More!" 

The First of September

But at my back I alwaies hear
Time's winged Chariot hurrying near...

Those Andrew Marvell lines are just poetic abstractions until you reach a certain age and then they become daily realities. The long, never-ending summers of childhood now seem to fly past in a mere moment of time. They are here; they are gone. 

Time may be a long, cool drink, but there is always a bottom to the glass. The older I get the more poignant the end of summer becomes. Euro-cultures tend to see time as a yardstick, a linear phenomenon. Other modes of thought think of it as a loop, a circle. The 'completion' of which is back at its own beginning. What that is for a human life might be dust, or simply a state of unknowing, a return to the cosmos. A gathering up and reclaiming by the Great Spirit.

Can anyone believe that August is gone?