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.