Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to one and all from all of us at HomePlace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas To All!

Tomorrow evening Helene and I will travel to the home of our Son, Mathew, for Christmas Eve Dinner and the gift exchange. Also in attendance will be friends and in-laws from out of state.

We sent the Turkey home with Matt a few days ago to avoid it getting chilled in transport. I will make the Cherry Cream Pudding in the morning. I'm not really sure what else will be there, but Matt knows how to feed a crowd and I think they have already started cooking. Ask me how hard wife and I fought to have this at our house.

Part of the entertainment will be the movie "How to Train Your Dragon". I have made a point of watching it here first. I love our grandchildren, but they are not capable of watching a movie in a manner that will allow anyone else to keep track of what is on the screen.

After that Helene and I will return home for our own gift exchange, attended by Bear Dog and the Cats. Everyone has their special Christmas Movie, ours is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

The evening will finish up with Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Live by candle light. Bear will be in my lap (still thinks he's a puppy) while Helene will be buried under Cats. Both will expect their fair share of what snacks we might have intended for our selves.

Santa still drops little things for us to find in the morning. Do I believe it's Santa? Yes I do.

In the words of Helene's father, "If you don't believe, you don't find any presents!"
So I will close by wishing a Merry Christmas, both to family and friends we have known for years and to the ones who visit us here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New York Remembers the Victims of the 1960 Airline Crash

Last week New York remembered a tragedy of its past. A United DC-8, Flight 826, collided with a TWA Super Constellation, Flight 260, over Staten Island. One hundred and twenty eight souls on the two planes perished that day. Ten buildings in the Park Slope neighborhood were destroyed by the falling DC-8 and six more souls were claimed on the ground.

A young boy survived the crash, but that was almost a cruel joke. He died the next day of injuries. I pray his passing was easy.
All crash victims were recovered and remains returned to their loved ones for burial at their homes. But we must remember that the science of identfying crash victims in 1960 wasn't what it was today.
One man, killed on the ground, was identified by the unique way he tied his boots. That's all that could be used.
When all was said and done there were three coffins of remains that could not be identified. United Airlines bought a plot at
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and the unknown were laid to rest there.
No one ever forgets a tragedy like this, but they drift to the back of our minds as life goes on. This was the case until September of this year when a Green-Wood employee discovered the grave of the unknowns.
This grave wasn't marked, not unusual with unknown's. There had been talk of a memorial to the victims of the crash, but it never got beyond that. With the 'take charge' approach we have come to expect from New Yorkers, the folks at Green-Wood decided it was time.
So on December 16 of this year, fifty years later to the day, an eight foot granite Memorial was erected. Green-Wood had informed all the families they could locate. They didn't really expect a large number to come, but some did.
They said it opened old wounds, but it also gave closure. I am one of the people grateful for this act of kindness, even if my connection to it is once removed. I was seven at the time of the crash but have heard about it all my life.
In a small Texas town lives and older relative who has been very important to me. I prefer not to mention names, but this man sat next to me at my father's funeral. He taught me to ride a horse, and was the first to take me hunting. He sat me on the straight and narrow more than once because my father couldn't. In 1960 he was he was a young man in love, and engaged to one of the stewardesses who died in this crash. He has never forgotten her.
Every year on or near Christmas he has a special mass done for her, starting the year of the crash. At least two Texans want to add their thanks to the folks at Green-Wood. Had my relation known about this beforehand it wouldn't have surprised me a bit if he had attended. For him as well, it has provided some closure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

There's no place like Home

My brother-in-law lives in Wisconsin. He some times visits us during the summer, and suffers greatly in the heat. I have advised him to come during the winter, but he insist winter in Wisconsin is the best time of the year.

I know winter. I was born in Dumas, up in the Texas panhandle. There are two windmills and a barbed wire fence between us and the North Pole. Hell, for me, would be standing in a long line in a blizzard. When friends told me it didn't snow in Houston I went home and started packing.

We are now one hundred and eighty plus miles north of Houston and I am horrified to say we have snow that stays on the ground over night here. It has happened twice in ten years, but it's worth it to live in the country.

I have been suffering (loudly) with over night lows in the twenties the last couple of weeks. The above photograph is of Don's thermoneter in Wisconsin. He is bragging!

There's really no place like home.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wo Fat is Back!

As a kid I watched the original Hawaii Five O every week. McGarrett and the crew were great, it was their show. But my favorite episode's were the one's with the Chinese Super Spy - Wo Fat!

When I heard they were redoing the series I wasn't happy. Very seldom do the re pops show proper respect to the original series. Mark Troy, a friend of ours in Brazos Writers, was very excited and looking forward to the new Hawaii Five O series. When we talked, my first question for him was "Are they bringing back Wo Fat?"

Wo Fat was brought to life by the character actor, Khigh Dheigh (pictured above). I'm not really sure how much he worked outside of this series, but this character is an entertainment Icon. Sadly, Dheigh passed away in 1991.

Tonight I got my answer in the last minute of the episode. The evil Irish terrorist who had killed MaGarrett's father had a visitor in prison. None other than Mark Dacascos, the new Wo Fat.
In that short piece he was chilling. If he lives up to the introduction things are going to start getting more interesting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Wide Open City In Texas

In the days of the Old West a Wide Open City was a city or town with no law. For better or worse those days have returned to Calvert Texas. Over the weekend the entire Calvert Police Force, consisting of the chief and two or three officers depending on the source, quit.

So, Calvert is a town without law? Not quite.

The theory is that the Robinson County Sheriff's department and Constables are going to take up the slack, in all that spair time they have? They are estimating a responce time of 15 minutes due to distance. Too bad betting it Texas is against the law, I would take some of that action. This will be an instresting social experiment to watch from a distance.

Truth be told, problems with the Calvert PD are nothing new. Without going into the sort of details that would come back to haunt me, they have "parted ways" with a number of excellent officers over the years because they were doing the job they were hired to do.

Make of it what you will.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A P-39 comes full circle

This story came in an email from a fellow Warbird fan this morning. It was too good not to pass on. Follow the link below for a story you couldn't make up.
The P-39 had an odd configuration for a World War Two Fighter Plane. For those not familiar, she had tricycle landing gear. The engine was placed behind the pilot with the crankshaft running through the cockpit. There were automobile style doors on each side of the cockpit, with windows that rolled down.

These were one of the aircraft Mrs. Florence Watson used to deliver for the Ferry Command as a WASP. She told me many of the planes came from the factory in Russian markings and with instruments marked in Russian. A mechanic would get up on the wing while the ferry pilots settled in and mark the instruments with a grease pencil to show the safe operating ranges.

From the Bell Factory they would take the planes to an airfield in Montana built near the Canadian Border. For reasons I have never understood the Russians were not allowed to take possession of the planes in the United States. Furthermore, the ferry pilots could not fly the planes into Canada. The planes could not be taxied across the border (which was clearly marked) into Canada. They could not even be towed with a tractor or gas powered tug. Tow bars were attached and the planes were hauled into Canada with horses or oxen. If any of my readers know the reasoning for this I would be grateful if you would clue me in.

Mrs. Watson told me often getting the planes from the Bell Factory to Russia was an ‘all girl operation’. A large number of the Russian ferry pilots who took the planes after they had been towed into Canada were women.

It seems that there was no middle ground when it came to pilots feelings toward the P-39’s. Chuck Yeager speaks fondly of them in his autobiography. My friend, Mrs. Watson, does not have pleasant memories. Love them or hate them, it’s nice to know a few survived.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday Night at the Movies Tora Tora Tora

I know this illustration probably isn't of Pearl Harbor, but captures the mood.

Tonight I will drag out my VSH tape of Tora Tora Tora for my annual viewing. I watch it to honor the men and women who served in the Second World War.
I remember the men I have interviewed who where there, as well as the ground swell of young men who swamped recruiting stations, court houses, and in smaller communities the post offices to volunteer for service. I toast the ones who are no longer here and treasure the few that are.
Blackie Wheeler who was too young to join the Marines in World War One, but did anyway. He commanded a photo recon squadron in North Africe, then France in World War Two.
Walt Eddy, who fought as an infantry man in North Africa and Sicily before being wounded at Anzio. His life was saved by a German Medic.
Florine Miller, latter Mrs. Florine Watson, who flew just about everything in Army Aircorps inventory. She ended up with the WASP but is quick to correct you that she was a WAFS.
My Uncle Jack Burnett, who served as an aircraft mechanic stateside. He also made a name for himself on his squardron baseball team as a gifted short stop.
My Uncle Thurman Fisher's war was in the Pacific. Trained as a tank driver, he somehow ended up in the Army's postal system. Ask anyone who served in any theater how important mail was to morale.
Last but not least was my father, Wilson Berry (Dub) Burnett. Dad was eleven when the war started but he fought the battle of the home front. My grandparents were farmers and ranchers in the Texas panhandle.
There is a story about a running battle between my Grandfather and the local Sheriff. Durring harvest Dad would be found driving a grain truck to the elevator. The Sheriff pulled him over and took him to Granddad.
"He's too young to drive that truck," the Sheriff would say. "Put someone else in it."
"There isn't anyone else," Granddad would say. "All the men are in the service. There's lots of things I would rather have him doing but he needs to drive that truck."
"Well he can't. You need to find someone else," the Sheriff would counter.
"How about you Sheriff," my Grandfather would ask? "You're not doing anything useful."
It ended the same way every harvest until the end of the war. The Sheriff would get on the radio and tell his deputies to leave Dad alone. "The boy knows how to drive, and dealing with Old Man Burnett isn't worth it!"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Which Handgun to Carry?

A few days ago James at Hellinahandbasket had a post about making the choice of a conceal carry handgun. The discussion revolved around the ammo capacity of the weapons and overall size. I realize the key word is conceal.

With or without the permit if a person flashes their firearm, accidently or otherwise, there is hell to pay - at least in Texas. My position has always been, if I'm going to carry a weapon it will be something I can actually defend myself with. I mean, if not - why bother.

As some of you will know from an earlier post, the Smith & Wesson Model 10 here was a constant companion for years. My early training was on revolvers and still consider them a good choice for folks who are not experienced shooters. These are simple to use and reliable as the day is long. I know of one case of one binding or jamming, and I think that was due to some really nasty range reloads. The .38 special cartridge is large enough to do the job.

On the other hand we have this wonderful little Colt 1908 in .25 caliber. These are historic, well made and just as cute as they grow them. In my humble opinion, for self defense it's completely useless. Blazing Saddles fans will remember the line "bullets make Mongo angry." Bullets from this would make Pee Wee Herman angry.

That's not to say they were never carried for self defense. They were small and light and women loved them. Sometimes the just pointing a gun, any gun, is enough. These things are really loud indoors. Feel free to bet your life on something like this, but I won't. This is the gun you throw at people.

Again, folks who have followed me for a while, know I am in love with the Colt 1911 .45 Automatic. It is my personal choice for a carry weapon. The 1911 is reliable and hard hitting. It isn't a small weapon by any means, but being a 'full sized American' I don't have any trouble concealing it.

One of the attractions of the 1911 is that they aren't real expensive. They aren't the only choice for the budget minded. I throw no rocks at folks who need to save money but do your homework.

The picture below is a 1911 with a Cz. 52. The Czech pistol is an excellent military sidearm. The cartridge is hard hitting and they are fairly reliable.

The thing to know is that the 1911 has three safeties built into the weapon. I suppose it's possible the Colt will discharge when dropped, but I have never heard of it. I know for a fact that the Cz 52 will. I wrote about it back in February. Follow the link below to see the results.

HomePlace - Art's Stuff: It Only Takes One

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Even Gunfighters Love Cherry Cream Pie

Childhood is a magic time, but there are high points. Birthdays of course, best if it’s yours, but any ones birthday is good for a party. The fourth of July, especially is Texas, is breathtaking. The last few months of the year things ramp up.

I loved Halloween and Trick-or-Treating. Dressing up in costumes and collecting candy! Can it get any better than that?


Next came Thanksgiving. The gathering of the family, and the feast that followed seemed to get better every year. We would start the day gathered around the TV to watch the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade. The meal was a late lunch. As much as I loved the Thanksgiving meal, I always saved room for desert. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only two time of the year my Mom and Grandmother would make Cherry Cream Pie.

This was not your standard Cherry Cream Pie. The Cherries are suspended in a sweet cream filling. It isn’t cooked; the cream solution is set up in a chemical reaction. It was one of Mom’s favorites when she was a little girl. If memory serves me correctly Ma Moo got the instructions off a can of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk in the 1930’s. Sadly, neither of them are available to call and ask anymore.

I’m not a Pie guy, but I learned how to make this one for myself while I was in Junior High. Like Mom and Ma Moo (my Grandmother’s nick name) I make it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? If I made it any more often I would weigh 1,000 pounds. When folks would ask me about it I would refer them to the Eagle Brand people. I can’t always recall everything off the top of my head. Recently I got a call asking me, “Did your pie have cream cheese in it?”

A quick check of the web site confirmed they had “improved” my favorite childhood desert. I hate to suggest people that make such wonderful products are stupid, but what were they thinking?

To serve Humanity and preserve Cherry Cream Pie I am listing the original instructions. You will need;
1 can of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
1 can of water packed Tart Pitted Cherries
¼ cup of Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon of Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of Almond Extract

Combine the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, Lemon Juice, Vanilla and Almond Extract in a mixing bowl. Drain the cherries and add them to the contents of the mixing bowl, then pour the mixture into a chilled pie shell. I still lick the bowl.

To be fair, I also make changes. First, I serve the Cherry Cream as a pudding. After a couple of hours pie shells get soggy, and I hate that. Second, I always make a double batch. A single batch isn’t enough to go around our family gatherings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cub's and Flattops

I got an E-mail from a friend a few days ago asking about the Piper L-4 being launched off the USS Ranger. He had read that L-4s were launched from LST's that were converter to carriers for them.
Which of us was right?


Captain Allcorn didn't get very far with his first flight during Operation Torch, but the other two cubs did.

Fighters of the day carried four to six machine guns. Bombers carried a couple of tons of bombs early in the war. But the L-4 Pilot and Radio Operator directed the guns of one battle ship, to an entire task force. When spotting for the Army the could call fire from over 100 + guns at times down on a target.

After their combat trial in North Africa the Army wanted more of the liaison planes as 'eyes in the sky' for future invasions.

The L-4 next became the only plane in history that had an aircraft carrier designed just for it. The Navy needed it's carriers for their own aircraft, so LST's were converted with a plywood deck laid the length of the ship. There were six slanted parking ramps, three on each side, to store planes prior to launch. I believe the plan was to keep four planes lashed down to the rear of the flight deck, figuring they would still have room to take off.

Officers who didn't fly, and weren't flying in the cubs, were sure they could crowed six and still get off OK. The best I can say to that logic is that cubs take care of their people. No one seems to be sure how many LSTs were converted in this manner.

The biggest drawback to the LST carriers is that the L-4s were on a one way trip. The little planes had no arresting gear and the LSTs had no cable system. They could not land back on the LST after launching. In fact, after the last plane was off, the plywood deck was torn apart and pushed overboard in most cases.

Below is a photograph from the National Archives taken aboard one of the converted LSTs, #906, in the harbor of Naples, Italy. It shows the liaison plane crews gathered in front of an L-4. I treasure this photo because the names of the men are listed.

In the Pacific there were places the L-birds had no choice but to return to the ship. My friends, you ain't gonna believe the answer they came up with!

Note: I found these photos on the net. If the owners object to my use of them, drop me an E-mail and I will take them down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Need a new handgrip for the Mossberg 500

I need a new handgrip for the Mossberg 500. I got this one last year, mainly because they look so cool. The little beast is handy, and as I've said before, that clack-clack sound of it cycling is about as close to a universal language as you can get.

I've watched big bad Arnold pump thirty plus rounds through one of these (without reloading) and thought "I gotta get me one of these!" I did, and I don't regret it, but some adjustment is required.

Anyone who has fired this weapon will know what I am talking about. For those who have not, I dirrect your attention to the right angle handgrip. When the weapon is fired all the recoil goes here, into the web between thumb and forefinger. Hardly a surprise but it can't be appreciated until experienced. With light loads it's a jolt.

My trouble load here at HomePlace is double OO buck interspersed with slugs. This weapon holds seven rounds in the tube, and one in the chamber. Take a moment to think about that.

Three loaded sets with this weapon left my hand numb, which wasn't good. When the feeling came back, that wasn't good either.

I have thought about a gel glove, will probably get one regardless, but I would like to try another apporach. I have noticed when firing regular shotguns from the hip the recoil against the hand isn't that bad. I fired a shotgun like this one during my Cowboy Action Shooting days and didn't have any problems with them.

The reason is the grip is sloped rather than a right angle.

I believe someone out there makes a grip like this for the Mossberg, but I have had no luck locating one. Failing that, I can cut down a standard Mossberg stock.

If anyone out there can put me onto a premade "sloped" handgrip I would be grateful.
This one got quick results. It seems a company called Speedfeed builds exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks for the assist folks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Operation Torch - 68 Years Ago This Morning

It was just less than a year after Pearl Harbor when the ships of Operation Torch gathered off the coast of French North Africa. The USS Ranger CV-4 and four Escort Carriers prepared to launch their Grumman F4F "Wildcat" fighters and Douglass SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers against Vichy French Targets.

One of the Escort Carriers, USS Chenango CVE-28 carried a load of Army Curtiss P-40 War Hawks. But all of these followed three unlikely warbirds already scouting targets over the African coast.
In the predawn hours of November 9, 1942 the Ranger's deck crew hauled three small green planes with yellow noses onto her flight deck. These were Piper L-4 liaison planes, the military version of the Piper Cub already famous even then.
This photo shows Captain Ford E. Allcorn who lead the small plane unit. In the rear seat is his radio operator, Captain Brenton A. Devall.
Some of you might ask, why cubs? The answer is the very things that make them seem unsuitable were their strenghts.
The Army needed slow moving light planes that could go down and look for hidden ground targets that their faster, high flying counterparts would never see. Cubs were perfect for the role.
This duty was not for the faint hearted. The planes had no armor. For those who have never seen one, the fuselage is covered in fabric. To make working on the plane easier the fuel tank was between the engine and instrument panel. It was not self sealing.
Since the purpose of the L-4 was not to fight, the only guns they carried were in the pilots shoulder holsters. That's not to say they didn't carry something else from time to time. But the weapons the carried by L-4 were hardly the point. As mentioned earlier, they had radios.
A P-38 or B-17 carries one hell of a wallop, but the L-4 was spotting for a Navy Taskforce or Artillery Division. One well placed rifle shot will bring it down you say? I've read the thoughts of men on both sides regarding this. Both conclude if the Liaison Plane stops transmitting, that tells whoever they were talking to something.
So what came of Captains Allcorn and Devall? It seems not the entire taskforce got word of Army Liaison Planes flying off the USS Ranger. They took antiaircraft fire from US ships on their way to the coast.
The French shore batteries faired a bit better, sadly. Allcorn was wounded and his plane set on fire as he crossed the coast. He was able to sideslip his plane to the ground and drag himself away from it before it exploded. He was taken prisoner and his wounds treated.
During his first morning to combat he flew the first plane launched in the invasion of French North Africa. He also became the first Army aviator wounded in the campaign, as well as the first shot down. Busy morning.
But the news wasn't all bad, he lived to tell the story.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sometimes You Can't Take A Gun

From time to time James at Hell-in-a-Hand-basket has talked about canes as a self defense option. I had mentioned my "Street Legle Mace" a couple of times and he said it was time to show the world what I kept talking about.

Of course, that's when the camera when down.

Now that we have a replacement camera I can start providing images to my blogs again, starting with these.
I first tore up my knee in junior high school PE class, a bad dislocation. To this day I hate anything remotely related to soccer. The knee continued to pop out of place for years afterward. If you have never experienced it, you wouldn't understand.
I had a couple of canes over the years but they weren't anything special. The Sheppard's crook style never felt right. A few years ago I stopped at a smoke shop to look at the pipes. I don't smoke but would love to find a nice 'Sherlock Holmes' pipe. They had a display of canes and this one jumped out at me.
From protective tip to brass head it is just less than 36 inches long. The round head is weighs one pound. The ball fit my hand perfectly and the lenght was excellent. This cane has been, if not a constant companion, a frenquent companion ever since.
For years I have done 'Weapon's for Writers programs'. At Science Fiction Conventions I sold swords and knives in the dealers rooms. Many of the folks who saw me with the cane assumed it packed a hidden surprise. It dose, but not what they expected.
When asked if there is a sword or dagger hidden inside I would simply hand them the cane in such a way they would take hold of it near the tip while I held the head. When I released the head, the unexpected weight would cause the head to slam into the table top. "This one dosen't need a blade." I would explaine.
For Christmas a couple of years ago my wife, Helene and son, Matt had the head engraved for me. I couldn't think of anything nicer to have done.
There are lots of ways to defend yourself with a cane. If nothing else they are useful for keeping problem folks at a distance. The brass head makes this one even more formidable when needed. With a 36 inch haft this becomes a mace. With the brass ball in my hand, the problem folks never expect it.
The beautiful thing about this is I am able to carry the cane anywhere. A couple of years ago I flew with it. This was a day I thought the security folks were going to have me strip to my shorts, but after making sure nothing was hidden inside the cane I was allowed to take it on the plane.
I don't feel that I pulled a fast one on the airport security folks, or the police for that matter. The cane is just a cane, until I need it to be something else.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Broken Shell Extractor 7.62x39

Say hello to my new little friend.

A couple of weeks ago a local man brought me an SKS, belonging to a friend, that wouldn't chamber rounds. He didn't have any details beyond that. There could have been a number of problems.
I took the beastie home and broke it down for a good cleaning. There was no change. After about three days of this I thought maybe there was a blockage in the chamber, and figgured I knew what.

I never realized just how hard it was to get a broken case (shell) extractor. No one local had one for sale. I tried an auction site and I am still waiting for the tool I ordered there.

I finally contacted one of the online vendors that came highly recomended. They had the extractor, with shipping it would have run twenty plus dollars and wouldn't be in until next week (after the first of November).

So I contacted Cheaper than Dirt, some Texas boys out of Ft. Worth. With shipping the extractor was just over half to first quote. They mailed it the next day and it was at the post office Thursday.

After fighting with this thing for almost three weeks I was eager to try the extractor. On the first attempt nothing happened. So I unscrewed it a couple of turns and tried again. This time the action on the SKS locked solid.

I finally resorted to the offically discouraged, sargent recomended practice of kicking down on the bolt like the kickstart on a motorcycle. You can see the results.

The entire neck of a SKS case had been torn off and stuck in the chamber. I ran twenty rounds through it and re-cleaned it before taking it back.

With all the shooting I've done this was the first time I have ever needed a broken case extractor. After this experience I will be in the market for several more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Night at the Movies

Once again my bride has gone off to the home of her teaching buddy for a night of girl talk and man trashing. The cats and I are left to our own devices. We started the night with a dinner consisting of nothing healthy and followed up with Pop Corn.

TV consisted of nothing interesting, so I went to the DVDs. If the cats had any suggestions they kept them to themselves once the Catnip came out. As you may have guessed, I elected to watch El Dorado.

You may as well say John Wayne made this movie three time, the others being Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo. This one has always been my favorite.

I noticed this evening that El Dorado is turning into a ghost story. Most of the head liners are gone now. James Caan is still working, I'm told he used his old handle, Alan Bourdillion Traherne, recently on an episode of Las Vegas. I would have liked to have seen that.

Guns are always a big part of any western, this one was no different. I'm not sure when John Wayne started carrying the large loop Winchester, but it was featured here. Of course, the main reason this is my favorite version of this story is Mississippi's shotgun. There are many firearms I want, one of these I will someday have. In the meantime I get a lot of mileage from my little howdah pistol.

Another interesting Firearm that shows up in this one is Bull's (Arthur Hunnicutt) Colt revolving rifle. To the best of my knowledge this is the only movie featuring one of these beasties. If anyone out there knows of another, give us a shout.

I just realized this is my 60th. post. It shouldn't have taken this long. The next milestone is 75.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


As they say, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is I got an email from someone with a Remington Model 8 rifle. It is at his home in another part of the state, but he will bring it back to central Texas next time he visits.

The bad news, the folks who wanted to use the Motorcycle for the photo shot cancled. Pitty, it sounded like a fun trip.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Utah State Quarters Philadelphia mint They really are out there!

The last quarter released by the United States Mints in 2007 was the Utah State Quarter. Like most folks who have been collecting coins since childhood, I got the Denver minted quarter in the book right away. The Philadelphia minted quarter was another story.

The other state quarters showed up in time, even the hard to find Philadelphia's. All, that is, except of the Utah Philadelphia. It remained the only gap in the State Quarter Book for almost three years.

Tonight I found it! Don't ask me where it came from. The routine is to drop all my pocket change into a jar in the evening, then sort it on the weekend. There were three Utah's, I couldn't believe it when I flipped the first one over and found the P.

So they are out there friends and neighbors! Just keep looking.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goodbye Tony Curtis

I came in from feeding and running errands this afternoon and turned on the TV for the first time today. I was probably one of the last people in the country to learn that Tony Curtis had died last night.
I felt a real sense of loss at this news. Tony Curtis had been one of my favorite actors since child hood, the kind of actor that will have you sat through a movie you don't really care for just because he was in it. There weren't many like that.

As much as I enjoyed Tony's movies I was more impressed with his early history. He was one of the young men that didn't wait to be drafted in World War Two, but joined the US Navy after seeing Destination Tokyo and Crash Dive.
He never became a submariner during the war, but it wasn't lack of effort. Tony was on the crew of the USS PROTEUS (AS-19) a subtender, and was a proud member of Submarine Relief Crew 202. He was able to make short run on USS DRAGONET (SS-293) before the end of the war. He watched the Japanese Surrender from the signal bridge of the PORTEUS.
After the war Tony started the career he is known for. Of all the Movies my favorite, and I think one of his, was OPERATION PETTICOAT.
In an interview he talked about a dream come true. As a kid he had sat in movie houses and watched Cary Grant drape himself around a periscope in Destination Tokyo and he wanted to be him. Later, on the set of OPERATION PETTICOAT he stood next to Cary Grant draped around a periscope. He said it was an amazing moment.
With all his success Tony Curtis never forgot his beginning in the US Navy. For as long as his health allowed he gave of his time and resources to vetrans groups, especially his beloved submariners.
When searching the internet this afternoon I came across this still taken of Tony Curtis while making OPERATION PETTICOAT . I will take it down if anyone objects to my using it, but this is the way I want to remember him.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Project

Got a call from our friend Tom a couple of days ago, asking if we still had our Motorcycle / Sidecar rig. We do, but it hasn't run for a while.

We have been chasing parts, and recently discovered a fule leak, so I thought I was sunk. It turns out the job is a photo shoot with models posing on and around the vehicles, so as long as it looks good, that's all that matters. He asked for pictures, this is one of the photos we sent.

Tom will be taking a Willys Jeep. When he was asked about a Motorcycle with Sidecar he thought of ours. Tom is a pro, and a good friend I have worked for in the past. His vehicles work on a regular basis, so I have a good feeling about this.

This is a still photo shot so the bike not running isn't a problem. If the photographer likes the photos of the bike I sent him, I may have an interested project to report on in the near future.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Are There Any Remington Model 8 Rifles in Central Texas?

I have always loved this illustration. This guy is having the mother of all rude awakenings. And it stresses the need to have a really good rifle. He is either really happy he bought the best ammunition the store had, or he is praying the gun will go bang and cursing his cheapskate ways.

The rifle is a Remington Model 8, a classic dating back before World War I.

I have admired these iconic weapons pretty much all my life, but have never had the pleasure and honor of fireing one. I need to change that and hope some of you folks might be able to give me a hand.

Last month I posted Them Bank Robbers is Worth Money about the Dead Bank Robbers Reward Program and asked if any readers had additional information. I got an excellent lead, thanks Bob.

In the same story I have a character using a Remington Model 8. I have read a couple dozen articles about the rifle. The shooters reading this know that won't tell me half as much as getting together with someone who has one and running a box of cartridges through it.

So, if anyone in the Central Texas Area has one of these rifles and would like to go shooting some time, please email me at and let me know when. If some of you folks out of the area know of anyone who lives here, please pass them my information.

I realize getting the guns wrong has never kept anything out of print, but I want to do the Remington Model 8 justice.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dark Moments, But Never Dull Moments

If you were to ask me today, I would say on the eighth day the Lord created the Gas Generator.

Sunday Morning my wife likes to watch CBS Sunday Morning to get her day started. Fifteen minutes into the program the power went out. That time they had service restored within an hour. Annoying, but livible.

This evening we had settled down to select viewing for the night, about five thirty PM, and the lights went out again. This time I plug the entertainment center into what Sportsmans Guide called a "Generator Cart."

It's a 1000 Watt Inverter mounted on a housing that I installed a Marine Deep Cycle Battery into. I have no idea why they discontinued this wonderful beastie. It's good for about four hours fully charged, depending on how you use it. It turned out I was only going to have about an hour on it, which should have been enough.

I called the (unnamed, at least for this entry) power company and got an estimate of fourty five minutes to an hour to have service restored. When the generator cart gave out I plugged it and the entertainment center into the Gas Generator. After making the switch I came back in and called the power company again. This time their best guess was by three AM.

If I seem a little over the top on the subject, it's because of Ike. I think it was two years ago the hurricane hit the Texas Coast. No one has yet explained to me why folks in Central Texas should be without power for most of a week when a hurricane hits the coast. For most of the first day they kept insisting we would have power back on in two or three hours. The most annoying part was driving past houses, in the country or other towns, served by other companies with lights on the entire time. So, we waited.

Finally the power was restored. The part I find really galling is when they drop the ball, it happens and we should live with it.



The power company actually got the power back on an hour early, two AM rather than three AM,

It seems in this case I need to cut them a little slack. The power outage was due to some fool in Calvert, Texas shooting up the relay station. One can only hope they are found. They should hope the locals aren't the ones that find them. They are even more upset than I was.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This is the year for it

Greetings from Texas friends and neighbors. It seems I have lived a charmed life these last ten years here at the HomePlace. I havc had the usual scoldings about my bloodpressure, which I am taking care of. There are the cuts and scrapes that come with working outdoors but nothing that required more than a bandaid. To date both Helene and I have seen the Copperheads before they were a problem - knock on wood. I am nothing short of a Nazi on the subject of firearms safety and have no intention of changing that, no problems on there.

The worse I have delt with health wise up to this year was a really bad flu that sent me to see the doctor several times before it ran it's course. Then of course there was the nerve damage I wrote about not too long ago. I seem to be making up for lost time.

The arm is doing fine, in fact I don't even notice any problems from it these days. I made another visit to my good friend Dr. Sterling last week, who assures me I do not have a broken rib.

I will take his word for it.
Broken ribs are another of those injuries I have heard lots but had no previous experience with. I've known lots of people who have. Growing up in a farming and ranching family busted ribs were a common injury.
The most recent was suffered by an older cousin and caused by a kicking horse.
A lady in our writers group told me her husband got his broken in a karate lession.
An old cropduster I knew in the Texas Panhandle busted most of the ribs on his left side in an airplane crash. He said the part that hurt the worst was that he didn't do it on the job, but playing around in an AT-6 on a Sunday afternoon.
And what daring exploit did I recieve my injury from? Playing with the dog. I am never going to live that one down.
For anyone who has never experienced this injury, let me hit the high points. The term "knocked the breath out of me" is no exaggeration. I spent a good minute thinking I was going to die. When I was able to breath again, I didn't want to. I was afraid I wouldn't die for twice that amount of time. And of course, the dog wanted to help.
A cough is like revisiting the orginal injury and is to be avoided at all cost. Good luck with that. Sneezing, if possible, is worse. This morning it hurt like blazes, but I didn't spend a full minute not being able to breath, so I am getting better.
The first two nights sitting and standing hurt like hell. Sitting down in my recliner wasn't too bad. Getting out of it made up for it. Having said that, if you have a recliner - sleep there! Sitting down on the edge of the bed was only exceeded by lying flat, which was nothing compaired to getting back up. I spent three nights in the recliner before even trying to go back to bed.
The doctor told me both injuries hurt the same, but if the ribs aren't broken the hurting goes away faster. Thank God for that.
I am on the mend, and no lasting damage. All things being equal, I would just as soon not have any more new injuries for a while. We are getting ready for THE GREAT PUMPKIN SHOOT II in October.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What They Really Wanted

Recently someone on a reenacting board posted the above photo dating from World War Two of a Kachin tribesman with an Indian Pattern Brown Bess Musket. It reminded me of a story I had come across some years back.

I was put in mind of some OSS types working with tribesmen in the CBI. They requested headquarters to sent them shotguns to equip the tribesmen rather sub machine guns. Their reasoning being sub machine guns were more complex than the tribesmen were comfortable with, but they were quite at home with the shotgun the OSS types had with them.

The shipment was delayed so the "experts" at headquarters (who had never been closer to a jungle than the Central Park Zoo and/or Tarzan movies) could confirm they really wanted shotguns. Their 'research' showed sub machine guns were much better suited to jungle warfare.

After the screaming fit the OSS types sent back a message saying “What we really wanted was muzzle loading muskets. The tribesmen could scrounge powder from enemy ammunition and they could load river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle for shot. But we didn't think you would send us muskets so we settled for shotguns."

Three guesses what was airdropped to them about a month later. Evidently there where tons of Civil War Muskets in warehouses around Washington. The OSS types screamed themselves horse when they saw the muskets.

But, you know what - the tribesmen loved them! They could scrounge powder from enemy ammo and they could shoot river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle. After cutting the barrels down to a more convenient length they were their preferred weapons to the end of the war.

I love a happy ending.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In their own Words

I had two different folks tell me about a poster the Texas Bankers Association put up in banks about the Dead Bank Robbers Reward Program. I found this 1933 version on line, they had several over the years. I thought you folks might enjoy seing it in their own words. It sent chills up my spine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Them Bank Robbers is Worth Money!

I have recently been working on a writing project and had to do some research. I had heard a story sometime back about a law passed in the depression paying people to kill bank robbers in the State of Texas. This was something I could work with.

For a couple of months I had been trying to chase down details. Was this an urban myth or real? Who offered the reward, and when? What were the details? I kept striking out. Finally someone in the writers group suggested I write the Library of Congress and ask. I hit pay dirt!

To start with I was trying to be too fancy with my wording. I was asking about 'Bounties' paid on Texas bank robbers, or rewards offered for bank robbers in the State of Texas. No, the Texas Bankers Association (TBA) was much more basic. They called it THE DEAD BANK ROBBERS REWARD PROGRAM.

Texas country folks had been having hard times long before Black Thursday in October of 1929 when the rest of the country caught up. Bank robbery had become very popular, to the tune of two or three a day state wide. In 1926 a reward of $500.00 was offered for any bank robber killed in the act. In 1927 the reward was raised to $5,000.00 dollars.

Does this sound fantastic? It gets better. To clear up any misunderstanding the statement went on to say the TBA would not pay a penny for bank robbers captured or wounded. Bank Robbers were worth $5,000.00 dead - each!

Of course, Texans being enterprising folk, were not always content to sit around waiting for someone to rob a bank. There are always a couple of good ol' boys, not real bright but greedy. Combine them with the town thugs, equally greedy and ruthless, and you get the idea. When the good ol' boys come out of the bank with the money, their friends that were suppose to cover their getaway shoot them down like dogs.

Bloodthirsty? Oh Yeah! In the end there was only one side of the story told. Pretty good return, considering some of these robberies would have netted way less than $1,000.00 dollars. Beside that there was the practical side to consider. You didn't want to go taking pot shots at Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde. Those crazy bastards would kill you.

This became extremely wide spread, to the point that the Texas Rangers sent no less than Frank Hamer, later of Bonnie and Clyde fame, to investigate. When he reported that a large number of the people being slaughtered in these robberies were set up, the TBA was unmoved. They argued anyone who could be talked into taking part in a bank robbery should be killed.

There was so much bad press on the subject that the TBA did reword their statement to read they would pay the reward only on 'Legal Kills'. The shootings started being investigated seriously. Bank Robbery became a Federal Crime in the mid 1930's and the FBI got involved. At that point collecting on the Dead Bank Robbers Reward Program just got to be too much like work. So, did the reward go away? Yes - in 1964!

At this point, I could use some help. As you might guess City Fathers don't put this sort of thing on their city web pages. I know this happened, a lot. If I know where, I can work backwards and get details. So, if any of you know of a Texas town where such a Bank Robbery Scam took place I would be grateful if you left a comment or emailed me at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Constant Companion

The worst part is I asked Helene to take this photo. I wish she had at least told me to close my mouth.

At the moment, here at HomePlace, we are harvesting and processing pears. We have everything close to the ground. I'm going for those higher. But the point of the photo is my little friend - the 1911. In the eleven years we have been here, either this handgun or something similar has been my constant companion.

Does that sound melodramatic? We are very much alone out here. There are two towns within ten miles of HomePlace, and neither have jurisdiction to respond to a 911 call out here. If a problem requiring a firearm shows up, I need it now. We aren't talking a big back yard, HomePlace is thirty five acres. I don't have time to run back to the house for a gun.

The problems in the past have been dog digging into the chicken pens. If I chase them off, they just come back later, then there is a pen full of dead birds. Talking to the owners accomplishes nothing.

Other times it's been a Copperhead or other type of snake. If I find them out in the woods where God intended, I leave them be, even the poisonous ones. But they love baby rabbits, chicken and eggs. Few thrills compare with discovering a snake in a nest you're collecting eggs from. They also lurk in bushes near paths where dog, cats, wife and grandchildren play. I don't need anyone accidently stepping on one. If they are around the house, they're toast.

From time to time I have an unfamiliar vehicle show up. I am friendly, I never make reference to the weapon, but it is always noticed. Sometimes it's just someone wanting directions. Sometimes it's not. Either way word gets around that there are easier pickings elsewhere.

Evidently sometimes that's not enough. Bear has been barking a lot lately at night. Sometimes it's the cat's bugging him. Sometimes it's stray dogs. At least twice in the last week it's been a car making the circle that didn't stop. As a matter of fact, took off when the porch light came on.

A couple of nights ago I lit them up with a Q-beam from the M-37. They almost hit a tree on the way out. We haven't seen them since.

Still, they may be back. My little friend and I may need to arrange a surprise.

Of course by little friend, I mean the 1911. Fluffum isn't much for outdoor heroics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Idiot Called it a "Funny Bone"

I need to make two apologies today. First, I would apologize to the folks who have been following this blog. I will not make excuses for my absents - I was angry and feeling sorry for my self. Perhaps I can accomplish something positivy with this.

My second apology is for anyone who has ever suffered nerve damage. I mean nerve damage, that's where you have a numbness in extremities like fingers - maybe some tingling - right? Some of you are going to know that's a real stupid question. Trust me folks, since April I've gotten a lot smarter on the subject.

One afternoon I was working on the computer, elbows resting on the chair arms when it felt like someone hit the right elbow with a board and a flash-bang went off behind my eyes. My right arm of course, no sense doing anything halfway. Over the next hour I discovered this was serious.

Tingling? The two fingers on my right hand, the little finger and that nameless finger next to it, were numb. Movement was clumsy and awkward. I discovered I had no strength in my right hand. My grip strenght between thumb and fore finger was extremely weak. How weak? I could not use my right hand to unlock my vehicle door. My penmenship, never great, actually got worse. Fine work that required dexterity was out the window.

This was with our Cops and Robbers event looming on the horizon. Tip for folks who practice unusual cirmcumstances when shooting, off hand with a handgun is good. Teach yourself to load magazines with the off hand. It's something I had never thought about, and is harder than you might think.

My biggest fear was that I could not handle handguns . I discovered I could handle handguns safely. One of the few benifits of the injury was a dandy excuse for bad shooting. So I did what I could and had my range assistances take over a lot of the demos. That program I littery could not have done without them.

The pain has been constant and nagging. One part that bothered me most was that I could no longer sleep with one arm over my wife. I had to be on my right side to get any sleep at all. What sleep I got was fitful bits and snaches.

The pain ran along the bottom of the arm from my little finger to the elbow and up into the shoulders and neck. I remember "rolling my neck" and feeling like some big angry dude was jerking a cable that ran from the little finger up. Not plesant.

There was really no comfortable position to hold the arm in. I gave up on a sling after only a few minutes. Driving was all kinds of fun. I have a small pillow in the truck to rest my arm on, but not the elbow. I rest the elbow on nothing. Before I even got to the doctor I was taking so much over the counter pain medication we wife was concerned.

Over the next six weeks there were several visits to Dr. Sterling - in my personal openion better than Bones from Star Trek even without the fancy gaggets. X-rays and my first MRI later he explained that a nerve was probably pinched, most likely in the elbow.

Dr. Sterling explained about nerve induction test. This would answer all manner of questions. He described the test as shoving a knitting needle into the nerve and hooking it up to a battery charger. He also explained the surgery that would correct the situation - maybe. And them he advised me to wait on both and explained this sort of thing will sometimes correct it's self. That was hard, but he made a good argument. He ended the session by prescribing medication with all manner of scarie side effects.

Most of the time the pain in my arm was between the elbow and the little finger. Other times it would run all the way up to my neck. A pillow to rest the arm on became my constant companion.

So "the arm" and I took off to work the 2010 Census. Driving all over Robinson County, Texas chasing down addresses was actually fun. Finding an unnumbered house, on an unmarked road, based on a map a five year old would be embarassed to claim, gives one a real sence of accomplishment.

There were good and bad days. The day our son, Matt, and I crawled under the truck to change the fuel tank almost killed me. Other days I don't think about "the arm". The pain is constant, just different levels. Thing is, when you get busy you don't think about the pain. You take it one day at a time and try not to dwell on the problems.

Then one day last week I realized I had unlocked the pickup with my right hand. I have been able to do so everyday since. There is no more tingling or numbness. The pain at the moment is in my hand and wrist, but it's managable. It isn't over yet, but I can see improvement.

So I'm back folks. Please forgive my absents, it won't happen again.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

D-Day + 66 Years

Like the other baby boomers 'The Greatest Generation' was not a rem0te and mysterious concept for me. These were the folks, men and women who raised us. They were our parents and grandparents but also our aunts and uncles, even cousins and older brothers. They were our teachers, police and grocers. They were everywhere.

Today my thoughts are of the men I've had the privilege of knowing who took part in D-Day 66 years ago today. They would be the first to point out everyone, in and out of the service, contributed where ever they were.

These were ordinary folks, uprooted from their lives, who faced the dragon of the 20th. Century and met it head on. Afterwards they buried their dead, healed their wounded and returned to their lives.

I thought they would last forever, but I only have to look at the guy with gray hair in the mirror to understand no one does.

Embrace the World War Two vets we still have with us, and say a prayer for those who have gone to their rewards.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Today I was asked to tell the story of James Coryell as part of the Marlin, Texas Memoral Day ceromony. If the name sounds fimular, it should.

At the age of 18 James Coryell left his home in Ohio and made his way to Texas. The year was 1821. Coryell's name appears all through the story of Texas for the next 16 years.

He traveled with Jim Bowie to look for the San Saba silver mines. During this expedition it is believed he was wounded by Indains in what is known as The 13 Hour Fight.

After the fall of the Alamo Coryell helped evacuate settlers from the path of the Mexican Army during the heartbreaking episode known as the Runaway Scrape. You won't read many accounts written by American settlers that Santa Anna's troops caught up with.

Coryell was a member of Capt. Sterling C. Robertson's ranging company in the spring and summer of 1836. In the fall of the same year he transfered to Capt. Thomas H. Barron's company. These early Texas Rangers traveled where they were needed and spent most of their time in the field rather than barracks.

While camped at Sarahville, near present day Marlin, Texas, Coryell and three companions located and raided a bee tree. They had cut it down and were in the process removing the honey when they were attacked by a band of Indians. Coryell was killed by the first shot.
James Coryell's body was recovered by his companions and buried near where he fell. In time the area was taken over by the James Plantation. The location of the grave was lost in time, but the slave cemetery was in the same general area and they knew he was there.
It was almost 173 years exactly from the day Coryell was killed that a grave matching the description (and in the right area) was discovered while brush was being cleared for a new fence around the old slave cemetery. Is it the long lost grave of James Coryell? It's too soon to tell. But whoever rest there, they are now found and can be remembered.

At the Marlin Courthouse we have a tradition of ringing the bell to honor fallen heroes. This year I started off by ringing the bell for James Coryell. Then I rang the bell for Richard Penny, a United States Marine who fell in Afghanistan early in May of this year. It is a sad truth that the bill for the freedoms we enjoy is paid by men like Coryell and Penny.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cop's and Robber's - Animoto

I thought we were done with Cop's and Robber's but my lovely wife has been experimenting with a program called Animoto. Too technical for this country boy but her results look pretty good. Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Ambush

The finale of Cops and Robbers left those in attendance astounded and delighted. All agreed we provide the best mayhem at our events.

Rather than re-envent the wheel the following link will take you to my wifes description of 'The Jet's last Act'.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The People Make The Difference

For years Helene and I have been doing firearm programs for writers at hotels and conference centers. I put on a pretty good show, but when we move to the range and start handing folks loaded firearms the situation changes. It you have more than two or three students you better have good people helping you make it happen.

Our son Matt and his son 'Spud' moved heaven and earth to get the range ready. He was also one of the range masters that worked with new shooters. He has a gift for this as anyone will discover watching him teaching his own children.

Hangman has been my best friend for over 20 years. He is a storehouse of knowledge and has always given me free run of his firearms collection. These programs wouldn't be near as good without him.

The real glue that holds it all together is my loving bride Helene. Once the event started she handled registration and handed out ammunition. It was the easiest day she had in months.

Not pictured is our ace photographer Amy Sharp. This is because she is usually behind the camers. We use photographs from other people but for quality and volume Amy can't be beat. I would love to make her our offical photographer.

The folks who attended are also part of what makes this fun. Our friend Jean Marie was there along with her Dad. George spent many years as a competative shooter and is quite knowledgeable about firearms and shooting. Having him there felt a bit like defending a thesis, but being a gentelman, if he disaggreeded with anything I said he gave me a pass.

One of the new faces was a man I nicknamed 'The Rifleman' seen here with my 30-30. I believe he had met one of these before!

To paraprase the late great Gorden R. Dixon "Firearms come to Mark's hands like friendly dogs." For someone who hasn't shot much he doesn't miss much either. Here he is making friends with my Mk. VI Webley. If I ever run short on instructors he and I may need to talk.

After hearing how much fun Mark had at THE GREAT PUMPKIN SHOOT his wife Mary Fran wasn't about to be left home again! Here she is learning about the .45 Colt trapper from Matt.

For months we had been hinting at a suprise finally. Once everyone had checked out on the various firearms they were ready.
The Ambush!