Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coming Soon to HomePlace

Sunday morning I received an E-mail that the TV Pilot, WASTELAND, is on hold until further notice. The project is a victim of the domino effect. The unavoidable absence of a cast member made it necessary to delay filming by a week. The problem is that some cast members and primary crew have made commitments to other projects that were then put into conflict. Delays scramble everything.

Anyone who has worked around film knows this happens. I am assured there are no plans to abandon WASTELAND. I will stay in touch with Perry and Dylan. Knowing them I expect the project to proceed in the next few months. If called for more pre-production assistance I will be delighted to do so..

In the meantime we unload the truck and put the equipment back into Props and Wardrobe. Like the actors and crew members on WASTELAND we here at HomePlace also have several projects in the works. Our new focus is an event we will be hosting called

The Great Pumpkin Shoot

For some time Helene and I have done a variety of programs that can best be described as Weapons for Writers. In the past they have been show and tell but folks have often asked if it were possible to actually try out the firearms we talked about. Saturday, October 17 we will be hosting our first live fire event. Festivities will kick off at 09:00 AM that Saturday morning with a Dutch oven Breakfast prepared by our good friend Hangman Hale. After reviewing safe weapon handling, operation and range procedures folks will be checked out in rifle, hand gun and shotgun.

Lunch, also prepared by Chef Hangman, will be provided. Soft Drinks will be available from the tent saloon “ACE IN THE HOLE” over seen by Miss Maggie. During Lunch our Son, Matt Hendrickson, will give a demonstration of marksmanship or profanity depending on whether he hits his marks.

After lunch participants can either try out specific firearm or plink with the weapons they have already been checked out on. The day will conclude with the title event where “posses” will square off against a like number of rampaging orange squash.

See you there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life Is Complicated

Life is complicated. Nothing is as easy as it seem these days. Even things that have evolved to improve life will have you pulling your hair out. For an example…where do I start?

I remember standing in front of the menu in Starbucks some years back trying to find something I recognized as coffee. I mean, Mocha…Latté…Frappe…what? Trying not to look like the village idiot I asked, “Do you have Folger’s?” I thought they were going to throw me out. Normally I wouldn’t care, but if you want anything to drink at Barnes and Noble you have to make peace with them. I ended up taking a page out of Captain Picard’s book – Earl Gray. You don’t have to tell them hot.

Things don’t get any easier at the grocery store. My lovely wife tells me we should eat wheat bread. Then I’m told I got the wrong wheat bread. It has to be Whole Wheat bread. So I started reading the labels.

They had Honey Wheat bread. Another brand had Split Top Honey Wheat bread. Then there was Wheat’N Fiber, and Double Fiber Wheat. But none of that would do. Even Wheat Enriched was unacceptable. Nothing but Whole Wheat, and you will hunt some to find it.

Others were just confusing. Whole Grain Wheat? Dose this mean the other breads leave out part of the grain, or is this bread made with the wheat grain, chaff, stem and all? Natural Whole Grain bread? I have images of 50’s black and white Si-Fi movies. “We must battle the wheat monsters General, with Natural Whole Grain bread.’

Things get no better in the dairy aisle. I go looking for milk dreading what is waiting for me. Goat milk and butter milk are old enemies I have dealt with before. But the labels are a study in confusion.

Aside from the different brands there is 1% and 2% Reduced Fat Milk. Skin Milk I assume is also reduced fat, but then we have Fat Free Skin Milk. Grade A Vitamin D Milk makes no claim about fat content, I guess this is the full strength stuff.

Then we have Soy Milk? Soy Milk is available in Natural and 100% Lactose Free varieties. Then there is 100% Lactose Free, Fat Free Soy Milk. There is also Soy Milk that claims to be Brain and Bone Health, Brain and Bone Health Reduced Cholesterol 7% and Brain and Bone Health Calcium Enriched. I also found Brain and Bone Health Calcium Enriched Chocolate Milk. Last but not least was Soy Milk Fortified For Kids.

Another brand had reduced fat chocolate milk. What’s the point of reduced fat chocolate milk? Chocolate Milk is a treat, not something a kid, even a 50 year old kid, drinks every day.

I have nothing against selection. It’s just that I don’t know what it all means, and no one in the store I can find seems to either.
Helene solved the milk problem for me. She picked up a carton and said we drink this. That’s what I always get.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The M-20 3.5 Inch Rocket Launcher

I got a call from a young friend who had visited the blog and asked, “Where in the world did you get the rocket launcher?”

Where else, E-bay.”

I have come to realize a few of the treasures I have collected make some of my friends nervous. I must there fore suppose they scare the daylights out of strangers. Perhaps an overview of the more exotic beasties is in order, starting with the M-20 3.5 rocket launcher.
The bazooka of world war two was little more than a prototype rushed into action. The tube was a one piece unit around six feet long which made it clumsy to carry in the field. Loading the weapon, especially after the first round had been fired and your opposite numbers know where you were, can be nerve wracking. Reference BAND OF BROTHERS the DAY OF DAYS episode.

While the gunner held the weapon, the loader was in back feeding the rocket into the rear of the tube. Next wires from the rocket were fitted one at a time to the electrical connectors. Once the connections were made, the loaded got out of the way THEN tapped the gunner’s helmet signaling the weapon was ready. Soldiers too close to the back of a rocket launcher have been killed by the back blast.

The M-20 3.5 inch rocket launcher, like I have, made its debut in the Korean Conflict. It broke in the center (as seen above) which made transport much easier. The electrical connections in the rear had a flip lever and the rocket wires had a plug. These improvements were much appreated by folks being shot at.

You may also have noticed a bar welded across the rear of the rocket tube. There is another at the front. This is to “de-militarize” the weapon, make it impossible to use. The picture below gives a better example.

The oval of metal cut out of the tube would vent the rockets back blast at a really uncomfortable point. Before anyone suggests it, I have no desire to see if it could be fixed. I have my doubts anyway. Then there is the matter of finding the proper rocket. The laws regarding a functioning destructive device are a whole different discussion. I have no desire to find a working model.

Personally I’m happy with my dewatted (de-activated war souvenier) display piece. It works great for lectures, film work and photos. I’ll leave tank killing to the professionals.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Could They...

When other writers discover I’m a “gun buff” there are a number of questions I expect.

The Old West fans want to know if Billy Dixon could really have made that mile long shot at Adobe Walls. The incredible answer is yes, I know of two modern marksmen who have duplicated it. Incredible because in Dixon’s words, the only person more surprised than me was the Indian.

The nervous ask, “Are you armed now?” TV has led to the unrealistic expectation that concealing a firearm is easy no matter what you’re wearing.

Mystery hounds want to know what kind of guns Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson use. The most popular choice in TV and Movies is Webley Mk. VI revolver. It would be my preference, but not accurate to the original stories or the time period. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s, writings Holmes and Watson employed a range of weapons depending on the story. Film added to the collage.

By far the most common question is “Could Stephanie Plum really have shot Jimmy Alpha with her gun still in her purse. Would she even have hit him?”

In fairness one reason this question comes up so often is because it’s a favorite example in my programs. Even with that I’m only responsible for about half the time it’s asked.
I’ve always said yes, but the question demanded an answer. So what did I need?

First was something to shoot with. Stephanie has a five shot S&W. From my Step-dad by way of my Mom, I have a six shot Colt Detective Special. Other than the manufacture and extra cartridge they are the same. Both weapons are small, ultra short barrel, double action revolvers. Both are designed for cancel carry.

A place to do this experiment is its own challenge. Most ranges don’t want folks lying on the ground shooting up at a sharp angle with the weapons sights unusable. At HomePlace we have two ranges and lots of empty country side. I’ll be careful.

Next up was a purse. Strange as it may seem Helene wouldn’t even discuss my borrowing her purse for this experiment. We were off to the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Marlin. A guy digging through large black purses raises questions. The fact the staff knows me doesn’t help oddly enough. I explained what I wanted the purse for, several times as additional people were called over. Finally I was given my choice of purses with the understanding that I would return after the experiment and report the results.

A life size silhouette target stood in for Jimmy Alpha. Helene agreed to assist and observe from a safe distance. She would time the experiment and shout “GO!”

I leaned three sheets of plywood against a target stand and stapled “Jimmy” to the top sheet. I did this for the same reason some of the targets are backed by old washing machines, refrigerators and freezers. They don’t always stop the bullets but the energy expended punching through them bleeds off a lot of momentum.
It was time.

As the story goes Jimmy, is distracted when Stephanie head butted him. Stephanie is shot in the hip as she runs to her purse and drags it off the counter as she falls. Jimmy is standing over her as she jams both hands into her purse rolls and fires.

I took my spot standing in front of the target waiting. From her hiding place I heard Helene shout “GO!” I hit the ground and grabbed the .38 with both hands and pointed my purse at Jimmy Alpha’s chest.

In less than four seconds I was frantically pulling the trigger on spent chambers. I had gone through the all six chambers at least one extra time. Adrenaline rules! Examining the purse reviled something I should have expected but didn’t. I knew the bullets would punch through the leather (plastic?) but the muzzle blast did more damage than they did. By the second shot all but the handle of the weapon was protruding through the hole in the corner nearest the barrel.

Did I hit Jimmy? Oh yeah! Not knowing the order the shots struck in the damages were as follows. One bullet cut the lung and kidney on the left side. One shot hit near the top of each lung. One bullet cut the large blood vessel on the left side near the collar bone. One struck the neck and cut through the spine. One missed completely. Perhaps not as good as Stephanie’s five shots to the heart but I got him.

Postscript, when I read this to our writers group I had two comments. The first was that I was not being fair to Stephanie. My purse only contained the Colt. Hers had the S&W, hair brush, pepper spray, tissues, lip stick, wallet, pen, handcuffs, address book, mints, hand lotion and gum. Helene pointed out that my shoes did not match my purse. It looks like I need to repeat the experiment after correcting both problems.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What To Take

It is amazing the stuff one collects over a lifetime. When reviewing the firearms I was even more amazed how many of them are strictly for display and film props. Add in support gear like holsters, ammo cans, and incidentals like radio’s, field phones and the field desk and I wonder if I am going to get it all in one trip

I use ammo cans for a lots of storage jobs. They are naturals for sorting ammunition but also make good make shift tool boxes or a catch all for those little things that get lost so easily. Therefore, when they show up at garage sales, flea markets and gun shows I don’t usually pass them up. Between the .30 and .50 caliber I’ll be taking about twenty ammo cans to the film project.

As you can see, I found the Uzi. The AK-47 and Scorpion are naturals for this kind of film. Even though the Thompson, MP-40 and PPHS are World War two they will be in the crowd scenes as well. I didn’t ask about the bullwhip, but I am guessing there is a villain who might need one.

There will also be a smattering of handguns and knives, some 105mm crates, and the flack vest I forgot I had until I came across it looking for something else. Matt might be building their gallows! I wonder if we could have it after the movie. I mean, Perry lives in an apartment so he doesn’t have room for it. Could you think of a better place to nail a NO TRESSPASSING sign?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where did we leave the Uzi?
The chores at HomePlace have taken a turn from the normal path the last couple of weeks. Feed the rabbits, stir the compost bins and replace the wood on the troop seats. Collect eggs, weed the tomatoes and remount the machine gun pedestal in the M-37. The ammo tray and .50 cal. ammo cans need painted. Make sure all the animals have fresh water in this heat. Does
ANYONE know where we packed the Uzi? I know it’s here somewhere.
Truth be told the Uzi is a non-firing prop. Were it live it would be locked up in a safe and I would be much more concerned about loosing track of it. It’s mainly for film and photo work.

For the last few years our Dodge M-37 has become less military and more country. It has hauled feed, building supplies, fire wood and grandchildren all over our small ranch. Now it’s time to get ready for general inspection. After a series of emails and telephone calls I have been asked to bring the Dodge to the location of a TV pilot being shot about 100 miles from here. So the Dodge is being put back in uniform.

Our six year old grandson, Spud, was as excited as I have ever seen him when we uncrated the Browning .50 cal. Machine Gun. I thought he was going to cry when he found out it didn’t really shoot. He thinks his Dad and I need to fix it. Spud doesn’t understand about Class III licensing.
The Dodge is looking better every day. I have the packs and equipment bags, extra fuel cans and rolled canvas to add but will wait until we get to the location. I’m not sure how long we will need to be on site. I need to ask if they want to use the Rocket Launcher. And I still need to find that Uzi.