Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Road Trip Report (Part Oneith.)

Finally pulled into Festung Scout at about 12:30 last night, after an exciting week on the road.   And what a week it was.
Got to see my old First Sergeant (Wayne Cobb) and one of my soldiers (Mike Alan Engle) in Anniston, AL.  We enjoyed catching up over dinner and then Wayne and Lucy were kind enough to open their home to us and let us spend the night.  The next day he gave us a tour of Ft. McClellan.  Or actually, what's left of it.  Some of the old MP building are in use, mostly but .gov agencies (DHS, Local LE, and couple of colleges), most of the housing areas have gone to seed, although some have been rehabbed.  There are many still for sale. Cheap.   It does tug at the heart to see a place that was so instrumental in our lives to have fallen so far.  It would have almost been better if they would have bulldozed the place.  Although the "Starships" or Basic Training buildings would need a wee bit of explosives to bring down. So there are plants and trees growing everywhere, and I'm sure many a passed on drill instructor and First Sergeant are spinning in their graves over it.  Despite the loss of Ft. McMuffin, Anniston doesn't look any worse than anywhere else in the country, economy wise.  There's still the Depot and local industry (like the Goodyear plant).  But one place that was busy was CMP.
Like entering Nirvana, I was greeted by racks of M1 Garands, some `03 Springfields, 1917 Enfields, and a variety of .22LR Target rifles.  There were boxes of bayonets, and counter to order parts.  I roamed around trying not to be tempted.  That lasted all of about 30 seconds.  I spotted a H&R M1 with at very low throat and muzzle erosion numbers.  Listed as Rack Grade.  With the Rack Grade price.  Why so cheap I asked?  "Some Greek carved his girlfriend's name in the stock."  Sure enough "KAROLA".  Well, Carol, you're coming home with me !!   Some paperwork, a little waiting and my Rifle will be delivered by Fedex when I get home. (Had I been willing to pay Alabama's 10% sales tax, I could have taken it with me.) Oh, and you can take the bayonet and sling home with you for cheaper than shipping. 
Next onto Atlanta and to meet with another of my soldiers and First Sergeants.  However, do to scheduling conflicts I wasn't able to meet with either, so I continued on to Aiken SC.
Aiken being the home of my predecessor as president of the Aurora Sportsmen's Club, Mark Meyer.  While I got him caught up on the doings at ASC, he told me about life as a Yankee in the South.  While the cost of living of decidedly less, there are drawbacks.  #1 being that a you are living in the South, and the South is full of Southerners.  Who individually are great people.  As a group, well,  there's a good reason Sherman burned the place.  Well actually he didn't, "The Battle of Aiken" was the last Confederate victory of the Civil War.  Seems whatever forces the Rebs had, put up a stand and prevented Aiken from being put to the torch.  However, what none of the local worthies remember is that Sherman simply avoided a drawn out fight, went around the Reb forces and burned Burnettown instead.

While there Mark showed my his backyard range and Patrick's Deer Stand.  After letting my try his PlumCrazy AR, we hopped in his truck and headed off to the local gun shop, so that I could get my own complete composite AR lower for $90 like her paid for his.
Alas, since I'm from the People's Democrat Republic of Illinois, our Beloved Atty Gen, Her Worshipfulness Lisa Madigan, has determined that PlumCrazy's are pistols, so they a SC FFL can't sell me one.  (Stupid Gun Laws and overweening politicians strike again.)  I leave empty handed.   But not completely.  Sue gave me pictures of their son Jake being all badass as Marine holding an M240, even though he is a logistics weenie.   But still he is serving and I thank him for his service.  I also asked for and got from Patrick a letter for his NJROTC asking for contributions to help support their Rifle Team.  Last year, the CMP Crew from ASC help Patrick raise more money then the locals.  So in addition to out shooting the Rebs, he out fund raises them.  Earning him the well deserved title of "Damn Yankee".    Now having thoroughly enjoyed my self with the the Meyer's it was time to move onward, and little did I know, upward.   Going from Aiken to Ceasar's Head State Park gave me two choices.  Either I could stay on the Interstate System, as I had driven the entire trip or take US 25 up through South Carolina.  According to Mapquest staying on the interstate would add about 35 extra miles to the trip.  Oh, what the heck, let's see some of this country.  US 25 it is !!

 Next Post- You can't get from one place to another in SC without going somewhere you don't want to.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the Road

Since last Tuesday, I've been on the road.  Seen several good friends I have not seen for years and met several friends that' I've known for years in person.   I've seen quite a bit of this beautiful country and will post some pics and tell more later.  Suffice to say, I've had a really good week.  And it's not over yet.   But I just wanted to let everyone know I'm still kicking and having fun. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Youth Deer Camp

No deer were hurt in the making of this post.


This past week was the Youth Deer Season here in Illinois and for the past 2 years I've been taking Robert and one of his friends (and his dad) out to the Aurora Sportsmen's Club to hunt deer.  This is one of my dreams to have a group of 5-8 boys and their dads come, setup Deer Camp for the weekend and Hunt.  Get the boys away from video games and school and girls and moms and sisters and everything and just go be in the outdoors.

First there was getting packed up.  Loading up the car and camper with everything we need to not only hunt but spend a long weekend camping.   As I'm packing up the stuff in the hunting box, Robert sees the Butt-out tool. and asks what it's for.  Now he cleaned pheasants and he's familiar with the process of field dressing, so this is nothing new.  I explain how it works to remove the anal alimentary canal on the deer.  He looked at again and then looked at me and said "Oh, I thought that was how we dragged them out of the woods."   |O_O| 

So we've got the camper loaded and head out to Shabbona State Park to setup camp.  We've got a couple of spaces (since there are 6 people) and when we arrive Pat and his son Jack are already there with their tent setup and fire going.  We quickly get the camper setup and start dinner.  As prep for the upcoming Cub Scout Campout (and the Boy Scouts) Robert makes dinner.  Italian Beef Sandwiches and pan fired French Fries.  Which is a hit.  After dinner there is a sit down with a map as we discuss where we think the deer will be and where we're going to setup.  Then there is my favorite part.  Hanging around the campfire.  The boys make some S'mores and we all just enjoy the night. Since we'll be getting up at 4:30 bedtime is a little earlier the usual, but surprisingly there's not an argument or complaints.  Setting up camp (and playing some tackle football), has worn the boys out. 

First thing the the next morning is Jack getting out of the tent and saying "Wow, look at all the stars!!  Yes, be out and away from civilization and it's nighttime lighting allows you to see thousands if not millions more stars then you normally can.   It's simply beautiful.  We head off for showers and a then a quick breakfast of deer bacon and eggs.  We head over to the Aurora Sportsmen's Club, wish each other luck and head out in the rising sunshine to our spots.
We wait for a bit and listen to the birds greet the morning, there's a rooster off in the distance and then the turkeys at Hoka Turkey Farm wake up.  Lots of turkeys. Thousands of turkey's off in the distance.  I hit the Bleat-In-Heat can a few times.  and we wait.  Suddenly off to our right, the something coming down the trail we came in on.  Antlers !!!  

They stop well short of us. All we can see are a forked set of antlers sticking up from the brush.  "Can I shoot" asks Robert very quietly, gun up on his shoulder. "Not yet." I whisper in his ear.  "Wait until you are sure of your target, and then aim for his back." The antlers move up and down, then there's a grunt snort, and he cuts off through the brush to our right, heard, but unseen.

"That was SOOOoooooo Cooool!!!!" he says.  I can recognize the after effects of an adrenaline dump.  "Nice job not shooting," I reply.  "You have to have a good clear shot, before you pull the trigger."  

Then shortly we spot a pointed set of ears moving through the brush, and they stop short.  Coyote !!!  "Dad can I shoot?"  "Yes, wait until you can be sure of your target." I reply.  But Wily decides instead to move off to yelp and howl at us, never giving us a clear shot.  

So we wait.  But a ten year old can only sit and wait so long.  I have a couple of deer calls, a rattling bag, and the Bleat-in-Heat can.  So Robert wants to try them.  I tell him that we should really only use one at a time as they have different purposes.  So we try one.  And wait.  Then we do the next.  And wait.  I show him how to use the rattling bag.  I rattle, then he does for few minutes. And we wait some more.   Then he does the Bleat-in-Heat can a few times.  And we wait.  He's getting bored, so we get up and walk around a bit.  That's the picture above.  We got back and sit.  And he starts playing with the calls.  Pretty soon it sounds like a Deer Party.  Several bucks are grunt snorting and fighting as a lone doe bleats that she's looking for a boyfriend.  Sounds like if your a deer and not here, you are missing all the fun, as all the deer are here!!

We go back to camp for lunch, the boys play football while the dads nap.  Jim and his son Conner join us after Conner's morning baseball game.  We again go over a plan for the afternoon hunt and head out.  We walk out to our spots and begin the process of waiting. 

 We spotted nothing, but had a good time looking at various Spiders (including a couple of Marble Spiders and an Orb Weaver), following tracks and looking for scat and droppings.   Finally it began to get dark so we made our way back to the car and then back to camp.  Pat and Jack made Steak sandwiches for us (Wow!!) for dinner, then it was sit by the fire and discuss the days events.  Deer were seen but none close enough, nor moving slow enough to take a shot.  Plans were laid for the next day, and as the fire burned down, we headed off to sleep. 
The morning was Blueberry pancakes (sans syrup as it's not a camping trip unless I forget something.) and more deer bacon.  Mmmmmm.  Again, off before the sun comes up and the boys are just dazzled by the number of stars they can see.  

We get to the parking lot and head out.  Hopes are high as we're starting to figure out where the deer "are". 

There is some walking, much sitting and some talking.  But mostly just being.  Being together and enjoying the beauty of nature.   It really doesn't get any better then this.  A father and son outdoors together.  I hope Robert remembers it.  

As the morning grows longer, we accept that the deer have outsmarted us and head back to camp for lunch.   As a concession to the boys, it's Tube Steaks and chips.  We pack up the camper and the boys decide that instead of more hunting, they want to shoot a slug through their guns (Rossi Combos.  A single shot 20ga barrel with a swappable single shot .22 LR barrel).  So we head to the range.  I fully expected the boys to fire one slug and say "That's enough, can we shoot .22 now?"  Turns out Conner was just that, one slug and done.  My Robert on the other hand is recoil junkie.  Not content to shoot all five of his slugs, he also shoots Conner's other four.  The boys burn through an entire box of .22LR ammo, 550 rounds.  And Jim and I look at each other when there is $1.00 bet made as to whether Robert can hit, within five shots, a pink shotgun hull to knock off a tiny Rubber duck they have brought along.  He nails it on the third shot and the bet paid off when during the next break we examine the hull.

Finally, all the targets are shot, the ammo exhausted.  Nothing left but to finish out the weekend with dinner at Robert's favorite restaurant, Pub West.  Trent, as always, is a great host and serves some of the tastiest food.  Cheeseburgers for the boys, Jim has an Italian Beef and I go with the Texas Burger.  We eat, enjoy some football and at long last head out.

A few weeks back, after the Zombie Shoot about an hour or so after I returned Robert to his mother, I got a text.  "He was returned Tired and Cranky, and if he doesn't straighten up, he won't be going to cub scouts next week."  I took that as a point of pride.  In fact, I joked with Jim that I expected to get a text this weekend complaining that I "returned him Tired, Cranky, Dirty, Sticky and Bruised"  (from shooting the slugs).  
But I know that he had as much fun as I did.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dialysis Training

Okay, I'm in.   But please, give me some credit. I'm a college graduate. I took High School Chemistry (along with Reloading, and doing some "weird science" experiments with my son, I've brushed up on some advanced chemistry). I can work a computer and having spent the last three plus years in chemo; I'm a past master at infection control procedures. 

Walk me though.  Give me the manual and show me step by step.  I get the "Why" for most of it.  If I have a question I'll stop and ask.

But this start in the middle, then go to near the beginning and then let's talk about the the shutdown procedure, before you go back and show you the start-up process.

Whoever wrote the training manual needs to be clubbed over the head and fired.  While his replacement watches.  Dude,  You are telling a story about how perform a step-by-step process.  It has a beginning, middle and end.  The story is much better if you tell it in that order.

So tomorrow is day three.  I told my instructor that I want to "solo".  Setup and run the machine myself.  I'll use the manual to do it each and every time until I develop good habits and the muscle memory to do it the same way, every night, without fail.

Because you can't skip a night.  So it will go hunting with me. (Supplies to be delivered to the campground.  That will be fun !!) 

But please, I've read the book, done all the "quizzes", let me walk through it, and then once I solo, I'll be more than happy to come back for however many days you want me to and I'll demonstrate my proficiency until you are satisfied that I can do it, repeatedly without screwing up.

Please, give me some credit.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Evening With Friends

Several months ago I went to my first Indy blogmeet and was welcomed into the group like I was long lost brother.  Tam, Roberta, Brigid and everyone else in the group are as warm and kind in real life as they are in their blogs.

And since that time the ladies have shown me how friendly and caring shooters are in the whole and these fine folks in particular.  And over the course, of my monthly visits to Indy, I was invited to dine and spend time with these nice people.   And as we talked and laughed like we had known each other for years, a germ of an idea came to me.  I wanted to show how much I value and treasure their friendship and repay their kindness by doing something for them that hopefully would be a wonderful and unique experience.  I had a one pointed mentioned that I missed going to the Elgin Symphony, so when Brigid said that she had never been or hadn't been in a very long time, I asked if they would like to go see the Indianapolis Symphony?  Excited with the idea we began to look at dates and performances, and finally settled on going to see Mahler's 1st the last weekend of September.  I was saddened when Roberta and Tam had to beg off, but thrilled that Midwest Chick and Brigid were game.

Suddenly I had a "non-date" with two very lovely ladies to a "grown-up event", so this night was going to be special.

And it was, it started when I was greeted at the door by something low-slung and in black.  Once we got a very-excited-to-see-me Barkley (I was excited to him too!!) back under control, I was knocked out by two knock-outs.  WOW !!!   The ultimate expression of the Little Black Dress and the Red Number that just WOW !!!

And like Prom night, pictures were take and greeting hugs exchanged and mmmmmm vanilla perfume.  Out to open the car doors for the ladies and were off to the Big City.  Give the car to the valet and inside the elegant building which houses the theater and the Symphony.  The on-going highlight of the evening was watching the faces of the people (especially men) seeing someone walking around with not one, but two gorgeous ladies dressed to the nines, one on each arm.  The looks of surprise and envy were just like the Mastercard commercial - Priceless.  The ladies made great sport of it, as I grew concerned that they were going to cause of fellow concertgoers to walk into balusters or the stately columns that dot the lobby as they did double takes and stared.
A pre-concert beverage along with more catching up conversation and it's time to find our seats.  From the ISO's website, there really are no bad seats, but some are better than others, so I wanted seats that would ensure that we be able to really enjoy not only the music but he musicians as well.
The music was phenomenal.  The opening piece, Ades' Violin Concerto was magnificently performed by Lela Josefowicz, it is technically challenging and wild ranging, Ades' piece confuses difficultly with artistry.  Ms Josefowicz breathed love and life into what could have easily become a muddled mess.
During the intermission the two ladies again spent their time touching up their tactical lip-gloss, to the shock and dismay of fellow concert-goers and it seemed that we had pickup a tail of novice nuns (yes, in the habits), also out to enjoy an evening of music, though I never thought that Mahler made the Top 100 in the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile back to to seats for the feature piece.  Mahler's 1st.  While the ISO much acclaimed new Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski was elsewhere this evening,guest conductor Larry Rachleff took over and did a magnificent job of leading the large ensemble (Mahler always liked bigger and more when it came to instruments) in the complex work that can be flat and un--inspired, as is frequently the case in most recordings of the work.  Therefore I was somewhat skeptical as to what kind of performance we could expect.  Needless to say I was greatly surprised and impressed. Mr. Rachleff's light and lively treatment brought out all the complex and intertwined themes that were clear and distinct.  The musicians obviously enjoying the work and that enjoyment growing as the lengthy work progressed.  Leading up to the finally which brought the audience to it's feet for a lengthy ovation.
Having paid our respects to the orchestra, we departed to retrieve the car from the valet.  Upon presenting my stub, the attendant could not find the key and announced that they had probably went to retrieve as they would begin to bring up the vehicles once the performance ended.  After standing by the curb on the Circle and doing the tourist thing (craning our necks upward to to see the Civil War Victory Finger to the South column), I noticed my car park further down round the circle.  Going back inside, I pointed out my car to the attendant who sheepishly admitted that they had not been able to figure out how to remove the key from the ignition of a stick shift Saab, so had parked it, with the key in it, where they could keep an eye on it.  Disdaining a tip, the ladies and I laughed and walked 'round the circle to were I helped them in the car (again, getting stares and double takes from passer-by) and eliciting complimentary comments from the street vendors next to where the car had been left parked.
A quick trip back to Small Town and the Stone Creek Dining Company for an extremely tasty meal of Steak, Shrimp, Scallops, and Chicken, along with all the trimmings.  More conversation and laughs that frequently had me wiping tears from my eyes we were laughing so hard ("and then Sonny the cockateil said....") along with the "church lady" with her teenage daughter sitting in the booth catty-corner who kept shooting me very disproving looks (Two woman !?!?!  and look, they can't even be half his age !!!  Hhhhrrmmppph !!!).

And all too quickly the night was ending.  A return to the current Range, where once again I was met by something low-slung and black (Hi Barkley !!), hugs and a return to my parents home, where I just managed to sneak in before curfew.

I can't thank Midwest Chick and Brigid for a truly wonderful evening of friends, music and food.  I had been so looking forward to it and it was everything I had hoped for and more.  I also would like to thank Mr. B for letting me borrow his Significant Other for the evening, you sir a very fortunate and lucky man.   It was an distinct privilege and true honor to escort both of you ladies last evening.  It's something I'll never forget, Thank you.