THE 2021-2022 SEASON LOG


January 10, 2021: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again

Well, we are ten days into the new year and it's just as awful as the old one, so far. Our Revered And Beloved Governor Blackface Northam, He Whom No One Can Praise Too Highly, has imposed more Draconian measures, including a midnight to six AM curfew that even He (All Praise Be Unto Him) admits can't and won't be enforced, but by God, you'd better not violate it or else.

The pandemic continues to "rage" and The Talking Heads on what passes for "news" keep putting on their Frowny Faces and assuring us that WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!   any minute now, but if somehow COVID doesn't get us, Global Warming will; if that  doesn't work, the Impending Doom from tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and so forth will finish the job. Needless to say, the distribution of the vaccines is screwed up, and in any case is based on Racism, but surely President Biden, when he comes down on to us on his Golden Cloud on January 20th, will make it all better again.

Hunting season is over. It's too effing cold to fish. Life is even more meaningless and bleak than usual, but to look on the bright side, if I wear a mask I can go fishing so long as I stay at least 6 feet away from the fish I catch. God alone knows if fish can carry COVID, but you can't be too careful.


January 20, 2021: Inauguration Day

Well, it has happened. We now can all celebrate the accession of President Biden, who has come down to us in His Magnificence to drive away the Evil Beast, and who has promised that He will be "...a President for all Americans." Presumably "all Americans" excludes certain people: gun owners, NRA members, hunters, and anyone who voted for his opponent.

As it happens, I have attended a few Inaugurations, and actually participated peripherally in one: Richard Nixon's second in 1973. Very peripherally: I was one of a few dozen Department of Defense photographers designated to document the occasion: that's me in the photo at left, indicated by the arrow. I was perched on a platform some 30 feet behind Tricky Dick. I went to Ronald Reagan's first one as well.

In those innocent days upwards of a quarter of a million people would be present as spectators, standing on the Mall. Not this time. When President Biden was sworn in, there were—are you ready for this?—half a million flags instead. This was a reaction to the January 6th incident at the Capitol, as was the presence of 25,000 armed National Guardsmen to protect President Biden from the people. I suppose half a million flags were cheaper than half a million cardboard cut-outs like the ones used at sports events to simulate a crowd. It will be interesting to see if actual, live spectators are ever permitted at any Inauguration ceremony ever again. I'm betting not. They're much harder to control than flags. I don't understand why there has to be such a spectacle at all. Calvin Coolidge was sworn in to the presidency in his father's front parlor (left); even LBJ took the oath more or less privately, aboard Air Force One. The event as it is now carried out is nothing more than theatrical tricks designed to puff up the incoming Leader Of The Free World.

Needless to say, the Talking Heads in the "news" media are over the moon about seeing President Biden in office. The male Talking Heads are straining their fly buttons and the female Talking Heads are leaving wet spots on their swivel chairs. There is traditionally a "honeymoon period" for incoming Presidents, but eventually the Talking Heads remember that their real  job is to tear down the country, regardless of who's in office. So they start sniping at the new man. I wonder how long it will take for them to turn on President Biden?  In the case of his predecessor, the venom started flowing long before the 2016 election, and kept up for four long years. President Biden will in time get his share of it. But because he is nothing more than a senile buffoon who's a stalking horse for the hard Left, it will be because he isn't pushing the Left's agenda hard enough.


January 22, 2021: Busted Gun

I have a bird shoot set up for the 27th of this month; when my friend Phil suggested we should go shoot some clay pigeons to get ready, I was happy to go along. I'm a terrible wingshot and really ought to practice more, but what with one thing and another and the ammunition shortage, I never got "a round tuit."

I was planning to take my Stevens 311 double barrel for the shoot, and it's a good thing we went out to practice yesterday. Last season the gun doubled on me—and with heavy loads it actually me knocked down!—and damned if it didn't double again yesterday, shooting some very light stuff. Plus I had a very hard time getting it open, and now the right barrel won't drop the hammer.

We have no gunsmiths in this area to speak of. There is one elderly gentleman who is very good, and with whom I've done business many times, but he is well up into his late 80's and not in the best of health. I have a real fear I might leave the gun with him and never get it back if he died. So I started making contacts.

Of course I contacted Savage through their web site, but so far I have heard nothing at all from them. Given their current production I strongly suspect they won't do repairs on a shotgun built in 1981. I think in the end I'll take it to Sportsman's Warehouse. They have a gun repair service, but they send the gun to Salt Lake City for the work; you have to drop the gun off at one of their stores. Luckily they have a store in Roanoke, 45 miles away from my home: the next nearest store is 4 hours away in West Virginia.

Given the virulently anti-gun atmosphere now pervading what passes for a government in Virginia, I was concerned that if I went through the store I'd have to go through Governor Blackface's Dr Ralph "Mr Rogers" Northam's (May His Name Be Praised Forever) idiotic background check again, to get my own damned gun back. Considering the hoops I had to jump through to get the gun in Washington DC in 1981 (see the log entry for February 2, 2020) I would have been mightily honked. However, it seems that Federal law applies to this situation, not state law—at least until the Democrats in the General Assembly find out about it—and I don't have to do so. The gun is checked in as a "Repair," and Federal law allows it to be returned to me directly without any additional bullshit. Sportsman's Warehouse charges $20 to ship it, I'll get an estimate for the repair ($45 for that) and once it's fixed it's shipped back to the Roanoke store where I can pick it up.

It's pretty obvious that that Virginia is rapidly turning into "Kalifornia Lite" and I'm not the least bit happy about that. But it's what happens when we elect Democrats.

So on Wednesday I'll be taking my 20-gauge double with some high brass loads of #4's and hope for the best. I can probably miss birds with a 20 as well as a 12. Maybe even better.


January 25, 2021: Another Practice Session

Phil and I went out to the range yesterday to do some more practice shooting, and boy, do we need it. He brought along a couple of double shotguns for me to try: a Stoeger SxS made in Brazil, a big clunky 12 gauge; and a "Remington" O/U made in Russia. No wonder Remington went bust: when America's oldest gunmaker has to sell Russian guns under their brand name, you know things have gone to pot. That said, the gun did have some redeeming qualities, including ejectors, which the Stoeger did not.

I brought my 20-gauge "Churchill" double, actually a Spanish gun sold by Kassnar many years ago. It was made by Zabala Hermanos, a decent second- or third-tier firm. Not to be compared with the high-end Spanish guns, but for a budget double it's very nice with features I like: a straight grip, splinter fore-end, and selective ejectors. For some reason, virtually all inexpensive shotguns have pistol grip stocks, but this one doesn't. I bought it from the Kittery Trading Post some years back at a bargain price and have used it for a few seasons. (By the way, KTP has a huge selection of used guns. Well worth checking their site if you're in the market.) We shot a bit better than we did in the first session, but not too much better. I actually managed to hit some clays. The "Remington" O/U seemed to shoot pretty well for me. On the whole I prefer SxS guns, because I'm a mossbacked old fogey; but I used an O/U in Argentina and am beginning to weaken in my belief that O/U's with single triggers are the work of Satan. Unfortunately the single trigger on that "Remington" isn't selective. It always fires the lower barrel first.

My sciatica was really bad and I had to cut the session short. I'm probably going to have to crap out on the bird shoot tomorrow, as well. Maybe I should call the White House: President Biden has promised to fix all the country's ills, why not start with me?


January 29, 2021: Bird Shoot & President Biden Comes Through, Maybe

After postponing our annual bird shoot for a couple of days, I was feeling well enough to go out today. Normally we do this on SUPER BOWL SUNDAY because neither Phil nor I give a damn about the SUPER BOWL, but when we called to set it up John Holland told us he was running out of quail, and if we wanted to be sure of having them, we'd better come before then. I go for pheasants but Phil is a Quail Man, so we did as advised. We were supposed to have gone last Wednesday (the 27th) but my leg was in such bad shape there was no way I could do that. After a couple of days on ice and stoked to the eyeballs with very stiff doses of painkillers, I was marginally able to manage it today. The weather was perfect except for being very cold (in the low 20's) but there was no wind I could use as an excuse for bad shooting. I'd brought my "Churchill" 20-gauge double and a couple of boxes of high-brass #4's. I like 4's for pheasants. Phil was shooting his old corn-shucking Browning A-5 12 gauge, complete with Polychoke, using 7-1/2's. I paid for 4 pheasants, and we got them all. Phil paid for something like 18 quail and got at least 16, so we did OK.

The Pheasants on the truck

My field shooting is better than my target practice: I actually managed to hit some birds (including a couple of quail, one of which I knocked ass over teakettle at a very respectable range). I'm not sure why this is the case, but perhaps it has to do with the size of the birds versus a clay pigeon, and perhaps also because with live birds I concentrate better. Or maybe I don't concentrate at all: seems to me sometimes that when I'm not thinking about a shot, I connect more often than not. I really need to go back to Argentina and get some more "live bird" practice.

About half the quail, Phil got the rest later after this was taken

I managed to hobble around for a couple of hours, and once we'd disposed of the pheasants, Phil and John went off to a farther field to pursue the remaining quail while I remained in the truck. An ice pack on my right hip made the day tolerable with respect to pain. I'm not sure what will happen next year when I've even older and feebler than I am now, but what the hell, by then I may be dead and won't care.

On the way home I took my Stevens 311 shotgun to Sportsman's Warehouse to be repaired. They'll send it out tomorrow by Useless Parcel Service, and I'll be notified when it's fixed. The shelves at SW are bare: they still have a few handguns and some high-end shotguns but of ammunition there was almost none. Even shotgun shells: there were one or two boxes of 28 gauge loads, a few 5-round boxes of slugs and buckshot in larger sizes, and that was it. Zero rifle ammo, absolutely zero in the way of primers or other reloading components. Looks like President Biden will be an even better salesman for the gun industry than Obama was.

Speaking of President Biden, yesterday I got a call from the Montgomery County Health Department. It seems that as an Officially Certified Geezer, I am now eligible to be saved from death by getting my COVID-19 vaccine, so I was invited to come and get it done in three weeks (if I haven't died by then, of course).

Now I have this question: once I'm immune to the virus, I can't get it, right? And if I can't get it and don't have it, I can't transmit it to anyone else, right? So..WHY IN THE HELL DO I STILL HAVE TO WEAR A !@$#!%$!@#$%!! MASK?


February 10, 2021: No Comment Needed


February 11, 2021: A Common Stupidity

There are many stupid things in this world.

This is the season when I get end-of-year statements from various investments and every single one of them includes a page like the one at the left.

Now, is there anything that could be considered stupider than a page printed with the words:

"THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK"?

Quite obviously if it has words of any kind printed on it, then IT ISN'T BLANK, intentionally or otherwise.

I'm flabbergasted at the mindset that produces such imbecility. Honest to God, you can't make this shit up. I have to wonder if there isn't some sort of government regulation that requires financial institutions to do things like this. And if there is, I'll bet that somewhere it includes a page with nothing written on it except "This Page Intentionally Left Blank."

 


February 12, 2021: What You Need, Just In Case

The Forces Of Darkness are determined to deprive us of our guns, but—so far, except for New York and New Jersey —they haven't cottoned on to this incredibly dangerous Assault Slingshot, complete with adjustable sights, a Picatinny rail, a laser, and places to mount a proper slingshot scope. In time they will, in time...but for now, it behooves every one of us to buy a $200 slingshot that also shoots arrows. And put it in a bug-out bag in case we have to bug out. And be forewarned: this is not a toy, and use common sense, for God's sake. Whatever you do, don't use one of these to hold up a bank! The manufacturer will void the warranty if you do.

No doubt this is the slingshot of choice for criminals, who, equipped with it, will "outsling" the police. How can our society continue to tolerate releasing this incredibly deadly weapon into the hands of the public? The last thing we need is Slingshots Of War on our streets! But the National Slingshot Association stands in the way of the proper, common-sense slingshot control we need NOW!


February 15, 2021: Presidents' Day

Today is Presidents' Day, a remarkably minor national holiday, on which we celebrate the lives and accomplishments of some notable luminaries of American history. In the past Abraham Lincoln and George Washington had their birthdays celebrated separately in February (the 12th and the 22nd, respectively) but in these more enlightened times that tradition has been done away with. Lincoln, who ended slavery, and Washington, who founded the nation, now get to share a celebratory experience with the likes of William Henry Harrison (left) whose 31-day administration ended when he died of pneumonia after getting wet in his inaugural parade; and the dim and deservedly forgotten Millard Fillmore (right) who signed the Fugitive Slave Act. Fillmore started out as a Whig but in 1852 was nominated by the Know-Nothing Party, a switch which seems appropriate. Franklin Pierce is also celebrated on this Day Of All Days, though nobody remembers what the hell Pierce did except carp that abolition was a "fundamental threat" to the Union, and enforce the Fugitive Slave Act with a vengeance.

Then there is the stalwart William Jefferson Clinton, the Draft-Evader-In-Chief whose penchant for getting blow jobs from 21-year-old White House interns got him into a minor spot of trouble, but who charmed his way out of it—as he did with most things, including military service—with the help of his alleged wife.


February 18, 2021: A Shot In The Arm

Well, yesterday Mrs Outdoorsman and I went and got our first COVID-iocy shots. We had been called a couple of weeks ago by the Health Department. Originally we were given appointments for today, the 18th: but the weather forecast was for an ice storm that would surely destroy the planet, and even if it didn't would certainly kill everyone in Montgomery County. Therefore a second phone call three days ago told us that our Thursday appointments were cancelled, please come on Wednesday to be saved from Death.

The shots were given in the Whoopin' and Screamin' Holy Church of Jesus Christ Lord God In The Foothills, located in a strip mall on US Route 11. At one time the venue was an "event center" for things like weddings but there weren't enough "events" to keep it in business. So now it's a church, complete with a children's play area, an anteroom, and a humongous theater-like space with comfortable chairs suitable for jumping up and waving your arms in ecstasy, a neon-lit stage—on which were a drum set and an electric keyboard, which gave us a pretty clear idea of how the services are run. There were also a number of accessory TV monitors, smaller versions of the kind you see in basketball arenas. No matter how far you were from the stage—sorry, I mean the altar, or at least the drum set—you could see what was going on.

After entering via the play area we were moved into the anteroom, where dozens of volunteer workers were checking people in. That's when the fun started. Mrs Outdoorsman was directed to one desk and checked in; I was sent to a different desk where the volunteer couldn't find my name on "the list." I explained that our appointments had been changed but she had to track down a more experienced volunteer to find me. It turned out that while Mrs Outdoorsman had been listed under our last name, for reasons known only to the Health Department, I was listed under my first name. By the way, we had to show identification. I have no idea why, but these days you almost have to show ID to use a public toilet, so it's to be expected they'd demand it to save your life, no? Luckily my first name is on my driver's license. No driver's license? No shot. You can just go out into the parking lot and die, unidentified scum.

There were at least a dozen police officers in attendance, from both county and town forces. Perhaps if you didn't have an ID and didn't deserve a shot, they were the ones to chuck you out?

Once the snafu with my name on the list was resolved, I received a little card and was told to move on the the next spot, where the shot-givers (shooters?) were waiting. Snap it up, keep moving, folks, nothing to see here and there are people waiting to have their lives saved.

The shooters were in yet another large room, at tables, two shooters per table. I was directed to a genial woman who seemed to know what she was doing. She asked me which arm I wanted to get the shot in; I told her to take her choice. "I'll do it in your right arm, that's the closest one." There was a large Golden Retriever asleep on the floor next to the table. I asked if the dog was there to get a shot, and was told, "He's already had his." She then wrote the date for my second shot on the little card. We'd been told that the second shot should come two weeks after the first, so naturally I was told to come back in a month.

After the shot I was told to go into the next room, the huge theater-like space where services are held. We had to wait fifteen minutes, to see if we had any ill effects. Dizziness, nausea, death, you know, that sort of thing. If someone isn't dead after 15 minutes he's good to go, any anyone who died didn't have to come back for a second shot. We lived the requisite 15 minutes so were allowed to depart but if we died in the car nobody would know or care. On the way out we heard someone say that they expected to do 1500 people that day. Maybe so: there were several hundred there yesterday morning and more coming in as we left.

So after a solid year of COVID-iocy and constant yammer-yammer-yammer about it on the so-called "news" we are finally on the road to safety, if not wellness. That's assuming that the shot I received was in fact the vaccine and just not sterile water. The Talking Heads on the "news" keep hyperventilating about "vaccine shortages" and how the weather has delayed shipments, and how WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! any minute now because there's NOT ENOUGH VACCINE!!!

I have no way to know for sure but I take it as a matter of faith that I did get a vaccine, not sterile saline; I'm hoping that the Health Department isn't relying on placebo effect. On Saint Patrick's Day I will get my second shot, and two weeks after that...no more !$@!$#!$%$!! mask for me.

After being saved from COVID by the beneficence of the Commonwealth and President Biden we went to Tractor Supply and bought birdseed. It's good to be alive, if only barely. I am so glad that President Biden has kissed it and made it all better. I feel so much more confident that I will live to see Our Revered And Beloved Governor (All Praise Be Unto Him) leave office.


February 19, 2021: Ice

Photo Courtesy of G. Wayne Pike
Tazewell, VA
Retired Federal Marshall, Western District, VA
Former Wythe County Sheriff


We have had the ice storm that was predicted. Ice storms seem to be a peculiar weather pattern of the American South: when it's not quite cold enough to snow, but cold enough that surfaces can freeze falling rain, you get a covering of ice on tree branches, fences, cars, any solid object.

 

An ice storm can be a beautiful sight. Everything becomes wrapped in a crystalline covering and glitters like diamonds.

But it can also be incredibly damaging. The weight of the ice can cause limbs to break off trees and hit power lines. Here in Blacksburg we old-timers remember the ordeal of The Great Ice Storm of 1994: we were a week without electric power and three days without water. For days you could hear crack!-crack!-crack! as tree limbs fell all over town. In the subsequent clean-up there were shoulder-high piles of brush along both sides of every street in town for weeks. The town ground up so much mulch that for a year anyone who wanted some free could just go get it. We had just brought home a brand new Volvo station wagon the day the storm started. That morning Mrs Outdoorsman said, "Maybe you'd better move the car." Twenty minutes late a huge half-trunk from a tree in our front yard crashed down into the driveway exactly where the car had been. A very narrow escape! No doubt other people have experienced worse conditions for longer, but for us effete Easterners, 1994 was bad enough.

This ice storm wasn't nearly so bad but when the ice started forming we knew—we knew—that sooner or later the power would go, and so it did. At 11:15 yesterday morning, I heard a 750-KV step down transformer explode down the street. That's a sound that's unmistakable. It sounds like—it is—a large bomb going off. Exploding transformers sometimes happen when a squirrel unwisely decides to store some nuts in the transformer case and becomes a Crispy Critter. When one goes, poof! we have no electricity.

I called Appalachian Power: in 1994 I'd spent several days trying to get through to them but it seems they've learned a lesson from the outrage that resulted from a week-long busy signal. Now you can actually talk to a human if  you wait long enough. While you wait the hold message advises you to "...report outages via our web site..." which would be an interesting trick, since the computer you need to get to the web site runs on electricity, as does the wireless modem. Eventually I was able to speak to someone. I reported what I knew, told her where the transformer was probably located, and was told, "We have no estimate of when power will be restored," and "There are 97 customers in your area affected." This was not encouraging but at least the report was made. Later I heard from neighbors that there were live power lines in the street and at least one pole that had fallen down.

Our lives run on electricity: not only our computers, stoves and refrigerators, but our freezer full of food and even the heat in our house. Of course we had no idea how long this outage would last. We've had one since 1994 that cost us a freezer-load of meat; but after 1994 we'd made some preparations. I bought a little Coleman camp stove that runs on either gasoline or propane. We have been glad for it more than once. This time Mrs Outdoorsman had been in the middle of making soup for lunch when the power went, so out came the camp stove to allow her to finish it. We have extra blankets. Moreover we have several oil lamps so that we don't have to freeze to death in the dark. No, we can watch ourselves freeze to death by the light of a wick barely producing the level of illumination that a 25-watt bulb does. But at least we could see our toes becoming frostbitten and falling off.

Well, in the end it wasn't nearly as bad as it might have been. Power came back on at 9:15 PM, a little over 11 hours after the failure. By then we'd had dinner, delivered so that someone besides us could risk his life on the road. Talk about "essential workers": I now include Chinese restaurant delivery drivers in that category.

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through a [Blue Ridge] village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,  
Excelsior!

With Apologies to
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)


March 2, 2021: A Reprieve?

Our Revered And Beloved Governor Blackface Northam, He Whose Praises Are Sung Far And Wide Across The Commonwealth, He For Whom All Of Us Peons Give Thanks (because we know what's good for us) has graciously condescended to allow us to loosen some of our justly-deserved chains. We are now allowed to leave our homes after midnight and before 5:00 AM without being shot by his Gestapo; we can now have "gatherings" of up to 50 people; we can now have sporting events with 30% capacity but not more than 250 people; and we are now allowed to drink at bars until 12:00 midnight. Hallelujah, Praise Him (if you know what's good for you). Of course we still have to wear masks, even when we're sitting on the toilet; and we are strongly advised to wear TWO masks.

Saint Anthony Fauci, nearly as infallible as Governor Blackface Northam, has told us that the incidence of flu is down because people are wearing masks; and that the cases of COVID-iocy are going up because people refuse to wear masks. You pays your money and takes your choice. Nobody, not even Saint Anthony, has a clue what's going on; but we are all grateful for Governor Blackface's Northam's stupendous generosity.


March 17, 2021: Getting Shot On Saint Patrick's Day

Mrs Outdoorsman and I had our second COVID-iocy shots today, and now we are fully immune, or so we are told. Not that that means a whole lot: according to St Anthony Fauci we still have to wear the !$#!$#!@#%^&!!! masks until and unless our Beloved And Revered Governor Blackface Northam, He Who Looks Like Mr Rogers And Dictates Like Benito Mussolini, says we don't have to. Who would doubt His infinite wisdom? After all, if I don't have the disease, can't get it, and can't infect anyone else, it's obvious that I should wear a !$#!$#!@#%^&!!! mask, "just in case," right? How could I be so stupid, so uncaring, so wanting in Community Spirit, so selfish, indeed, so treasonous, as to refuse to wear a !$#!$#!@#%^&!!! mask for the silly reason that it makes no difference whether I do or not? I just don't know how I'll be able to live with myself. But I'll try.


This time the shots were given at the local high school. I haven't been inside a high school in 50-odd years, but I can tell you that Blacksburg High (home of the "Blacksburg Bruins," who used to be called the "Blacksburg Indians" until the PC Nazis whopped them upside the head with the Shaming Stick) is a lot more posh than the then-brand-new Bronx High School of Science was in 1961-65. It is still recognizably a school, however. But how long, do you suppose, will it take for someone to recognize that the image of the "Bruin" is of a grizzly bear, and point out that we don't have grizzly bears in Virginia? How long will it take for PETA to object to "Bruins" as a team name because it's "species-ist" and demeaning to bears, presenting them as violent when they're really just sweet, cuddly Furry Friends? Where's Tim Treadwell when we need him to look after the interests and concerns of bears?


One thing I wasn't prepared for when I moved to small-town America from Da Bronx was the fact that the parking lots are for students, not faculty. At the Bronx High School of Science they had a parking lot the size of a tennis court for the three or four faculty members who drove to work. Students came in by bus, and not a school bus either. I rode the #10 New York City Transit bus; all 3800 or so BHSS students rode a bus except for the ones that rode the subway. The idea of a parking lot for students was completely foreign to me.

The Home of the Bruins is simply colossal, and sits on God alone knows how many acres of land. Most of that land is taken up by the parking lots. Seriously, the parking available would serve the needs of a regional shopping mall or a popular beach resort. The school itself, what I saw of it, is painted in muted tones of grey and maroon. I didn't get into any classrooms, but we did go into the gymnasium to get our shots. On the walls of the gym were advertisements for local businesses. Another shock. It's a public school for God's sake, why do they need to sell advertising? (And they do sell it: there were several blank spots with posters asking people to "Support The Bruins, Advertise here!") I'll tell you why: because no matter how much money the town and county provide through our extortionate real estate tax rates, it's not enough to "support" the school teams. After all, the purpose of any institution of higher learning is to provide a cheering section for the football and basketball teams, nicht wahr? To send your teams on away games in old busses, and in last year's uniforms would be, well, a disgrace, shaming the good name of the town. I really should be grateful to fork over several thousand dollars in taxes a year, knowing it will go to A Good Cause. Again, I am selfish and irresponsible for raising any objections.

When we arrived there was a line out the door and all the way down the parking lot, several hundreds of yards long, composed of people religiously keeping their "social distancing" and wearing their !$#!$#!@#%^&!!! masks. There were plenty of police there, too, to make sure they did. Take your mask off, and you'd get a warning. Keep it off and you'd get handcuffed and hauled off to The Hokie Pokey, as an Enemy Of The People. This is the Ho Chi Minh principle: keep everyone in line by keeping them in fear of retribution.

I was checked in by a woman who works at the vet school where I was employed until the end of 2014, but she is in a different department and didn't know anyone I do. Since she was "only a veterinarian" she hadn't been "trained" to give the shots. (Why not? How different is it from giving a shot to a dog? It should  be easier , since I'm not covered in hair.) So her table-mate did the actual shot, thereby freeing me from the worry of catching a "deadly" disease whose death rate is well below that of the flu. Now I can enter Heaven safe in the knowledge I won't give St Peter COVID-iocy.

It took a lot less time than I had feared it would when I saw the line. Thirty-five minutes. When we came out the line was twice as long as when we started. It seems that our Beloved And Revered Governor Blackface (Praise Be Unto Him) has graciously decided that everyone can get shot, not just us Geezers. Most of the people in line were well under 65. We got called into the building early because we were there for our second shot. The second-shotters were uniformly Geezers, who'd received their first shots under the old, bad, Age-ist rules.

I keep hearing bullshit on what purports to be the "news," with The Talking Heads assuring us that "...the end of the Pandemic is near..." but nevertheless, we'd better keep wearing the !$#!$#!@#%^&!!! masks, OR ELSE. This is so comforting, to know that the end is merely a matter of perhaps two years away. (Maybe four, if President Biden lives that long and isn't shoved out the door under the 25th Amendment but who's counting?)


Aftermath:

We had been told that the second Moderna shot would hit harder than the first, and it did. I started feeling woozy within half an hour of getting the shot, and last night was really bad. Overall ache, a headache, and very poor sleep. I have only once before had a bad reaction to an immunization: in USAF Basic Training 50 years ago I had a flu shot that laid me on my back with a fever of 105°. Everything I touched seemed to be freezing. I'm sure I was running a fever last night, as I had the same experience of being cold when I knew I couldn't be cold; though it was nowhere near so bad as in 1970. Twenty-four hours later I'm still easily fatigued, and I sincerely hope this stops by tomorrow.

Post-Adendum Addendum, Friday March 19, 2021:

It stopped. I am not yet dead.


March 20, 2021: A Semi-Satisfactory Range Day

I went to the range today to do some things: first was to chronograph some reloads I made in .38 S&W (not .38 Special); second was to shoot my little Steven Favorite in .32 Rimfire; third to function-check my FN .25 pistol in which I'd installed a new recoil spring to replace the 109-year-old original.


The reloads first. I had several varieties and some factory ammunition. Everything was fired in my S&W "Lemon Squeezer" a/k/a "New Departure" revolver, vintage 1903. The factory stuff was, well, anemic. An average of 532 FPS with a 145 grain bullet that has all of 91 F-P of energy! Believe it or not, the standard British service load in this caliber was worse: 372 FPS and 113 F-P. Granted this was from a 3" barrel, but even when we fired it out of a 5" military-issue Webley Mark IV it barely hit 442 FPS and 72 F-P. That isn't going to stop many attackers. The best reload I'd made was with "Trail Boss" powder under a 165 grain bullet: 509 FPS and 96 F-P. Though the factory stuff was nominally faster with a negligible difference in energy, if I had to use this gun in self defense I would want heavy bullets.


The Stevens Favorite is one of my favorites (ha, ha) but it startled me a bit: using factory .32 Rimfire ammunition (some Navy Arms stuff that was made 20+ years ago) it MISFIRED three times, despite repeated hits. My home-rolled stuff, using the H&R kit and acorn blank "primers" fired perfectly. The "reloads" use black powder so I had to clean it as soon as I got home.

I have no idea what happened. I haven't used this rifle in a long time. The Navy Arms product worked perfectly last time I fired it, and it's been properly stored. I just sold two boxes of that stuff for $100 EACH, so I'm a little rattled and hope I don't have to give the buyer a refund. Maybe it was just something about it my rifle (which dates from around 1910-15 or so) didn't like. My home-made stuff chronographed at 852 FPS; with an 85 grain bullet, that's 138 FP, more than enough energy for the toughest squirrel.


I've written about my little FN .25 before, a Browning M1906 "Vest Pocket." It was made around 1912 and brought to the USA by my late godfather's father sometime before World War One. At 109 years of age it's seen some use. It had been misfiring a bit so I replaced the firing pin spring last year, which cured that issue. I recently changed out the recoil spring as well, the original being somewhat deformed. The "Vest Pocket" is identical to the Colt Model 1908 .25 (which was actually a licensed copy) so since Numrich didn't have the "official" recoil spring for the FN version in stock I used the one they sell for the Colt. It worked perfectly. My little pea-shooter is on track for its second century of service at this point. I actually carried this popgun for years when I lived in New York, because it was the only pistol I owned that was small enough to hide easily!


March 22, 2021: Yesterday Was Not "My Day" Nor Is Today Much Better

We have a cuckoo clock, a lovely "Black Forest" item that I acquired many years ago. It had been brought here from Germany by a man who'd immigrated in the late 1930's and was in my father's country house. When the house was sold I claimed it. For years it hung on our dining room wall, silent as Cortez upon a peak in Darien, though without the wild surmise.

Some weeks ago I decided that enough was enough and I sent it off to a man in Roanoke who fixes things like cuckoo clocks. He returned it working perfectly and COOK-COOK-COOK ing as per advertisement. Yesterday or the day before I must have over wound it. It stopped working. I examined it and discovered that the chain that winds the clock mechanism has slipped off its cog and couldn't, with my limited knowledge and skills set, be restored. $200 down the drain: Mrs Outdoorsman has decreed that the clock shall never COOK again, though it's back on the wall, looking sullen in a very Teutonic manner.

Then my 25+ year old Toro lawn mower stopped working. This mower had always been very reliable. I've commented more than once to Mrs Outdoorsman that it would always start on the first or second pull of the rope, something not a common performance feature of 2-cycle engines. For decades it has given us sterling service. Yesterday, for whatever reason, it decided that enough was enough. Despite fresh gas, a new spark plug, and ether spray in the carburetor, it flat-out refused to start.

A couple of years ago I'd bought an electric chain saw, a battery-powered Kobalt 18" one that is as good as any gas-powered one I ever owned. Better, actually: because unlike nearly all gas-powered chain saws (all of which have 2-cycle engines) it starts every time I press the button. So now I've had it with 2-cycle engines. I went to the Lowe's site and ordered a Kobalt 21" electric mower that uses the same battery that my saw does. If it's half as good as the saw I'll be satisfied. It wasn't cheap. But less expensive than the co-pay on a heart attack would be.


I've had better and less expensive days than yesterday, but today isn't much better. At 7:30 this morning I took my 11-year-old Border Collie, Lucy, to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. I knew they did this under sedation but wasn't aware it was a full anesthesia: she will be there all day, until she recovers. I'm not happy about that, there is always risk with general anesthesia, even for a "minor" procedure.

Lucy trusts me, but God knows why. Every time I put her harness on she shakes with fear because she knows she's going somewhere she doesn't like, where people she doesn't know will do things she doesn't want done, and understands only that I was the one who brought her there. There's no way to explain to a dog that what's happening is for her own good. When I have medical procedures I know what's going on but the poor thing doesn't. Worse, she's been deprived of food and water since yesterday evening. By the time she gets released (supposedly about 4:00 to 4:30 today) she's going to be starving and dehydrated.

Addendum: 4:03 PM

Lucy is back home from the vet. Her teeth are clean, but she's missing four of the ones she went in with. They had to be extracted due to damage; one actually was showing some bone resorption. She is the first dog we've ever had who had a teeth-cleaning, but boy, when we have dog teeth cleaned we do it right. Right to the tune of $1 Kilobuck+. I told Mrs Outdoorsman she shouldn't be outraged. Perhaps she might check with our own dentist to find out what he'd charge to pull four teeth. Lucy is to be on soft foods only for two weeks, no kibble, no chew sticks, no bones, nothing, not even soft toys that she might want to shred.

She's pretty grouchy and I don't blame her. She normally doesn't have the sunniest personality—she likes to be petted but only on her own terms, and growls if you try to pet her when she hasn't demanded it—but I'm going to leave her be for a while.

I'm just glad it's over, and I'm sure she is too, though she has no idea what has happened. All she knows is that her mouth hurts and she's hungry.

What a hell of a world. Tomorrow it's my turn to go to the dentist. Hooray.


March 23, 2021: Some Minor Improvements

Things are a little better today. Lucy is feeling much better, and while she's pining for the FRISBEE, the thing she lives for, she can't have it until two weeks after her dental surgery and clearance from her vet. In the interim she's on soft food, which means canned stuff. She's farting her brains out as a result. Used to be when she'd fart it was the silent-but-deadly variety that would come creeping up over the edge of the bed in a greenish miasma. Now, however, it's PFFFT!! and PFWEET!! no less deadly but clearly audible. Oh well.

My Toro mower must have been shaken by my announcement that it was headed for the Toro Organ Donor Program, because today the damned thing started up right quick. I've given it a reprieve. I cancelled the order for that lovely electric Kobalt mower, but by golly, if the Toro acts up again, woof, out it goes for the trash pickup next month.

The latest massacre in Colorado has President Biden talking about...what else?...waiting periods. Yes, that old idea of the Left has come back again. And the usual bullshit about "banning weapons of war" is being pushed again without any admission that when we had a "ban" it made no difference whatever. Honest to God, sometimes I wonder if the Left actually goes out to find some wingnut to do these things. Push his buttons and boom, off we go again on the "gun control" hobby horse. Of course the debate isn't about controlling guns. It's about controlling people, especially people who might not like what the government plans to do to them and who have the means to fight back. That's the whole point of the Second Amendment.

That nothing President Biden has proposed could or would have prevented this last incident is irrelevant. They are happy to see people killed en masse if it forwards their ultimate goal: a complete ban on private ownership of all firearms. That's what they want and they won't ever give up until they get it.


According to what passes for "news" on the Boob Tube, our Beloved And Revered Governor Blackface Northam is "loosening" restrictions on us peasants. We will now be allowed to do things He (All Praise Be Unto Him) had previously forbidden in His Infinite Wisdom, like attend weddings (provided they aren't too big) and go to sports events (provided they aren't too big) and perhaps even to walk in public (if we get down on our hands and knees in gratitude). Of course, we are grateful that He (All Praise Be Unto Him) is still requiring us to wear masks. Thank GOD for Governor Blackface Shithead Northam (All Praise Be Unto Him),  whatever would we miserable peasants and Deplorables do without His Beneficent Guidance? We are SO lucky, and don't think we don't know it.


March 28, 2021, 5:00 AM: Dogs and Thunderstorms Don't Mix

At 3:30 this morning we had a thunderstorm hit. Flashes of lightning, BOOM! of thunder, and a terrified 54-pound Border Collie scrabbling onto the bed, climbing all over us in an attempt to escape the horror. She stepped on my right eye in the process, and I may have a shiner in a few hours. Not many people out there can claim to have been given a black eye by a sheepdog.

At the moment she's decided she's safe in the storage room in our basement. The storm has passed, the dog has calmed down, and I'm going back to bed.


April 1, 2021: Our Revered and Beloved Governor  Blackface  Northam Resigns; President Biden Impeached For Senility, Enters Assisted Living Facility

Ha, Ha! APRIL FOOL! (But hey, a man can dream, can't he?)


April 2, 2021: Gunsmithing Woes

Last January I sent off my Stevens 311 shotgun for repair. (See the entry for January 22 for details.) I took it to Sportsman's Warehouse who offer gunsmithing services. They charged me a $45 "diagnostic fee" and $20 to ship it to their repair facility in Utah. Today they sent me a #!$#!%$##$!!!! text asking me to call the gunsmith shop. I was told it needs a "deep clean" and a "deburring" of the internal parts. Total is $150, over and above the $45 "diagnostic fee" I've already paid, plus the $20 shipping. I don't think I spent $215 on the gun when I bought it brand new in 1981! I also have to wonder why a gun I've owned and used for 40 years needs "deburring" of internal parts, but I don't really have a whole lot of options. Deburring and cleaning, and we'll see what happens next. If it continues to give me problems I'm going to demand a refund.

I hate texts. I loathe, abominate, and vilify texting: every text that is sent to anyone by anyone is another nail in the coffin of Civilization. When I dropped the gun off I'd told them NOT to text me when it's ready to ship home. So since the gunsmith shop had sent me a text, when I called and spoke to the gunsmith shop I again forcefully reiterated the request that when they have done the work and need a credit card number to pay for it that they call  me, NOT send me a text.

I guarantee that they'll send me another #!$#!%$##$!!!! text.

It seems to be incomprehensible to most people that when I say, "Please do NOT send me a text," I mean exactly that. They always send one anyway.


April 6, 2021: Lucy's Dental Checkup

I had Lucy in for her post-op checkup, and all is well. Everything is healed. She can now go back on regular food, and most importantly for her (and me) she can again play Frisbee. She's really been suffering for the lack of it in the past two weeks, and keeps begging me for it.

On return I took her for a walk around our block. This might not sound like much, but Mrs Outdoorsman isn't "into" walking the dog; the last time Lucy got a trot around the block was well over two years ago, perhaps more. I have no idea why my wife objects. Lucy had a good time, sniffing all kinds of spots she hasn't sniffed before and seeing new sights. It was a beautiful day to walk a dog. I had to more or less hurry her along, unfortunately. But it's done, she's home with a clean bill of health (and clean teeth) and the daily walk Mrs Outdoorsman insists on taking is out of the way. Can't ask for more than that.


April 8, 2021: The Man, The Myth, The Legend: And I Don't Mean Ernest Hemingway

The Propaganda Broadcasting System (your tax dollars at work) has a long-standing love affair with Ken Burns and his "documentaries" on various subjects. Last night we finally finished watching the seemingly interminable one on Ernest Hemingway, purportedly The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived, anywhere, and don't you ever forget it.

I have tried to read Hemingway's stuff and always got a few pages into it and stopped. I can't really comment on his ability as a writer, nor would I dream of contradicting the miscellaneous literary "experts" whose hosannas of praise for Hemingway, The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived (move over, William Shakespeare) punctuate the film. I will say that if even half of what Burns says about The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived is true, he was an alcoholic, sadistic, narcissistic mentally ill monster and the world is—pardon the pun—"A Cleaner  Better-Lighted Place" without him in it. His prose may or may not be deathless but on the whole I think we can live with The Legend quite adequately, we don't need The Man himself.

My beef is with the "documentary" itself. I sat squirming through all six hours of the usual "Ken Burns Effect": zooming in on photographs and shifting the camera's point of view on them; with the smug commentary by the narrator Peter Coyote (yes, that's his real name); with the readings from the works of The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived; with repetitive images of his miscellaneous homes (all of them outside the USA so he didn't have to pay income tax, but that's never mentioned); with pictures designed to invoke melancholy and nostalgia for poor, poor Ernest Hemingway, The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived; with the long list of women he married, etc., etc. All of it is done in Burns' plodding, leaden, mawkish, and utterly pompous style, one that makes me want to tear out what remains of my hair.

This "documentary" could have told the same story—repellent though it is—in two hours, at most three, but no, Burns has to drone on and on and on, repeating the same stuff over and over. Get to the point, Goddamn It!   Then there are of course the usual Politically Correct nuances: that Hemingway, despite his machismo and having fathered four children, was really a closet homosexual and a cross-dresser; that he was really not the braggart and liar he seems to have been, and even if he were we have to forgive him because he was "flawed" thanks to his mother, and he was The Greatest Writer Who Ever Lived. And don't you ever forget it!

I can't understand why Burns is so highly regarded. His work is so uniformly boring and slanted, so completely devoted to telling a "story" without letting truth get in the way, and so utterly nose-in-the-air pretentious that it makes my  plebeian nose twitch. I've sat through several of his so-called "documentaries." One or two were reasonably entertaining, more because of the subject than anything Burns did or said about them. "Prohibition" was one. But most of them are shallow, superficial, lacking in any sort of real insight. "The Civil War" was so bad I could hardly sit still thanks to the factual errors in it. Most of his work is profoundly Politically Correct: "Country Music" attributed all of the genre to black musicians (roll over, Hank Williams and Dolly Parton) and—believe it or not—he included Bob Dylan in the pantheon of "country music" artists...but I digress.

The point is that in my not-so-humble opinion Burns has pulled the wool over the eyes of the Propaganda Broadcasting System (your tax dollars at work). He's a charlatan. Moreover he's a charlatan completely supported by tax money in the form of deductible donations to the Propaganda Broadcasting System (your tax dollars at work), and to his "charitable foundation" that pays him handsomely for the tripe he produces. I understand that this sort of "documentary" is actually sold by Burns' production company to various presenters, but wonder if any of that money ever goes back into the hands of the taxpayers. I doubt it. The Propaganda Broadcasting System (your tax dollars at work) always includes a "thank you" to "Viewers Like You." Not viewers like me, honey: the government may steal money from me at gunpoint but I wouldn't voluntarily give you a dime.

One other thing that struck me about the "story" is that the only people crazier and more prone to masochistic self-abuse than Hemingway were the women who married him.


April 18, 2021: Weird Calibers

I like to shoot guns in oddball calibers. There is a good deal of satisfaction to be found in making an old gun in a caliber 99.9% of shooters have never heard of go BANG, and without being immodest I have to say I'm pretty good at doing this.

Plus, I shoot a drilling. Anyone who's "into" drillings has to be able to cope with weird calibers because—unless you're a multi-millionaire, which alas, I am not—drillings in common calibers are financially unreachable. Most drillings in the USA are war souvenirs brought home by returning soldiers in 1945. They tend to be in calibers like 8x57JR, 9.3x72R, or even odder and more obscure ones.

A friend has a beautiful 1920's-vintage drilling in one of the most obscure calibers ever made: 8x57R/360. Despite the similarity of name to the more common 8x57 Mauser, this cartridge is dimensionally different (except for case length), uses the 0.318" bullet so beloved of pre-WW Two German gunsmiths, and is made nowhere. Some years ago Huntington Die Specialties in California produced a batch of brass for it. My friend had some of that plus some loaded rounds he got with the gun. He asked if I could load the empties he had. Along with the ammunition he had some very high-quality Woodleigh bullets in the proper 0.318" diameter.

Here's the gun: it's a wonderful example of pre-war German craftsmanship, by Carl Anton Stiegele.

 

Stiegele was a "bespoke" gunmaker for several notable personages, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, the King of Bavaria, Napoleon III, several German princes, members of other European royal houses, and—during the period in which this gun was made—the Emperor of Japan. The ornate company logo attests to the various distinguished customers and the awards won by Stiegele's products. The firm, founded in 1837, still exists, and still produces fine guns.


As it happens, I reload for the 8x57JR, which is an entirely different round. The 8x57R/360 is ballistically similar to a .30-30, but the 8x57JR (a rimmed version of the far more common 8x57 Mauser) is akin to a .308 Winchester. Nor will a gun chambered for the one accept ammunition for the other. If you fired an 8x57JR in a gun chambered for the 8x57R/360 you would destroy the gun and perhaps yourself. But the similarity of case length and bullet diameter offered a way to do what my friend needed done, without the necessity of ordering specially made custom reloading dies at vast expense.

An old trick of reloaders to extend case life is not to resize a case full length. If there is only one firearm in a given caliber, all that's needed is to size the neck of the case so it will properly retain the bullet. A fired case takes on the dimensions of the chamber in which it's been fired, so that full-length resizing is only needed if the ammunition is to be shot in a different chamber. To achieve a neck-size-only condition, you can back off the resizing die a bit, so that it doesn't make contact with the case proper, it just squeezes the neck.

This is what I did with the 8x57R/360 brass. I backed off my sizing die for the 8x57JR sufficiently to allow the case neck to enter the top of the die, which left the fired dimensions of the rest of the case alone. The sized cases were then charged. The seating die was also backed off a bit; it was positioned so that the bullet was pressed into the squeezed-down case mouth where it was securely held. Then I used the crimping die for the 8x57JR (which touches only the neck anyway) to make sure the bullet was adequately secure.

My friend had been having misfiring problems. There are several reasons this might happen, one of them being a weak firing pin strike. To test this theory I used pistol primers rather than rifle primers. Pistol primers are somewhat softer than ones for a rifle, so if there is a weak firing pin blow they should go off reliably. I will test this out at the range as soon as I get my hands on the gun.


The next item on today's agenda was to load some .32 Rimfire. Yes, rimfire. I have a rifle in this caliber: a Stevens "Favorite," (see the entry for March 20) along with a bunch of re-usable brass cases and the special heeled bullets for them. This was something I'd done before, I just had a few fired cases I need to re-fill. This time I used Hodgdon's FFFg granulation of 777 powder. "Triple-Seven" is a bit more energetic than straight black powder, so I expect a healthy POP! when the gun goes off. I have long lamented the unavailability of commercial .32 Rimfire but the re-loadable stuff makes the gun a viable proposition. Heeled bullets for these old rimfires require external lubrication, for which I use "SPG" lube, a product specially made for use with black powder.

Modern .22 Long Rifle ammunition is one of the few remaining calibers using external lubrication—for that matter it's one of the few remaining rimfire calibers—but the factories use a hard wax that dries and isn't messy to handle. External lubrication is a bit icky with SPG: I swipe a little of it on the bullet and then work it into the grease groove with my fingers. But it works, keeping the black powder/777 fouling to a minimum.


April 24, 2021: Shredding And An Anniversary


Click on the picture to see Lucy in action against The Enemy. This is an AVI clip made in late 2018;
my late Lab Tehya is in it, in the foreground.

Today it is 10 years since Lucy, my Border Collie, came to us. I had lost my beloved Meg in September of 2010. After 7 months without a Border Collie I couldn't stand it any more, and Lucy was adopted a day after I contacted Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue. She was then a year and half old, feisty and bossy, as Border Collies are wont to be. She swaggered into the basement, looked at the other two dogs, Tehya and Tycho, announcing, "There's a new Sheriff in town!" She was the Alpha from that moment. Lucy turned 11 last November and is now visibly slowing down, but she is still pretty active. Still happy to chase the Frisbee and play with her favorite toys, but she spends much more time sleeping and lounging in the sun than she used to. She misses her playmate Tehya, that's obvious, though she enjoys the very real perks of being an Only Dog. She is the Last Dog. I can't bear the thought of losing her but in time it will happen, and after that, no more. I can't deal with the grief. Again.


Today was also a shredding day. A local real estate agent had announced a free event for people to come and have sensitive documents—financial papers, old checks, medical records, etc.—dumped into a special truck and be turned into confetti. I wondered why a real estate company would do this, though I suppose it could have been a way to remind the community that the company exists; and perhaps they had stuff of their own to shred and could write it off as a business expense.

We had done this sort of thing about five years ago: at that time we shredded more than 30 years of paperwork, a colossal undertaking. We'd spent days sorting through stuff. This time we had only five years' worth: it still filled three big boxes. It's astonishing how much paper we accumulate. Mrs Outdoorsman is one of those people who likes to have paper copies of everything. In theory we have on-line bank statements, for example, but it all gets printed out anyway: we just have shifted the cost from the banks and brokerage houses to ourselves.

We arrived at the appointed start time of 10:00 PM to find out the truck wasn't there: the driver had gone to the wrong address! On South Main Street, not North Main Street. Easy to see how he could be confused, yes? So we went and did some other errands and returned an hour and a half later. There was a goodly line of cars waiting but things went smoothly. The boxes were unloaded from our van, the contents dumped into wheelie bins, and the bins handed over to the shredder truck. They were hoisted up, the papers dumped into the truck and presumably

chewed to tiny fragments. It would take a really, really dedicated thief to winnow through the chaff in search of account numbers but just to be sure I was commanded to remove those before we put the papers in the boxes. God knows what they do with the stuff. I suppose it gets put in a landfill somewhere, although it could perhaps be used as fuel in a boiler.

If one couple accumulates perhaps 50-60 pounds of paper in five years, how much does a place like Virginia Tech generate? The amount is almost beyond comprehension.


April 30, 2021: Deer Kill Permits Resume

Those of you who follow this blog may know that I am a volunteer with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. This was formerly called the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, a name that seemed perfectly adequate to me, but the Bureaucrats in Richmond, bless their pettifogging little hearts, believed it had to change. But I digress...

My principal role has been to write "kill permits," for wildlife damage. This almost always involves damage done by deer to crops or ornamental plantings (not always: I once wrote one for a vineyard for 10 raccoons). For the past two years this program of authorized deer-whacking has been in abeyance thanks to several of factors: 1) a change in volunteer coordinators, who send out the orders to kill Bambi's Mom; 2) a change in the procedures by which permits are actually written; and 3) COVID-iocy hysteria.

In any event, the process is now resuming. In the past couple of weeks I've had three "deer calls" to handle. The way it works now is that the actual permit is written by the volunteer coordinator. He sends it to me as a PDF file. I then go and inspect the damage, and give the permit to the requestor. He/she/it then pulls out the old deer rifle and commences the "implementation" phase, i.e., he gets to kill however many deer he's been authorized. A permit is usually written for 5-10 animals, though the first one I did this year was for 20, in a Christmas tree farm whose seedlings were being bulldozed. Nobody ever kills that many. Deer are not the smartest animals on the planet but when the shooting starts they find safer places to be. When the season opens you can see them queued up at airline counters, buying tickets for Orlando.

The second "deer call" this year was a doozy. The coordinator sent me an e-mail to say he'd had a request but was having trouble getting in touch with the requestor. Later he managed it, wrote a permit, then e-mailed it to me. I called the requestor, three times. Finally got in touch with her, and asked when I could come out. Would tomorrow be OK? The answer I got floored me: "Well, I have COVID."

Now, you would think this person might have mentioned this to the coordinator, but no.....personally I'm not concerned, I am fully immunized and it would be a really reckless virus that tried to infect me, but I knew Mrs Outdoorsman would have a humongous hissy fit if I went to a COVID household. So I negotiated with the requestor: we set a date for a month hence. By then, who knows? Our Beloved And Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised Governor Blackface may, in His Infinite Generosity (All Praise Be Unto Him) have lifted His Edict and allowed us fully-vaccinated Deplorables to mingle with other non-fully-vaccinated Deplorables. He (All Praise Be Unto Him) has already, in a spirit of marvelous generosity, said we can now meet with other fully vaccinated Deplorables in "small groups," without defining "small," so is it too much to hope?

Tomorrow I go out to write permit #3, and I didn't ask whether the requestor had COVID or not. Furthermore, I don't care.


May 2, 2021: A "May Day" Adventure Of Sorts

Big adventure yesterday.  I had a "deer call," i.e., I had to go issue a kill permit. The requestor lives about 65 miles from my home, meaning I had to make a trip down Interstate 81 for most of the way.  I was 10 miles from my destination when my driver's side front tire blew out a sidewall.  At 70 MPH.  This is not a happy occurrence, but I managed to get over to the shoulder, so I could get out (carefully because I was next to a guardrail and perhaps four feet from the travel lanes...with 70 MPH traffic roaring by). I had a look and accepted that this was something I couldn't deal with on the spot, because I'm not suicidal. Changing a flat on an F-150 pickup truck isn't the trivial exercise it would be in a small car like my Toyota. Doing so on the shoulder of I-81 would have been tantamount to playing Russian Roulette with 5 of the six chambers loaded. I had a college friend who was killed changing a tire on Interstate 95 in 1971, just two years after he graduated. I've done it myself but a) I haven't been killed; b) it was on a Chevrolet Vega so I had a lot more room to work than my F-150 allowed; and c) I'm 40+ years older than when I did that. I may not be any smarter but I'm a lot more experienced than I was at age 30.

Virginia's Department of Transportation maintains a "Safety Service Patrol." This is a crew of people who cover our 900+ miles of Interstate Highway, specifically to assist motorists in the sort of situation in which I found myself.  I'd seen the trucks many times but I always assumed they just picked up dangerous objects like sloughed-off heavy truck tire treads ("road gators") and other junk.  But it seems they do a lot more.

I got back into the truck to make a "Mayday" call to the State Police (how did we survive without cell phones?). The dispatcher contacted the Safety Service Patrol, who within 15 minutes sent a very well-equipped truck and a technician who said he would actually change my tire for me!   He was very genial and cheerful; furthermore he had in his truck all the equipment needed to do the job. Not just tools but things like big orange traffic cones, which get set out to warn the dipwits in the onrushing traffic to get the hell over so nobody was killed. He even had a large erectable illuminated sign to warn people to move over. Some of them did.

He asked me to move the truck a couple of hundred yards to a wider spot at the end of the guardrail, which I did gingerly so as not to tear up the wheel rim. He then proceeded to get the spare tire from underneath the truck bed.  I had thought it was held on by some sort of screw arrangement but it's suspended on a pulley system. There's a hole in the back bumper to the left of the license plate through which a long crank can be inserted (I never knew what that hole was for, actually) to unwind the pulley, so lowering the tire.  The tire had been there since the truck came from the factory; it was brand new, still with the molding "flash" on it! After 22 years it was fearfully dirty but still intact, thank goodness.

In the Patrol truck was a rolling floor jack. This allowed him to lift up the front end of the truck a lot more easily than the little bottle jack Ford provided. Out of the truck also came a power impact wrench to undo the lug bolts.  I doubt if I could have removed those bolts with the pitiful tire iron I had (come to think of it, I don't even know where that tire iron is stowed in the vehicle....). Then he muscled the tire into place, bolting it on. He was done in less than half an hour.  Proves the truth of the adage that "With God and good power tools, all things are possible." If I'd tried to do it using manual tools I'd still be there, always assuming I'd not been killed by some nitwit who doesn't know you're supposed to move over for emergency vehicles. 

God alone knows how many of these Safety Patrol guys get killed: he jovially remarked, "I get paid to get hit by cars!"  Ha, ha, but I'm sure it happens.  I looked up their salaries: the top end is $38K per year! That's less than I get from Social Security! They really ought to give them hazardous duty pay because what they do is really dangerous work.

Here's the kicker: there was no charge: "Your tax dollars at work," and worth every penny, say I.

The spare tire was intact but unfortunately had only 10 pounds of pressure in it.  I drove slowly to a nearby service station, where I paid a ridiculous amount of money to buy air — it used to be the case that air pumps were free, but no longer, it seems—to inflate it to the requisite 35 PSI.  I then went the last 10 miles to my destination to write the permit.

The permit requestor had a graveled driveway at a 30 degree angle.  I might have taken my little Toyota Corolla on this call but over the years of doing it I've learned that it's always wise to take the truck. Deer calls are nearly always on farms and/or in remote places with difficult access.  I could never have got up that hill in the Toyota! "Four wheel drive: Don't leave home without it!" is my slogan for these trips.

The requestor had a large garden plot planted with various vegetables that the deer had buzzed off to ground level. Bambi's Mom does a lot of damage to gardens. He showed me some of the damage. "As soon as they sprout, those damned animals come out to eat them!" He'd tried electric fencing, coyote urine, human hair, and a dog but nothing deters Bambi's Mom in her relentless pursuit of vegetables. I suggested land mines but he didn't have any. It seems also that all his neighbors feed deer (which is illegal) plus those who hunt are—predictably—only interested in trophy bucks. Hence the does never get killed.

Now, if you need to reduce a deer herd the only way it can be done is by killing does: even a single surviving buck will impregnate every doe he can find so killing does is the key to population control. Killing bucks does nothing whatever to control a deer overpopulation situation. This fact exposes the fallacy behind the nonsense about "letting small bucks grow," which trophy hunters espouse. When you do that you just make the situation worse. The buck who impregnates all the local does may later die of exhaustion but his male fawns—those "small" bucks, who eventually grow up to be big bucks—will carry on the tradition. I gave the requestor his permit for five deer and told him to call if he needed more.

Not wanting to overstress my elderly spare tire I came back to Blacksburg via the scenic route. Took Virginia Route 42 across to Virginia Route 100; a very pretty drive, through one of the most rural parts of the Commonwealth. The top speed was 55 MPH so it took longer than the Interstate route would have but I made it without any further problems.

So it was quite a day.  In the end the flat tire only extended the day by an hour, but it—ha, ha—wore me "flat out" by the time I got home.


May 3, 2021: The Aftermath

Took the truck to the tire shop I've used for the past 34 years. It seems tires can be dated by the DOT code on the sidewall (something I didn't know until today, I'm learning all sorts of stuff lately). The "surviving" tires were well beyond the "safe" range of age, they were made 12 years ago. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing tires after 6 years, various manufacturers anywhere from 6-9 years, regardless of wear. Who knew?

The tire store owner said the blow-out was almost certainly attributable to age and unseen deterioration. The 22-year-old spare should have been sent to The Old Tire Home long ago, even though it was "new." The NHTSA site also remarked that spares carried under a vehicle and subject to dirt and exposure merited even faster replacement. But...the best of the existing tires turned out to be—surprisingly—my original 22-year-old spare! I retained that as the spare, at the advice of the tire dealer.

So....I ended up having to buy four new tires, to the tune of nearly $800. The remaining three "survivors" were dumped. The tread on the new ones is a good match for that on the spare, much more aggressive than the tires I replaced, which really had been more suited to road driving than anything else. I'd been hoping to get away with having to buy only two new tires, but it was not to be.

I don't drive the truck much: just in hunting season and on deer calls. At best 3000-4000 miles per year since I bought it in 2014. But as this incident taught me, even when putting minimal miles on it things can get hairy sometimes.

Live and learn, and at least I lived to tell the tale. Not everyone who has a blowout at high speed does. I'm glad I was in the right-hand lane; had it happened in the left lane I'd have been in even deeper trouble.


Addendum May 5, 2021: Figuring Out The Tire Hoist

I decided it would be a good thing to be able to use the tire hoist myself. I'd seen it done and had some idea how it worked, but it took me a while to find the trick of it. All the Internet sites on "How To Change A Tire On A Ford F-150" showed the hole in the bumper to the right of the license plate: mine is to the left. I groped around with the crank rod (which incidentally is housed in the engine compartment over the radiator) without much luck until I noticed a sort of trumpet-shaped thingie behind the bumper. Reasoning that this might be a guide for the rod, I shoved it in, et voilà, that's exactly what it was. The flat end of the rod slid into place and I was able to lower the tire. Mission accomplished.

The next items on the agenda are to: 1) check the pressure in the truck spare; b) lower the tire to check the pressure on the "doughnut" spare on Mrs Outdoorsman's Kia van. A project for tomorrow.


May 8, 2021: Possum In The Drainpipe

I had peacefully finished my lunch, gone to my "man cave" in the basement, and was settling in with a good book when Mrs Outdoorsman stuck her head down the basement stairs and asked, "Can you hear me?" This always strikes me as a silly question, one without an answer. If I can hear her, obviously the answer is "Yes," but if I can't—because I'm in the yard playing with Lucy, or somewhere other than where Mrs Outdoorsman has assumed I am—then I won't answer her at all.

Once reassured that I could, indeed, hear her, she proceeded to tell me, "There's some sort of dead animal in the drain spout next to the garage." Now, one of The Rules has a codicil that anything involving dead animals has to be dealt with by a man, so I went upstairs to have a look.

It was a possum. A hefty one, too. God alone knows how a possum gets stuck in a drain pipe, but this one managed it. We have one of those black plastic ribbed pipes that carries water out onto the lawn, away from the house, and Mr Possum had entered halfway. There his journey ended.

He was, to judge by the stage of decomposition, not too long dead. He did stink a bit (Mrs Outdoorsman has a sense of smell that would shame a bloodhound and can sniff things that I think even Lucy would miss.) But he wasn't bloated much and there were no maggots. He was soaking wet, but since it rained last night, that's accounted for. Possums are nocturnal animals so my best guess is he got in there in the wee hours of this morning. Why? Who knows? Maybe he was looking for something to eat? Was he chased into the pipe?

Whether he was killed by some predator or was drowned by the water rushing down the spout is an open question but I think it must have been the latter case. A predator (a coyote, say, or a domestic dog) would likely have eaten the parts of him that were sticking out. My late Husky Tycho would certainly have done that. I doubt it was a cat. We have a pretty ferocious feral cat here but Yussuf (that's his name) isn't very big; this possum would have been more than a match for any domestic cat. Contrary to popular believe, possums don't always "play possum," when cornered. If one thinks he can take on an aggressor, he'll stand and fight; Yussuf would have had the worse of a tangle with a 6- or 7-pound possum with 44 needle-sharp teeth, methinks.

Well, I had to get him out of the drainpipe. This was done with a "grabber claw," one of those gadgets that allow a Geezer to pick up stuff without bending over. Mrs Outdoorsman held open a plastic bag that had held garden soil, I put the possum in the bag, then put that bag inside another to minimize the fragrance he was exuding. That was that. He will go to his place of burial—the regional landfill—with the Tuesday garbage pickup. Requiescat in pace, Pogo.


Of Rabbits And Elderly Border Collies

While I was throwing the Frisbee for Lucy this morning, suddenly she stopped and headed for our fence. The fence has an enormous trumpet vine on it, and from time to time she decides there's something hiding in its foliage.

She was right. A big rabbit popped out. With Lucy in hot pursuit the rabbit ran to the top of the yard, across the back of the house, then down to the bottom of the yard, where it went behind the fence in front of the thuya trees. Lucy never really had a chance of catching it. It was running flat out on afterburners, not even bothering to dodge much. Furthermore, Lucy is used to chasing squirrels, whose behavior is predictable: they run up the nearest tree, then hit the fence line and the power pole. Once there they can run across the yard on the power line.

Rabbits of course don't do that. But the way our yard is set up, Lucy expects anything she chases to do what a squirrel will do: the rabbit didn't and she lost sight of it, giving him time to get away.

As I was writing this, a second rabbit, quite a bit smaller than the first, hopped onto the patio. Lucy was asleep by the door, the door was open, but she was so soundly asleep she never knew he was there. Even if she had spotted him she likely wouldn't have caught him. At age 11-1/2 she's much slower than she used to be. That's another reason the rabbit escaped with his life. Her "hot pursuit" isn't anywhere near so hot as it once was, alas.


A Gracious Concession, Perhaps? Or A Political Calculation?

Our Revered And Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised Governor Blackface Shithead Mussolini-Wannabe Northam has announced that he may (emphasis may) condescend to lift His (May He Ever Be Honored For His Magnificence) onerous and completely illegal "emergency order" by the end of June, if we are Good Little Deplorables and don't piss Him (All Praise be Unto Him) off. He (All Praise be Unto Him) has not specifically said which of His (All Praise Be Unto Him) idiotic rules may (emphasis may) be lifted, but you can bet it isn't going to be His (All Praise Be Unto Him) thoroughly pointless "mask mandate," something which has never saved anyone from getting COVID-iocy, ever, no matter what Saint Anthony Fauci says. We'll be wearing masks until Governor Blackface Shithead Mussolini-Wannabe Northam leaves office in January 2022, and likely after that. Unfortunately we are probably going to be saddled with Terry The Turd McAuliffe as the next Governor. Terry The Turd is called that because he stinks. To be specific, he stinks of the Clintons. He was Hitlary's hatchet-man and is a long-time "Made Man" in America's premier Political Crime Family.

Since the purpose of a mask mandate isn't to control disease but to control people, I will be very surprised if Terry The Turd doesn't keep it in place if he can. As to Our Revered And Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised Governor Blackface Shithead Mussolini-Wannabe Northam's announcement, I think the Virginia Democrats are running scared: they are likely to lose their stranglehold on the General Assembly come this Fall thanks to their over-reach. A Republican controlled state government would instantly revoke and modify the "emergency powers" the Governor has which have been so openly abused.


May 12, 2021: My Candidate For This Year's Darwin Award Is...

...all those idiots who put plastic bags of gasoline in the trunks of their cars. Some people are so stupid they don't deserve to live. And these ninnies VOTE !


May 14, 2021: The Beginning Of The End, Or, Perhaps, The End Of The Beginning (With Apologies To Winston Churchill For Stealing One Of His Best Lines)

Our Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised-And-Wholly-Beneficent Governor Shithead Blackface Mussolini Wanna-Be Northam (All Praise Be Unto Him) has announced that he is going to lift his thoroughly illegal "Universal Mask Mandate" effective midnight tonight. Ain't that just so generous of Him (Praise His Name!)? Moreover, "all restrictions" are supposed to be lifted as of the 28th of this month, or at least that's what He (All Praise Be Unto Him) says. We Deplorables are to be allowed to go mask-less even in the streets, provided that we knuckle our deplorable foreheads and shout Hosanna when His Name (All Praise His Name) is mentioned and cry out our gratitude for His (All Praise Him or else) Incredible Generosity.

He (All Praise Be Unto Him) says this is because we have been good little Deplorables, and that thanks to our obeying His (Praise His Name if you know what's good for you) illegal orders, "cases" of COVID-iocy have been declining. The fact is that the Democrats are running scared and if they have their ears to the ground they will have heard the rumblings of mutiny in the ranks of Deplorables state-wide. They figure that by ditching the mindless "mandates" now that we'll have forgotten their over-reach by November and they won't lose control of the state government.

Needless to say there are loopholes. "Certain places," including all transportation, medical facilities, schools, and so forth—places where no one, repeat no one, has ever shown any transmission of COVID-iocy—are still subject to the illegal order. And businesses can require customers to wear masks. I've already told Mrs Outdoorsman that I will not enter the premises of any business with such a policy. She can go to Kroger, I won't. Needless to say this will be held up as a parallel to the "No shoes, no shirt, no service" signs, but I don't go to those places either.


Addendum May 23, 2021: Kroger Pulls Its Head Out

The Kroger Company has bowed to reality and rescinded their COVID-iotic policy mandating that customers wear masks. I suppose this was an argument between their lawyers ("If someone gets COVID in one of our stores, we'll get sued !") and their more realistic market staff ("If people get pissed off they won't shop at Kroger stores any more and we'll lose money ! Besides, no one can prove they got COVID in a Kroger store, so for God's sake let them do what they want or they'll shop somewhere else !") The marketing staff won this one, and so did the general public.


Bad News For Local Deer Hunters

The Department of Wildlife Resources has announced that Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in a deer here in Montgomery County. A new "exclusion zone" has thus been established. Any deer taken in Montgomery, Floyd, or Pulaski Counties can't legally be transported out of this new zone intact. Please see the DWR site for details. More information here.

This is a significant PITA for me, since I hunt in Montgomery County. It means that I'll have to take it to a processor in the exclusion zone. Or cut it myself. It was bound to happen: I haven't seen a single deer who was wearing a mask since the pandemic began, and that must be how it got spread around.


May 15, 2021: If You Got It, Flaunt It....

But please, not in the aisles of the Fairlawn Wal-Mart.


May 16, 2021: A Cure For What Ails You

Going to India? Worried about COVID? No problem! Just smear yourself with cow dung! Works like a charm, no matter what the Indian medical establishment thinks.


May 22, 2021: How To Tell You Live In A Rural Area

The local stores sell stylish clothing for your goat. All cotton, and it's machine-washable!


May 22, 2021: A Bird Feeder For The Ages

We have the fattest birds in Montgomery County, if not in the entire Commonwealth. Today I bought another 100 pounds of mixed birdseed, to go along with the 50-odd pounds of black oil sunflower and the 15-20 assorted suet cakes in various flavors such as "Berry," "Raisin," etc., not to mention the special suet cakes made for woodpeckers. We have several species of woodpeckers locally; recently we've been seeing pileated woodpeckers. That's unusual. They're a species that prefers the deep woods, but pileated woodpeckers we now have; they even come to our feeders.

In a year we buy at least 1200 pounds of birdseed, probably more—I've never quite had the nerve to check our invoices from Tractor Supply, Blacksburg Feed & Seed, and the local True Value Hardware. Naturally we have bird feeders out the rannygazoo as well. There are at least eight in the front of the house, two more very large ones in the back, and six—count 'em, six—hummingbird feeders. Hummers are Mrs Outdoorsman's favorite birds; in my case it's a tossup between catbirds and wrens.

I'm reasonably good at carpentry, and the big bird feeder on our deck, which has been in service for twelve years, was my handiwork. It was pretty beaten up. We had the deck power-washed this week so it really looks good; it was time to replace the old feeder. Out came The Outdoorsman's tools, off the Outdoorsman went to spend incredible amounts of money at Lowe's (the price of lumber has been soaring, apparently the closed border with Canada has had an effect, as has—inexplicably, since for the past year we've been constantly bombarded with MY GOD, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE FROM COVID! propaganda—a boom in new home construction. I spent forty-eight dollars for a 4'x8' sheet of 1/4" plywood, a price nothing short of extortionate. But my birds get only the best.

The best is what they got. A bird feeder like unto no other, a veritable Mercedes-Benz of bird feeders. With this new feeder and the (heated) birdbath, the two other birdbaths, etc., etc., we're running a sort of avian Playboy Mansion here. A suet cage on the side, a couple of perches, a roof to keep the seed dry, spill baffles to prevent loss. you name it, this feeder's got it. If I could have found a small TV set I'd have put it in as well.


May 23, 2021: The House Of The Rising Rodent

When you have bird feeders you have—ahem—rodents that come to it as well. We have the grey bushy-tailed kind of rodent, and the little striped cheeping kind of rodent. I have no idea how much of that half-ton of "bird" seed we buy every year is actually converted into squirrel and chipmunk flesh, but it's a lot.

Chipmunks get Most Favored Rodent treatment here. To the extent that for the past couple of seasons we've installed a Chipmunk House. Previously we used an overturned flower pot but this year Mrs Outdoorsman decided they'd like an overturned wicker basket instead, cut with two holes. Last year's chipmunks liked the other end of the deck but this year we've seen one scurrying to the end with the screen house, and a small pile of pilfered birdseed in the far corner: so that's where the new one went. I cut two holes in it, only one of which is visible here; the other faces the end of the deck where the fountain is located so they can get in and out after carousing in the water. Yesterday Lucy watched a cheeper run across the deck and chased it. Something she ordinarily doesn't do: she prefers to chase grey squirrels, chipmunks never having previously caught her attention. I expect this will change as the cheepers get used to scurrying past the screen door on their way between the water and the shelter.

God help me if this situation attracts a snake: the house would be on the real estate market inside of sixty seconds if Mrs Outdoorsman sees a serpent on the deck.


May 27, 2021: The Pileated Woodpecker In Suburbia

Over the 34 years we've been in this house I've identified about fifty species of birds in or over our yard. Lately we have been seeing Pileated Woodpeckers. These are big birds: a woodpecker the size of a crow is very nearly as intimidating as a Great Blue Heron, when seen up close. Like herons they have sharp and pointy beaks; like herons they're experts at poking the tip of that beak into anything they want to spear. Handling one would require you keep him out of the way of your eyeballs. Pileated woodpeckers are one of the six or so species of woodpeckers we have locally. In addition to those we have Red-Bellied, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and two types of Flickers. On occasion we've had Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers but they're pretty rare visitors.

What makes it a bit unusual is that the Pileated Woodpecker is normally a bird of the deep woods. Their principal food is carpenter ants and other insects found in dead trees. Since most suburban backyards are pretty manicured with few people willing to leave dead trees standing, Pileated Woodpeckers aren't a common sight in the sort of environment where I live. I do see them frequently in the woods where I hunt but it's only in the past couple of months that they've started hanging around here. Yet we have been seeing—and hearing—them recently. Today I was sitting on our deck when one flew onto my new bird feeder: it stared at me from perhaps six feet away, possibly contemplating removing one of my eyes, then thought better of it and flew off.

There's a dead tree on the next street over with some mongo holes in it, that are certainly the work of these birds. Those holes don't (yet) look large enough to be nest cavities but in time no doubt they'll become part of a Woodpecker Condo. God help them if they start working on the wooden siding of my house: I would be forced to take out my Pneumatically-Activated Woodpecker Removal device to scare them away.

Images courtesy of the Cornell Laboratory


May 30, 2021: Disappointing Muzzle Loader Shooting

If you follow this blog's season entries you will know that last season I had trouble with my .54 caliber T/C New Englander rifle. I've owned this gun for about 20 years and have used it to kill at least 15 whitetails and a big African warthog. But last year it gave me fits with misfires and I couldn't seem to hit anything with it.

Today I went to the club range with my friends Phil and Paul, and brought the New Englander, determined to right its wrongs. I sort of did but not so much as I'd hoped.

For many years I've used a wool wad under the ball in this rifle. I decided to stop doing that after I had some issues getting the wad out and having it get cocked sideways in the bore. No big deal, I just use a plain patch now. I also had misfires with the traditional #11 caps, so I swapped out the nipples and replaced them with nipples for musket caps. (Yeah, it sounds kinky but it isn't.) Musket caps are very large and have a distinctly larger charge of priming mix. That cures the misfire problem.

I was using 80 grains (by volume) of GOEX FFg; I've decided to stop weighing charges, as I have done previously. I also thought I should try some FFFg granulation Hodgdon 777, as it's reputed to burn more cleanly.

First two shots with the FFg were very encouraging: spang where I wanted them to go and touching each other at 50 yards. Whoop! Third shot, not so much: but still within "minute of Bambi." One major issue—again, not previously a problem—was that the fouling from shot #1 made it extremely difficult to reload. The rifle seems to have developed a rough spot about 8" back from the muzzle. I suppose that this is inevitable, but it's disconcerting, as I've been extremely careful to clean the gun every single time I shot it. Using a bore light I was able to see a very, very minute area of what can only be called pitting; it shouldn't be that big a deal but compared to the oiled-glass feel of the rest of the bore it's probably what's causing the difficulty. This presumptive rough spot plus the fouling made the reload process very hard: I was concerned that I might not get the bullet all the way down the bore, which is very bad ju-ju. A stuck ball is a nightmare I don't want to experience.

I swabbed the bore and switched to 777. That's when everything went to pieces. The first shot with 777 went very low. The second did too. OK, back to FFg; I wiped the bore clean again, this time with water on a rag (previously I'd used some T/C cleaning patches). Then I started getting misfires because the water had messed up the main charge, damn it. I popped a bit of FFFFg priming powder under the nipple, a sure way of correcting misfires if the cap goes off at all. The next round was...8" high and 8" to the right!

I kept at it, and my last two shots were acceptable, though not so good as the first two. Any shot I fired at all would have killed a deer, but the shooting-all-over-the-place is very disturbing and I think it contributed to my misses last year.

At least the misfires are fixed—permanently I hope. If I continue to have problems with this rifle I may, with regret, have to sell it. I really don't want to: I like the way it feels but I'm getting disappointed by the way it shoots. Other alternatives include a new barrel, which costs as much as a new rifle; or just making it a closet queen and using the flintlock .54 henceforth. That rifle has its own set of issues.

One big PITA about black powder guns is that they require so much "stuff" to make them go off at all. Another is that they seem to be very finicky about how they're fed. I knew that when I dispensed with the under-bullet wad I'd have to "recalibrate" my load but I didn't think it would be such an involved process.


June 9, 2021: No Lions Or Tigers, But Bears...Oh, My!

Blacksburg is bear country. We have a lot of black bears (not, as the high school Bruins' mascot seems to be, grizzly bears). Last year in Virginia some 3400+ black bears were legally killed and checked in by hunters. The bear population has been on the rise for a couple of decades and in some places they've reached nuisance levels.

In the past couple of weeks several friends who are aware that I write wildlife kill permits as a volunteer with the Department of Wildlife Resources have contacted me: "I have a problem bear; it comes up on my porch, raids my trash, what can I do about it?" The answer is "not much." The most recent contact came from a friend who lives on Pine Drive at the north end of town. There's a bear (or perhaps bears) that has been seriously annoying the residents of this leafy suburban street.

Mind you, this is inside the town limits, in an affluent neighborhood that would not be out of place in Northern Virginia's Fairfax County nor, for that matter, in Scarsdale, New York. We put our trash out in wheelie bins that are not at all bear resistant, let alone bear proof. Bears find them easy pickings. The picture at right is what the bear decided to leave behind after his latest raid. At least he didn't disturb the green recylcing bin, thus proving he cares about The Environment.

I contacted the DWR on behalf of the people on Pine Drive. They have been told that they have to 1) Make their trash less attractive to bears (How? By not eating stuff that the omnivorous bears like? Maybe kale? No self-respecting bear would eat kale); 2) Taking down their bird feeders; 3) Confining their pets; 4) Making noise to scare the bear away; and 5) Hoping for the best.

It seems that according to DWR there is no—repeat, no—bear relocation program because "...everywhere else has a bear problem too, there's no place to put them..." and there is no way the DWR will allow a bear to be killed unless during the bear season by a properly licensed hunter. Needless to say, within the Town of Blacksburg one cannot fire off a rifle, even at a bear mauling a dog or a small child, as inevitably one will do. Just have to let the pooch or the kid get eaten and chalk it up to The Circle Of Life. A deer in your garden? OK, you can kill it, if—and only if—the Town has designated your street as an "agricultural/forestal zone" in which firearms are allowed. If not, you have to use an air rifle and you have to have a "kill permit," which you can't get inside the town limits.

But having your azaleas and/or day lilies shredded by Bambi is an entirely different proposition than having your porch taken over by a 400-pound bear with an attitude. The reason for the difference in policy? Politics.

Bears are perceived by the more or less Disney-trained public at large as just cute, cuddly, harmless Children Of Nature, Winnies-The-Poohs; those who want to kill them are seen by the ignoranti  as Brutal Sadistic Monsters Who Have No Appreciation For Beauty Of The Environment And The Harmony Of Nature's Plan. That's why I, who am authorized to write death warrants on deer, raccoons, or other creatures, cannot  write a permit for a bear, anywhere, at any time.

Quite aside from the Greenies, I suspect the Virginia Bear Hunters' Association has had something to say to the General Assembly and thence to the DWR on the subject of bear killing outside the season. The VBHA is very protective of "their" bears—they even had enough clout to get the state to require a new special license for hunting bears a couple of years ago; previously bears had been included on the general Big Game license—and they certainly don't want suburbanites to kill them, so that VBHA members can do so. The folks on Pine Drive are out of luck unless they own a silenced .308, a backhoe, and a zipped lip. You can rent a backhoe.


The End Is Even Nearer

We have had our primary election for the Democrat nominees for state offices: the results were predictable. Hard-core Lefties swept the field. Terry "The Turd" McAuliffe is hoping to be elected Governor again (Virginia Governors can't serve consecutive terms but have to sit one out) and his running mates are all screaming Left-Wing zanies. The process of turning us into Kalifornia Lite continues apace.

Actually, of all the candidates for Governor, as disgusting as he is—and he is very disgusting—The Turd is the least objectionable. He is at least likely to allow final construction of a much needed natural gas pipeline, and he's "pro-business," whatever that means in Democrat-Speak. Whether it means more smoke and fewer mirrors, or more mirrors and less smoke, I don't know.

He is called "The Turd" because he stinks. Specifically, he stinks of the Clintons, America's premier political crime family. The Clintons are gangsters, pure and simple, people who put Al Capone and John Dillinger in the shade. The Turd was Hitlary's campaign manager, which gives you an idea what kind of a man he is.

Now that the primaries are over we have—dear sweet Jesus, spare me—another five months  of political TV advertising to put up with. God help the Commonwealth; although I have to say He hasn't been helping us much in the past few years.


June 12, 2021: Praise Governor Blackface Shithead Northam From Whom All Blessings Flow...For Now

Our Revered, Beloved Governor Blackface Shithead Northam, He Whom No One Can Laud Sufficiently, has, in His Infinite Wisdom (All Praise Be Unto Him, or else) decreed that His entirely illegal "emergency" order will expire on June 30th, assuming that He (hosannas to Him, if you know what's good for you) doesn't change His mind and in His Infinite Omniscience decide that we Deplorables are not, after all, worthy of His largesse, no matter how much we sing His praises (and we sing them all the time because we don't want to get arrested).

There's a nifty-neato wrinkle or two. Here's what one "news" service has to say:


Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will not renew the coronavirus-related state of emergency in Virginia when it expires June 30.

“With 68.7 percent of Virginia adults at least partially vaccinated and cases and hospitalizations at record lows, COVID-19 is no longer an immediate emergency in our commonwealth,” Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, told WTOP in an email Friday. “Therefore, Governor Northam will not extend Virginia’s State of Emergency when it expires at the end of this month.”

The change means an end to the last remaining public-health restrictions, but Yarmosky said people who want to wear masks, or aren’t vaccinated, are encouraged to.

That could run into a complication with Virginia law, which prohibits mask wearing; last month, Northam’s general counsel, Rita Davis, said the governor would consider issuing a new state of emergency to allow for masks.

Yarmosky said the statute “currently prohibits mask wearing with the intent to conceal one’s identity — the Governor is confident that no Virginians will be penalized for wearing masks for health reasons. That being said, he hopes to address any ambiguity during an upcoming special session this summer.”

She added that various protections for tenants were already set to remain in place after the state of emergency ends. Stays of eviction when tenants can show failure to pay rent due to the pandemic stay in effect for 90 days after the emergency is lifted. Rent support for tenants and landlords will still be available when the emergency is over, she added.


That bit about it being illegal in Virginia to wear a mask in public is part of the anti-KKK laws that the General Assembly passed many years ago. This is something that most people don't know, because, of course, as everyone knows, the entire USA, certainly the South, and most especially The Former Capital of the Confederacy is hopelessly, irredeemably, Systemically Racist—as the "1619 Project" and "Critical Race Theory" teach us—so how on earth did such a law get passed? Gosh, I sure don't know, but it's been on the books for donkey's years: it's in the 1950 Code Revision but probably goes back to the 1930's. No sweat: He (All Praise Be Unto Him) will simply issue a new "emergency order" to abrogate the laws the General Assembly has passed. That's something He (All Praise Be Unto Him) is really, really good at doing; He has a positive talent for it, in fact. The Code includes a provision for the Governor to issue an exemption to the mask prohibition for "health protection," but  it also mandates that the Governor specify what kind of mask it shall be, and Our Revered And Beloved Governor Shithead Blackface didn't do that. So all along his "order" has been invalid and illegal. Fat chance anyone knew or cared about that, of course. When you're one of those self-righteous Guardians Of Public Morals who feels compelled to stone non-mask-wearing Deplorables to death, you can of course always count on the Gestapo to back you up and clear away the carnage.

If He (May He Be For Ever Praised) doesn't issue such an order, I hope that at least a few of those snot-sucking clowns who continue to wear masks as a form of Virtue Signaling—as they have every right to do, nothing in the law says you can't be smug about how wonderful and Non-Deplorable you are—will get arrested. I think not, though, what policeman would arrest someone so obviously Virtuous?

And of course, tenants who don't pay their rent won't get evicted after all. Why should they? Landlords are wicked, wicked, wicked, and must be punished for their wickedness by being deprived of a living. (Incidentally, absolutely the worst thing you could be called in Mao Tse-tung's China was a "landlord." Mao put landlords in jail just for being landlords.)

This sort of thinking is what led to the "rent control" that wrecked the South Bronx, but in this case it's even worse. Do these nincompoops think landlords don't have expenses? Watch what happens to the "affordable housing" supply when owners walk away from their properties and leave them to squatters.


June 23, 2021: Woe Is Me...And Lucy

Tomorrow I'm being dragged off to my sister-in-law's home in Ohio, for FIVE DAYS. My elderly Border Collie, Lucy, is coming along. Lucy has spent the past 10 years of her life being free to come and go as she pleases between the house and our fully-fenced yard; she's not used to a leash. To her a leash means she's going to the vet's office, or the groomer. For the past couple of weeks I've been taking her on short walks in our neighborhood to get her used to the idea, but she still trembles when she sees the leash. But she has to come along because at age 11-1/2 Lucy is far too old to be kenneled for the first time in her life. Sister-in-law lives in a condo, so Lucy will have to be walked several times a day. Thank goodness she'll do what needs to be done on a leash, if you catch my meaning.


June 25, 2021: In Ohio

We drove up yesterday. Six and a half hours. Lucy rode in a cage in the back of the van; not a peep out of her, she was a real trouper. We've been here not quite 24 hours. She is settled into the new "routine" and at the moment is lying quietly beside me. God knows how I'm going to live without her when the Evil Day comes.

We moved her cage to our bedroom—at home she sleeps in the room with us—and she spent more or less the entire night in it. I have to walk her here, unlike at home, so I got up groaningly early to take her out. I have one of those poop-bag dispensers on the leash. I'm not squeamish about dog poop, though at home I don't have to pick it up; here I do, and throw it in the garbage, wrapped in plastic.

We're in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus. As it happens Columbus is the one place in the USA where I can get genuine landjager sausage. It's made by a small family business, and it's the real thing: hard, dried, smoked, and delicious. I bought an obscene amount of it and will freeze it when we get home. I plan to eat it during deer season, its name means "land hunter," so that's appropriate. Traditionally in Germany landjagers bring landjager with them for their field lunches.

I went to college about 50 miles from Columbus. The city has grown immensely since my day: it must be five times the size it was in the mid 1960's. There are Interstates and sub-Interstates, secondary roads that used to be two lanes have expanded to four; speed limits are 65 MPH, and the traffic is awful. Not so bad as in the Washington DC area, but bad enough. I've been spoiled by 40 years in small towns.


June 26, 2021: The Ordeal Continues

Still in Ohio, waiting to go home. My dog Lucy wants to go back too, and can't understand what's happened and where she is. She's been well-behaved, but clearly is unsettled. Wants to run and she can't. Three more days.

Today we go to the village where Mrs Outdoorsman grew up and I went to college. It's 50 miles and 50 years away. The dog will get plenty of walking time there.


June 28, 2021: Twenty Four Hours To Go

We went up to Gambier, Ohio yesterday, the village where Mrs Outdoorsman grew up and I went to college in the mid-1960's. Considerable change: a couple of buildings that I knew have been torn down, and are in the process of replacement. Most especially the library. The old one, which was to be honest a rather ugly edifice, is being replaced by a colossal new one that's not nearly so ugly as it might have been, though it's ugly enough for all practical purposes. The two dorms in which I lived are there and intact, though now equipped with swipe card locks. A few newer buildings have been constructed in the village, which are fairly attractive white frame designs.

Lucy was a champ on this trip. Rode quietly, and walked a lot on campus; well over a mile in all. Before going to Gambier we stopped in nearby Mount Vernon, whose downtown has been tarted up with a brand new dog-themed fountain and chi-chi signs on all the shops, old and new. Looks a lot better than it did 50+ years ago, but it's still a moderately gritty small industrial town. It used to have two glass factories (Pittsburgh Plate Glass and one other whose name I've forgotten) but they closed years ago. One site has now been "repurposed" as a park in which the old building has been rebuilt as a music venue. Another loss to the town was Cooper-Bessemer Corporation, where my late father in law worked. Something is now in that building but I don't know what it is.

I walked from the middle of the campus half a mile down to my old dorm, then back, with Lucy in attendance. She trotted along and seemed very happy but when she got back into the van I think she was pretty well pooped (or, considering what she did on the campus grass, de-pooped). Last night she slept like a log, not a peep out of her.

At one point I tried to enter the bookstore with her, but was told that only "service dogs" were allowed. Well, she does service for me, but that didn't satisfy the pretty little anti-dog Nazi on guard against the invasion of the space by Unauthorized Canines, however well-behaved. Don't want to contaminate the books. In Europe no one would have blinked at the presence of a dog in a book shop—or a pub, for that matter—but American businesses and health departments, who will cheerfully let snot-laden children run around and infect other customers with miscellaneous viruses, balk at dogs, who are innately much cleaner.


In any event, we leave tomorrow morning, thank God. The past couple of days, when she's being walked and we come back to the house, Lucy looks up at the van longingly, hoping that this time we'll get in and go home. Soon, little dog, soon. You won't be any happier than I will be.


June 29, 2021: Home At Last!

We hit the road this morning just before 10:00 AM. I'd have left a lot earlier but I wasn't asked for an opinion on start times. Needless to say there were innumerable good-byes to be said, wrangling over whether or not we wanted to take some food with us for the grueling journey—nobody, and I mean nobody, ever leaves my sister-in-law's house without having food pressed on them, "in case you get hungry" on our epic 6-hour drive. But we finally managed to pry ourselves loose and off we went.

The day before we'd gone to my wife's niece's condominium. Niece is about 35, and a real Babe, but she is a total workaholic about her job running two restaurants, one of which has a "music hall" attached, where extremely loud bands play music of that genre wherein it's impossible to tell one "song" from another. But the pizza is good; pizza is the restaurants' specialty dish. If I came out slightly harder of hearing than when I went in, well, that's what families do.

Her apartment is quite nice, a one-bedroom place with a very large outdoor terrace on which no plants ever survive because Niece is always in a rush and forgets to water them. She is working more or less all the time, and keeps very late hours—she runs two music venues—so by the time she gets home she's exhausted and flops into bed. She had a good time playing with Lucy and has expressed a desire to have a dog but she hasn't enough time for herself, let alone a dog!

Lucy, to our great surprise, turned out to be a wonderful traveler. She hopped into her cage with alacrity, never making a peep the whole time. She walks on her leash pretty well, though not up to Westminster Kennel Club levels, so I had no trouble keeping her by my side. I strongly believe that a dog should be no more than four feet away when on a leash but nowadays almost all stout leashes are six feet: too long. She wears a harness, which she hates, but I never took it off until we got home so she got used to it in time. A harness is much safer than a leash and a collar; plus I've devised a setup whereby she's attached to the leash in two places: one on the harness and one on her collar. Should the harness fail for some reason the collar is a safety back-up.

In a month we go on another trip: to Mrs Outdoorsman's nephew's house in northern Virginia. Nephew's wife is from India and doesn't much care for dogs. Her elderly Indian parents live with them, another complication. Lucy likes people (though she doesn't much like other dogs) and she's met all the "family" before so we anticipate no issues with that except for Grandma and Grandpa. We'll see how it goes. That trip, thank goodness, will be much shorter than this past one.


June 30, 2021: The Yoke Is Lifted

Today, June 30th, our Revered and Beloved Governor Blackface Shithead's thoroughly illegal "State of Emergency" has ended. I don't know about other parts of the Commonwealth but up here in the mountains, all of us Deplorables are heaving a sigh of relief that we won't be shot down in the streets by the Mask Police. You still see virtue-signalling nitwits, nearly all of them old enough to be fully vaccinated, wearing masks but they get fewer every day. May their tribe ever decrease.


July 1, 2021: It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Here we Deplorables were thinking it was finally safe to go back in the water, and along comes this ominous story from our local Left-Wing fish-wrapper, the Roanoke Times:


As fledgling songbirds mysteriously drop from skies in Northern Virginia, regional wildlife experts are cautioning Southwest Virginia residents to remove birdbaths and feeders from their yards while experts in several states assess what is causing widespread bird deaths.

People should clean and stow away their birdfeeders and baths to prevent certain songbirds from spreading a mystery affliction… affected birds  show symptoms including swollen and encrusted eyes, tremors, tilted heads and poor balance…

[People have been advised]… to pull in their bird feeders and bleach them…[r]eports of sick and dying birds began to increase the weekend of May 23…“Let’s take a break from feeding our birds water and food,” said Sabrina Garvin, [Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center] Director. Garvin said to remove birdfeeders for a few weeks, to keep whatever it is from spreading locally. “We’re just trying to keep them from congregating, because we don’t know what it is and how it spread,”

The event is occurring over a highly populated and urban environment…In the meantime, it’s good for people to remain vigilant…it’s always a good idea…to pull in the bird feeders, bird baths, bleach them and just hold them inside for at least a week…[and not] play a role in accelerating the spread of an infectious disease…


However, to our unending joy, our Revered And Beloved Governor Blackface Shithead Northam, He Whom No One Can Praise Sufficiently, has come up with a solution. He has issued a new State Of Emergency Order which will certainly deal effectively with this avian pandemic in no more than 15 months.

Oh, Brave New Commonwealth, that hath such Officials in it! And don't forget...we're all in this together, right? So put on a @$#!%$!#$!!!$%$ mask and save the birdies. Or else.


Sur Moi, Le Déluge

We have just had a downpour, and when I say "downpour," I mean it. Two and a half inches in 40 minutes. Enough to cause my laundry room door to start leaking and create a colossal mess on the floor. "Home ownership" can fairly be defined as "The art of keeping water out of places it isn't supposed to be." And it's not over. The thunder and lightning is continuing.

Why do people die? Because Life keeps battering at them until they give up.


July 4, 2021: Independence Day?

Well, here we are, 245 years after the reading of the Declaration of Independence and 233 years after the adoption of the Constitution; and I doubt if any of the Founding Fathers would recognize the country they created, in its present form. Benjamin Franklin was asked at the end of the Constitutional Convention, "What sort of government have you given us?" and his reply was, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Franklin was a brilliant man and I suspect something of a cynic.

Given the realities of the world, it was inevitable that our Republic would someday be led by mediocrities and incompetents, with a leavening of malicious actors. The present administration is a classic example of the former; the leadership of the Congress proves the latter to be the case. The two most malign individuals in the Congress are the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate, both of whom seem to be intent on destroying what the Founding Fathers (and no, I am NOT going to include "Mothers" in that phrase) created at the risk of their lives. Another of Franklin's wise remarks, when debating the Declaration, was that "Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."

Every time I hear some Left-Wing bed-wetter quacking about "nuts with guns" I want to point out that this country was created by nuts with guns.


July 7, 2021: All Must Share The Burden, Or Else

There was a story today in the Roanoke Times, the publication that masquerades as our local newspaper—well, actually, in the on-line version, because as this is being written at 9:35 AM, the damned rag still isn't here, despite the "guaranteed delivery time" of 6:30 AM—that the "mysterious illness" afflicting birds in northern Virginia is still a mystery. Nope, we have no idea what's causing it; nope, it hasn't reached southwestern Virginia and probably won't; but yep, you better not put back your bird feeders and birdbaths anyway.

This kind of "thinking" is akin to the logic that those of us who live in places where there is no water shortage have to put up with toilets that don't flush properly, 2-gallon-per-minute showerheads, and flow restrictors on sink faucets, so that people who live in San Diego can water their lawns and fill their swimming pools. As Jimmy The Bungler said, "All must share the burden." Got that? Okay, now shut up and put on a mask.


July 12, 2021: The End Of An Era

I have had a boat for 32 years. Always little ones: first a Coleman square-stern canoe I used with an electric outboard motor, that I bought in 1989. I wore that out on the rocks and shoals of the New River, so in 2003 I upped the ante by buying an Old Town Discovery Sport, also a square-stern canoe but much more solid and durable than the Coleman was. I used the electric on it but later graduated to a couple of gas engines. First a beater of an old 2-stroke Evinrude 5.0 HP, but when that one died (halfway up the Lockwood Folly River in North Carolina) I replaced it with a 2.5 HP Yamaha, a wonderful little 4-stroke that was utterly reliable. In 2009 I was tired of heaving the boat(s) up on top of my truck so I bought a lightweight Trailex trailer for it.

I sold the rig today. Mrs Outdoorsman had been hinting rather strongly that it was time for the Old Town to go; in truth as I aged I found it cramped and increasingly uncomfortable, especially when laden with fishing gear and a partner.

I put it up on Craig's List, a thoroughly useless web site, twice. The only interest it generated was from a young couple who backed off because they had just had a baby; and from various scammers who tried to do the "excess funds" trick, but I'm not nearly stupid enough to fall for that one. After a year I put up an ad in the local Tractor Supply store. Three days after I'd sent in the renewal of my registration, someone called and said she wanted it. She came, she saw, I "conquered," selling her all $4000 of my rig for less than half that. But what the heck, the boat is eighteen years old, the motor is 11 years old. We both got a fair deal.

So today it went away. I kept it at the bottom of a fairly steep slope in my side yard, requiring me to use the winch on the back of my truck to get it up the hill. The boat was fairly easy but the trailer was a beast. In the end, though, I got everything up, lashed it all onto the trailer, and off I went down the US 460 Bypass to Christiansburg.

It's pretty painful, actually. For the first time in three decades I'm boatless. No more fishing trips on the New, pooching along the banks or quietly sneaking into little coves. No more trips to Claytor Lake, or Lake Moomaw. I hated to sell it but we're starting the long slide into (ugh) "downsizing" and getting rid of "stuff." The boat, much as I loved it, was "stuff" and its time had come to move into someone else's life. Still, it feels a bit like having a dog put to sleep.

It's been said that the two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it. It doesn't feel that way to me. This has not been a good day.


July 20, 2021: The Duck

I am now returned from a weekend spent at the home of Mrs Outdoorsman's nephew, who is a Big Cheese at the Oracle Company; and his Indian-born wife, who is an even Bigger Cheese with Capital One's credit card business. A year or so ago built a house in Vienna Virginia. This stately home has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms (not counting the half-bath) and a yard that, for Vienna, is huge.

Nephew and Niece-In-Law have two boys, aged 7 and 9; rambunctious and noisy but basically decent kids. Also in the household live Niece-In-Law's aging parents from India. Grandparents (especially Grandma) act as baby-sitters, cooks, and child caretakers. Mrs Outdoorsman's sister and her husband, Nephew's parents, were also there, so those 6 bedrooms with en suite baths were certainly needed.

Grandparents and Niece-In-Law don't like dogs. This is perhaps understandable, but in my eyes, incomprehensible. When Nephew invited us for the weekend he included our Border Collie Lucy, perhaps without consulting Niece-In-Law; so we packed all the doggie gear, including her folding cage, into our van and off we went.

Lucy was not allowed in the house, ostensibly because her claws would scratch the perfect finish of the hardwood floors. Nevertheless she was given imprimatur to be in the basement in the smallish room that was assigned to us. This had the advantage of being fully carpeted, so that there were no hardwood floors to scratch; and we had our own bathroom. We set up the cage there and when we were socializing indoors with the family Lucy was confined to quarters.

The house is "wired" in the sense that Nephew and Niece-In-Law are really into electronic gadgets, including "Alexa" and something called "Sonos," whatever that is. Because Mrs Outdoorsman's Brother-In-Law is a music promoter, there was always some sort of music being played, though mercifully I could tell Alexa in our room to shut up and she did. When I say "wired" I mean it. Alexa controlled the thermostats, the TV, the lights, the security cameras, and if she didn't flush the toilets I don't know why. I'm uncomfortable around machines that are smarter than I am; I've lived nearly 74 years without anything like Alexa or Siri, or Sonos and I don't have a Smart Phone. I have a flintlock, muzzle-loading, Dumb Phone that makes calls and receives calls. I don't "do" texts, which are an abomination, a clear harbinger of the impending death of Western Civilization. But for a couple of days I can put up with a family where everyone, including the two little boys, is on a Smart Phone all the time, staring at a screen a few inches wide to watch some sort of "entertainment" and sparing themselves the necessity of making their own fun. I don't have to do it myself, thank goodness.

Most of our first-rate meals were cooked outdoors. Nephew is a very good outdoor cook and has had installed a huge "outdoor kitchen" He does really good steak and excellent barbecued chicken so I give him credit for that.

We did go to a restaurant one day for brunch. This place was very hip, very trendy. When we sat down (all of us, including the kids, but not Lucy) we were asked whether we would prefer sparkling or plain bottled water. On being told that tap water would suffice, the waiter recoiled as if we'd told him we'd prefer a decoction of boiled babies, but complied. The music in the restaurant—I was told it was music, though you couldn't prove it by me—was blasting at top volume; the sort of obscenely-worded "rap" that seems to be very in these days. I mean loud, to the point where we could barely talk to each other without shouting. In time Nephew asked that it be toned down both in volume and explicit words; again the waiter seemed befuddled by the request but complied. He didn't actually put on Glenn Miller or Lawrence Welk, but he did reduce the volume and diverted the #!#$!@#!%$!$#!% words to the next room over. The food was good, somewhat varied but passed as "Mediterranean" and we were able to eat it in peace.

The next day we went to Burke Lake, a Fairfax County park with a DWR-owned lake. It was a beautiful day and it seemed that half of Fairfax County's population was there. Fairfax County is very diverse; lots of Koreans and other Asians live there, as do many people from Muslim countries. The Park's website has links to translations in half a dozen languages. The boys wanted to go fishing, and Uncle Outdoorsman had bought them each a fishing rod and a small shared tackle box. Worms were to be had at the lake. We had thought we'd rent a boat but in the end didn't. It was pretty windy, there were no electric motors to be had, and I didn't fancy rowing a jonboat against the breeze. There's a small fishing pier so we went there. Nobody caught anything from the pier, so we moved to a spot on the bank a few hundred yards away. That's where I managed to catch a duck.

Where there is water there are ducks. At one point I threw a worm out and bam! a mallard drake nailed it. In doing so he got the hook embedded in the flesh behind his bill, hooking himself like a smallmouth bass. No smallmouth ever gave me the level of fight that a panicked five-pound duck does, though. I had a reel with 10-pound test on it and managed to horse him into the bank where I could grab him by the neck, dodging his wings, and use a pair of forceps to get the hook out. I'm afraid it was pretty rough, so I must have messed up his jaw a bit, but I was just glad he hadn't swallowed the hook, á la Jonathan Livingston Seagull. That would have killed him for sure. I suppose it only took a minute to get the hook out but it seemed like much longer; I'm certain it seemed even longer for the duck. Once it was out I released him whereupon he managed to get his right leg tangled in the monofilament line. That didn't do him any favors because the line cut his leg. I yanked him back, untangled him, and off he flew in a gibbering panic. Perfectly understandable, of course. There was a white domestic duck with him; I suppose his mate. Escaped domestic ducks often pair up with wild ducks, sort of the way the pretty girls in The Wild One went after Marlon Brando; the element of danger and the exotic life of a nomad makes some appeal to all females. I was later told the white duck was going bananas while I was wrestling with the drake, but I was so focused I didn't even see it happening. I suppose the drake will live, and perhaps he'll tell his Grandducklings about his narrow escape from The Jaws Of Death. He's for sure going to have a sore mouth and leg, but he'll probably survive.

Lucy was perfect on this trip. We'd had a "trial run" of sorts at my sister-in-law's last month; she was very good then and she was even better this time. She is a wonderful traveler. She hops in and out of the cage in the van, never makes a peep while riding. I think that the road noise and vibration soothe her; she sleeps while we drive.

I have devised a special sort of leash hookup by which I can keep her under control, one where she's attached to the leash in two places. It seems very secure. She will "do her business" on the leash, thank goodness. I brought along a stash of poop bags, which when full were deposited in the trash as we left. Nephew has a fenced yard so we were able to let her come up and play there while we sat on the deck. I brought her favorite toy, the Frisbee, so she could play fetch, so except when we were out of the house she got a lot of "yard time" and seemed content with her lot.


About Damned Time

I just received a text from Sportsman's Warehouse (despite my request that they not send me a text, I knew they would, damn it). My shotgun, left for repair on February 29th, is finally ready to be returned to me. Would I please call them and pay for it?

Six bloody months to do what they called a "deep cleaning," a "deburring" of the action, and function checking. I'd paid $65 up front for shipping and an "evaluation fee," so I was only dunned for another $123 in ransom.

Six months. I strongly urge against using Sportsman's Warehouse for gunsmithing. If it takes that long to do a cleaning and "deburring" (whatever that means) God alone knows how long it would take to do something even moderately complicated.


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