Friday, July 10, 2020

Blame it on the air in Dakota ....

"Dignity of Earth & Sky" is a sculpture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. It is a 50-foot high, stainless steel statue created by Dakota artist laureate Dale Claude Lamphere and depicts a Native American woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. Do not ask who the two individuals also shown in the photograph are .... their names slip my mind.
Battles of yesterday / sculptures of today
Allow me to begin with a disclosure statement .... not full disclosure, mind you, but sort of an admission. I do own property in South Dakota and I do have a son who lives there. I once lived there myself. Beyond those things, I have no affiliation with the state other than a few good memories. I periodically go there for odds and ends reasons, and did so recently, primary to see my son and for the two of us to pop off a few hundred rounds of ammunition in assorted calibers through a variety of rifles and handguns.
Once the ammo was dispensed (.... or should that be dispersed?), we decided to take sort of a sight-seeing jaunt. We both have been to Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but decided to drive out there and take a look one more time. This we did on roads well to the south of the interstate. I have a habit of driving scenic routes whenever possible. This means I go on old highways and even country roads when time is not of essence, rather than travel on interstates. Doing this in regions like Dakota takes you to some interesting and beautiful places -- to state the obvious. We crossed the Missouri River on the Platte-Winner Bridge and went through the Rosebud Indian Reservation -- swinging down to Mission and St. Francis -- and then on to the Pine Ridge.
I will not mention the engagement that took place at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, other than to say some of the participants on both sides had met at least once before -- at the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory on June 25-26, 1876. That was when George Armstrong Custer and a few hundred troopers, scouts and civilian employees of the Seventh U.S. Calvary were unceremoniously dispatched to the "not-so-happy-hunting-grounds." There also was an occupation and stand-off at Wounded Knee during much of 1973, for history buffs to check out -- if there are any reading this whose curiosity requires a look see.
We stayed at and around Wounded Knee longer than we should have and swung north to catch the interstate for the return trip. We re-crossed the Missouri River near Chamberlain, where we stopped at the Akta Lakota Museum and at the site of this statue –- named Dignity -- which has become sort of a permanent resident. Well, that pretty much is it. From there it was "drop the kid off" and head back to Minnnneeesnota for me.
 A couple of side notes:
 "The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF," edited by Michael Raymond Donald Ashley -- I ordered a copy and have received it. It probably should be embarrassing to admit that of the 25 stories in it I recognized the names of only three writers. Embarrassing because I have belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club in times past and have been a subscriber to at least three SF magazines, but it is not embarrassing because I readily admit I can jam only so much into my memory banks before they begin to push "old stuff" out to make room for recent acquisitions. That is another frustration of life. Perhaps, a melding of robotics with humans is not a bad idea. I think I would vote for it ....
"Learning to Speak God from Scratch," by Jonathan Merritt -- I began reading that book on page 106 with the segment on "Pain," and read through to the end. I have not returned to it, but I will (really/seriously/for sure) and almost certainly have more to say about it at that time.
Blame it on my Dakota excursion (I am), but I opened two books I have read in the past upon my homecoming -- "Indian Fights and Fighters," by Cyrus Townsend Brady, and, "My Story," by Anson Mills -- and have become bogged down in them.
Brady's book, originally published in 1904, begins with the Powder River Expedition in 1865-66 and goes through the 1870s. Mills, who published his autobiography in 1918, began his military career in the Civil War and took part in the Powder River scrap, on March 17, 1876, which initiated the Great Sioux War of 1876. He commanded cavalry troops at the 1876 Battle of Prairie Dog Creek, the Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of Slim Buttes, all in Montana Territory. Mills also fought Apache and Cheyenne in Arizona and Kansas, and rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general.
Books -- like those of Brady and Mills -- are second-best to actually having been there .... I think you get my drift ....

Saturday, July 4, 2020

"Spirit, that made those heroes dare to die"

Silversmith and printmaker Amos Doolittle and his company of New Haven,, Connecticut, volunteers were 10 days late for the battles at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, but he sought out eyewitnesses and participants to describe the encounters and had his friend, itinerant artist Ralph Earl, make sketches based on data from those interviews. Doolittle then created the only contemporary engravings of the battles from the drawings. Here are three variations of the same print of the engagement at Lexington.
Qui audet adipiscitur
I have to admit when I think of our Declaration of Independence, I envision men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock and John Adams approving the document in various forms and on various dates during a session of the Second Continental Congress at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia way back in 1776.
When I really think about it, I am more inclined to think of men like Paul Revere and William Dawes and Samuel Prescott riding to warn "revolutionaries" in Lexington and Concord about the impending arrival of British troops a year earlier, in 1775.
But, when I really/really/really think about it, my thoughts go to those daring individuals who picked up their weapons and went out to meet the British. About 700 British troops arrived at Lexington around dawn on April 19, 1775, and were met by 77 "militiamen." When the scrap ended, eight colonists were dead and nine wounded, while only a single Englishman was hurt.  I assume the names of those individuals are recorded somewhere, but for me and most others, they remain lost to the passage of time.
The British troops marched on to Concord and other nearby towns, along the way being met and harassed by ever-increasing numbers of "minutemen." It was a day filled with skirmishes and bloodshed and dead on both sides.
From that point forward, as some say, the rest is history. More importantly for many of us, it is our history and we all should feel an obligation to remember it and to live up to the standards and the ideals of those individuals who led the way to our freedom and independence. We would not be here now had they not done what they did way back then .... semper fidelis ....

Saturday, June 13, 2020

An ordinary pistol becomes a commemorative

Whether you realize it or not, this is a commemorative pistol. It is an old one which I obtained in two primary pieces a year apart from each other and put together to create a Model 1911 in .45 caliber. The slide is a Colt, which came with a Colt barrel and other internal parts. It dates to the 1960s and I obtained it in 2013. The frame is an Auto Ordnance. It came with who knows what for internal parts. It also dates to the 1960s and I obtained it in 2014. I swapped out the parts from the frame for some I prefer and think are of better quality. The beauty of the Model 1911 is that most parts are interchangeable, even those from one manufacturer to another.
The grips are the giveaway. I had Hogue rubber grips on it for shooting, but with the photographically documented appearance of a mountain lion at the "old homestead" back in February, I decided to buy this set of Altamont grips sporting the head of such a critter. The new grips most likely will not be as good for shooting, but they give it a great appearance. Since my son now is the primary resident of the "estate," the used handgun with its new grips will be his -- along with the old Hogue grips for trigger time. This matter serves a second purpose, as well. It provides an excellent opportunity to pass along another of my firearms to my son.
Two videos are here to usher in the creation of the commemorative pistol. While they do not offer something for everyone, they do present an opportunity to gain an appreciation and an understanding of differing musical styles.
One is old music. "Somewhere" is a song from the 1957 Broadway show West Side Story that was made into a film in 1961. The music was composed by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and (from Wikipedia) "takes a phrase from the slow movement of Beethoven's 'Emperor' Piano Concerto, which forms the start of the melody and also a longer phrase from the main theme of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake." (Hmmmm .... sounds fine to me.) This performance comes from Broadway diva Cynthia Erivo, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.
One is new music. Babymetal is a Japanese band created in 2010 with Yui Mizuno, Moa Kikuchi and Suzuka Nakamoto. The young ladies were between ages 10 and 11 at the time, and two of the original girls continue to perform to this day. The band was formed with the concept of fashioning a fusion of the heavy metal and Japanese idol genres. Kami Band provides the backing music for Babymetal. This is a compilation of the band's performances of "Catch Me if You Can."

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Life is good ....

What you are seeing in the photograph (if your eyes are open) is a Smith & Wesson Military & Police pre-Model 10 in .38 Special caliber wearing Altamont grips with two sets of Hogue grips and the original S&W grips alongside it. My opinion, based on internal and external wear of the revolver, is that it has been carried a lot in a holster by a right-handed shooter and fired very little. This means it probably spent much of its life prior to Fram as a weapon carried by civilian or military police or by private security personnel.
Included here are three videos, the first is Hickok45 talking about and firing a S&W Model 10 .38 Special. Hickok45 is Greg Kinman, a retired middle-school English teacher and former law enforcement auxiliary officer, who resides in Tennessee. The second features Katelyn "Katie" Francis, a 16-year-old young lady from Missouri who participates in three-gun (handgun/rifle/shotgun) shooting competitions around the country. It is my opinion she can outshoot me and anybody I know. Also included -- ironically -- is John Lennon performing his Instant Karma. It is here because I like Lennon and adore the song. Besides, the lyrics are appropriate for our times. The more I listen to Lennon's music and watch videos featuring him, the more I appreciate what a gifted person and talented music man he was. He was instantly likeable and innately funny (from my point of view) and, evidently, he found a means to secure perpetual happiness.
Yeh, I remember what was going on 76 years ago today .... ok, not remember per se, but know from story and study about World War II. Military units from 12 or 13 countries (so much for the absoluteness of history) took part in the invasion of Europe with landings at Normandy in France. I have relatives who were a bit late for that party, not arriving in France until September. They survived the war, but one was killed in an unsolved murder in Holland after it was over. Actually, war never is over. It only changes in alliances and in enemies and in locations .... qué será, será ....
Barrel lengths & grips & uffff ....
Sometime in late 2016 it occurred to me that I never have fired, much less owned, a revolver with a five-inch barrel. The remedy? Buy one and shoot it, of course, preferably one which would not cost me an arm and a leg because curiosity would be my only reason for obtaining it.
Here you see the results of that realization and curiosity. I will not tell you what I paid for it, but I will mention that I purchased it on January 3, 2017, more-or-less locally. I also will mention that according to the third edition of the "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson," by Jim Supica and Richard Nahas it was made in 1947, give or take a year in either direction. Without going into detail, I will say S&W firearms often are very difficult to date.
I cannot hit with it nearly as well as I am able with a traditional Colt Model 1911 semi-automatic pistol in .45 caliber and its five-inch barrel, for instance, but that is no surprise because ever since I bought my first handgun I have significantly favored semis over revolvers and shot them almost exclusively.
Presumably, simply looking at the original grips should be reason enough to understand why I will not use them. They are "tiny." I cannot understand how law enforcement people put up with such unremarkable, barely useable grips on an otherwise outstanding revolver .... booooooo .... hisssssss ....
The black Hogue grips are a set I have had for some time. They are ideal in every possible way other than visual appearance. They are rubber, fit my hand perfectly and I use similar sets on most of my handguns for actual shooting. The other set of Hogues is wood, much more attractive and also fit my hand perfectly. However, wood is not "squeezeable," so I could not shoot as well with them if I could get them on the handgun. Somewhere between the revolver and the grips there is a design problem and this one-piece set does not fit the firearm.
All is well with the grips now actually on the S&W. They are attractive; they fit my hand perfectly; they fit the firearm perfectly .... what more could a resident of Neverland ask? I cannot hit as well with them as I can with the rubber Hogues, but since this "baby" never will be a regular "carry gun" for me, so what?
As for shooting a revolver with a five-inch barrel -- which was the root of my curiosity and the source of this experiment -- my opinion is that there is no significant difference in terms of my accuracy with it than there is hitting home with revolvers with a four-inch or a six-inch barrel. The only actual difference for me, perhaps, and perhaps for most people, is in the matter of concealability, and that is a moot point for a "semi guy."

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Once upon a time never comes again

Describe this scene to yourself in your own words ....

(Editor's Note: Stephen Crane, who had never been in the military, much less participated in a battle, wrote "The Red Badge of Courage" in 1894. It soon became recognized as a classic novel about the American Civil War, noted for its realism and naturalism. It is a story about a young private in the Union Army, Henry Fleming -- "the youth," who flees the field during his first skirmish. Overcome with shame for running, he wishes for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. He later carries a flag into battle and, by the end of the tale, has found redemption. What happens between the two events is available to anyone who chooses to pick up the novel and to read it. I wish you a meaningful Actual Memorial Day ....)

The closing lines
of "The Red Badge of Courage"
by Stephen Crane
For a time this pursuing recollection of the tattered man took all elation from the youth's veins. He saw his vivid error, and he was afraid that it would stand before him all his life. He took no share in the chatter of his comrades, nor did he look at them or know them, save when he felt sudden suspicion that they were seeing his thoughts and scrutinizing each detail of the scene with the tattered soldier.
Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a distance. And at last his eyes seemed to open to some new ways. He found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them.
With this conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.
So it came to pass that as he trudged from the place of blood and wrath his soul changed. He came from hot plowshares to prospects of clover tranquilly, and it was as if hot plowshares were not. Scars faded as flowers.
It rained. The procession of weary soldiers became a bedraggled train, despondent and muttering, marching with churning effort in a trough of liquid brown mud under a low, wretched sky. Yet the youth smiled, for he saw that the world was a world for him, though many discovered it to be made of oaths and walking sticks. He had rid himself of the red sickness of battle. The sultry nightmare was in the past. He had been an animal blistered and sweating in the heat and pain of war. He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks -- an existence of soft and eternal peace.
Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds.

Something special ....