Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TSRA Mid-Range video up, Day One.

  First day of the Texas State Rifle Association Mid-Range Championship at Camp Swift, Texas.

 Update:  Day Two loading RFN.  Midnight.  I'm going to bed.

The Vernal Snakequinox

  Finally!  Today!  A quite healthy looking two or three year old water moccasin coiled in a sunny corner of leaves on a mid-stream log/stick jam at the Tyler Art Museum site.  I knew they had to be around...plenty of lizards, frogs and primo habitat.  First snake of the year.  He looked me over and slithered slowly into the logjam and out of sight.  I could have broken out some mad-monkey beaver-stick kung-fu but was happy enough just to see him first.

  I come in peace for all mankind.  Unless I have my suppressed 10/22...then there could be issues.

  Beaver cam up!  I pulled the plug on the dam again, maybe for the last time.  I think I am going to let them build Lake Robert back there.  Ought to be spectacular.  Since I'm a scientist, (Heck yeah I got data!) I stuck a plastic yardstick in the stream before kicking the plug out.  Seven inches of water out of the channel in 30 minutes and still dropping when I left.  More hot, wet, American Beavers tomorrow.

  Found a skull to go with a few random scattered bones I had noticed.  Coon probably.  And a large hunk of digested-looking hair with a little jeweled dog or cat collar in it.  "Macy" bit the dust the hard way though I expect it was an Olympic quality effort to get that nylon collar through any conventional digestive system.  Maybe it was a REALLY big snake.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Heck Yeah that's my photo on the cover!

  USA Shooting Sports magazine this month.  Easy shot.  Just fooling around with one of my little digital cameras during the match.  Shot the same view this last weekend at the TSRA Mid-Range Championship right below but on the 300 yard line.  Had to send them several file sizes.  Now that they have used one they will never escape the black penumbra of my email access....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

TSRA Mid-Range Championship.

  The winners.  John Rhynard shot his Palma rifle: 593X69.  That's shooting, just dropping seven points over two days.

  Overview of the 101 competitors at the 300 yardline.

 F-O class rifle. (F-O stand for F-class , Open)

  Here's something to chill a progressive's blood:  A dad teaching his kid to shoot.  Lot of dad/kid combos on the line.

  Just home from Camp Swift between Elgin and Bastrop.  Lots of video coming up but here's a little photo sample.
  Course of fire was 20 shots with two sighters from 300, 500 and 600 on Saturday and Sunday.  120 rounds for record, all prone single load and fire.  Four catagories:  Service rifle, Match rifle, F-TR (bipod and scope) and F-O (open class).  Plus we had guard and sniper teams shooting with us.  101 folks plus the 30 or so military.
  20-35 MPH winds on Saturday and cold.  Hardly any wind Sunday but it reversed a lot, giving fits at 500 and 600 yards.  Rick Crawford said he had some five minute windage changes- talking off three MOA left and putting on two MOA right.  I believe it.
  Stayed in barracks inside a Homeland Security concentration camp.  Double wire, guard towers, baracks.  All gates open and nothing manned but there it was.  Work makes you free and all.  Evidently, that rumor is true.
  Lousy shooting.  Worse than last year.  Just can't get used to aperture sights, and it shows.  Best string was a 195X6 or so.  Should have taken my AR15 instead of match rifle.  Fun anyway.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Video Frenzy

  OK, here's his date.

  The swashbucking winners of the NRA Regional Match.  Rick Crawford (gold) on the left, Hunter Pieper (Bronze) on the Right and David Lee Boehen (Silver) on the top.  David legged out the next day.  He's a Capitan of the Golden State California Junior Rifle Team.  We get to see him at Camp Perry.  He actually came to see one of OUR juniors, a girl.  So he had a date, won a silver NRA medal and finished his Distinguished Rifleman's Badge.  Nice weekend, huh? 

  It ain't shark juggling but its still a skilled sport.  Seven new videos up.  The Bayou Rifles NRA Regional has a little clip now, along with Nez Rongero, Walt Haley, Norman Shew, John Wilder (Distinguished Rifleman Badge) and a couple of Tyler Junior College pieces.  Bayou Rifles EIC match coming next....and this weekend is the Texas Mid-range Championship at Camp Swift. 

  The fun never stops.  Until Obama makes it illegal of course.  For the Children.  And the Mexicans.  And the children of the Mexicans.  (if they could just resist buying those grenades, rocket launchers and AK-47s at Texas dealers and gunshows, we'd be OK, right?)

  So, I'm shooting paper as long as possible.  Everyone should!

  I've taken Nez, Walt, John and Norman down at least once each and added stuff, edited stuff and put the back up.  Trying to be better.  

  Check the Blackfork6 Youtube Channel for shooting, shooting, shooting.

  Update:  Bayou Rifles Club Regional Match and CMP/EIC LEG match both up.  Happening!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Distinguished Rifleman Badge Videos up.

  Over at the Blackfork6 Channel on Youtube.  Walt Haley, badge number 1910 and Nez Rongero, badge 1234 are up.  More coming as I get editing time!
  Takes 30 points in EIC (Excellence in Competition) matches to earn a badge.  You have to be in the top 10% of the finishing non-distinguished shooters to get points.  
  Sound easy?  OK.  One of the LEGs has to be an 8 point award, preferably 10 points for a win.
  The match is a 50 shot rifle match with a service rifle.  (Garand, M1A or AR15)  10 shots standing at 200 yards, 10 shots sitting rapid fire at 200, 10 shots prone rapid fire at 300 yards and 20 shots prone slow-fire at 600 yards.  No sighters.  Every shot counts.  You can't make a mistake.
  Someone pointed out that there are more people who have climbed Mount Everest than have Distinguished Rifleman badges.  They have been awarding badges for over 100 years and less than 2000 civilians have them.  The armed forces give the same award, but un-numbered and they can shoot a slightly different match shot by large numbers of inexperienced troopers.  Cannon fodder.

Update:  I'm #1639.  Notice- I haven't made a video about me and Hell, I was THERE! 

Update:  Nelson Shew up.  Trying to edit a jumbled morass of John Wilder video into some kind of structure.  Those guys are some old-time serious shooters and coaches.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Best Time of Year

  It's the vernal Equinox, the Photographer's Equinox, and Springtime.  Not a flea on the cat since late December as far as I can tell with a flea comb.  Tap water temp is perfect for black and white process and printing.  Pollen is putting a golden sheen on everything.
  The deer must be enjoying the spring.  New growth, full of protein is everywhere, all fresh and tender.  Insects really haven't gotten going yet.  No fawns for another month.  The weather is mild and pleasant.  No hunters in the woods.  No territorial or mating conflicts.  The does will start splitting up and finding a thicket to fawn in soon.  Terrific time of the year.

  I managed a Silver Medal in the EIC match on Sunday.  Other than that I was just a guy with a rifle.  Never found anything to read the wind at 600 yards at Bayou Rifles.  We had a fair amount of wind with pickups and let-offs, plus changes in values as well as clouds putting the target bank in shadow and sunlight.  Lots of juggling.  Shot a couple nice groups with a rifle I was still zeroing.  4X clean at 300 in the EIC.   If you don't shoot any eights, you can win the match.  I shot a few eights standing at 200 yards and at 600.  The usual great crowd of folks shooting along with me.

Bad Hotels

  The motel was so bad that we met two undercover policemen in the lobby when we were checking in.  They were looking for a suspect.  It's the kind of place you go to LOOK for a suspect.  Several FEMA families still in residence.  Cracked-out hookers dashing into the breakfast bar to cram handfuls of muffins in their hoodie pockets.  Scenic.  Days Inn on Hwy 6 in Alvin if you are looking for a hideout.  
  Cheap though.

Update:  Half the brass already tumbled.  Neighborhood smells like a bouquet of flowers from all the wisteria.  Absolutely astounding girlfriend seems even more astounding after three days of Rifle shooting.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm green.

  I'm shooting this weekend at the NRA Regional Match at Bayou Rifles South of Houston.  We shoot a team match Friday, the NRA Regional 80 shot match on Saturday and a 50 shot EIC match on Sunday.  
  All my ammo is recycled.  I'm shooting Lake City brass from 2003 and 2004.  These cases have been shot three or four times, including the US Armed Forces shooting them once.  After I shoot them this weekend they will get cleaned, sized, trimmed and reloaded another couple of times.
  The USG never reloads cases, ever.  
  So the Government decision to crush their once-fired brass, instead of selling it at auction is a pretty big deal to competitive shooters as well as commercial reloaders.  It's a pointless waste of a valuable resource.
  Of course it does stick a finger in the eye of firearm enthusiasts, which must the point of this new regulation change.  They hate us.  They are intent on destroying us.  They are quite happy to do it incrementally, bit by bit as anyone in government knows.  
  Does this make me love and respect the government?
  There are rumors that this has been reversed, but notice, the rumored reversal is NOT for 50 cal brass.  They are using the old excuse of terrorism.  Notice:  even with the reversal, they get their little bite.
  I doubt very much that terrorists reload.

Update:  New front post on the AR- a wider one.  Loading, packing.  Haven't shot this rifle across the course so no zeros at 300 and 600, but I can make a good guess.  Shot it this morning off the bench at 200 and then one little sitting group.  Ought to be able to interpolate from there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's True!

  700+ hits yesterday and just tweaking with 300 for today.   It must be true: once you've seen a few hot, wet, hairy beavers, you've seen 'em all.  I know!  Let's look at ART!

Sculling Snappers, Swearing Beavers.

  Hull down.

  I'd like to get my hands on the guy who ruins my dam, just once!

  Hauling out.

  Big turtle #2 passing.

  Seal it.

  The sweat of his brow, the spit of his mouth, the enamel of his teeth.  

  Does this angle make my butt look big?

  You think YOU are discouraged.  Consider these Beavers.  Every night they dam up the water.  Every day I tear it down...and for WHAT?  
  Construction, (especially after hours night construction) takes time-and-a-half and a sturdy work ethic.  You think these Beavers are getting a check?  Nope.  It's all sweat equity.  
  Every construction crew I worked with used coarse language, if not from time to time then as a basic lingua constructiva.  You think these overtime dam builders are swearing about some simian who is cutting the dam every night and dumping the habitat downstream?  For Art?
  Book it.  These are some swearing Beavers.
  This ain't just putting on a hardhat and turning on the mill neither.  This dam has to be gnawed out of sticks in the dang forest.
  So, a little dam deconstruction today.  Easier to destroy than build, for sure.  Afterwards I drifted along the streams looking for Southern Snappers and (just like arrowheads: look and you find): there one was.  
  Sculling back and forth.  I got my Nikon.  It wasn't the turtle from the day before- no hole in the shell.  About the time I was getting bored a second snapper hauled himself over the sandbar.  The count is three Southern Snappers along one little stretch of creek.  Very nice.  I blinked and the turtle hauling out changed his mind.  He watched my tree for longer than I cared to stand it.  Sapiens isn't going to match patience with a reptile, ever.  I can outlast a squirrel or a deer but even a frog can outwait any hotblooded mammal.  I left.  But three turtles!  Who knows, there could be 30!  No sliders, no softshell and no snakes yet...but three nice southerns in 200 yards of pooled stream.  Oh my.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Double Beaver Blogging

  Yo tengo muchos amigos detras los arboles.*

  Packing it in, head-first Beaver-fu.

  The famous double Beaver.

  Holy hydro-mammalian engineered excellence!  I'm over the hit limit of 400 a day for the first time.  Think I'll celebrate with a little double Beaver blogging!  Thanks, Uncleanche!

* I have many friends behind the trees.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tea Parties. What's the plan?

  Besides saying we're mad as hell....what do we WANT?  I'm just a mud-slogging, deer hunting, turtle-grabbing, beaver-bothering, pistol waving nut, but what would reasonable intelligent people want?

  Somebody is going to make a list soon.  Here's mine:

  1.  The resignation of anyone who voted for the stimulus without reading it.

  2.  Term limits and the resignation of anyone who has been in Washington over 15 years.

  3.  Federal and State govts must retreat behind their constitutional limits.

  I'm taking a Gadsten flag to the tea party, but it's way out of date.  I've got footprints on TOP of footprints all over my body, property, soul and wallet.  They are ALREADY treading all over me and everything I consider reasonable and hold dear.

Update:  One of the keys when talking to elected representatives, is to reference "Petitioning for redress of grievances."  That particular phrase, (especially with a video cam to back it up), seems to get added attention.

Gentle, woodland creatures, Part deux.

  Happy yet?

  Doing the snapping turtle flip in shallow water.

  The classic "log" pose.

  Neck full of leeches.

  Before I get into the double wet, hairy, beavers, I need to post about another charming woodland resident who was less than charmed to be photographed.  
  I don't quite understand the attitude.  I come in peace for all mankind.  For all she knows I could work for National Geographic and this could be the start of a Big Gig.
  But no.  She had to channel her inner dinosaur.
  Southern Snapping Turtle up the side stream.  Unable to escape the keen eye and senses of homo photographicus.  Happy, happy, happy.

Update:  A Southern Snapper, not an Alligator Snapper.  (no ridged back)  Male or female I have no idea.  Will be able to recognize in the future due to hole in the edge of shell on the back.

Update II:  Dallas Morning News story this morning about turtle trapping and selling.  Several mistakes in it, but better than nothing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gentle, woodland creatures.

  Game on.

  Professional at work.

  Dogwood in the treeline.

  I'm a busy man.  Busy, busy, busy!  So I roused myself from the couch and went out to replace the beavercam and entice Dutch web surfers to bite on keywords like: Wet, Hot, Young, Hairy, Beavers, and run up my hit count.  While I was out there I shot some pixels in color using my Nikon D300, not just the Deardorff 5X7, (a manly camera!).  Up near some dogwoods I was channelling Eliot Porter when I realized.....I wasn't alone.
  Coons.  Not like I don't deserve them.  He walked up from nowhere and tried to join in.  Now, I work alone.  I GOT this.  Thanks, but check next door.  I gave at the office.  All that.  This coon seemed to want to climb into my pocket.  Followed me like a bad reputation.
  Somebody, (and thank God for 12 year olds with small arms) had zapped him with a kill shot using an insufficient caliber.  He had a scratched-out wound high behind the shoulder on one side.  You would think that would make him LESS likely to seek out human company, not more but there he was.  Bugging me.  He didn't seem to be in distress from the wound, walked OK, but now and then would suffer a neurological...event.  Teeth clenching, shaking, eye rolling, drooling.
  I started to apply a little John Browning with the truck pistol but then thought:  This is a job for PROFESSIONALS!  I'll call the police!  So I did.  By then the coon had me walking in 30 foot circles next to the highway.  After 10 minutes I called 911 back and added "Help!  Help!" just to get their blood up.  A minute later an officer drove up- a tall blonde woman officer who pulled her asp and called Animal Control.  I let the coon follow her for a while and went back to my camera.
  Animal control sent another woman, (where are men on the weekends?), who caged up the animal in nothing flat.  
  Each day in life is a thrilling adventure....or nothing at all.  Or coons.
  Thank goodness for professionals!

Update:  Beavercam up and rolling tonight on the Beaver dam.  They ought to be ready to start fixing holes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

There was never an Alamo in Oregon.

  I've seen better Beavers drawn on cave walls with a piece of bone and some red ocher 55,000 years ago.  This is the back side of the Oregon State Flag.  The front side is worse!

  Is this a beaver or a manatee?  Is he on a rake or a flying carpet?  What the hell is the State plant up there?  Cannabis?

  Don't answer that, but I'd be damned embarrassed to fight and die under a flag like this.


  Do I look like I'm damming?  Hell, yeah I'm damming!

Update:  Welcome Sayuncleanchers!  More wet, hot, young, hairy beavers frolicing in the rushing water, plus political griping, rabid coons, pissed off Snapping Turtles at HOME.

A(nother) night of organic, sustainable, hydro-engineering, shot to hell!

  Don't go into the light.  Just keep working.

  Tourist on his way back from the neighborhood garbage cans.

  Sustainable damming.


  The raccoons, possums and deer never give a flip about damming the stream, while the Beaver think of nothing else.  God drinks, I tell you!

  It's not easy being beaver.

More Wet, Young, Industrial-grade Beavers!

  Complex hydralic engineering problems.

  Dude, where's my chainsaw?

  Industrial-grade Beaver.

  Just before the wipeout.

  While the rest of us are hiding from the freezing Texas Spring rain, these hardy aquatic animals are OUT there!  Doesn't some state have the beaver as the State Animal?  They ought to!
  Update:  It was freezing and raining, plus the cam site was only about 10 inches above the waterline, so I pulled the cam for the night.  Back up when the creek is back in the channel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Reality!

  Defining conservatism:  When a conservative say's he's going to post photos of hot, young, wet, hairy beavers.....he uses real beavers.  That's all you need to know, right there.

Update:  No cam up tonight.  Still raining.  The bottom is flooded.  They are going to be busy everywhere until the water gets back in the channel.  Dam Beavers!

UpdateII:  Flooding down along the creek.  Water back in channel.  Cam back in position for Thursday (tonight) and Friday AM.  Beavers were busy up and down the creek during flooding cutting trees and eating bark.  Now, I'm having peppermint tea and the redhead and I are going out later to eat later.   No bark.  And down in the bottom today it was raining and 39 degrees.  I was so cold I was unfocused, (so to speak) while trying to photograph.  I have a lot of respect for the beavers.  They live there and love it, bark for dinner or not.

Update III:  Big sandbars moved around in the creek channel.  Wonder how my snapping turtle friend is doing?  Sandbar right through the center of his pool.  

Update IV:  Lots of hits looking for the beavercam.  Hope to have plenty of fresh, hot, young, wet, hairy beavers in the morning, guys!  Just try and keep your bark on!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Beavercam is up tonight!

  Pushing sand and mud from upstream.  When you step back and consider the water channel contours you can see what an impressive job these animals do.  Pushing mud from the upstream side deepens the pool.  Sticks and mud and a little work.  The vertical white stakes are beaver bark-stripped twigs.  I put them there for scale.
  The new camera position is going to be from the right side of this shot looking left up the break in the dam that they are repairing.  I'm sure it's sealed by now, but I will unseal it.

  He looks mad to me, does he look mad to you?  I thought hot, young, wet, hairy Beavers frolicking in the rushing water would seem a little happier.

  A Tourist.  Merely a Nutria.

  Civil Engineer.

  I jammed my big log down into the mucky mound.....and set the beavercam to photo hot, wet, hairy beavers....well...repairing their dam I had just knocked a hole in.  I've torn a hole in their big dam every day and dropped 100 yards of dammed creek by about a foot or so.  Every night they rebuild it.  (They really ARE busy.  Wonder if they wear little hardhats?)
  Another fun afternoon in the woods.  They ought to be getting photographed about every 20 seconds right about NOW!
  Getting into the groove shooting the woodlot where the new Tyler Art Museum will be built.  I crossed the creek today and turned around and found not one, but TWO nice photographs just waiting.  More elevation than I thought from over there.  Crossing back there was a big snapping turtle on his tiptoes with his nose just out of the water in the pool above the beaver dam.  He pulled back under, trying that invisibility thing, but I was on to him.  Deertracks as well, fresh ones, in town.  Trees are budding out and dogwoods working up.  First mosquitos.  As always, trying to learn to photograph.  All Deardorff 5X7 view camera with sheet film off a tripod....except for the BEAVERCAM!
  I'll post photos of hot, young, wet, hairy beavers tomorrow.  Maybe a scan of one of my proofs.
  All for art!

Update:  Looking through the files I think I count two nutria and two different beavers.  No cam tonight- I ran deercams instead.  One lousy deer out of nearly 600 files.  Beavercam up again tomorrow night.

Update II:  Nice rain this morning.  Creek will be up and running.  Going in with the BeaverCam if I get a break to cut the dam.  Cam support post moved.  Whole area might be underwater, now that I think about it.  Rain for the next few days.

Tea Party signage.

  The Redhead and I are trying to decide what to say with our graphic, professional foamcor signs on big sticks that we plan to carry at the April 15th Tea Party.  
  So far:

1.  Stimulus = Bovine By-Product.

2.  One Ring to rule them all and in darkness bind them.  (the "O" is the Obama/Pepsi graphic)

3.  BOR.  (sign in the shape of a revolver)

4.  Obama & Obama: Enemies Foreign & Domestic.

5.  Liberty.

6.  Read the damn Bills!

7.  Working Poor.

8.  Obama Lied, the Economy Died.

9.  A pitchfork flagstaff with a Gadsten flag.

10.  Gadsten Flag.

11.  They already Tread on Me! (Gadsten snake biting the head of a politician.)

12.  Working:  Is it Worth It?

13. Tax Slave of the US Government.

14.  George Washington would already be shooting the bastards!

  Yeah, I'm mad and it's clouding my judgement.  That's why I'm starting early so I can cool off and get the best idea.  Anyone have a suggestion?  I'd like it to bite enough to make someone grasp their weapon, but not actually pull it and shoot me.
  If I had a giant puppet...I'd hammer all morning.

Redheaded Reading

  The Redhead is expanding her consciousness yet again.  She decided to read a little Heinlein.  We scored a copy of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "Starship Troopers"  I hadn't read them since I was a teenager so I burned through both of them yesterday.  I'm impressed with how revolutionary Heinlein is.  The Redhead is impressed.  The cat is impressed.  Very impressive.

  Reminds me of contemporary revolts.  Wonder how many Tea Party folks have read a little Heinlein?

  Ayn Rand, Heinlein.  What's next...Philip Jose Farmer?

Daily Deercam

 Mom and the boys last month.

  The boys and mom across the creek.  Big bucks are dropping their antlers right now and are probably still in a bachelor pack.  They don't seem to be in my territory so I won't find any sheds though I am looking.
  These little bucks will grow four and six point antlers and be as dumb as dogs this next fall.  Moms will run them off and they will pal around getting into trouble without a territory to defend or knowing what's going on.
  They look healthy.  Mom is doing a good job.

  I have a beaver dam I need to monitor.  I'm cutting their dam and they are repairing it every night.  Trying to decide whether to move one of my cams or use as an excuse to buy a new one.

Update:  Added a 4.0 megapixel Moultrie that uses D-Cells.  Going to be my move-around cam.
  Starting off as Beavercam!  With wet, hairy, wild beavers!  Dam!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Old, Useless, cheap pistols

  B17 bailout exits

  While everyone is showing THEIRS off I might as well show mine.  The top is the .380 and the bottom the .32.  Nearly useless.  100 year old hunks of metal.  I think they had to gnaw them out of used horseshoes with their teeth.

  The one to the side is really useless.  It's a cheap wartime production gun, not even a Colt.  Made by Ithaca.  They were so bad they didn't get to make many.  This one was obviously just for show so they gave it to a kid in the Eight Air Force who wasn't smart enough to be a pilot or a navigator or bombadier.  They just let him shoot the guns on the very lowest part of a B17, down in the ball turrent.  Hell, in 30+ missions he never even shot this pistol once.  Even when they got shot down over France and collected up by drunk Frenchmen he didn't get to shoot it, though they were surrounded by German soldiers.  It was such an awful gun that the French didn't even take it from him and he still had it when the American advance liberated the village he was hiding in.  Still had the bullets they gave him for it in England, some old coppery looking St Louis Arsenal 1943 slugs when he gave it to me 60 years later.  Hardly a combat war pistol at all.

  So there, you cheap, old pistol people!  Hell.  I got cheap old pistols too!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tax Pie Protest.

  50 thousand folks protesting in the street in New York City....but wait....

  They want taxes RAISED...(on someone else)..so they can have their "piece of the pie."

  Government workers.  This is what the country is up against.  50K folks belonging to unions with public jobs protesting CUTS by the Democrat-led state government of New York State.  

  They can't be fired and they want THEIR PIECE OF THE PIE!!!!  The pie was made and cooked by someone else of course....they don't care.  They are entitled!  Those evil rich can "give up just a little more."

  Obama was dumb enough to go to Ohio to celebrate 25 jobs "saved" by his stimulus: 25 new   policement graduating from a police academy.  Paid by taxpayers dollars.  (Is there ANYTHING free money can't do?)

  Idiots.  Out of their depth.

Update:  I was happy to shoot the Panola County Gun Club Highpower rifle match today.  First class event.  One of the pretty good kids there though is trying to get hired by a local police dept.  First thing he mentioned was that the pay starts at 53K a year.  That 53K, plus benefits, plus pension, plus, plus, plus has to come out of the taxpayers at gunpoint.  Sheesh.

Update: SayUncleanched.  Biggest hit day ever.  Thanx, Unc!

Friday, March 6, 2009

13 Days to Glory: Blogging the Battle of the Alamo.

  Texas Stamp on an 1845 State rifle.

  I learned much and stayed with one subject for two weeks on my blog.  New approach.  I was tempted to post about other events during the TSRA convention and a remarkable two weeks of D.C. foolishness but decided to honor the battle by keeping it simple.  

  Sorry for the mistakes.  I tried to keep them to a minimum and correct when I saw them.  I rarely had an idea for a day's post other than surveying my sources and seeing what came to mind.  Usually wrote and posted late so that a new post would go up near midnight.

  My three sources were Hardin's excellent "Texian Illiad", Edwin P. Hoyt's "The Alamo, An Illustrated History", and Huffine's dramatically titled "Blood of Noble Men, The Alamo Siege and Battle."  There are new sources and stories yearly.

  I hope to make this an annual effort.  The battle deserves contemporary presence on the world wide web in this modern time of complexity and bureaucratic confrontation of human rights.  

  Thanks to everyone who read and commented.  

  Remember the Alamo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day Thirteen: Deguello.

Bowie Knife.

  In the end, they started throwing the dead in the river.  Burning the Texicans wasn't easy but it was a small job compared to the Mexican casualties.  The General Staff had declared that the townspeople should be commandeered to bury them in the camposanto but that effort quickly broke down.  There simply were too many.

  The river clogged with bodies, but it was downstream and the Army was packing up to campaign west, concerned with finishing the war and going home.

  Mexican units were up and moving after midnight, with noise discipline enforced.  Most soldiers were already stationed in their general assault area so there weren't any long distance moves.  The plan was to attack in columns, with reserves waiting and cavalry behind.  The assault force, in place, lay on the chilly ground and tried to get some sleep.  

  Inside the fort the garrison was sleeping, protected by pickets outside the wall and the officer on watch.  There was no particular reason to anticipate a Mexican attack.

  A 5:00 the units got on their feet and got in line.  At 5:30 rockets from the river battery signaled the start of the assault.  One of the Northern columns began cheering when they passed the battery where El Presidente was observing and the defenders were alerted.  The Texican pickets simply vanished.

  Inside the fort the alarm was sounded and men struggled to their posts to find ladders rising from the enemy below the walls.  The cannons were touched off and shotguns and rifles began to bark.  The weak point- Crockett's low palisade next to the Chapel, stopped the South attack cold.   That attack shifts to the west and uses a stone house near the 18-pounder on the corner for cover.  The other columns scattered and began to stall in the face of grapeshot and small arms fire.  Each defender has several rifles at hand loaded.  Townfolks say the firing sounds like firecrackers.  Santa Anna sends in the reserves.  The reserves seemed to have fired into assault waves in front of them.  One of those things.

  The Mexican officers kept at it and began to make some headway.  Travis falls at his post on the North wall.  Enough defenders fell that cannons couldn't be reloaded and gaps appeared in the thin lines.  Cazadors with crowbars and axes chopped through shuttered windows and crumbling adobe.  Massed troops finally pushed through the shattered North wall.  

  There was no rebel reserve to be committed or contain intrusions.  The Texicans fought from the walls and then fell back into the convent, chapel and Long Barracks or held out in rooms along the walls.  As Santa Anna's men flooded in some defenders tried to escape in the pre-dawn and were killed by cavalry in the open.  Mexican gunners turned unspiked cannons on the Long Barracks.  Bowie was killed in his room.  The last place to fall was the chapel where Bonham and Dickenson held out with the women and children.  Cannon breached the door and the chapel fell.

  Santa Anna tried to enter the fortress at 9:00 but was driven out by riflefire.  He later gave a speech to the victorious troops from an elevated battery in one end of the plaza.

At least one cat was shot by Mexican troops.
  Susanna Dickenson and her child survived with other women and Travis' slave Joe.  The captured Mexican soldier Brigido Guerro lived.  Some captured Texicans seem to have been executed.  At least one man was credited with escaping.

Update:  Mexican army counts 180 defenders dead.

Update II:  Bowie's nurse Madame Candaleria is among the survivors.

Update III: As the most famous National figure at the battle, Crockett is reported dead in front of the Chapel, at a post on the West Wall, captured and executed, escaped, fallen in the Chapel with the last of the defenders.
Update IV: A last defender is found hiding under the river bridge by a woman washing clothes.  He is shot.

Update V:  Survivors are questioned by Santa Anna at the Musquiz house in town.  The women are given blankets and two Mexican silver dollars and set free.

Update VI:  Esparza falls in the Chapel during the last fighting.  His brother-in-law, a Mexican officer, brings out his wife and children and recovers his body for burial in the family plot.

Day 12: A line and a tree.

They ain't coming. Bonham rode in two days ago with the news. We can quit straining our eyes for news to the Southwest. Every post is talking it over. Nobody understands why they aren't coming and the little knots of men are trying to decide what to do. Stay or try to get out.

I've noticed fellows going down to the pen to look at their horse and gear. Maybe we will all make a run for it. Galls everyone, for true. I'd like to hear a good reason, one of these days, for leaving us down here.

Word spreads that Travis wants to talk to the fort at dusk. We leave a man at each post and walk down the end of the Long Barracks near the chapel to an area that the Mexican cannons don't reach.

We've never been all together in one place before. The Greys and the Tennesseans. The fresh bunch from Gonzales scattered around. The locals from town. Teague and King and the Parson. Crockett. Travis. The Chapel bunch and the top of the Long Barracks boys. Bowie wrapped in a blanket in a chair with the Brujita Candaleria behind him. Dickinson. Bonham. Archer. Milsap. Everyone has his rifle. Lots of handshaking and talk.

Gives you a little shiver. I'm proud to stand among these rough armed folk. They came up here with flags a-waving but so far, we've turned them back.

We crowd a little closer and Travis lays it out. Fannin isn't coming. He doesn't know why. That doesn't mean nobody is coming and we can expect some to trickle in. He has sent word out and gotten word in reply, expects to send and hear more. Nobody has to stay. He knows we have families and duties. Thought we would all be home by now. He's staying but that's just for him. No dishonor in leaving and there will be another time to fight. Doesn't think the Mexicans will spend what it takes to root us out but they might. He knows everyone has had time to talk it over and now we need to know. He's short and to the point. Before I realize he takes out his sword and draws a line in front of us.

There's just a quiet moment and then we realize he's waiting. His linen shirt glows in the dark. Shining sword in his hand.

Crockett walks over first without speaking. Some of his boys a step behind. I hear someone say "come on, Bull," and the Greys all cross. Quiet, just a crunch and a squeak. I see the Parson's tall hat.

From our wall we face into town across the river but to the far North there's a treeline that has been picking up a trace of green. An old pear up there has bloomed out white the last few days and I've been thinking about walking past that white tree into the grey woods. I believe I could get to that white pear a little past two on a quiet night and be gone as smoke before the sun came up. Maybe with a few others. Tie some rags on the horse's feet. Shoot and scatter if they raised an alarm.

But instead King and I shift our rifles and walk over. In a minute it's settled. Only Bowie and Candeleria and one other shadow standing back. Moses Rose.

Bowie sits. It's dead silent until he says plainly, "how about a hand here?" and three men rush over to pick his chair up and carry it across as we make a space. Candelaria brushes past me, anger coming off her like a hot stove. I get a chill and a picture: "she'll outlive us all."

Moses Rose. We're all standing looking. He doesn't move. "I've had enough, boys." he says. Nobody speaks until Crockett: "I'll scalp yours Mose."

And just like that it was decided. Men walk back toward their posts. Everyone seems happier and at ease. King and I tread back to our hole with young Kellogg ahead. Teague says, "how about a bite of that cold beef?"

  Santa Anna at age 35

  Based on the information given by the women the decision is made.  The attack will come in the early morning hours tomorrow March 6.  The weather has abated.  It's about 50 degrees.  

  The batteries are ordered to step up their rate of fire.  It's possible that the La Villita battery is merged into the East side Potero street guns.  The batteries have fired for several days to keep the defenders awake.

  The attack will be made in the early morning hours before dawn.  The assault will be split into four columns of about 1000 men each.  1500 will attack from the north making the total 4500. 

 General (Ramirez y) Sesma is either ill or declines and the attack from the town side will be lead by the British adviser Col. Adrian Woll.  Ladders, crowbars and axes are distributed.  Mexican units stood down at twilight.  The soldiers will be marched out and in place by 5:00am.  The commanders will enforce noise discipline during the march.

  The Mexican General staff rides around the fort for one more look at the ground.

  It's Friday, March 5, 1836.

  The garrison received one courier.  No help was coming.  There seemed to have been discussion about surrendering or escaping.  Travis assembled the men and gave a speech outlining the situation.  Several accounts have him drawing a line in the sand with his sword and asking those who will stay to cross over.  Everyone except Bowie, who is on his cot, and Moses Rose cross.  Bowie asks to be carried across the line.  Rose decides to take his chances over the wall after dark.

  Travis writes until nearly midnight and sends a last set of dispatches and letters with 16-year old Jim Allen, riding bareback.

Update:  Moses Rose has picked a good time.  As the Mexican units stand down and go to bed early the town seems empty.  Rose walks out along the dark river.

Update II:  Bowie and Crockett talk privately for a long time after Travis speaks.

Update III:  Tapley Holland, a 26-year old man from Grimes County was the first to cross the sword line.  My maternal Grandmothers maiden name was Holland.  My brother's name was Holland Irwin Langham, from an old family name.  My daughters middle name is Holland.  Tapley Holland is an artilleryist, one of six children in a family who came as a settler in Austin's "Old Three Hundred."  This is our relative.

Update IV:  At twilight the artillery fire dwindles, then ceases.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day 11: Encirclement

  On the first day the Mexicans set a battery in town just North of Potero Street.  On day three they set one in La Villita (South) to support that day's attack.  Day four found guns placed across the river to the North and on day five they brought the North guns across the river and began to work them closer.  By day eleven they had moved all the cannon in to cover the attack routes or block escape routes.  The North battery had been moved down the now dry ditch to within 200 yards of the North Wall.  The defenders repaired the wall continuously, ramping up earth behind it and piecing together the wood face over the crumbling adobe.  The Mexican 12 pounders were still on the road South but every battery had been replaced and strengthened. 

  The engineers could only work at night.  In daylight Texicans shot anyone visible.

  Santa Anna called a conference of his officers and staff at his headquarters in the Yturri house on the plaza to talk about an assault.  Some argued for waiting until bigger guns arrived to destroy the Alamo walls.  More battalions were just a few days march away.  By Monday all would be on hand.  The staff debated while Santa Anna listened.  There was worry about Texican reinforcements and the anticipation of a major moral boost by what was thought would be an easy victory.  Santa Anna seemed to favor an early attack.  There is some concern that the Texicans might surrender without fighting and a dramatic military action lost.
  It was re-affirmed that there would be no prisoners taken.

Overall plan is for a very rare attack beginning before dawn. Light conditions will improve but it means logistical nightmares of moving and placing troops into position in darkness.

  The Texians were still hopeful of relief.  If the Gonzalez party could get through, so could other promised help.  A letter pledging men from the various colonies and couriers were still circulating.

  Two Bexar women left the Alamo and gave the Mexican army a report on the conditions and placements of the defenders.  The crucial information seemed to be an actual count of the numbers of the defenders.  This information seems to have moved the attack up at least 48 hours.  Travis says he has 145 men in a letter.  Other counts put the number closer to 180.  Some have it as high as 250.  He needs twice that to man the cannon and to defend the walls. 

  Tactically, defenders always have an advantage over attackers.  Even if the walls are heaps of rubble it will take an overwhelming number to push an attack through to success.  The Mexicans have those numbers.  The question is if they will spend them.  The report of the Texican numbers by the two women seem to push the decision toward attack.

  It's Friday, March 4, 1836.

Update:  The official list has 212 defenders.  Not enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Day Ten: Long Rifles.

  Davy's boys have the best rifles in the place.  Plenty of good guns around and bad, even Mexican Brown Bess's picked from the dead along with bayonets and cartridge belts.  Shotguns, horse pistols, tomahawks, knives of every sort.  Swords too.  Some cudgels and a couple cavalry lances.  The Gonzales boys came in well packed but already every man in the fort had a couple of rifles, a pistol, knife.  More cannon than we can powder, mount or crew.  If we can hold them here until Houston and Fannin ride in plus the other companies we stand a chance.  A good chance.  More than even.  They don't know what's coming.

  Speaking of knives there isn't a blade in the place you couldn't shave with, even the axes.  In the evenings we cook and folks sew and mend on tackle and gear and whet knives.   

  Davy's boys brought their squirrel rifles and deer guns.  Long rifles.  They keep them in beaded and fringed deerskin stocks and you never see one around unless it's being carried. 

  Lightly built but brassed and polished.  The maker picked the wood careful.  Peter Bailey has one of the prettiest wood stocks a man has ever seen on a rifle, curlicued and polished deep, nearly black out of the sunlight, golden brown in it, but most of them are close.  They glow. 

  The men handle them like Davy handles his fiddle.  They never get laid down except on something soft.  At night the men pull them out and look them over, oiling and rubbing.  Davy was breaking pecan meat on the stock of Betsy and rubbing it into the wood.

  When they go out the rifles don't go.  They borrow a shotgun or a pistol and take a tomahawk and a knife.  Couple guys always stay behind.  I think it's just to keep those rifles company.

  They name 'em.  Davy has Betsy and a couple others.  Nelson has two he calls "the Parson" and the "Po Boy."  Thomas Archer has his "Julie B."  Some of them got their rifles in trade but most of them had made guns.

  Seems most of those rifles can shoot.  Archer shot the shovel out of a man's hand digging the river battery.  All we could see coming up over the bunker.  Had to time the shot just right.  Clanged like a bell.  Nelson killed three Mexicans dead with three different rifles when we caught them beyond the cow pens.  As quick as he could snatch.  Davy says he's shooting more than we can eat. 

   The other day soldatos were chasing chickens out in La Villita way past rifle range.  Probably six or seven men trying to catch a flock thats been pecking under our guns for a week.  One man was standing in the open holding caught chickens by the feet as the others chased.  He had three or four in each hand.  Davy shucked the sock off Betsy and primed her, gave the ball a tap with the ramrod.  He rubbed a little oil off his nose with his finger and used it to slick up the front sight then sat with his back to a cannon carriage and Betsy resting across the sock on the wall.  The wind was gusting to raise dust.  250-275 yards.  I didn't think he was going to shoot until he pulled the hammer past half-cock.  Betsy barked and about two seconds later the dust jumped off that fellows jacket.  My, how the chickens flew!   That man turned to the side, fell to his knees and rolled over.  Except for the dead man there wasn't a Mexican in sight, just chickens shaking their feathers and calling each other.  Everybody was crowding up to the wall and passing around a spyglass to have a look.

  Davy patched out the lock on Betsy and winked. "I ain't sharing chickens."

  That night one of the Kentucky boys went out with the picket carrying a rag and a tomahawk.  He was back before the moon came up with a cloth full of eggs.  Ten eggs.  Homed in on the night clucking like a bear on a honeybee hive.  We were pushing the ends of the cookfire in to get the heat up but Davy said we better send these to the women and chilluns in the chapel or there would be no end to it.  We kept two and everyone awake had a bite.  One of the senora's came out to the fire and spoke.  Juan Abamillo was at the skillet and we looked at him.  "She says go get more," he said.

  Davy cracked a stick and put it under the coals.  "There ain't pleasing some women."

  It's Thursday, March 3, 1836.

Update:  Bonham back from Fannin and Goliad.  Fannin isn't coming.

Update II:  Shootout with Mexican forces north toward the river bottom and cover.  Soldatos think it's Texians foraging out.  Could be more reinforcements coming in.

Update III:  Bowie managed to get out and make a visit to all the men on the walls.

Update IV:  The Texicans are mostly shooting a Dupont gunpowder that is of high quality.  It's probably imported through New Orleans.  The Mexicans are using Spanish or indigenous powder that the defenders consider little better than coal dust.