Pete's random thoughts

Thursday, June 28, 2007

New sign for sutler tent

We are leaving for Ticonderoga tomorrow, and I thought I'd replace our old sign with a newer, better shaped one.

I had glued it up a few years back, and it sat in the cellar in the old place, then the garage here. Last week, Jeff cut it out and painted it white. Yesterday, I sketched it out on paper (full scale) then scrounged some carbon paper from Louise. Tonight, I screwed up my courage and painted the logo and lettering on to it.

I gotta say, as a sign painter I make a pretty good truck mechanic...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I can't wait...

This morning I checked with the British Airways cargo tracking system and found that the incoming shipment is not only on the ground in Boston, but cleared customs!

Now it is just a matter of trucking them up here and busting the crates open. Right now we are running around like busy ants, getting read to go to Ticonderoga. The importance of this shipment in particular is that it contains samples of three new models, the most exciting of which is the double barreled flintlock pistol. I can hardly contain myself waiting to get my hands on it!

If all goes well, we'll have the muskets around tomorrow at lunchtime.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Getting ready for Ti

The Fort Ticonderoga French and Indian War weekend is coming up in just a few days, and life here is all about getting ready for it. Life has been so busy with renovations and the business of selling muskets that we haven't been able to get to any events lately, but had set a goal of going to Ti since it is one of our favorite events. Sort of Woodstock for F&I reenactors.

Back when we were on the road at least twice a month, we simply kept the trailer packed and ready to go. Before I got the trailer, I used to keep the van packed and ready to go (the van has left us, now, a victem of New England road salt, LONG LIVE THE COOL BUS!). Since there has been so much other stuff going on in our lives, I've been using the trailer to haul grain, store hay etc. and now I need to repack it for it's original intended use.

In the past week, Jeff has built a pair of folding wooden pistol display racks, modified a pair of musket racks to knock-down for transport, dug out the tent ropes and stakes to count and inspect, and readied them all for loading in the trailer. Tomorrow the plan is to fish the tent poles out of the loft over the rabbit shed and be sure none have cracked during storage. I have to measure, but I just might have the space to set the tent up in front of the building to give it a looking at before packing it.

In this family, I am the only one who has plenty of 18th c clothes. That means that before we leave for Ti, I have some sewing to do. What is planned for tonight is to finish up an elkskin dress for Wendy that was begun last summer, and whip out another one out of lighter weight deerskin while watching old car movies on VHS. I watched Easy Rider last night, the VCR is all cued up to watch Vanishing Point tonight, but since I'm getting readyt for Ti, perhaps I should watch one of the classic historical dramas like Allegheny Uprising or Northwest Passage. (the traditional last-minute sewing night used to involve Last of the Mohicans, but Wendy hates seeing a movie twice and she's never seen Alleghany Uprising)

Sometime tomorrow, I need to finish fitting Caleigh's new moccasins. They are center-seams and the front part is all done, I just need to fit the rear seam to her little foot, then soak thme and pound the seams flat.

Setting up the sutler tent should be a lot easier now that we have eliminated pretty much all of the non-gun related stuff from our inventory. Gone are the lanterns, leather goods, period toys and other miscellany. This freed up about half of the trailer space, and half of the tent space!

The only thing we are sweating out at the moment is when the shipment of muskets will arrive. We had placed a large order for guns to take to Ti, and in it are the prototypes of three new models. There are 16 crates of muskets in the hands of British Airways, and we had hoped to have them last week. That means we will be scrambling to unpack, log in, inspect, and tweak them late into the night right before we leave. I suppose it makes for good stories later, after all is said and done.

I'm working from a "to-do" list, and one of the things I need to do is go and get a load of hay so the house-sitters will have something to feed the critters. Since the trailer is going back into service as the cargo trailer it was purchased for, I guess that means the hay is going in my truck, then being unloaded onto pallets to be kept under tarps to stay dry.

Lots of stuff to do to get ready, but the Ti event is worth it. I've you've never been to it, you owe yourself the trip. Saturday night makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Buster learns a lesson

Today I was out back, feeding critters their daily corn allotment. Buster the dog has learned that you can actually eat corn, even if it isn't really meat. All of the other animals eat it, so it must be food, right?

He never used to eat things that weren't either dog food or meat, then he saw all the other critters really getting into this crunchy yellow stuff that the humans call "corn". So he tried it, and seemed to like it. I think a small part of it is just wanting to eat it so that the other critters don't get it though.

When it's time to feed the animals, you gotta do it in a certain order. For instance, if you feed the main pen before the pigs, they will get excited about the food on the other side of the fence and hop over it. Then you spend the next hour or so rounding pigs up and getting them back into their own pen. There is a single strand of an electric fence a few inches off the ground inside the hog pen, to discourage them from digging, but if they try hard enough they can rear up and put their front legs on top of the 3' high fence that partitions them off from the rest of the pen and wiggle over. (if you've never seen a bunch of 200+ pound pigs wiggling over a 3' fence, it's a pretty impressive sight, then you remember that you have to get them BACK over the fence...)

So anyway, the main pen gets a bale of hay first, mostly to keep the goats out from underfoot while you are feeding the pigs. Second, the pigs get their corn, to give them something to do while you fill up their water tub (or else they jump in front of the hose to drink out of it, try to grab the hose and run with it etc.). Before I dump the pig-corn over the fence to them, I toss a few handfuls of it to the swarm of ducks that follow me around everywhere, or else they get between my feet while I'm trying to pour a 50-lb bag of corn over a 5' fence.

This seems like I'm rambling, but I'm setting up the real story.

So here's the scene: A dozen big white ducks are gathered around eating corn, Buster keeps sneaking into their midst and grabbing some corn from them. Half a dozen porkers are inside their pen eating a pile of corn that is dumped into a tangle of tree roots that I want them to dig up for me. I am standing at the front corner of the pen with the hose, filling up their 30 gallon water trough.

I called Buster over to me, so he wouldn't eat all of the duck corn, and he comes over and sits next to me, but you could tell by the look on his face that he was plotting something. He kept looking over at the pigs in their pen with the mound of corn.

Next thing you know, he's wandering around the yard, doing his best to look nonchalant, but he keeps looking over to see if I am watching. I ignored him to see what he would do next. He casually walked around the hog pen, to the other side of their little shed where I couldn't see him. Then I heard SNAP!!! immediately followed by "YIPE-YIPE-YIPE!!!" and a panic stricken pit bull came galloping around the pen, crashing through the brush. He came over and sat by my side, with every muscle trembling. He looked very embarrassed.

It seems that his scheme was to somehow reach through the fence into the hog pen and get some of that crunchy yellow stuff. What he didn't take into consideration was the 10,000 volts of electricity circulating through the innocent looking wire about at nose level.

Today's lesson for Buster: DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, try to steal corn from pigs.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bike Week pics

As promised in the last post, here are some pictures from Bike Week.

I've uploaded them, but left them full sized so you can see better details. (actually, it's because I'm feeling lazy tonight and don't feel like messing with them)

These are all from Weirs Beach. It's called Weirs Beach because the Pennacook Indians had a fish weir set up there in the old days. Today it is a popular tourist spot on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Like I said, the pics are pretty big files, so be patient while they download. Use your browser's back button to get back to this page.

Here's Caleigh, looking very grown up, relaxing on a picnic table at The Lobster Pound, enjoying a corn dog. The Lobster Pound is a local eatery and landmark. She has discovered corn dogs and thinks they are one of the best foods ever invented.

This crowd is at the entrance to the Drive In. for the rest of the summer, it is an old fashioned drive-in theater. For bike week, it is a motorcycle parking lot, stage, bazaar, and display area. Need a tattoo? Get it at the Drive In. Need chrome engine parts? Get them at the Drive In. Need to get totally wasted while listening to high-decibel blues music? You guessed it, go to the Drive In. It's also a good place to hang out and watch the bikes roll into the Weirs, as most of them go in to the parking area or pass by the entrance to turn down Lakeside Ave. The line of traffic that you see in the road is miles long.

Caleigh wanted to try out this wicked cool scooter-trike that was for sale along with a few other oddball mini-choppers and funky pit bikes outside the "Wall of Death" stunt show in the Drive In. It was for sale for $795. The cooler was full of beer, I didn't ask if the beer went with the bike or not.

Here is a view of the famous Weirs Beach sign at the corner. Down the street to the right, they don't allow four wheeled vehicles for the weekend. It is four rows of bike parking, two lanes of bike traffic, and zillions of pedestrians. The road is lined with vendors, the regular stores along the main drag even pack up their stuff and rent out their space to vendors for the week. This is one of the better places to hang out at the Weirs to watch stuff happen. Although, to be honest, not much stuff happens these days.

Here is another. You can see Lakeside Ave PACKED with people.

As you walk along the waterfront, away from the Weirs sign, there is the train station on your right, and behin it is the dock for the MV Mt. Washington. The Mt Washington is a cruise ship that operates on the lake and ties up to provide one of the regular party venues at the Weirs. Since we had Caleigh with us, we couldn't go aboard, but we got to hear the band from the dock. Here she is.

By the time we were over by the train station, we were pretty hot and tired. We had spent the previous day at Story Land, and Caleigh was tired, so we ended up taking turns carrying her. She's pushing 40 pounds at this point, so that gets tiring after a while. We decided to catch the next train back to Merideth and head home. When we were sitting in the train, waiting to go, I snapped a few more pics out the window of some of the bikes on Lakeside. Here is one shot, here is another. The second one caught a V-8 powered trike roaring up Lakeside.

For some reason this shot cracks me up. It shouldn't, because in the old days at bike week you'd see all kinds of crazy stuff on 2 or 3 wheels. Nobody gave anybody else any crap about it, so long as they rode it there. You could have a total rat bike, a high-end custom, or anything in between and you'd go and have a good time. These days it seems like everyone has a V-twin, and there were only a few rat bikes, at least that we saw. (I'm a big fan of rat bikes) The coolest rat bike was an antique Harley with an equally antique sidecar. It had Maine plates, and the sidecar was bungee corded down to a platform that was clearly designed to use to haul stuff like lumber etc. It was dented, rusty, patched and pretty obvious that the guy rode it there from Maine as opposed to trailering it like so many of the custom jobs these days. I don't know why I didn't get a picture of it. But I digress...take a look at the picture linked to at the start of this paragraph and you'll see a Honda scooter with Florida plates and a milk crate screwed to the back squeezed in with the V-twins! That's the spirit!

Our Vacation, part two: Bike Week

...Saturday morning we got up, packed up our stuff from the motel and checked out. Caleigh's favorite part of staying at a motel is getting to watch TV. At home, when she gets to watch TV at all, it is generally educational stuff (OK, and American Idol) but at a motel she gets to watch TV-Land etc and on this trip got to learn all about Andy Griffith and Mayberry.

We headed south from North Conway with our destination being the train station in Merideth. Along the way we stopped at a restaurant that we chose because is had a huge number of bikes in the parking lot. Lots of bikes usually means good food. It was! The place had home made hash and eggs and eggs Benedict. Then it was on to Merideth.

In Merideth, which is right on Lake Winnipesaukee, we stopped at a mini-mart to get Wendy a coffee and a pack of band-aids for Caleigh. She had fallen and scuffed her knee several times the day before and sitting in her car seat for an hour and a half gave her a lot of time to think about it and blow it a little out of proportion. A band-aid seems to make any kind of hurt better, even if it does not have Shrek or Little Einsteins on it. It's a small price to pay for happy kid who is trapped in a car seat. Now we are really getting into the bike week crowd, the traffic is starting to look more like a parade.

Bike week, now in it's 84th year, attracts motorcyclists from all walks of life. Generally some 300,000+ bikes cram into the lakes region for the week immediately proceeding Father's Day. The demographics change over the years, but people are all the same. As we sat in traffic, headed for the train station, we speculated on who-was-who. One group of early twentysomethings on sport bikes were goofing around and attempting to show off, Wendy pointed out that they are new to it and I agreed. These were people who had only recently learned to ride, but were young, stupid and cocky. The kind of people we used to call "future statistics".

Tucked in behind them was a guy on a cruiser bike, with a half helmet and a short, grayish beard. You could tell he wasn't with them and was sort of embarrassed to be seen with them. He was a confident, experienced rider, probably rides to work every day. At the red light, he passed us to get away from the "future statistics".

A few hundred yards later, we paused to let a group of sport bikes pull out of a driveway. Similar in appearance, this group was much more confident and weren't acting like dumbasses.

At the gas station was a group from NY on assorted cruiser bikes who were around our age, and another group of older guys with custom choppers. Not the $50,000 yuppie bike kind of choppers that you buy from a famous custom shop, real home built choppers built as a labor of love and creativity by real guys in their own garages who dreamed them up, cut their own fingers with sharp metal when bobbing the fenders, burned their arms with cutting torches when raking the front end, and got overspray on their own boots when painting the tanks. They sat there drinking coffee, watching the sportbikers and no doubt wondering what the hell happened to their lifestyle.

We hadn't told Caleigh that we were going to ride the train to the Weirs. She had been on a train once before on a day-trip to Boston, but was too little to remember it. After we parked the car, we told her that we could go look at the old-fashioned train and made a big deal about seeing a real train this close up. We let her buy the tickets, but had given her the impression that they were for a train museum, not telling her that she would actually get to ride in it.

We got in line with what seemed like a few hundred other people and she got real bored, real fast, so we tried to keep her distracted so she would realize what we were in line for. As we got on the train, she got a little nervous that we had gone somewhere that we weren't supposed to. As it started moving, she figured it out and a huge grin came over her. The people around us congratulated her on her first train ride and her first time at Laconia.

If I did the math right, my first time going to Bike Week was 18 years ago. It was different then. A different crowd. It was rowdy and the police kept the peace, but pretty much left bikers alone. Unless you were being truly obnoxious and either being dangerous or really, really stupid, people were just free to do whatever came to mind. These days, since Harley-Davidson changed their marketing strategy, everybody and his accountant is a "biker". A lot of the nouveau bikers want to look the part and act the part, without really living it. Sort of like being biker reenactors in that it is a persona they put on for the weekend.

They have really changed the face of things. Stuff that will get you arrested nowadays: burnouts, loud pipes, open containers, "indecent" exposure. I'm not condoning these things for daily life, but there is a time and place for everything, and bike week was the time and place for anything. You will even get a ticket for "coasting" your bike down the hill after sitting in traffic for hours and shutting off your engine to give it a break as you coast down towards the Weirs. What used to be a wild, everything goes weekend has "evolved" into a glorified flea market, complete with an assortment of stands selling cell phone accessories.

Given all of those changes, it is little wonder that the activities are shifting to places elsewhere in NH. On Thursday, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is closed to cars and only allows bikes to go up. There are organized events in places further and further away from Laconia, which is the traditional center of things, since the weekend rally began as motorcycle races at the track there. (the track is now New Hampshire International Speedway, a stop on the NASCAR circuit)

The weather was warm, sunny and dry. Perfect for attracting a big crowd. A big crowd it was! By the time we got to the grilled alligator stand, they were all sold out of gator meat and I had to settle for chicken (it was AWESOME chicken though). Caleigh had earned some money by being good, keeping her pull-ups dry etc and she chose to get a bodypainting done on her arm of three pink flowers, she also carefully picked out a red, white and blue pinwheel. We stopped at a few less-then-crowded spots to enjoy out drinks, ice cream etc and to people watch.

It's always interesting to look at the world through Caleigh. She is just full of self-confidence, and takes away what she wants from an experience. For instance, a small group of folks wearing "Witch City Cycles" patches walked buy us. The guys were dressed in biker chic of jeans, black t-shirts with trendy logos on them, and leather vests with patches. With them was a rather well-endowed woman who was dressed sort of like a cat. Sort of. She wore jeans, black leather chaps, suspenders, cat ears, and on her upper body she wore large pink pasties in the shape of paw prints. (probably one of the most photographed people there) When she walked by, Wendy and I exchanged glances, wondering what Caleigh's spin on this would be. Caleigh pointed...we braced ourselves...she exclaimed "Look! She has CHAPS!!!".

There were some funky custom bikes, but not nearly what you would have seen just five years ago. There was mostly just a sea of V-twin Harleys. The crown was pretty interesting though. Not "interesting" like in the old days, but interesting to speculate on demographics. It was a mix of squeaky clean people bedecked in black leather vests that have never gotten wet because they have never ridden in the rain, people who hope to have bike someday but for now content themselves with the t-shirts and jewelry that allow them to pretend that they do (the type that idolize Orange County Choppers and wear stuff with the West coast Choppers logo like it is a religion), folks who actually ride, but don't care if they appear in public in a not-bike-related t-shirt and shorts, and a lessening proportion of outlaw biker types who really are outlaw bikers (as opposed to just making a fashion statement).

Up in the Rally Headquarters area, we watched a guy make a painting in a matter of minutes with cans of spray paint. He did it while sort of dancing to annoying Euro-techno dance music. It was pretty cool, techno music notwithstanding. His web address as shown on the banner behind him isn't valid, but I did come across a video of one of his performances here.

The high point of the day for Caleigh was the train ride, with a close second being when I allowed her to use the video camera.

We were getting tired of walking around, so we climbed about the train again and went back to the car. We let Caleigh play with the camcorder on the train, and I'm sure it will be interesting to watch with her later.

On the way home, we stopped at Bobby's Girl Diner after getting off course a little. In the parking lot of the diner was a tractor-trailer done up as a museum about Indian motorcycles. At first, I thought it was a project of the Indian Motorcycle Museum in Springfield, MA, but it was actually just one guy's collection! He had a bunch of memorabilia and probably 10-12 bikes in it, displayed very well. He even had an Indian Papoose, which was sort of a one lunger minibike that was designed to be dropped with airborne troops so they would have vehicles to get away from the drop zone on. I talked with the guy who owned them and learned a lot about old Indians.

Dinner was at the diner, which stayed open late. Awesome waitress, great old fashioned diner food, great atmosphere. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area! Kids who finish all of their food get to pick a toy out of the "treasure chest".

Caleigh fell asleep on the way home and I carried her to bed dressed in the clothes she wore for the day.

I had apprehensions about traveling with a 5 year old, but we had a great time. Last night, I scrolled through the pictures in my digital camera, and found that out of 63 photos, 52 of them involved Caleigh!

This was a short one as far as vacations go, but we really needed it. This business takes a lot out of a person, and a lot out of a family. Now and again you have to step back and recharge.

We are taking today off as well. We are going out for Chinese food, then going grocery shopping, then tomorrow it's back to the grindstone! I've started to big "to-do" list in order to get ready for the Fort Ticonderoga event, which is coming up in just two weeks. See you there!

P.S. later tonight I'll be cropping pictures from the trip and will be adding links to them to these two posts, so check back tomorrow to see a few pics of Bike Week!

Our Mini-Vacation, part one: Story Land!

I'm awake before anyone else this morning, so I thought I'd come down to my desk and write about our vacation that we just returned from. It's been a few years since we took a weekend off. I'm not saying we haven't gone away, it's just that we usually make a "vacation" by adding an extra day or two to some kind of business trip.

Our vacation began with Flag Day on Thursday, when we retired our fading old flag that hangs by our porch next to the farm bell, hung up a new one, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and hit the road! We had packed up the Buick in record time, and left right on schedule (around lunch time). For those of you who are not in the Northeast, this happened to be Laconia Bike Week, so right away we noticed lots of motorcycles as we drove.

Our first stop was for lunch in New London, at the Flying Goose, a restaurant we had visited once before and had a good time at. It was full of bikers who had travelled from elsewhere to get here. After that stop, it was time to put some miles on, and we passed through the Sunapee area, headed towards Winnipesaukee. The closer we got, the more "Welcome Bikers" signs we saw on various places. bike week brings in a LOT of tourist dollars, as something like half a million people come to NH for it.

Our goal was to get to North Conway and check in at our motel, which was part of a larger resort. Since I was a kid, North Conway has grown and changed from the 1950's style tourist area to a more polished, upscale destination, but thankfully it is still affordable. The place we stayed at was called The Oxen Yoke and along with your room at the motel, you were also allowed the use of the facilities at it's parent resort a block away. The main resort hotel itself is located in a restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of rail travel. Guests have access to a game room, indoor pool, two outdoor pools and 1100' of river frontage for swimming. They even have a stocked fishing pond. Mostly we were just interested in a place to sleep. The room was only $49 per night, as we registered one day before their summer tourist season officially starts and rates jump.

The real goal of this trip was to go to Story Land, located just north of North Conway. Story Land is an amusement park geared towards little ones that has been in operation since the 1950's. I remember going with our neighbors, the Beaubiens, when I was a kid decades ago. In the 30+ years since I was there last, they have improved the place steadily and it is now a great attraction for families with small children. It is very clean and detail oriented. There are over 20 rides, all of which both parents and kids can go on together. In addition to the rides, there are little playhouses (like a giant pumpkin, for Peter Peter Pumpkineaters' wife to live in) and you get to meet live storybook characters like the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe (and you get to go in her shoe) and Mother Goose herself.

The crown jewel, however, is Cinderella's Castle. To get there, you ride in a pumpkin-coach up to the castle. As you get out of the coach, the princess herself meets you and takes all of the little girls on a tour of her castle. I gotta say, I have never seen such awe-struck little faces as a group of little girls realizes that Cinderella is a real live person, talking to them personally. Sometime in the tour, she asks the girls if they have seen Prince Charming yet, and tells them if they do, will they please give him the message that she says "Hello". So now, the little girls are on a mission to find the prince!

Food is affordable at Storyland, and there are plenty of shady places to sit and eat. There are some live animals (Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Peter Rabbit and Goosey-Goosey Gander), and up on a little hill is Heidi's Grandfather, his cabin, and his goats. That was pretty good timing because just weeks ago Caleigh got to watch Shirley Temple in Heidi for the first time. (gotta love NetFlix to find old classic movies on DVD)

There were only two downers to Story Land. One was that it is only open from 9-5, and when things shut down at 5 in June, there are still nearly 4 hours of daylight left and it seems like it is over too early. It is very sad when it is time to leave. The other problem was that we did find Prince Charming, and he wasn't a real person. When you take the Swan Boat ride (big one, 29' long, there were probably 2 dozen people on it) it takes you past Butterfly Island and on the island was a fiberglass statue of the Prince on his horse. The little girls are supposed to yell out to him that Cinderella says "Hello" as we pass by in the boat. Some of the other girls were cool with this, but to Caleigh it was a rather crushing moment, as she had taken her task very seriously. It was, after all, given by the real live Princess.

It was a moment much like the one in one of my favorite movies, "A Christmas Story", when Ralphie uses his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring to translate the urgent message from the radio show, and it is "Drink your Ovaltine". I think she was very embarrassed that she had bought into the whole Cinderella searching for the Prince thing, and I felt really bad for her. I felt like I let her down, letting her think that it was all real. The management at the park probably has no idea how crushing it is to a little one when she finds out that there are no real Prince Charmings in this world. I think I will write to them and tell them that I really loved their park except for this one important thing. (at least it is important to a little girl who eats, sleeps and breathes Princesses)

After Story Land, we went out to dinner at The Muddy Moose where we had a good meal. Remembering that it is Bike Week, the parking lot was full of motorcycles from all over the US and Canada. I had pasta with venison sausage. One of the things I miss about living is the city is being able to go out to a good restaurant now and again, and decent food is an important part of a vacation to me!

Later, we went out to a make-your-own sundae place that was decorated with assorted antiques, including a plastic-and-vinyl 1970's hair dryer like the one my Mom had gotten with S&H Green Stamps! One of the last things I would have thought of as an antique. I guess I'm just getting old. What Caleigh was impressed with was a bunch of manual typewriters hanging on the wall. She calls them "18th century computers". Over in the corner there was a large photograph of a group of late-19th century hunters showing off a pile of rabbits they had shot. They were armed with an assortment of classic old double guns including a mix of breechloaders, caplocks and even one big old flint double! In 20/20 hindsight, I should have snapped a pic of it with my digital camera.

After that, it was off to the motel for some sleep before heading out on Saturday to the epicenter of Bike Week: Weirs Beach! To be continued in the next post...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Caleigh finds a bat

Today Caleigh was out back playing with chickens or something, and she called out to us that there was a bat swimming in the hot tub. We had gotten a hottub from someone on freecycle, with the intent of installing it up on the hill overlooking the yard, but like many projects it still sits where we unloaded it. Over the winter it fills up with snow and thaws in the spring, so there is a foot or so of water in it at the moment.

We thought it was a bit of a stretch, seeing as where bats aren't generally thought of as being aquatic. I went out to look, and sure enough, it was a little bat, struggling for it's life in the water.

I fished it out of there with a shovel, and set the shovel on a strut under our little bridge where he would be out of reach of the psycho-killer cats, yet near enough that we could watch him.

I named him Andy, inspired by the Keith Secola song "ND Waza Bat" (don't ask, but if you really want to know, google it). The poor little critter was not happy about being wet, so he spent much of the afternoon bathing, licking his fur to clean and dry it. There didn't appear to be any damage to him physically (broken wings etc). By the end of the afternoon, he was mostly dry and had shifted around to sleep, in typical bat fashion, by hanging over the edge of the shovel by his rear feet.

I'm pretty proud of the fact that Caleigh isn't creeped out by the idea of a bat, and she thought it was pretty cool that she got to see it up close. She said he was cute. Well, he was, in the smae way that an ugly little bulldog puppy is cute.

As dusk fell, he was still sleeping, exhausted after his rough day. I couldn't let this one pass without snapping a few pictures, so here they are:

Here he is, with Caleigh in the background, after just being plucked from certain death in the hottub. (I can't belive how old she looks in this shot!)

And here he is trying to dry himself off by licking, it took most of the day.

A shot of him hanging upside down from the shovel blade, sleeping.

And another.

I may go out and check on him later, to see if he is still there resting up or if he has flown off in search of skeeters and the rest of his flock. Nah, too many skeeters...I guess I need more bats!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A big prickly thing

Buster the dog goes out at night to roam around and do dog stuff in the woods. He has a good time and we feel it keeps the predators away somewhat.

A few days ago, he "discovered" a deer and cornered it at a spot on the game trail behind the house, probably asking it to play with him. The deer wasn't interested. Don't get me wrong here, he doesn't "run" deer, he just wasn't about to let a critter walk right up to his house without investigating it. The deer was maybe 30 yards from the door to our bedroom, as the game trail emerges from the woods right under the window at the head of our bed.

You could tell he wanted to play because his hackles weren't up. We heard the barking, so I threw my clothes on, grabbed the big 2,000,000 candlepower flashlight and my .45 and went out to see what was going on. I could hear him, but not see him in the brush. I called him and he came running, all excited. As he ran around me attempting to tell me all about it, I could hear something large crashing through the brush, running away. In the morning, Jeff and I went out for a look-see to maybe spot some tracks and figure out what I had heard crashing through the brush. Jeff spotted a patch of ground where the deer had made a stand.

Buster likes to wrestle and play rough, and not all other critters get into it. Molly, Jeff's dog, a much more ladylike dog than Buster's pit bull/husky self, gets offended when he asks her to play. His requests involve crouching down with his front legs, giving a "woof", and sprinting off in short bursts as if to say "Hey, come chase me!". Molly won't do it, the goats won't do it, Rocky the steer will, but he plays even rougher than Buster. Apparently deer don't like to play either.

Last night, just after midnight, I had just finished my dinner (early night for me) and Wendy and I were settling in to watch a stupid movie on TV. Then we heard the barking! I threw on my long pants, so as not to be cut up in the underbrush, and a pair of moccasins, grabbed the big flashlight and the .45, and headed out the game trail to see what was up tonight. Buster's barking was different this time. They came in short bursts, followed by uneasy silence.

I followed the trail for maybe 100 yards, no sign of Buster. I was a little worried, as there are coyotes and bears around here, and it was a little unsettling not to hear big, dufus Buster cannonballing through the underbrush. To my left was a little cliff that drops down to the road, so I climbed down to listen and look from a different perspective.

As I wandered down the roadway, scanning the underbrush with the big light, I heard a faint snapping of twigs, two short woofs from Buster, and a bleat-yelp-squeak noise I didn't recognise. off to the right, up the cliff, I spotted some motion, and it was buster, cautiously walking forward in a curious but nervous way. By his demeanor, I could tell that whatever he was into was right in front of him. For all I knew, he could have treed a bear.

With the light in my right hand and the cocked-and-locked .45 in my right, I climbed the cliff to get to where he was. As I approached him, he never broke his gaze from what he had cornered. Then I saw it...on the other side of the tree was a grey, black and whitish thing, fluffed up into a big ball. At first I thought it was a huge raccoon, but wanted to be sure before I considered shooting it. Then it moved slightly, and I got to see it from the front (it then had it's back towards the dog). A jet-black face looked at my light, framed by a coating of long, white wasn't a huge coon, it was a huge porcupine!

It was the first time I had seen a live porky in the wild. I've seen them in the zoo and squished by the side of the road, but never ran into a live one. It was a pretty cool looking critter. He didn't seem too scared by either me or the dog, just a little inconvenienced. As I watched him patiently stand guard against the curious dog, I wished I had brought a camera.

Maybe I need to put together a sort of a "bugout bag" to grab with me when I go out into the night to investigate stuff like this. It would be a little day-pack, with a camera, a coil of rope, an extra flashlight, first aid kit, signal whistle, knife etc. It would have made a cool picture, with the porky all fluffed up like a strutting turkey and the very curious but cautious dog sniffing at him from a short distance in the background.

Not wanting to keep the porcupine from his appointed rounds for longer than needed, I called for Buster and told him to go home for a treat. He was so happy that he could barely contain himself. Fortunately, he just wanted to sniff at the critter and didn't try to attack it like many dogs would have. He's got pretty good manners and gets along with all sorts of animals.

I climbed down to the road and he ran happy circles around me all the way back to the house, acting very excited that I had come out to play with him and very proud of finding the porcupine for me. Back in the house, I gave him a treat, then went upstairs to report our findings to Wendy. Wendy is always scared for me when I go out into the night like that, afraid that we'll tangle with a bear or a pack of coyotes or something. Buster came up and told Wendy his story about how he had found a big prickly thing and kept us safe from it, then settled down on my feet while we watched the movie. He's a cool dog.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Just because

As I woke up this morning, I was thinking about why we do things. As reenactors, we often justify buying or making some neat new thing, going to a particularly distant event, or even being in the hobby at all because it is "educational", because it "serves the public by teaching them about our nation's heritage" etc etc.

Why don't we just admit to ourselves that we do it because it is fun? Of better yet, "just because". For some reason we feel the need to make an excuse to do something just for the fun of it these days.

Remember George Mallory's famous reason for climbing Mt. Everest? He said he did it "Because it is there". Good enough reason for him, it should be good enough for us too.

I think this need to justify things is fairly new to Americans. It came along in my lifetime. Maybe the hippies of the 60's and 70's poisoned our minds with some kind of guilt trip about having the prosperity to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours on stuff like reenacting when there are folks in other parts of the world that are starving. Remember the cliche' line: "Eat your vegetables, people are starving in India and they'd love to have your vegetables, so don't waste them"?

OK, so reenacting dollars feed many people in India who make muskets, bayonets, swords, buttons, buckles, embroidered miter caps, leather gear etc etc, but you get the picture. I'm talking about the cliches' about starving 3rd world folks here, and when most of us were kids it was starvation in India that made the news.

Remember the classic car movie "Vanishing Point"? In the 1971 version of the movie, the hero (Barry Newman) is delivering a supercharged Dodge Challenger from the custom shop in Colorado to San Francisco to deliver it. He makes a bet with some dude that he can make the trip in 15 hours. If you haven't seen the movie, shame on you, it's classic Americana. So as not to give away the ending, all I'll say here is that there are some cool car chases and an interesting look at the counter-culture of the era. The hero is on a quest to make the run in 15 hours to see if he can. No bigger reason, no real justification. He was a mysterious person and we are left to speculate his motives with the exception of some flashback scenes. I could go on for hours about the symbolism in this movie, but it would get away from the point I'm trying to make.

Jump ahead to 1997. 20th Century Fox did a remake of it. In a single generation, the classic car flick had been emasculated. The hero had been tamed and now had to have a reason to drive the Challenger so fast. Now he has to get home to his wife who has lupus and is going into labor. This time the hero is an ex-Army Ranger and retired race car driver. Apparantly, the studio felt we wouldn't accept a hero who did the driving to prove something to himself, or "just because it is there".

I wonder if any of the classic car movies would make it today? Or better yet, the must-see Easy Rider? "Gone in 60 Seconds" was remade a few years ago, in a similarly emasculated way as Vanishing Point. In the remake, the gang of car thieves who starred in the original movie (not to glamorize car thieves here, I'm talking about MOVIES) are forced into coming out of retirement to steal a list of cars in order to ransom the ringleader's little brother from a "real" bad guy. Even car thieves need to justify their actions in today's Hollywood! In the name of political correctness, they also added a woman and "good guy" car theives of various ethnic backgrounds.

In Easy Rider, the heros are a pair of bikers who saddle up and go to New Orleans for Madi Gras. Again, without leaking too much of the plot, they have run-ins with the law, rednecks, hippies, and various representatives of Americana along the way. Again, i could go on for hours about the symoblism. I bet if it were to be remade today, the biker duo would have to have some bigger purpose in the trip than just to go to Madi Gras. They'd have to have a female companion and be multicultural as well.

Sometimes I get worried that the need to only act when it is justified has gotten it's claws into me. Once upon a time, I would drive to Maine for breakfast because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Once upon a time I had tried to set up an illegal 500-mile road race from Massachusetts to Washington DC (everyone else backed out, so I guess I won by default). These days my "just because" habits involve collecting stuff, which can actually be justified as "investing" as pretty much all of the stuff I collect appreciates in value in time.

It's quarter past one in the morning, I just finished up setting up a few muskets for Michael W. in Australia, and I suppose I'll settle down for dinner soon. Maybe tonight I'll think up some whacked-out new idea that I'll set out to do "just because". Maybe it won't be driving a supercharged hemi Challenger from Colorado to Frisco, but the spirit will be there!

Or maybe I'll just go watch Vanishing Point on VHS while I eat dinner...