Friday, February 27, 2009

Quick And Easy..............

O.K. there I was. Having just escaped an assassination attempt by a deranged, kibble deprived cat.

Once the area was secured, the cat locked in the closet, and my heart-beat returned to normal, I remembered that I HAD been hungry before things went to hell in a hand basket.

I went to the pantry and found that ol' mother Hubbard didn't have anything on the W household. I did find a few odds and ends which I threw together and made myself a pretty good soup. If I may, I would like to share the recipe with you.


Sometimes I measure, sometimes I don't. Mostly it depends on what I feel like or how it looks. So be warned.

1/2 lb. Pork breakfast sausage links

1 Lb. sliced fresh mushrooms

11/2 cups sliced onions

28 oz beef broth (give or take)

Crusty Italian or french bread

1 cup or so of shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink, drain pan, cut sausage into about 1/2 inch lengths. Return to pan along with the sliced onions and mushrooms. Cook until tender. (4-6 mins) Stir in beef broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until heated through.(another 4-6 minutes)Pour into ovenproof bowls, float slices of bread on top of soup, cover bread with the shredded cheese, broil until cheese melts.

Soup's on!

Or as Granny W. was known to yell: "Ya'll get to the table before I throw it to the dogs!!!!!!!" -grin-

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today in History............

In 1751.....

Edward Willet of New York City displayed the first trained monkey act in the United States. For the price of one shilling, the audience saw the monkey walk a tightrope, dance and "exercise" a gun. (Just think, we get to watch congress do pretty much the same thing, but it cost us just a wee bit more than a shilling)

In 1815.....

Napoleon leaves his exile on the Island of Elba, returning to France and marking the beginning of what was called the 100 days which led to the battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's final defeat.

In 1836.....

Samuel Colt patents the first practical revolving cylinder multi-shot firearm. "Revolving gun," (revolver) God created man, and Col. Colt made them equal.....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Today In History

In 1914.........

Brig. General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 4 time governor of Maine, instructor, then President of Bowdoin college, died of wounds received at the battle of Petersburg VA in June 1864.

Chamberlain, who won his M.O.H. while commanding the 20th Maine at the battle of Gettysburg. When his troops defending Little Round Top began to run out of ammunition, Colonel Chamberlain organized and led a bayonet charge against the attacking confederate forces, defeating them and saving the Union Army's flank. For his skills and leadership, Chamberlain was known as "The Lion of Little Round Top"

While leading troops at Petersburg, Chamberlain received gunshot wounds to his groin and hip which were thought to be fatal. While Chamberlain recovered enough to return to duty, he never fully healed and was troubled with his wounds the rest of his life.

Warning For Gun Cranks

I had a weird and scary incident occur today, I thought I would share it for what is worth.

As my primary concealed carry weapon, I have been using a FEG PA-63. It is a double action semi-automatic that looks and functions like a Walter PPK. It is chambered for the 9 mm Makorov caliber. It shoots well and is reliable since I replaced the weapon's original springs with Wolf replacements.

Today, I was getting ready to head to town and had placed the PA-63 on the dresser in the bedroom while changing out my pants. One of my cats, Missy was in the "Love me, Love me NOW mode. I didn't pay too much attention to her when she got up on the dresser but them there was a loud bang and she un-assed the area of operations. Missy had knocked the pistol off the dresser and it had gone off. When I examined the pistol, there was still a shell casing in the chamber, a bullet hole in the ceiling and a divot in the floor from where the hammer struck the floor when the pistol fell. Luckily there were no injuries. (the cat may have lost one of it's nine lives, but seems to have recovered well)

Since this is a double action weapon, I carried it with a round in the chamber, hammer down safety off. (All of my previous double action auto loaders were safe carried in this manner)

I don't know if this was a result of a design flaw in the weapon, or if there is something wrong with MY individual weapon, but rest assured I will be carrying it with the safety on, or I will be carrying my Glock 23 from now on. So be warned if you have one of these weapons.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Safe And Sound At Home Again, Let The Waters Roar, Jack..................

The weekend went very, very well. The first event of the year is always a little tough for me, getting all the gear out and moving it, as well as the long drive. I can say that it was well worth any hassle that it might have been. I got a very late start heading out Saturday morning, the lure of that second cup of coffee was just WAY too much to resist. My knees also voiced their many objections which of course I had to pay attention to. so after much deliberation and a three hour drive, I managed to get on site at around noon. All the lads pitched in and gave me a hand in getting my kit in so I didn't have to make more than one trip into camp on foot. I have said this before and I will say it again, reenactors take care of each other.

I was feeling pretty tired, but very pleased with myself. You see, I had handcrafted a period correct 18th century crutch to use over the weekend. It looked GOOD and as a friend use to say, it was "achingly authentic" . I thought that it would add a sorta nice "Long John Silver" to my sailor impression. However, I measured the damned thing incorrectly so it was too short to use effectively. I need to add about 6 inches or so to it. Walking with it made me look like Igor in Young Frankenstein, not a very good look for me. I forgot the old adage, measure twice, cut once, so back to the drawing board.

I did a good bit of knotwork. I decided to make a demonstration piece of my knots. I have a reproduction 18th century cane so I stripped the finish off and started tying knots to cover the surface totally. I so far have done two types of coxcombing and a style of french knot, next there will be needle pointing and any other method I can figure out to cover the surface. Once it's totally covered, then I will put several Turk's head knots on it here and there to tie it all together.

Again, not only did I have a good time with the knots and talking to the public I spent a great deal of time visiting with my friends in the reenacting world. We solved all the worlds problems, discussed topics that would have most people running for cover, told jokes, and generally acted like a extended family. There were four or five seperate groups that threw in together and I knew most of the folks there. There was my buddy John, Andrew and Chris from the living history guild, Jerry, Tammy and their folks from the Johnson Co. militia and others. We also did the required musket and cannon demonstrations for the public.

One of the better things that we do is cooking period correct food in the field as a interpretative tool for the public. My good friend Miss Tammy is expert at this and is well known for the quality of the food she fixes. She does however have a tradition at Moore's creek that she makes a low country boil that while it may not be totally period correct, it's damned good.

For those of you who haven't had it, a low country boil starts out with a BIG pot. (Tammy has a 35 gallon black cast iron kettle she uses) Water, old bay seasoning, potatoes cut in 1/4, onions, and corn on the cob. Cook until tender, then add smoked sausage/kielbasa cut into manageable chunks. Let it cook a wee bit more then add as much shrimp as you can afford. Once the shrimp get done, get your bottle of Tabasco sauce, cover the table with newspaper and have at it. Of course, if you are at home or not at a historic site, beer is real good with this. Well we had a big boil for lunch Saturday which didn't hurt anyone's feelings.

Saturday night, the site fed us as a thank you for our work, it was the traditional bar-be-que pork and chicken dinner. It was mighty tasty but the best part of the night was a dramatic presentation by a park employee in "first person" telling the story of a slave who buys her freedom. She did a wonderful job on the portrayal, but there was a moment that made me laugh so hard, I almost fell on the floor.

They have a employee at the park a fellow named Tim. Tim is a prince of a fellow, do anything in the world for you, but sometimes, he can't buy a break. He is one of those folks that as a friend of mine put it, "It rains, no matter where he goes." So here we were, listening to this lady, and she had a dramatic pause, when poor Tim's telephone went off. Tim's ring tone is "This Magic Moment" Somehow, it just didn't seem to go with the presentation. Tim tries to cut the phone off, I am laughing, Tim is turning various shades of red, the lady giving the presentation starts giggling and the rest of the audience seems to like it also.

So for the rest of the weekend, Tim is serenaded by people in 18th century clothing singing This Magic Moment. Something tells me that his ring tone will be changed.......

Sunday was more of the same until around 4:00 P.M. when we dropped the tents and headed home.

Not a bad start for the year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We Hove Our Ship To With The Wind From Sou'west, Boys

Tonight, I am in the hunter gatherer mode. I have my first event of the year at Moore's Creek Bridge national park near Willmington in the morning and have to dig out all my 18th century sailor toys and clothing. It's a very strange check off list I am walking around with. Sea bag, ditty bag, cutlass, musketoon, boarding pike, boarding pistol and so on. When ever I go to a historic site, I always bring more stuff than I need for a couple of reasons. First, you never know if one of your friends might need to borrow something. You can forget something REAL easy, been there, done that. Also, you need eye candy for the public. I have noticed that when people come to a historic site, they for the most part hesitate to talk to us when we are wearing period clothing. So, I bring lots o' bait. My brass-barrel musketoon (Blunderbuss) catches people's eye as well as my rope work. Once I get 'em close, I can talk to them. Then maybe I can share a little of my knowledge with 'em. But ya gotta bring them in first.

Another nice thing is that I will be spending time with my messmates from the living history guild. I will post when I get back on how it went.......

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Take Her Down........

As you are no doubt aware, I have a great deal of admiration for the Naval service and those who serve. I guess if I have any regrets about my life, the only one would have been to have not served a hitch in the navy.

I had intended to post this on the 66th anniversary of the event, but missed it. I hope that you will forgive it's lateness and honor the memory of the brave man involved.

February 7th 1943............

Congressional Medal of Honor Citation


Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy.
Born: 29 September 1902, Selma, Ala.
Appointed from: Louisiana.
Other Navy award: Navy Cross with one gold star.

Citation: For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and antisubmarine patrols, Comdr. Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, "Take her down." The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today In History.............

In 1864........

Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley commanded by Lt. G.E. Dixon in a effort to break the Federal Navy's blockade, successfully attacked and sank the U.S.S. Housatonic a steam powered sloop of war outside of Charleston harbor. The Housatonic went down in 5 minutes but only suffered the loss of 5 lives, the rest of the crew were able to either man lifeboats or climb into the rigging of the ship until rescued. After the attack the Hunley never returned to it's base so was considered lost with all aboard(Lt. Dixon and seven crew members)in the attack.

The Hunley's place in history was due to it's being the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. It's success came at a high price however. The lost of it's crew on it's combat mission, but also two other crews during testing and development. Say what you will about the cause they served, but it had to take a brave man to climb down into a iron tube that had only one hatch, no lights, no fresh air, soon to be under water. To turn a hand crank for hours(the method of propulsion for the Hunley) on end with no guarantee that you are ever coming back.

Lt. Dixon and his crew did make it back however. On August 8th 2000 the Hunley was raised from Charleston harbor with the remains of the crew still on board. On April 17th 2004 the Hunley's crew was buried with full military honors in Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So, You Think YOU Got It Bad????

In 1568...........

The Roman Catholic Church sentenced the entire population of the Netherlands to death for heresy. That was every man, woman and child. Luckily the Spanish (who were acting as the church's proxy)never were able to conquer the country so that they could carry out the sentence.

Today In History.............

In 1804........

Steven Decatur
burned the captured frigate Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor.

At the end of the American Revolution, the American merchant navy found it's self at a strong disadvantage. The ships sailing under the American flag no longer had the protection of the Royal Navy so they were prime pickings for anyone who wanted to take them on. The foremost of these pirates were the Barbary corsairs. The Muslim countries in the north of the African continent, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, sponsored these pirates for a cut, and also ran a rather impressive protection racket. By the paying of "tribute" a nation could have their ships protected. Some countries would pay this tribute as just the cost of doing business in the Mediterranean. Others would whisper into the pirate's ears to ensure that that attacked only the right ships. That brought a whole new meaning to the term, "cut throat competition".

American, not having a navy worthy of mention, paid tribute at first. It also paid ransom for captured American sailors and citizens. If a seaman or passenger was captured by the Barbary corsairs, they were condemned to life as slaves until they could be redeemed. At one time, in many seacoast towns, various churches would take up collections to relieve the suffering of Christians held by the Moors.
After a while, the American government grew tired of paying tribute. (The War-Hawks in Washington cry was "Thousands for Defense, but not one Penny for Tribute") and dispatched a newly formed naval force to blockade the port of Tripoli. One of the ship detached on this mission was the 36 gun frigate, U.S.S. Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia ran aground on a uncharted reef in Tripoli harbor and was captured on October, 31 1803. The pirates were able to re-float the ship and changed the balance of power in the Mediterranean. Lt. Steven Decatur led a volunteer mission in which he sailed a captured Libyan ship which he had renamed Intrepid with a hand picked crew, under the guns of the harbor's many fortresses as well as the guns of the Philadelphia. Using swords, daggers, boarding pikes and axes, he retook the Philadelphia. There was no way he could sail the ship out of the harbor, so to prevent the pirates from retaking the ship, he put her to the torch.

This was one of the key events that brought the fledgling U.S. Navy to the world's attention. No less that the greatest of all admirals of the age of fighting sail, Horatio Nelson noted the incident and stated this was the "most bold and daring act of the age."

Not bad praise from a man who was well noted for his aggressive nature.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday.........

Today's Birthday of Note...........

In 1923............

Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager (Ret.) Air Force pilot, fighter ace, test pilot, first man to break the sound barrier and hero of the book and movie, The Right Stuff.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For Those In Peril On The Sea..............

While checking out the news, I learned to my great delight that ships and personnel of the U.S. Navy in the past two days have been busy engaging in anti-piracy patrols and have taken into custody a number of pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. Unfortunately, they are turning the subjects over to the government of Kenya for trial. My opinion is that if you catch them armed and engaging in piracy, that the skippers of the ships should be allowed to try them at sea, and if they are convicted, hung.

Piracy was suppressed in that manner on many occasions in the past, I don't see why it wouldn't work today.

To those brave men and women who serve our country in our navy, I say, May God bless and God speed...........

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Birthday..........

Today's birthday of note.......

In 1906.........

Lon Chaney Jr. Star of numerous classic Universal Pictures horror films of the 1940's. Some of my fondest memories were watching those wonderful movies when I was growing up. Chaney was most famous for his portrayal of the cursed and haunted Lawrence Talbot in the movie The Wolf Man. I thought that movie was the best thing in the world, I even remember the old gypsy woman's poem about the curse of the werewolf,

"Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the moon is full and bright......."

But of course, a great movie like this couldn't be left alone. Hollywood just HAD to mess with it, a new version of this classic will be out around Christmas.

Today in History...............

In 1258......

The Mongols burned Baghdad to the ground. Not a bad idea then, and not too bad a idea today.......

In 1763......

The French as the result of losing the Seven Years War, (The French and Indian War to we Americans) ceded Canada over to the British. This led to a power shift between the French speakers and the English newcomers which still resonates in Quebec today. It also laid the foundations of our Revolutionary war a few years later.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Come to the Cabaret, Old Chum.............

There ARE a few downsides to my love and fascination for history. One of those is the "Aw CRAP!" moments when I get the overwhelming feeling that (at least in my opinion) we are heading down a path that we have gone down before.

This past weekend I got hit right between the eyes with one of those which left me shaking my head.

While sitting around tying some knots on a knife lanyard for my Civil War sailor's belt knife, I was watching the video "Cabaret" with Liza Minnelli. Not a video I would normally watch, but I had pretty much worked through my collection over the past week or so and was driven to desperate measures.

About halfway through the film, I was struck by how close America resembles the German Weimar Republic of the late 1920's / early 1930's. The majority of the people are so caught up in their own troubles and the hurting economy that they are willing to be led by anyone who will offer them a quick "painless" solution. People are more focused on their own narrow self interest and what makes them happy or feel good. The government is printing money that is being devalued almost as soon as it comes off the presses and is running the risk of inflation or even hyper-inflation. (I remember seeing pictures of Germans trying to buy loaves of bread with a wheelbarrow full of money as well as hearing about Germans rushing out to spend their pay as soon as they got it, before it's value was reduced even further due to hyper-inflation.) Granted, we don't have Brown Shirts running around beating up people, nor pitched battles in the street between the Nazi and Communist gangs. But there are enough similarities to make me feel very, very, uncomfortable.

Most folks forget that Hitler came to power by a more or less honest election. He promised the German people that he would rebuild both the country and the economy. He also told the people that he would restore their pride and honor. He said that he would protect them from all enemies and they could have wonderful lives if they just followed him without question. Well the German people accepted Herr Hitler's program hook, line and sinker. And once Hitler took power he gradually took what freedom and liberty the people did have away until he had created a true police state.

I was also reminded of how America also resembles Spain in the early 1930's. After years of a conservative government, a free election brought in a government that was extremely liberal, anti- religion, and pro-labor. There were a huge number of changes in the country in a very short time which caused a great deal of uncertainty and fear. The status quo was over turned and the people were left with nothing that they could hold on to. Again, there was someone sitting in the wings watching and waiting who promised the people stability and security that they were missing. This man was Francisco Franco, a officer in the Spanish Army. He led a military coup that promised to bring order and the rule of law back to Spain. After a bloody three year civil war he overthrew the elected government of Spain and took over the reins of power which led to a dictatorship that lasted until the 1970's. Did he give people the stability that they craved? Yes, but the cost was their individual liberty and freedom.

When a person is scared, worried or hungry, some times rational thought goes out the window. Again, quick and easy is what most people would rather have. Instant gratification is the universal desire of the modern man. Unfortunately I see a great deal of that going on today. I hope and pray that we have enough knowledge and wisdom to resist such "fuhrers or generalissimos" these days, but I have my serious doubts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Absolutely Useless Information..............

For those of you who have never been to North Carolina, it is a wonderful, gorgeous state to live in. From our Great Smokey and Blue Ridge Mountains, to the white beaches of the Outer Banks, there is something for everybody. North Carolina is also noted for being one of the most friendly state to the military in the United States. N.C. is home to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, Cherry Point MCAS, Seymour Johnson AFB and Ft. Bragg as well as other smaller bases. Having little else to think about for the past week or so, I wondered why we were lucky enough to end up with so many bases. I ran across this story which may explain it.

In 1941 Frankin D. Roosevelt started preparing the country for war and was looking into places to build military bases. At the time North Carolina's governor was Joseph Melville Broughton who Roosevelt owed more than a few political favors to. F.D.R. came to NC and asked Broughton if he would like a military base here and Broughton told Roosevelt to "bring 'em all, he would take them." When Roosevelt asked Broughton if there would be any problems with getting them built, Broughton was alleged to have said, "Mr. President, I can't think of any place where falling shrapnel would have less of a effect than in eastern North Carolina"

Or so it's said.........

Happy Birthday.........

Today's Birthdays of Note:

In 1788....

Sir Robert Peel, English prime minister and founder of the London Police Department. Sir Robert was the father of modern police movement and all police agencies are in a great degree following the model of the London Police. The nick-names for London police "Bobbie" and "Peeler" are a hat tip to Sir Robert and his efforts.

In 1840....

Sir Hiram S. Maxim, scientist, firearms inventor. Maxim was one of the first to develop the fully automatic portable machine gun. Maxim was born and spent most of his early life in America was working on several various scientific projects in Europe when he was allegedly told by a fellow American, " 'Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others' throats with greater facility" Maxim moved to England and began development of the Maxim belt-fed machine gun. This basic design was manufactured and used by the military forces of Great Britain, Germany, and Imperial Russia in the First World War. It would seem that Maxim accomplished what his friend had recommended.

Today In History...........

I thought I would ease back into blogging by pointing out a interesting (at least to me) thing or two that happened on this date.

In 1922.....

The Reader's Digest was first published. From that point on, bathrooms around America were never the same.

In 1958.....

As the result of a mid-air collision between two aircraft,the U.S. Air Force "lost" a 7600 lb. Hydrogen bomb in the Atlantic Ocean off Tybee Island near Savannah Ga. Well, maybe lost is too hard a term. Let's just say it's "misplaced" since it has never been recovered. There have been more than a few of these types of incidents, which the government has code named "Broken Arrows" to include one at Goldsboro NC (only a few hours from my home) in 1961. Again, in that case, another Hydrogen bomb was "lost" in a bean field after the aircraft carrying it broke apart in mid-air.

I can't get my mind around the fact that a bomb that size could not be recovered, but what do I know?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Zero Hour Nine A.M., And I'm Gonna Be High As A Kite By Then...........

Without a doubt, this has been one of the slackest weeks I have ever spent in recent memory. I have been absolutely useless and didn't accomplish spit.

Well, I take that back. I had more surgery on my left knee Friday before last, got to take a good bit of pain medicine, (Doc told me that the second time in the same knee would be worse. Fine fellow that he is, he didn't lie.) got my stitches pulled out and got scheduled for P.T. But other than that, I have been doing my Long John Silver impression stumping around the casa on crutches being churlish. I didn't even feel like writing much. I must have started several blog entries then thought better of them and hit the delete button. Count your blessings that I did that. Vicodin and percocet do not even come close to turning me into a Hemingway, or even a Hunter Thompson.

So for the most part, it's been a "Blockbuster" week. Been watching a lot of classics, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and so on. Nothing but brain candy, but it's fun.

I SHOULD be back to my normal effervescent self by week's end, so beware.......-grin-