Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

Helene has been busy in the Kitchen all day making "Wonderful Things". The cats are trying to help. Bear is asleep in his 'house' so I let him sleep while I went out to feed.

What is it with freaking white stuff?! I treasure the image of a White Christmas as much as anyone...on Christmas Cards or anywhere I'm not. The good part is it was only stinging sleet and melted as soon as it hits.

The rabbits and chickens greeted me with "will we be fed today kind sir" whimpering from big eyes. It's followed up with "that's it?" They also got water.

We got an extra threat from 'Thing Two', one of the rabbits. She gave birth the first litter of this breeding season. I'm not sure how many but they are warm and wriggling.

Later we will be wrapping presents. Some folks will say I cheaped out on the Kids this year but I am giving each of them something they went nuts over when we were pulling gear out for the TV pilot WASTELAND. Our Grandaughter Ali, 11 and her little brother Spud, age 6, loved the military harness sets with ammo pouches and..."Look at the canteens!" They are too small for the harness and belt sets but each of them will have an Offical US Army Canteen and Cover. They got more excited over those than any toy advertised this year.
Later we will pack up to go to Matt and Stacy's home for Christmas Eve Dinner and to exchange gifts. Bear has been invited to come alone as well. The cats are not amused.
After we get home Helene and I will exchange personal gifts at the house. I already have the big one, my little buddy Bear who is getting better every day. This is something else that concerns the cats.
When I was a kid Christmas was about family and presents. To be honest not in that order. When I left home Christmases with the family at Grandmother Burnetts homeplace became less frequent due to distance and work schedules. Some were spent alone. Now I have my family and Helene and I are building our own HomePlace.
Merry Christmas everyone to you and yours from Helene, Art, Bear, Ock, Varmint, Bon-Bon, Bright Eyes, Fluff-ums, Wally, Boat, Peppie, 20 rabbits and counting, and the chickens.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Future

I got this from my brother-in-law in Wisconsin. It's enough to make you weep.

"Sure Wish Somebody Would Invent Something To Keep The Sun Out Of My Eyes."

You Can't Fix Stupid

No doubt he's a political science major.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Standard Bearers

Last year I saw something at the local grocery store that gave me a lift and made me a bit envious. One of the young managers was there with a woman I first thought was his grandmother. They were doing her shopping and were enjoying being out in each others company.
As I had lost my Grandmother and then Mom with-in the last three years I probably watched the scene closer than I should have. It brought back memories and regrets. I had left home after high school and never lived close enough to call for every day things. I can count the times I drove either of them on erans or day trips on one hand.
When I next saw the young man I mentioned how much seeing him with, the lady turned out to be his Great Aunt, had lifted my spirits. He was quite gracious, even introduced me to his Aunt the next time I saw them together. I would always ask about her and send my regards.
When I saw him yesterday we greeted each other as usual, but I knew something had changed as soon as I asked him about his Aunt.
"She passed away in November," he said quitely.
I was at a loss for words.
"She was 98," he told me. "She was starting to have problems..." His voice trailed off.
"I'm sorry," seems so hollow and insignificant.
"She's in a better place now," he said.
We all say it. I suppose we should be happy when loved ones go on to a better place. Truth be told folks, I for one am too selfish to feel that way most of the time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Will Shotgun Ammo Do

Recently Steve over at THE FIREARMS BLOG posted a great video about shotgun ammunition. As some of you know my trouble load at HomePlace is staggered 00 buck and slugs as any late night, uninvited guest and souvenir hunters will discover.

The link below is to a video that shows those old time favorites as well as flatteche rounds, dragon's breath, buck and ball and lots of other exotic loads you may have seen at gun shows or advertised on line or in magazines.

In addition to great footage of ballistic gel getting "what's for" they show some of the rounds being turned on protective vest and other targets.

This is not your typical YOUTUBE offering but rather 17 + minutes of 'Terminator Like' destruction. So if you have ever wondered what a "Breaching" round would do put it on full screen, turn up the sound, grab a coke and popcorn, wake up the kids and call the neighbors.

I personally don't endorse anything but the 00 buck and slugs but this is entertainment for young and old alike. Afterwards be sure and visit Steve at THE FIREARMS BLOG to see the other neat stuff he has.

Rounds of Authority: Shotgun Ammunition

Monday, December 7, 2009

Life at HomePlace goes on

Greetings from Falls County, Texas
To begin with I want to apologise for the lack of photographs here. The camera is having issues. I hope to have that sorted out soon. If you are reading this and there are photos that means I did.

Helene surprised me a few days ago with an early Christmas present named Bear. Moody, our last dog passed away a couple of years ago and we weren't in a hurry to get another. You couldn't replace Moody.
While at the bank the last week we went to an adoption shelter near by and discovered a Shepard / Rottweiler mix with very sad eyes and enormous feet. He is fitting in nicely but not without issues. Ock, the senior cat, thinks he should be on a cracker. Peppy, the gray tabby that walks with Helene and I can't decide if he is a toy or food. Being the new hire at HomePlace Bear thinks he has to salute grasshoppers.

The girls coming home from the Vet Sunday did nothing to settle his fears. They needed love and reassurance so bad they were even getting in my lap. It looks like a couple of the girls will make friends with him Bear but it's an on-going process.

I have sent photos of Inoue's flag to the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. I have told them I am wanting to return the flag but I wish to corospond with the family. I would like to know the story of the man who carried this flag.

Breaking news on the chicken front. After months of nothing we actually got an egg the other With all the feed I don't want to think what it cost. I do know what chicken at the grocery store cost, they better get with the program.

Helene and I are working on a new shooting event we will call COPS AND ROBBERS - ST. VALENTINE'S DAY. The plan at the moment is to hold it on the 81st. anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre but weather and schedules may force us to put it off a month or so.

Well, I have errands to run and choirs to finish up. I havn't seen or heard Bear in about 10 minutes and with puppys his age that is cause for concern.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I am Scum

It's official, I am Scum. How can you doubt it when you look at these faces? Through no fault of my own (that's my story and I'm sticking with it) we have acquired no less than four female kittens. If you have cats you know what's coming next. Cat / Klingon opera, in this case a duet.

In no time you are up to your ears in kittens. Cute, fuzzy, playful enduring kittens that will delight the wife and grandchildren, times four! They will have names like Snuggles, and Rascal, Dopey, Stalker, and George.

"Papa Art, can I have this one? Momma says it has to live here though."

So it's time for that trip to the vet. The cages are rounded up, now for the dirty deed. Of course, Helene can't bare to take part in the villainy.

"They would hate me forever," She wails.

Yeah, I'm being played here. So I alone
stalk and grab cats. No fair snatching them from Mom's lap either. One by one they are carried out to the waiting cat carriers on the porch.

Finally the scope of my treachery is revilled. Four shocked, betrayed faces peer out of prison doors at me. A combination of "How could you"and"We always knew you were no good".

They will be home on Sunday. That's when my punishment will really start.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Inoue’s Flag

I really don't recall when I first started collecting militery items. Relics of past conflicts were all around me. The canteen I carried as a Boy Scout was marked 1918 and the canteen cup that came with it was marked 1945. Even some of our pack and cots were army surplus. I didn't think of them as artifacts until I was grown. While living in Houston I aquired a Japanese flag.

This flag was never intended to fly on a flag poll, it wouldn't have lasted a day in a good wind even when it was new. It also had writing all over it. I had seen flags like this in war time photos of Japanese soldiers cheering. Often they would tie them to their rifles.

I have no idea who to credit for this and the next photograph. If anyone knows, or if the owners object to the use, let me know.

I learned that these were flags given to a young man by friends and family prior to entering military service. Not unlike a high school yearbook, well wishers would write their names on the flag. Sometimes they would add words of encouragement. To my knowledge these flage were unique to enlisted men. If anyone knows different please let me know.

A great number of these flags were battle field “pick-ups” carried home by American GI’s after the war.

For years I have done history programs at schools, civic clubs and writer’s conferences. This flag was a useful prop when displaying and talking about Japanese equipment. It always bothered me that I couldn’t read what it said. Finding someone who could translate it proved elusive…until earlier this year.
Many of the folks Helene and I know from Brazos Writers are associated with A&M University in one manner of another. I asked some of them if they could put me in touch with someone who read Japanese.

One of our friends, Jean Marie, had a friend who had moved here from Japan. Jean Marie arranged a dinner party at her home where we could get together and let her friend (I will call her K as I have not ask if it’s alright to use her name) look at the flag. There were a number of folks in attendance who thought this sounded interesting.

I am put in mind of two sayings.
First - the more you learn, the more you find out you don’t know.
Second - be careful what you ask for.

When K first saw the flag she seemed to pale a bit, she knew exactly what it was. She asked where it came from. I couldn’t tell her beyond I got it in a trade from someone who bought it at a Gun Show. There was no way of telling where it was acquired.

“Most of the writing is names”, she said. “That isn’t uncommon.” Working clockwise she began to translate.

The large lettering across the top is a prayer. “Eternal Long Fortune Fight Prayer”, Good luck in the fight so to speak.

Part of this section contains another prayer. “I Pray That You Will Fight Bravely”.

One of these is the Soldiers last name – Inoue. I don’t think we ever found the first name.

Sasaki Kojiro wrote “Win by Death”Sasaki Kojiro wrote “Win by Death”

Neiko Masao wrote "In the final battle shoot Roosevelt".

I have to admit this one surprised me a bit, but it shouldn't have. How many times have we seen posters, post cards and war planes with despairing images and remarks about Hitler, Tojo and the epmeror? I know intellectually axis soldiers did the same thing but this was the first time I have encountered it.

This section reads "Shoot Americans and English" Understandable.

A girl named Keiko said "If you fall down 7 times you must get up 8 times

K was visibly disturbed. "What are you going to do with this," She asked?
I explained it had always been used in my history programs but this answer didn't please her. She insisted I didn't understand. To the Japanese this was like the soul of the soldier or the ashes of the deceased.

Now that I thought about it, I understood better than she thought. Countless Japanese Soldiers lay in mass graves. Others mangled or lost in the debris of the battle field were never buried at all. Every year bones are still being found in jungles and caves all over the Pacific. Thousands were never reported dead. Their records showed they were ordered to a ship or island. After that they ceased to exist. I know because there are still huge numbers of American MIA's from World War Two alone.
"This should be returned to his family," K insisted.

I know people who have returned Japanese Swords to the families in Japan. Robert Adams, the late science fiction writer who wrote the 'Horse Clan Novels' was one of them. I am not opposed to returning the flag but if I give it up I want it to go to Inoue's family. The problem is I have no idea how to locate them.

Any Suggestions?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day in Fall County, Texas

For the better part of 10 years I have taken part in the Falls County Historic Commission's observation of Veterans Day at the County Court House in Marlin.

Since Helene retired from teaching a year and a half ago she has been able to take part as well.

Last year it rained cats and dogs and all outdoor services were canceled. This year we made up for it.

We do this for the Veterans but it is not a one was street. We have the opportunity to meet a few of these wonder people and thank them in person. For history buffs like myself I can talk to individuals who participated in events I have read about and hear as much of their story as they are comfortable sharing.
We thank our Veterans and active duty men and women for thier service and sacrifice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deer Hunting with the HomePlace Touch

Several weeks ago Matt arrived with the deer stand he wanted to put up here at HomePlace.

We aren't talking about a one man blind or mini tree house.

Oh no! You must remember this is Matt's deer stand.

Some assembly was required.

I told him that was no problem. I was going to use it for guest quarters in the off season.

O' Dark early the first day of deer season Matt and his six year old son, Spud, made their way out to the Bambi Hilton. By sun up Spud was board and preparing to perform Sponge Bob's greatest hits. In interest of sanity (his) and survival (Spud's) Matt brought him to us at the house...bless his heart!

While walking back to the Bambi Hilton he spotted an eight point buck staring at the thing trying to figure out what it was. He droppeed the distracted beast from less than 50 yards.

Matt dragged the beastie back to the house and he was showing me where he had first seen it. A moment later I realized he was handing me his rifle and whispering "This one is yours." Halfway between us and The Bambi Hilton a second smaller buck had wandered to the edge of the electricity right of way. He was quartering us facing away and never knew what happened.

This one was not as large as the first, but still respectable. It just barely made seven points. We had taken two in less than 30 minutes. Of course that's when the real work started. We had to hurry because the marauders were gathering. Don't laugh; these thugs haven't let me keep a single squirrel I've shot for the last two years.

I would be all day trying to list the things we have learned from my best friend, Hangman, over the years but key for the moment was to bleed the deer (or anything else) and have the meat on ice as soon as possible. It was my job to hoist the deer to be skinned, bled and dressed.

If you have a Dodge M-37 with an 8,000 Lb. winch it would be foolish not to use it. Matt got started on the first deer while Helene and I went to town for salt, baggies and ice.
In about three hours both animals were in Matt's big cooler with lots of ice and salt water to help draw out the blood. About seven last night I dumped the water, rinsed the meat and repacked it in ice for the rest of the night.
This afternoon Matt, Helene, Matt's wife Stacy and our Grand Daughter Ali processed the meat and packed it for freezing. I thought when hauling it around last night there must have been 100 Lbs. worth of meat. Matt estimated after boning there was closer to 125 Lbs. Either way it's a lot. With the way beef prices are soaring that will go a long way toward feeding our extended family in the coming months.

As the Mackenzie say in S. M. Sterling's Change novels, "We take in need and not in wantonness." That's a thought even a Presbyterian can get behind.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The WASP guest star on Cold Case

I don't often watch Cold Case these days but Sunday was an exception. I enjoy the cases where the crime is decades old and this one delivered. It featured a P-51 Mustang, like this one, found under water with remains of the pilot still on board. They were of a WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) that disappeared in 1944. Examination of the aircraft showed two of the fluid lines had been switched causing it to crash, and launching a murder investigation that blended historic facts with plot devisees.

This is not the sort of story I would have preferred to feature the WASP. Sadly Hollywood doesn't think their real story was excition enough to keep us slobs glued to the TV or in line at the theater. Movies and TV feature a never ending array of fantastic advnetures they never had while ignoring their real accomplishments.

There are holes in the Cold Case story line to be sure. Personally, I don't see a Mustang even getting off the ground with the sort of sabotage they suggested let alone covering any distance. The characters were also blends of the real, good and bad.

I was an undistinguished first year college student in the fall of 1972. One of the social studies class discussions centered on the proposal of expanding the draft to include women. The attitudes toward war and the military at the time, even at our little Texas junior college, led to a lively and barely civil debate. The instructor mentioned the women who chose to serve but it was a hard sell. In response to the suggestion women had only been placed in safe positions I asked "What about the WASP?"

"Exactly," the instructor said. "Mrs. Watson, in the business department, flewing everything from trainers to fighters and heavy bombers during the War"

I nearly fell out of my seat, and when class was overI cornered the poor man with more enthusiasm than he was accustomed to. With in the hour I had found the office of Mrs. Watson, head of the business department, and checked her scedule. I was waiting when she arrived for office hours. For the rest of that year and all of the next I spent more time there than her students.

During the War her name was Florene Miller. She had been one of the orginal 25 women to form the WAFS under Nancy Love. I am embarrassed to admit I didn't understand the significants of that at the time. (See end of post.)

Pilots in the Ferry Command would take one of two paths. One was to graduate from Advanced Trainers to the heavy, high performance Pursuit Planes, read fighters. The other was to study in Multi Engine Trainers and then go up the latter to Transports and Bombers. Mrs. Watson put in the extra time and work to do both.

I can still recall the stories she would share. Women tend to need more clothes than men. When delivering a Transport, Bomber or Trainer there was plenty of room for a bag, but fighters weren't designed to carry luggage. The solution was a collaspsible canvas suitcase. Shoes, makeup, and extra clothing would be tucked iont the wing boxes intended for machine gun ammunition. The problem was remembering where you had stashed everything once you landed.

A lead pilot was always listed when a number of planes were being delivered to the same place. These coveted assignments went to the most experienced pilots who were usually the best navigators. This was before a lot of the navigation aids we take for granted today. That didn't stop egos from being bruised when hot shot guys were expected to follow a girl cross country. Sometimes Florene would let one of the guys lead the formation. If they stayed on course there wasn't a problem. Other times she had to keep track of where they actually were when the formation drifted off course. When the time came she would bank away on a new heading to their destination. One by one the other pilots in the formation would join up on her. Once on the ground the 'lead' would drift over and just say "thanks." The planes were delivered in good working order, mission accomplished. Nothing else need be said.

The stories I heard from Mrs. Watson and the other ladies I have been fortunate enough to interview don't bear much resemblance to the atmosphere shown on Cold Case. To be sure there are detractors who didn't believe women could actually fly such planes. There still are, which puzzles me.

An airplane is a machine and the pilot is its brain. The airplane doses not know, and could care less, the sex, or skin color or religion of its pilot. Some of the hottest combat pilots the Russians had during World War Two were women.

As for the WASP getting a cool, or hostile reception from some of their male counterparts, it happened but they were in the minority. These were kids, boy and girl type kids that had one big thing in common. They all loved airplanes. Many who weren't already married met their future spouses while with the WASP. They all made life long friends.

Please don't assume from this they lived lives of steamy romance. Were there one night stands? Frankly it's none of my business, or yours! Again those ladies would have been in the minority. They were serving their country and living the great adventure to boot. They flew all over the country in brand new, expensive, state of the art, high performance aircraft. And the Army bought the gas! There was just too much to loose.

But loose they did. Out of the blue word came that the WASP would be disbanded December 20, 1944. I won't go into the details but they are well worth looking into. "This should give the girls time to get home for Christmas." They had joined the WASP to "free a man to fight." Now they were to get back to their choirs. For years the WASP remained the best kept secret of World War Two, be it unintentional.

I'm happy that Cold Case had an epsoide featuring the WASP even thou it doesn't sound it. Perhaps that will send a few more kids to the library, or these days the internet, to learn more about their real history. A one paragrapy filler in my hometown paper when I was 13 had that effect on me.

All three photograpys feature Florene Miller Watson, my good friend

x x x

There were two groups of Women pilots formed in 1942. The WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron was 25 experienced and high time female pilots recruited by Nancy Love to work with the Ferry Command delivering planes where needed. It was never intended to be a large unit and took only women already trained and ready to work.
The WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) was a much larger group under Jacqueline Cochran. The WASP still insisted its recruits be licensed pilots in the beginning but did not require the standards of training set by the WAFS.
Two entirely different units commanded by very different women. I won’t get into “Saints and Villains” here. I will say that Nancy Love was interested in allowing qualified women to serve the War Effort where they could do the most good. The Ferry Command was begging for pilots and these ladies would already have been in uniform had they not been…ladies.
By the time the WASP disbanded on December 20, 1944 Jacqueline Cochran had over 1800 women in her command. They served not just the Ferry Command but also as flight instructors, towed targets, at least one was a test pilot, and numerous other flying jobs. But Cochran was also into self promotion in the extreme. Read up on the various “promises” she extracted from General Hap Arnold early in the war, as well as events that led to the sudden end of the WASP program and make your own conclusions.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack-O-Lanterns HomePlace Style

It's been two weeks since The Great Pumpkin Shoot but Helene and I thought there might still be a couple of stragglers. This morning we headed down to the range with a couple of lever action long guns.

Helene had a Winchester 1894 Trapper Carbine in .45 Colt. This time we had jacketed hollow points that had been loaded by our good friend Hangman. These were some he used for deer hunting and he warned me "Don't put these in a revolver." The pressures are too high.

I was also carrying a Winchester 1894, in this case a 30-30 rifle. These have probably taken more deer in the last 115 years than all other rifles combined.

The .30 caliber projectile is smaller but has a bunch more power behind it. Rather than a hollow point I had a jacketed soft point.

When we arrived at the range we knew we weren't alone. We could feel them, and then in a blink they were there.

We fired together. It's amazing what jacketed hollow points and soft tips can accomplish going in...

And coming out!

The big one put up quite a fight and had to be shot a couple of times. The Results were ugly.

That's how we make Jack-O-Lanters at HomePlace.

Happy Holloween everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The day started for us at HomePlace at 06:00 AM. It was time for 'final assembly'. The sign was placed by the road to make finding us easier. Considering I still pass the entrance at night on occasion that's important.

Hangman set up his kitchen and got the fire started so he would have coals for his dutch ovens. Matt rolled in a bit before 07:00 and started with last minute arrangements, including getting the track back on the bulldozer AGAIN and moving it out of the right of way.

The first arrivals rolled in a few minutes before 09:00. They were met at the parking area by our gas powered stage coach, aka 1953 Dodge M-37. From there they were taken to registration where by Helene.

From registration folks headed either to the Ace In The Hole (non-alcoholic) Saloon or to Hangman's cook fire for breakfast.

Not surprisingly when I started setting up the firearms display folks started drifting over.

Over the next hour I covered the firearms development from 1400 give or take to 1899. Then it was time to move to the range.

We started with checking everyone out on a double barrel 12 gauge shotgun, a Winchester 1894 lever action lever action carbine in .45 Colt and a single action revolver in .45 ACP. Fur Cat is helping with scale.

My intention was to break for lunch as soon as everyone had qualified, but at least half of them came back with more ammo for a second round.

Before the main event folks had a chance to try out other firearms from the line up. A replica English Matchlock was one of the most popular.

Our good friend Susan brought a Savage .22/.410 combo gun that had belonged to her Step Dad. I have always wanted one of these. Several of us, myself included, had a ball shooting this one.

Folks could have spent quite a while trying out old west rifles, shotguns and handguns but it was pumpkin time!

The hulking orange orbs formed a skirmish line. We stood our ground.

I'm pretty sure we made the first move.

The carnage was impressive

In a moment the air was filled with smoke, lead and pumpkin guts.

Then all was silent.

But we know the pumpkins will be next year, and we will be ready.

My thanks to Amy Sharp for the use of the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 11th and 12th photograph used in this Blog.