Pete's random thoughts

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Took today off, went to gun show

First, some good news. My new computer arrived yesterday and went into action with very few glitches. It's a Compaq Presario with an AMD 3100 Sempron processor and an 80 gig hard drive. The machine it is replacing is a 5-year old Pentium 400 with a 2 gig hard drive. Back in business!

Since I had help for most of this week (I'll write about that some other time) things are reasonably caught up enough that I took today off. I can't really remember the last day off. Wendy and Caleigh went to see "Disney on Ice" in Manchester with a local group, and I went to a gun show up in West Lebanon. (the locals say "West Leb")

First I went to the dump to unload pretty much all winter's worth of trash. Paper stuff we burn, food scraps go outside for the critters, but everything else goes to the dump. I never seem to be able to get away while the dump is open, so I accumulated a pickup load of trash bags.

The dump is always fun because I get to scavenge stuff from a little shed they call the "swap shop". If you have something you want to be rid of, but is still useful, you put it in the swap shop for whoever wants it. Today I got a case of Mason jars that I will sort screws etc into and a sterling silver piggybank in the shape of a clown's head. The clown is kind of evil looking, and if Caleigh doesn't want it (she has a little piggybank collection) then it is a good candidate to be cut up and made into trade silver or something similar.

After the dump I headed over to Springfield VT to gas up and pick up Rt 91 to go to the gun show. I was having a good day, shades on, leather hat (called "the Outback", made by Minnetonka, not a fedora, but not a cowboy hat either, it was Wendy's idea but has grown on me) and classic rock on the radio. I was reflecting on just how cool it is to live here as opposed to the city. I get to see farms, snow covered peaks, the Connecticut River (much more unspoiled than the Merrimack where it passes through Middlesex Village in modern-day Lowell, MA) and people are just plain friendlier because of the slower pace of life and uncrowded little towns here.

So I pull into the Mobil station/truck stop and it's full of ski people from everywhere else. They are in all sorts of SUVs with plates from NY, CT, NJ etc. All of them are dressed in sparkling new ski clothes and very much have a "tourist" look to them.

I don't look like a skier. I'm wearing the above mentioned leather hat, sunglasses that I got in 1987, a quilted flannel shirt/jacket with obvious fatigue since I've been wearing it for 6 or 7 years, a pair of worn, bleach spotted and paint stained Dickies work pants, a blue and white striped shirt that used to have "Sears Homecenter" patches over the pocket (got a few of them brand new from a uniform place for $2.50 and pulled off the patches) and my ancient winter boots that are of the rubber-bottom, leather upper type.

Of course I pull up to the pumps in my old truck (just exactly when did a 1988 Chevy become OLD?) that has the requisite right-wing bumper stickers sagging cab mounts, "vintage" inspection sticker, rope tie-downs on the bed, and a big American flag tinted window thing on the rear window.

Many of the skier people smiled at me, many more than I am used to. I was baffled. When I lived in Massachusetts, people would usually just steer clear of me, but these folks were smiling and nodding to me. Then it struck me that back in Massachusetts, I was just eccentric, but here, at least to these tourists, I was a "colorful local". Why did I waste all of those decades in the city? I should have been a colorful local all along!

Then it was off to the gun show!

Pretty small, as gun shows go. I've seen smaller, but am used to much larger at places like the Big E down in Springfield and the great show that used to be at the Manchester National Guard Armory. It was still fun. There was a guy there who had a 1919a4 Browning with a crankfire unit mounted on a German AA tripod like mine.

I bought a couple of gun books, some targets for the spring shoot (see post below about the shoot ideas) and about a case of assorted ammo. (9mm Luger, 8mm Mauser and some 45/70)

Even though I deal in muzzleloaders every day, I am into pretty much anything that goes "bang", with particular fondness for military surplus weapons. I grew up watching Rat Patrol and Combat on TV, and as a kid knew many, many WW2 vets who showed my their "bringback" guns, patches, flags, occupation money etc. and this fostered an appreciation for 20th century historic arms as well as the antique stuff. Since the 20th century is now history, I'm finding the later stuff (cold war era) to be interesting as well. Sooner or later I'll get things straightened out here so that visitors can see some of the funky stuff in my collection.

The 9mm that I got was mostly FN marked, from the late 1940's and early 50's. One of them that I picked out of the box at random was RWS marked with a 1935 date. I got two kinds of 8mm; some Turkish stuff to shoot out of a WW2 Czech Mauser and some Egyptian stuff that I'll link up for a semi-auto MG-34 that I'm building. The Egyptian stuff must have been left over from the conflicts with Isreal, it has a headstamp with a character in Egyptian and the letters OY. OY? I wonder if that is short for "Oy Vey!"?

Friday, February 25, 2005

#$%&@!*&#%$ computer virus!

I am so annoyed right now that I can't really express it in words.

Last week I got the worst computer virus I have ever dealt with. I had been doing a Google search on a particular gun trade show in Germany, and all of a sudden my antivirus software popped up, announcing that a virus had been detected. It mananged to attach itself to some important Windows file, so when the antivirus software "quaranteened" it, Windows ceased to work.

Great. An outmoded computer with no Operating System. I had hoped this machine would last until spring, but some weenie with too much time on their hands wrote a virus to amuse himself and screwed me over.

I have 16 hours into re-installing programs (including Windows 98) and it still isn't working right.

The good news is that I have finally "gotten real" and ordered a new computer. It is supposed to get here today. In the long run, this is a good thing as it is a real advancement in technology over my old EMachines Pentium 400. I picked a machine that can do not only desktop publishing, but also digital video stuff as well. The plan is to produce a DVD instructional video that will show the details of how to safely shoot and maintain a flintlock. Who knows whet else we can put on it as space allows, maybe historic stuff, maybe footage of events. DVDs are cheap to burn, cheap to mail, and this seems like the way to go for a project like this.

I guess every cloud has a silver lining!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

How about a smoothbore shoot?

It's quarter part one on Sunday morning and I'm still wandering around the shop trying to get caught up on stuff that went neglected as I fought with my computer for a while there. I straightened up a little in the gun room, and my mind went to shooting.

I think it might be fun to have a musket shoot this spring. Why? Why not! We used to run two shoots a year back in Massachusetts. They got a little complicated at times, with too any categories. I'm thinking of just a few to keep it simple and fun.

1. Smoothbore musket. Can be flint, percussion, whatever as long as it is smoothbore. A decent sized target at 50 yards (or whatever the width of the clearing measures out as). Five shots on the target with best possible score being 50.

2. Pistol dual elimination. Start back to back, as if in a duel. Take five steps at range officer's command, he counts to 5, you turn and fire at a man-sized target. First shot fired that hits the target wins and goes on to the next round.

3. Team shoot. Teams of 3 shoot a 2 x 4 in half. The board is suspended by a rope on either end so that it is swinging after the first shot hits.

I thought about a "trap" type shot where you have to use shot to hit a clay pigeon, but why complicate things? Three classes, simple scoring. Quick, easy and fun for everyone.

I have also been giving thought to a postal match. A postal match is when you get your target in the mail, shoot it at your own range wherever you may happen to live, and mail it back here for scoring. It relies on the honor system that you will post the target at 50 yards and not 20. For the first attemt at this, I'll probably just open it up to smoothbore muskets, and if it goes smoothly, add a pistol match next time.

At our shoots that were held at the Lowell Sportsmans Club years ago, we used to give out food as prizes. Turkey for first, capon for second, big box of vegetables for third. While that kept with the "turkey shoot" theme, it really sucked for me when a shoot got rained out and I had a van full of food to deal with. Since I paid up front for the prizes and hoped the entry fees would break even, I ended up eating a LOT of turkey that year.

I don't know what to do for prizes in either event (in person shoot or postal match). I also would not know what to do with any money from entry fees that might be left over after paying for prizes. Back in Lowell, we used to donate it to the Club.

I'll ponder this some more, then post a notice about it on our website. If you are reading this, and have any thoughts on the matter of either a postal shoot or a traditional shoot, send me some feedback at

The postal shoot is more flexible, but if we were to put a shoot here on our property together I'd have to start work on the planning for it NOW.

Muskets are in, but so is a computer virus

The antique muskets arrived here in Thursday. Of course, the truck couldn't come up the road to drop them off here since the road was posted with a 6-ton weight limit just days before. The road is dirt for about a mile and a half before you get to our place, and it seems that the towns posts it for a few months each spring so the road won't be destroyed during "mud season".

I had to take my pickup into town to meet the truck next to Jiffy Mart, the local convenience store/gas station. Since I hadn't planned on using my truck, it was piled high with bags of trash pending a "dump run". First step: take all of the trash out of the truck, and as much of the snow as I could kick out. Once in town, we moved the crates onto the liftgate of the truck, then lowered it to the height of my pickup's tailgate. We then dragged and shoved the 700lb boxes into my truck.

The muskets were packed in plastic bags and padded with layers of shredded paper. There was no way to get the crates out of my truck, so I emptied them out, carrying the muskets into the "gun room" two and three at a time. I came up with the brilliant idea of burning the hundreds of pounds of paper shreds in our "burn barrel" several armloads at a time to get rid of it. This was going pretty well until a flaming strip of paper escaped from the barrel and fell into the crate of paper. Then it got exciting. I dragged the crate full of flaming paper away from my truck and dumped it out into a pile in the driveway. You would be surprised at how long a pile of shredded paper will burn. The other crate, once emptied of guns, was dragged over with a pile of other crates, paper and all, to be burned at a later date when doing so would entertain more people than just myself.

All in all, it is an interesting mix of 19th century guns. Some are Enfields, others are clones. There are 3-bands, 2-bands, musketoons, 1842 pattern muskets, and a type of halfstock with a pistol grip that I have never seen before. The halfstocks look like civilian fowlers, but have sling swivels and rack markings.

The 1842 patterns are interesting, they are the last of the muskets you could classify as a "Brown Bess" since the next generation of British muskets after them had barrel bands. I'll get to keep a few pieces from this cache for myself, and I think I should probably keep an 1842 just because it was the last of the Besses.

I've managed to restrain myself from opening up the bags and examining them in detail, but I promised myself that I would wait until Harry O. came up so we could do it together. He is coming tomorrow, and a few other folks just might drop by as well. This is really experience for people who love guns because these things haven't seen the light of day in a century or more.

On the darker side of life, I got a nasty computer virus Friday morning. It really caused some havoc on my machine. I had to reload Windows and several other fairly important programs like drivers, my online service program, etc. I still can't get my CD burner to work.

My antivirus program (AVG from warned me that it had downloaded, but the virus attached it self to certain Windows files that caused big problems once AVG moved the infected file to it's "virus vault" where it could be repaired. It is a new virus that many of the larger A/V programs don't even have in their databases yet, but AVG does. I have about 14-16 hours into getting this virus out of my computer and repairing the damage it did.

Most viruses require that you do something to activate them, for instance, open an email attachment. Not this one. It loaded itself from a website I had been trying to access while doing a google search for a particular gun trade show in Germany. It is their version of the SHOT show, only bigger. I don't remember what link it was that I clicked on from the google results page, but the java script on it must contain the virus. Nasty trick.

Let this be a warning to all: keep your antivirus software up to date.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lances shipped, muskets on the way!

This is the third time I've tried to post this. Computers piss me off sometimes.

Lunch break.

Leftovers and chocolate milk. Chocolate mile is part of every balanced meal. If you don't balance it well, you will spill it on your keyboard.

I got the lances shipped to Scott H yesterday. It took three sword boxes telescoped into each other to make up a box 10" square and 9 feet long. This is considered "oversized 3" by UPS and even though it weighed just over 30 lbs, it cost a whopping $138 to ship. It would have been the same for one lance as for seven, which is why I never put them up for sale on my website.

I also recieved word that the antique muskets have cleared customs. Several phone calls later, the process of shipping them here from the South Boston Freight Terminal was begun. They should be picked up today and delivered tomorrow.

This morning also brought an excited phone call from my buying agent in Rajasthan. He found a cache of 19th century British Cavalry swords for sale. I don't want to send him any cash until the trucking situation is all squared away in case there are any hidden costs. I may have to give the driver cash. Hopefully he will still be able to scoop the swords at the end of the week. They are in some palace somewhere over there.

OK, lances gone, muskets in motion, and chocolate milk finished. My goal is to get three Long Lands shipped this afternoon, so it's back to work for me...

Monday, February 14, 2005

How do you ship a lance? And where are my guns?

Just finished dinner. Leftover chicken and gravy over rice, with a nice fresh salad. I love food!

Tonight's mission is to figure out how to ship a bundle of 9'6" WW1 Cavalry lances. They are too long to ship via UPS or FedEx, but it would be expensive to ship via truck freight. I'm going to experiment with one of them by removing the lance head to see if it will buy me 6" of length. The person I am shipping them to needs them before next Wednesday.

These are dated 1916. I assume the bamboo shaft is repro, but the point and butt cap are the real thing. They came out of an arsenal in Rajasthan along with some other funky stuff. Really neat thing come out of 3rd world palaces, you just have to be lucky enough to find them.

Here's a great example: Sitting in Boston right now are two big crates awaiting US Customs clearance. They contain 59 original 19th century muskets siezed "from the peasants" and just released from government storage over there. They have been in storage for over a century!

In the past, I have also been lucky enough to get my hands on several original swords including a British Victorian Officer's sword and even a Napoleanic era French smallsword with a rapier blade. Somewhere on the Atlantic in a different crate, there are four 19th century pistols headed my way as well. One of them is a double-barrel, and one of the others appears to be a converted flintlock. Whenever a new crate of stuff arrives, it's just like Christmas morning for me.

The two crates of muskets in Boston weight 1400lb, which is more than I want to cram into my 1/2 ton pickup so I am having them trucked up here. The trucking cost will add about $6.50 per musket in cost, but I think it will just about even up the costs of my having to take a whole day to drive into Boston, about $60 in gas, two meals on the road, and possibly overloading my truck's suspension. The trucking company says they will drop the crates right at my door with a liftgate, and all we will have to do is bust open the crates outside and pass the muskets inside one at a time in bucket brigade fashion. Many hands make light work, and it's easy to get volunteers to come see what is in the crates.

Being original muskets, these fall under a different classification than my reproduction stuff. More paperwork, more inspections. I hope they clear soon because today was the last day of free storage at the bonded warehouse and starting tomorrow I'll have to pay a daily storage charge. That's not the only reason I'm dying for the crates to get here, mostly I just can't wait to see them. This deal has been a year in the making!

OK, back to work, the lance experiment is about to begin...

Happy Birthday Jay!!! We miss you!

Yup, it's midnight and I'm still at it.

I've been running around in circles, with not enough Pete to get everything done. We have decided we need to hire someone to help out. There are days where I spend 6+ hours on the phone, and that doesn't leave much room for getting shop work accomplished.

If I just had someone to pack boxes and prep things to ship it would go a long way. When shipments come in, there is plenty of work to be done then as well. If there were someone to just wipe off the excess grease when logging in new muskets it would really streamline things.

Over the past week I have spent an insane amount of hours doing paperwork stuff. We incorporated for this year, so for the first time Wendy and I will actually get a salary. To do that, however, we need to address all of the same legalities that would apply to hiring someone off of the street. I.E. workman's comp insurance, unemployment insurance, a separate bank account for the Corporation, Federal Tax I.D. number etc etc. In the middle of all of that, I did our taxes.

So there I was, kind of burned out at the computer and for reasons unknown to me, I decided to turn on the various IM software that I used to amuse myself with. MSN Messenger, AOL-IM and ICQ.

As soon as I turned on ICQ, a little birthday reminder popped up telling me that "Jim" has a birthday today. How could I have forgotten that? For those of you who don't know, Jim (in the family, we called him Jay) was my older brother and business partner. He died of respiratory illness and assorted other things in October 2003. I haven't been the same since.

He would have been 47. That is, on the 13th, when I started typing. Now it's after midnight so it's the 14th, Valentine's Day. Today is his wife Sharon's birthday. If I recall, she would have been 49 today. She died maybe 10 years ago. She dropped dead of a massive heart attack on a Sunday morning at age 39. Her death ruined my brother. I had never seen two people more perfect for each other. They had been together for 7-8 years, but married only a year. He moved out of their large apartment and into a tiny cavelike basement apartment. Eventually he pulled himself together and went back to school to learn computer repair. By then, his heart and lung problems were bad enough to keep him from passing the DPU physical, so he couldn't do a "driving" job anymore.

He had been born with badly clubbed feet and there weren't too many jobs he could do. For years he had been a courier/cab driver/dispatcher/school bus driver. Those were jobs he could do without being on his feet. Never once did he (or my Mom, also handicapped) ever sit back and say "poor me". Never would they allow themselves to be "victims".

Getting into computers really gave him a new purpose. It was an amazing thing. He had more online personas that I could count. And he made friends. Friends who could understand his grief over losing Sharon. The interesting thing is that only a select few of them seemed to know about his physical limitations. Out in cyberspace, there were no limits, no crutches, no oxygen tanks to carry around, no medications. (well, not that he took his medications here on terra firma, that's why he's dead...) Out hitchhiking on the Information Superhighway he was free to blossom into the person that our society wouldn't let a handicapped guy be. He had friends all over the world. When we had to clean out his apartment, we found cards and letters from them. It was too short of a life.

We were closer than I realized. I talked to him either on the phone or online nearly every day. He was the guy who was building our website. He know nothing about muzzleloaders, but wanted to be involved. Over the years, I took him to a couple of reenactments. He was on my cannon crew a few times. He was supposed to come to Rendezvous once, but it didn't happen because he ended up going to the hospital with heart trouble instead.

We had talked about moving out of the city. He contemplated it, and thought it would be a good thing. All he needed was a little cabin, as long as it had an internet connection. One of the biggest failures of my life is that I wasn't able to get him to that little cabin. He died in October of 2003, and we moved to New Hampshire the following July. His ashes are in a little cardboard box on top of the file cabinet across from my desk. I still am unsure what I am supposed to do with them.

His guitar is leaning against my desk. When Don the furnace repair guy was here to fix the amazing chimneyless furnace he picked it up and played part of "Stairway to Heaven" on it. I couldn't belive the emotions that came over me. Like everyone who learned to play in the 70's, OF COURSE that was one of Jay's favorite songs to play. It was like his soul was set free through those six strings. I almost cried in front of Don, but managed to contain myself.

There are many days that I miss him so much that I can barely function. I know that he is with Sharon now, and unencumbered by his broken body. I should be happy for him, but I feel too alone. It's like I lost a part of myself.

So when ICQ popped up and gave me a reminder that it was his birthday, I honored him the best way I could; by sending him an instant message over the system.

"Happy Burpday" Jim, wherever you are...