Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why We Wear Clothing That Went Out Of Style 250 Years Ago (or 135 Years Ago for Some Of Us)

Taken from the Dell Leather Works web page........

"We are people to whom the past is forever speaking. We listen to it because we cannot help ourselves, for the past speaks to us with many voices. Far out of that dark nowhere, which is the time before we were born, men who were flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, went through fire and storm to break a path to the future.
We are part of the future they died for. They are part of the past that brought the future. What they did – the lives they lived, the sacrifices they made, the stories they told and the songs they sung and finally, the deaths they died – make up a part of our own experience. We cannot cut ourselves off from it. It is as real to us as something that happened last week."
— Bruce Catton

I'm Your Top Prime Cut of Meat, I'm Your Choice, I Wanna Be Elected..............

A shipmate of mine, put a comment in his blog about the current election and the people running. He wondered what our forefathers such as Washington, Jefferson and Adams would think of the candidates we have today. Well, I don't know for sure, but I don't think that they would be too impressed. I know that I am not.

I normally don't talk politics or religion with folks, since it is the easiest way to cause hard feelings and ruin friendships in the shortest amount of time. (Well, other than with my brother-in-law who is pretty much a bum, and I just LOVE yanking his chain) I figure most folks know where I stand since I don't hold back in my views and beliefs. I am very conservative in nature, thought, word and deed, sometime even to the right of Attila the Hun. However, I will 'fess up that I can have some liberal views on subjects which would surprise and shock most folks that know me.

This crop of politicians that are currently running for office are (As Jed Clampett would say) pitiful, just pitiful. I have yet to hear one of them say what they would do (if elected) in a clear and understandable manner. All I hear is we need to change, that change is good and I know better than the other candidate(s). No details on how or what they would change, no facts, nothing concrete, nothing but rhetoric and photo ops. I didn't expect any better, since they ARE politicians. Even the "conservative" candidate doesn't make me too happy. I have a great deal of respect for him for the pure hell he when through for 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison as a POW. But I have to wonder just what they did to him in that time. Anybody remember the movie "The Manchurian Candidate"? (Some people think I am evil and mean for even thinking that kind of thing)

But what REALLY bothers me is not the politicians, but rather the voters. I had a talk with my sister's kid, (A R.N. with three kids) and she told me that she was going to vote for Obama because he was "nice". Not for his ideas or policies, not because she felt there needed to be a change in the direction of the country, but because she thought he was nice. Again, I shouldn't be too surprised since I can remember when Bill Clinton was running for his second term and all the scandals came out, I heard several people say "I am going to vote for him anyway, because he seems like such a nice person" We have turned elections into nothing more that popularity contest, very much like we did in high school for the class president. If you look good, smile well and don't say anything that pisses anyone off, you can be president.

I would say that if Washington or Adams came back today and saw what the average citizen does with their right to vote, they would be very stunned and disappointed and more than likely, sick to their stomach.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thanks Mac, Thanks a lot.

Today is the day that we set aside to commemorate those men and women who have given their all in the service of their country. Unfortunately, it has turned into more of a cook out/beginning of summer kind of holiday. We as a people have a very short memory and are more interested in immediate gratification and the good life. Not a bad thing, I guess, but I feel just a little disappointment that Memorial Day is not commemorated as fully as it was intended.

As I get older, I seem to think more of the cost of things and as I watched the various news programs today with the photo ops of the many graves with American flags on them, the buglers playing "Taps" the photos of the young men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was reminded that the cost of freedom is very, very high. My good wife was watching with me and commented when she saw the photos of the recent war dead on the TV, "They all look like babies" I told her that all the pictures of the men that I had seen from all of our previous wars did too. Generations of young men who will never grow old, who will always be young at least in the memories of their loved ones and the men they served with.

I wish that I could put into words how much of a debt that I personally feel I owe those who have fallen in the service of our country, but words fail me. Plus how do you thank those who are gone? Or would they even want our thanks for doing what they must have felt was their duty? I know that what I do is very limited, but I do try to thank them in what I do as a living historian by doing the very best impression that I can. I also go out of my way to personally thank every vet that I meet. That way I can at least try to let them know that their efforts were appreciated and cherished. I have had the honor of meeting men who stormed islands in the Pacific and fought the Japanese, flew as crew members of bombers over Germany, fought up the "boot" of Italy and landed on the Normandy beaches, as well as men who served on ships on every sea and ocean. These fellows were the indeed the "greatest generation" (To include my father who served as a SEEBEE in the navy, building airstrips on several pacific islands to base B-29 bombers out of) I have also met vets that fought in Korea, Vietnam, and other less well known places. All these men were modest and reticent about their service, but seemed to appreciate it when I thanked them. I felt like that it was the least I could do for these "bravest of the brave" but still it doesn't seem like it is enough.

He has a Powerful Weapon, He Charges a Million a Shot, An Assassin That's Second to None, The Man With the Golden Gun......

O.K., So it is brass. But it will look like gold when I get finished with it.

Some time back, I picked up a Italian reproduction of a Spiller and Burr Revolver. It's action was tight and it locked up in good shape, but the outside finish was rough, almost crude. The brass parts were as cast, with seams and sprue marks visible. The steel parts were blued with lots of machining marks still visible. The fellow I got it from had thoughtfully "defarbed" it by grinding off the Made in Italy markings on the barrel,as well as scraping off the varnish on the grips.

I guess I am sorta funny in that whenever I get my hands on a weapon that I plan on keeping, I have to put my own little touches on it. In a small way personalize it. In my limited research on Spiller & Burr revolvers, I can't tell how well they were finished in the photos I have seen. I know that they were rare since the company only turned out around 1500 pistols in it's history, but I don't have any hesitation in saying that I have no doubt that they were finished at least a little better than my model. So with the help of a few small files, a polishing wheel and a little elbow grease, we shall see if I have a diamond in the rough.

While You and Your Friends're Worryin' bout me I'm Havin' Lots of Fun....

Well, it has been some time since my last entry. I have been back to the Doc to have my stitches pulled out of my knee, done two P.T. appointments, taught a class on the "Use of Force" for my old department and made a road trip to PA with the hospital. All in all a fairly hectic time period.

Let's see, I guess that the big story was the road trip. I decided that if I was going to make that kind of trip, I was going to need a little help in getting there so I hooked up with the Randalls (Rick, Nancy and Ms Susan) and invited them to truck pool with me. (The only way that I could go to this event was to swear a blood oath to my Doc as well as my good wife that I wouldn't lift anything, always use a crutch or cane when walking, and use a lot of ice on my knee) It was a 41/2 hour ride to their house then a 41/2 hour ride to the site. When it was all said and done, we arrived at Boone's homestead around 11:30 Friday night, tired and looking forward to crashing and burning. The site had arranged for us to set up in a large log cabin that was used by groups for camp outs. It had sleeping arrangements as well as a small kitchen. So there was no need to set up ANY canvas. I thought to myself, "Self, you have just caught a ride on the gravy train"

After a good night's sleep, Saturday morning we set up the kit. I knew that with Donah, Rick and Les taking care of the inside I could do something a little different on the outside so, with a lot of help, I set up a table at the entrance of the cabin and started making medicines. I also sorta served as a "shill" by talking to folks as they came around and invited them to come in to look around. I think it worked out well, with the small exception of when a young girl with a lot of enthusiasm (and very little parental control) pushed up against my table and caused me to spill my hot wax I was using to make suppositories on my apron. I am happy to report that there were no injuries. (As much as I wanted to) I finished up a whole box of suppositories, a box of mercury pills, and a bottle of oil for rubbing on cankers. All of these items were for my good friend, Capt. Callahan. (Who of course, didn't show up) I guess that he will get a nice surprise at U.T.R. Saturday visitation was steady and slightly heavy. Most of the visitors were good to work with, they seemed interested in what we were doing and didn't seem that they were try to get their kids a education in history in 10 minutes or less, what I call "drive thru museum visiting" We shut down at 5 and kicked back for the evening. The British Brigade roasted a Ox for it's members, so with that as well as all the quality food that Ms. Nancy provided, we ate like kings.

Saturday night, while laying in my bunk, I listened as it started raining and thought to myself, "It is GOOD to be in the rear, with the gear" However I did feel at least a little guilty due to everyone seemingly waiting on me. I know they did (and still do it) it out of love and affection for me, but I am one of those types of folks that just does not feel comfortable imposing on others. I would much rather give than receive. (As Ms. Nancy would say, I need to get over it.)

Sunday morning, it was raining off and on, then it settled in and really started pouring. The event folks called the event around 10 or so, so we packed up and headed out.

As a friend of mine once said, "A good time was had by all"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps The Medicine go Down, In a Most Delightful Way.....

Still sitting around with my knee propped up, dammit! The walls are closing in a little more each and every day. I am putting more weight on it when walking, (which the doc said I could) but it just isn't healing fast enough to suit me. I know, I know, I gotta give it time, but I am the world's worst patient. I did get a chance to take off the hospital bandaging to look at the damage. I have some stuff that looks like 35 lb test fishing line holding the knee's skin together. Most interesting and damned attractive. (at least "I" think so) I should get that all pulled out on Friday.

I have been thinking about what I want to do at Boone's Homestead, other than just visit with my friends. I think I am going to push the medicine making thing just a little bit. I have the goods to make more suppositories as well as various powders and liquids and tablets. Now who do I target for this fun in the sun? Why my old friend Jay Callaham.

I have known Jay since I got into this "thing of ours" many years ago. I have always said that Jay looks just like a British Officer with a case of the venereal complaint. (He also looks like Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame, but that is another matter for another time) Jay picked up on this and occasionally stops by the hospital for his mercury treatments. I have always tried to give the customers of the hospital what they want so, I am going to have delivered to Mr. Callaham his various medications at the first officer's meeting Saturday morning. Included in this shipment will be suppositories for his noted biliousness, some powders for the ague, some oils for rubbing on his multiple chancres and last but not least, mercury pills. All these items will be in period correct packaging with proper prescriptions attached.

The toughest items were the mercury pills to reproduce. I located what are called Dragees, small silver balls used to decorate cakes and cookies. They will serve as mercury pills. I had a tough time locating the damned things. It seems that some rocket scientist on the left coast sued various baking suppliers for selling them since they contained "heavy metal" and were poisoning the bodies of America's youth. (Not that there has been ANY case of ANY one suffering from any type of toxicity from the Dragees) But hey, there is a chance that if you do a ton of them, it may show up. Thank the gods that we have people to take care of us, when we can't take care of our selves. Anyway, they are somewhat hard to locate, but available. They will not sell them to California residents however.

Anyway, it should be fun to do and keep me busy which is something I need.

Friday, May 9, 2008

No, No, No, I Can't Sniff It No More.......

Well here it is, Friday night. I am sitting here with my leg propped up, typing and about half watching the T.V. enjoying my latest snuff . As most of you are aware, I am a sniffer, not a dipper. I started snuffing as a way of adding another dimension to my 18th century persona. I don't know why I started, other than just curiosity. I find that it serves several purposes, I enjoy it for both the flavor as well as the slight buzz that the nicotine provides. In my mind nothing says 18th century like a person taking a pinch. Case in point, a few years back, I was giving a medical talk to a large group of historians at George Mason University. They had wanted me to give the talk in "first person" which most of the time is no big problem for me. (First person is to be speaking as if I am a person from the 18th century) However this time while talking it dawned on me that I was standing in front of around 350 people and I got a case of stage fright like you wouldn't believe. My brain went totally blank and I said to myself, "Self, NOW what are you going to do?" I remembered my snuffbox, so I did the ritual of taking a pinch and gained the time I needed to regain my train of thought. Well that allowed me to pull my fat out of the fire and keep from making a fool of myself. I did however have to talk a little about snuff and it's use and to this date, most people who saw me on that day only remember me as the fellow who was doing snuff.

Snuffing gets people's attention. I can't count the times at Colonial Williamsburg when taking snuff, oriental visitors in particular will point at me and say "Ah, Cocaine!, Cocaine! with smiles and nods of their heads all around. If their command of English is good enough, I try to explain what I am doing. If not, I just smile back.

There are many types of snuff available, as well as many flavors. Tonight I am doing a orange flavored type. Most of the time I stick to a menthol type. My current favorite is McChrystal's which is a fairly mild snuff.

Snuffing was wildly popular in Georgian England particularly among the Scotch. Queen Charlotte was known as "Snuffy Charlotte" due to her love of the habit. The Prince Reagent, (Later King George IV) also was a great fan of snuff. Wilson of Sharrow still has recipes that were popular in that time period (to include several formulas that were made up for the royal family) and still makes snuff in the same manner as it was 250 years ago. So I consider snuff as just one more tool to try to help me understand what the life and times were like for the person of so long ago.

I will end this blog with a story that I ran across while researching something else which will show the importance of snuff in a social setting. It occurred in a gentleman's club in London shortly after the war in America had ended. The Prince Regent was the guest of honor at a gathering of half-pay military officers and other gentlemen. Having finished dinner, it was time for the port and snuff to be enjoyed. The prince regent, could not locate his own personal jeweled snuffbox and thought that it had been pilfered. The door was locked and all present were to turn out their pockets to attempt to locate the missing box. One of the gentlemen present (A battle scarred guards officer on half-pay) refused to do this stating that he felt that his word that he didn't have it, was sufficient. Some of the prince's entourage pinioned the old officer's arms and pulled a small package out of his coat pocket. When it was opened it was found to contain a portion of beef steak left over from the meal that the assemblage had just finished. The cost of living in London was so high that a officer on half pay was unable to make ends meet so the officer was forced to save the beef so that he would have something to eat the next day. The Prince was so overcome with guilt for embarrassing the officer who had served his country so well that he apologised profusely as well as boosted the officers pay so that the wronged officer could live in comfort the rest of his days.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

And I'll go to Undergo a Surgery to Purge Me of This Lonely Mood.......

Yesterday, I had my long awaited surgery. Not the most pleasant way to spend a day with my clothing off, but it makes me hopeful that I am on the road to getting back to normal. I can walk better already as well as not having any pain spasms when I am sitting around, so I figure I am on the right track. The doc told me that the dark spot on the ct scan turned out to be basically a blood clot that would not dissolve and was causing pressure on the surrounding tissue. The doc clipped all that out. There also was another small tear in the miniscus which was cleaned up. No bone fragments floating around to remove, thank goodness. So here I sit, the old pin wrapped up and covered with ice staring at the one eyed monster.I have quite a few movies I can watch but for the time being, I am letting the drugs do their thing and am enjoying the ride.

I need to do a little better this time after surgery. I need to quit pushing myself at least until I heal up. The medical staff at the hospital is talking about starting to award me "frequent flier points" so the next time I need to go in it will be free. I have racked up surgery on my left knee (once) my right shoulder (once) and counting this last one twice on my right knee. I don't think that I want any more. My problem is that I rush to get back to normal way too fast. Just sitting around is very hard on me, since there are lots of things I want to do and haven't been able to. I have three pistols to work on, rope work, items to gather for the road trip to Boone's homestead, and more horns that I need to finish. While I have done quite a bit of reading lately I have that damned itch to do something with my hands. I can't make the trip down to my shop and the good wife gets a bit testy if I start leaving piles of horn scrapings or brass filings in the living room floor. I just don't understand her point of view. After all, all artist must feed the craving they have to create or they die. I told my good wife that very thing and all she said was that it was a very good thing that I have a good life insurance policy.

Monday, May 5, 2008

You Give me Fever.............

I had managed to de-hydrate myself while down in San Juan, and hadn't been feeling quite right ever since. I started having various problems so down to the urology clinic I went. I left a sample and told them what the problem was, that I had a U.T.I. Of course, they didn't believe me and had to run test to be sure. Somewhat dissatisfied I left. This was on Tuesday (04-29-08). Tuesday night I started having chills and by Thursday morning, I woke my good wife up at around 01:45 and had a in depth conversation on our need to sell both our hogs and scrap iron so as to obtain funds for the household. My temperature was by that time 103.3 and holding. My goodwife called another Doctor and told him that I was talking out of my head (even more than normal) and he told her that she should bring me on in. He did a blood culture on me and said I was within a gnat's ass of being put in the hospital for a bunch of I.V. antibiotics. Now there is something (at least in my mind) that is candy-assed about having a urinary tract infection. I tried to convince the good doctor that I had picked up a case of Malaria in San Juan, but he wasn't having any part of it. I was given a prescription for a fairly strong antibiotic and after a few days I started feeling a bit better. I missed another event with my shipmates 'cause of this stuff which didn't make me happy in the least.

Oh yeah, today (05-05-08)I got a call from the urology clinic that I had gone to who told me that I had a U.T.I. and offered me a prescription for antibiotics. I thanked them for their interest and hung up on them.