Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 7: The Hard Passage of Secundino Alvarez.

  The light fades and the pickets go over the wall to watch the night. No careless men and no fools. They take a blanket. Most go tomahawk and pistol. A few take a shotgun. Bill King goes and went last night. He wears two deerskin shirts, moccasines and carries Rutherford's double gun. He slides over the wall like a shadow and you don't hear a thing until he tosses a pebble on top to let you know he is back. Says he sits a different place every night so the Mexicans won't puzzle him out. Him, Milsap and Navarro trade. Last night he wasn't over the wall an hour when we heard Rutherford's shotgun. One barrel: Cu-Tonk!

  Then nothing. We ran to the wall but on top I could see Milsap motioning with his hand. Stay back. Stay down.

  A fringed deerskin rifle sock hung off the top ladder rung.

  Then it started. Wheezing. Then like a kind of a grunting. "Ump. Ump. Huh." A whispering mumble. Something. "Mio. Mio."

  The parapet filled up with low eyes watching the dark. The water was gurgling down at the river. "Mio. Dios. Aeg. Mumbling. Something....something. Dios."

  "Rutherford's double. One barrel. Best sit tight. King'll be up in a minute." Milsap was whispering.

  But he wasn't. Not that hour. Not as the stars swung around and Jupiter dipped low. I lined my rifle up on the whimpering. The blue gun bunch edged the cannon around. One of the Greys came over and checked his watchface on a blown coal off the fire now and then. Four oclock.

  "Mia. Miodios. Something something. Umph."

  A pebble bounced off the adobe with a click and King stepped out of a blue shadow and passed me the shotgun up. Right barrel was faintly warm and you could smell a trace of Dupont. He came over the wall and flowed down the ladder. Couple people rose from around the glowing firecircle below. Milsap handed him the cup of broth he was sipping.

  "Mexican Scout." King let out a deep breath and shook himself from the chill. "Nearly stepped on me. He's done, just not quite yet. Gawd cold. I thought they might come for him, but they never. It'uz either shoot him or let him under the blanket. Knocked him off in some muddy weeds."

  Dawn began to pick out some treetrunks and King pointed out the place. You could hear him wheezing and see his leg slide up for a minute, then back down. Navarro listened with his hands behind his ears. "He's calling his mother and his God."

  By the time the sun came over the East ridge half the fort had been up. Not much to see but you could make him out plain enough. He'd lie still and silent and we would decide he had travelled and then that leg would slide up and he'd start whispering again.

  The day filled with work. The Mexican batteries plonked away. Milsap and King rolled up in blankets and slept, faces to the wall. We would check and he would be still. Then we would check again and see that leg move. Quite a debate about putting another ball in him, but it wasn't enough to shoot at. A whole company marched around the East end of the fort past the trees. Esparza called out to the man in a voice you could hear in the downtown plaza but nobody came and never an answer.  Just two wrens in a treetop rasping back and forth.

  "I could stick him," said one of Davy's boys, but nobody moved.

  "Mio. Dios. Diodiohhh."

  We ate dinner and listened as the sun fell. Two of the Greys had bootheeled a big circle out in the plaza and were trying to get bets about how many cannonballs would be inside it by morning. Nobody was much interested.

  Milsap went up at dark out of the firelight to get his night eyes. King went with. Navarro.  King went over with his blanket under his arm. Milsap spit and said, "got dang," and went too. Navarro followed emptyhanded. Knife probably. I heard one little gravel crunch but otherwise they were smoke.

"Dio. Dios. Something. Uhh. Uhh."

  Three minutes later they came rushing back. Dang the noise. Had that man in the blanket. We reached over and hoisted him up, then Navarro. Milsap. King crouched in a shadow and when I looked a second later, the shadow was empty.

  In the room below we rolled the man out of the blanket. His right hand was mangled, gone like he put it over the muzzle and his side a bloody pulp. Smell of entrails and stale blood. Burnt mud. Lung. Maybe both. Navarro whispered to him while Enrique wiped his face. He was grinding his teeth and that leg was clenching still. Bowie's nurse Candalaria leaned into the firelight and squatted down like a man. She took a twig from the fire, popped off the flame on a rock and lifted his jacket with the glowing end.  "Muerto," she said and was gone in a swirl of skirts.

  The parson came and sponged his neck with warm water. We straightened him but he kept rolling on that side and drawing up that leg.

  An hour later Navarro came to the corner room where the fire was still glowing. "He was Secundino Alvarez of San Luis." Nav shrugged a little deeper into his coat. "He had a hard passing."

It was Monday, February 29, 1836.

When the sun came up I went back to the post. The body was rolled in the blanket with blood soaked through the middle. Two cannonballs and a big ring of shrapnel sat in the circle. King was at the cookfire. "If you think I'll say I'm sorry I shot," he said to nobody in particular, "I ain't."

Day 6: Campfire tales.

  Always a work crew going. Dig the well. Dig a trench. Shore up a platform. Carve a loophole. Stuff a hide and bulldog it into position. The pickets watch while men work.

  One of the Greys is a big man. Taller than Crockett and stout like an ox. They joke that riding out from New Orleans when his horse wore out he just carried it. He's not too smart but he's game and strong and anytime a load has to be shoved over or boosted up they call for Bull.
Of course, then it's: "put a little Bull on it." A crew was trying to push a post back into place on the North wall and Esparza was chanting "listo! Bull, listo!" So now it's: "put a little listo on it." He wandered over to look at the well crew and they were saying, "Dawg it! Don't send him down her, we'll never dig him out!"

  Good bunch.

  The worst guy in the company, kind of a mean drunk from down on the coast has dried out. The one man who looks like trouble still fits in. He was sleeping down in the Long Barracks and his snoring drove out the night pickets. One of them stole his hat and when he woke up there was hell to pay. Lots of sand kicked but he when went up top to take his post looking over the cattle pen the dead Mexican leaning on the tree was waving at him. And wearing his hat. He stomped right out there cussing a blue streak. Nevermind the Mexicans shooting.

  Davy gave Bull one of the yellow cats that's always winding around the crowd at the cookfire corner and he's been carrying it around for a couple of days. The cat has taken to sleeping on him. Cottle gigs him about cooking his cat, "say Bull, let's cook that kitty!" And Crocket warns him back: "Don't let Cottle cook that cat now Bull." Bull is always watching Cottle out of the corner of his eye. "Don't cook a kitty Wash."

  And the stories. Around the campfire day or night there are two or three going. We've heard all the famous ones: Riding the lightning bolt across the river, possum in a whiskey jug, blizzard in the bear's den, grinning the coons out of the hickory. One that really probably happened is about the dogs backing a big mama cougar into a hollow tree and one of Davy's guys saw the tail through a knothole, pulled it out and cut it off with a knife. Davy made him bow and apologize to the catamount and then they leashed the dogs and left. The boy traded it for drinks in a bar and they said for a year all they heard was stories about a mad mama bobtailed cougar up the country. Or it would be a drunk in a saloon with the tail talking up some wild story about how HE cut it off. On the packet boat coming up the Arkansas a card player told them their story, except this time it was HIM that treed the cat and cut the tail off. Had the very tail for a hatband. Davy kept pulling a surprised face and saying: "That so? My nevers! You ever heard such a thing Clark?" When all along Clark was the one who had to apologize to the big cat.

  The Greys have some swamp stories: one showed a scar around his wrist where he cut off his hand in a sawmill. Said a black witch doctor put it back on in trade for an alligator hide. Another has a big tattoo of a woman on his breast. He says he paid for drinks by showing her off in saloons. We can see her for two bits.

  The Tejanos catch most of it, everyone crowding in while someone winds the yarn. Crockett told a long story about what language horses speak. Says the Arkansaw horse he bought does everything backwards. Go forward is back up, speed up is slow down, hasn't seen a smart horse since Memphis and says the Tejano mustangs look at him funny. One of the Tejanos bunks his horse in the room under the wall where he sleeps. He gave a low whistle and that horse popped right out of that room looking at us. He made it spin, circle right, turn left, back up, with clicks and whispering and little hand signals. He floated his hat out on the ground and the horse picked it up and put it back on his head. Crockett tossed his coon hat out and the horse wrinked up his brow, snorted and looked at it like he was worried. Blew out the whole bunch.

  Horse came up behind Mirelez in the firelight and hung his head over the man's shoulder while he talked. Sweetest love you ever saw.

  Davy can fiddle now and those boys dance. McGregor blows the pipes up and plays with a red face. Even Bull got up and struttin when one of the rancheros who doesn't speak much started whirling a loop and jumping in and out of it. After a minute he roped the coffee cup out of Bill Clark's hand, roped the shako of one of the commandantes. Somebody yelled: "Rope Bull's cat!"
Everybody kind of froze. One of the Tejanos said something in Spanish and they all started laughing, then we all did.

  "You could put a rope on Bull's kitty," said Davy, " But I doubt you could hold it." Bull just glowered at Wash like it was his fault.

  It's Sunday, February 28, 1836.

  The Parson wanted to pray over the stew, since it was Sunday. About the time we all stood up with out hats off and he started rolling we heard the North battery go. You could tell it was their big howitzer putting up a shell: Puh-bloom! We could hear it fluttering in way up in the air. The Parson, he didn't QUIT praying, no sir, he speeded up. OurGodinHeavenwhosetendermerciesdecendonallsinfulmen. All of a sudden Davy shouts AMEN! and everyone scattered.

  We laughed till we were crying.

Big talk about what's going to happen when Fannin gets here. I can't wait to see them ride up behind that north battery. Several men will be happy to line up rifles on those boys when they come out from behind those dirt baskets.

  Santa Anna killed a courier from Houston and intercepted his letter. 1000 armed men and eight cannons on the way. He sent troops to guard the road, but it's empty to the horizon.

Day 5: Cannonball Stew.

  South view over the fortified main gate.  Crockett and his men along the low palisade with treetops on the ground outside it.  18 pounder on the left lower corner.  Downtown to the left.  North wall at the top.  Chapel on the right.

  Dawn comes with the North wind still whistling at 39 degrees.  Everyone is a windburnt and strung out from waiting and watching for relief and news.  The men are stretched thin to cover the walls so sleep is only done at your post.  The Mexican artillery is lobbing shells in and pounding on the walls.  You have to watch yourself in the open plaza.   Men are digging handy trenches and policing up the scraps for anything useful.  Nearly everyone can identify various Mexican cannons by the shrapnel left behind.  The north gunners must be bored.  They shoot a brass ball, then an iron one, then another brass.  Martial arts.

  In town Santa Anna's quartermasters and cooks are hustling around trying to find supplies to feed the troops.  They packed light on the trip up, for speed and now everyone is hungry.  The town has been stripped of everything the citizens haven't hidden.  Patrols go to the local ranchos to find cattle, pigs, corn.  Anything.  Might have to eat those shoes.

  The Texicans are cooking beef and conserving firewood.  128 fighting men burn through a couple of cows a day, especially in this cold wind, plus corn and beans.  Folks are getting creative around the cookfires as the salt, peppers and vegetable remmnants run out.  Not very fancy cuisine.  Everyone is trying to find a new part of a steer to eat, but it's the same old parts.  The hides are going to make sandbags and barriers to fortify the Long Barracks rooms. 

  Quite a bit of speculation about how to defend if the Mexicans get inside.

  A few housecats lurking around the old mission.  They're eating scraps or hunting mice around the walled compound.  Couple of them are tame enough to pet.  Wash Cottle says he knows how to make cathead soup.  God help us.  Knowing Wash, he might.

  Plenty of jokes about wellwater, beans and going downtown to have a drink.  "The whiskey may be gone", quips Crockett, "but at least our bagpipe player is sober."

  When that damn Fannin rides in he better have a bottle.

  Quite a few stiff bodies on the ground outside.  The East picket searched some when he went out after midnight, passed the weapons back over the wall and then stood one up against a tree as a joke.  His arm is up and he looks like he's waving.  The Tennesseans joke about shooting the cooks first, next time.  Steal their dang spoons and salt.

  Next time.

  Several men coming back across the ditch last night with armfuls of firewood and scroungings when Green Jameson fell.  Mexican balls were popping on the wall and everyone was running hunched over but Esparza leaned back out and hissed, "Verde! Don't drop those onions!"  Cracked us up.

  Couple guys snagged Mexican Besses and shakos when they burning huts.  They insist on wearing them and being addressed as "commandante."  The muskets aren't much.  One of the hats has a .61 caliber hole in it.  They were shooting at each other in the dark.

  The Mexicans are moving batteries closer.  The sappers are digging all night.  The Generalissimo decides the La Villita battery wasn't moved enough and they have to move it up in the daylight.  The rifles pick a few and punch holes in a few more.  One guy shoots a chicken off a post in Plaza Valera and everyone gives him hell about it.  He retorts he's not going to share it when he gets it tonight.      

  The irrigation ditch is finally diverted.  It's all well water now.

  Someone counts the lead bullets and comes up with 19,000+ rounds, but the powder supply is worrisome.

  It's Saturday, February 27th, 1836.
  Night falls and the menu is seared beef and tortillas under the 18 pounder platform or two choices of stew and beans in the chapel.  You can get it to go.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

175 year Anniversary of the Alamo.

Reposting my 2009 blogging of the battle. Going to be out for a few days shooting but will catch up on Sunday when I get in. Happy Siege to everyone!

Day 4: Water, Wood and Blood.

  128 folks left in the Alamo and one of them plays the bagpipes.  What are the odds?  Scottsman John McGregor and Crockett entertain the troops with fiddle and bags.  The Mexican Army has a bugle and drum corps as well as a band.  

  The Texicans were up until early morning hours burning huts, then trying to warm up and get some rest around campfires.  Now that the blue norther has blown in, it's 39 degrees and they realize the need for firewood.  And water.  The Mexicans are trying to divert the irrigation canal the fort has been using.  There is a well inside but the water isn't as good or reliable.  Men are digging it deeper. 

   When they sally to the northwest out of the cattle pens the soldatos maneuver against them.  Snipers with British Baker Rifles try to get position.  The Bakers are good to 270 yards or so.  Serious business.  The rebels are driven in but more Mexicans are killed and wounded than in the La Villita attack yesterday.

  After yesterday and last nights shoot and burnout the Matamoros Battalion set up an entrenched camp in La Villita and is picketing the open land East of the Alamo.  A small battery dug in overnight north across the river and is beating on a crumbly North wall. 

  The batteries have to be moved after dark to avoid Texican gunfire which is deadly out to 200 yards.  They dig all night and then keep to cover during daylight hours.  The .36 caliber long rifles from Tennessee and Kentucky are picking away at the unwary.  The South wall under the watchful eyes of Crockett's men is getting a reputation.

  Two companies of soldiers under General Castrillon are sent closer to check the ground and  Texicans catch them in the open and kill 30.  That will get the whole Mexican army talking.

  As darkness falls the defenders come out again, this time to the Southwest toward the river and the Potero bridge to burn houses and collect wood and water.  Col. Juan Bringas attacks, loses a man shot dead, falls off the bridge into the water and is rescued by happenstance.

  The rebels range out to the Nueva Street intersection beyond the Matamoros positions in La Villita burning houses.  The same distance would have taken them to their favorite saloons downtown.

  Overnight the North battery moves again, closer.

  The garrison is waiting on relief.  Fannin and the best Texican force are at Goliad, 90 miles east.  Houston is trying to stay sober long enough to hammer out a declaration of independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos with parts of an army.  Gonzales should be riding to the rescue.  Santa Anna was early but now everyone has the word.  All they have to do is wait.  Help has got to be just a day or two away.

  The Mexicans are getting units, supplies, people up the road every day and sorting themselves out.

  It's Friday, February 26, 1836. 

Update: Bowie had his men, Travis has a company, Crockett brought a hunting party, there are locals.  Two companies calling themselves the New Orleans Greys are in the house.  They have been here since the expulsion of Cos, Santa Anna's brother in law from the town a couple months ago.  Good folks.  Brought their own cannons.  They fly their flag over the Long Barracks.

Day 3: Love and War in La Villita.

  Santa Anna wasn't wasting his ride yesterday.  By 9:30 he had 200-300 Matamoros Battalion troopers deployed and moving toward the Alamo in skirmish lines from La Villita, South of the compound.  The Mexican Artillery supported from the Potero Street battery and a new position with the troops.
  One good push and the rebels might throw down their arms and surrender.
  La Villita and Pueblo Volera were poor villager quarters.  Families and camp followers of the Mexican Army quartered at San Antonio, (before the Texican conquest of the city), lived there to be near the soldatos at the fort.  The skirmish lines broke and reformed as they moved through huts, chicken coops, gardens, outhouses and goat pens.  Surprisingly, there were many people still IN their houses.  The Texicans deployed into trenches outside the Alamo walls and along the parapets.  Crockett was everywhere encouraging men and pointing out targets as the action heated up.
  Matamoros closed to within pistol range before the line wavered and then dissolved.  Two men were shot dead.  The Mexicans broke for cover.  Six more fell wounded.  More Texicans appeared in the trenches, some darting from cover to toss torches on the huts shielding the attackers.  The officers reformed the lines for another assault but it was no use.  Tennessee lead was cracking through the roofs and walls of the houses, cutting twigs, kicking dust.
    As the Mexicans fell back they took cover behind a house with a mother and a daughter who was beautiful enough to give pause to the newcomers.  The mother scorned the soldiers.  She was the widow of a Mexican officer.  Her daughter was not to be gawked at by peasants from Matamoros.  The Mexicans fell back beyond rifle range and began to dig in.  
   Santa Anna heard about the young woman and was intrigued.  Evidently the march North had not only been long, but hard.  He was a Mason, (a step away from a Shriner) and knew the road trip rules: what happens at the Alamo STAYS at the Alamo.  Over the next few days he arranged to have introductions made and, (forgetting about Mrs. Anna and all the Annalitos back at the Presidential Palace in Mexico), proposed marriage.  One of his Colonels had a joking prankster in his unit, (never seen a brigade without one), who agreed to impersonate a priest and perform the rites.  Before the end of the week he had the young lady safely tucked away in his quarters in town.  When he left to campaign East he would send the girl back to Mexico where she gave birth to a son nine months later.  The fog of war.
  Back in La Villita the Texicans were looting huts and burning everything in rifle range of the walls.  Matamoros stayed in cover.  As darkness fell that evening the Texicans came out by horse and foot and burned houses as far as 600 yards.  The Mexicans resisted but fighting broke off at 1:00am as a cold rain began to fall.  The temperature dropped 30 degrees.  A blue norther had arrived.  
  In the rain, smoke and confusion Tejano Juan Seguin left to take the word to Houston at Washington-on-the-Brazos.   He rode Bowie's horse and bluffed his way past a roadblock speaking Spanish.
  Nine men deserted into Mexican trenchworks, bargaining for their lives with the location of a 50 rifle armory hidden in town.  One of those things.
  A Mexican reconnaisance-in-force was detected behind the East side cattlepens and fired on by cannon from the Long Barracks and Chapel.
  The stakes were being raised.  It's Thursday, February 25th, 1836.

Update:  On the yesterday's tour Santa Anna came closest along this South wall.  The main gate had been covered by an external blockhouse but the low barricade at Crockett's position must have looked likely.   Plus La Villita gave good cover until you got close.

Update II:  Is there a Mexican version of "How I Met Your Mother"?

Update III:  TWO dead?  Six wounded?  Crockett once killed 108 bears in one season.  I would have thought the Tennessee boys would have stacked them up like cordwood or men who got bored watching cactus grow over the North wall gotten lucky a time or two.   Must have been awfully good cover.  Missed a real chance to take a bite.

Update IV:  Nine guys inside the Alamo decide this is a little too intense.  Self-sorting.  Good time to peel off, while everyone is beyond the walls.  Takes the number down to 137, minus about six people that Travis has out delivering messages to Goliad, Gonzales, and Houston.
  What a company to be in! 

Day 2: Shoes, Cannon, Corn and a Recon.

  San Antonio held 7000 citizens in 1836.  When Mexican troops poured in the town bulged.  Houses were seized for officers and men.  Food, horses, cattle, mules, hay, corn and beans were confiscated for military use.  On the 24th the Mexican Army opened the homes and stores of missing Anglos and sympathizers and inventoried the take.  Santa Anna was out and about by 9:00 overseeing the issue of shoes to some of his lead regiments.  These may have been from stores owned by Texican settlers.
  Mexican artillerymen placed a battery 350 yards from the West, (town) side of the mission just off Potero Street and began a bombardment with two light cannons and a howitzer.  The cannons go to work on the adobe walls, the howitzer lobs grenades over it.
  In the Alamo Bowie had fallen seriously ill.  He was moved to an isolated room off the chapel and cared for by a curandero.  He passed joint command of the garrison to Travis.  The Texicans ranged outside the walls searching for supplies in nearby houses and huts.  They found 80 or more bushels of corn and beans.  They already have 30 head of cattle penned up against the east side of the compound.
  At 11:00 Santa Anna took a horseback circuit of the Alamo.  On the South side he passed within musket range of Crockett's position when he rode through La Villita, a little suburb that usually held families of Mexican soldiers assigned to the Alamo.  He sends cavalry to cut the roads leading to Gonzalez and Goliad.  Mexican units are still strung out on the road all the way to the border.
  The rebels had plenty of artillery, but not many cannonballs or powder.  Their 20 pieces were never all mounted at the same time.  They ranged from the 18 pounder down to a ship's gunade (small, short range anti-personnel piece) that had found it's way to the fort.  A Mexican shell hits the 18 pounder and wrecks the carriage.  The Texicans repair it.
  It's Wednesday, February 24, 1836.
Update:  The 18 pounder is a monster.  JC Neill and Green Jameson positioned it pointing into town off the southwest corner of the fort.  It's bigger than anything the Mexicans have.  
  It was shipped from New Orleans to Velasco, Texas in Oct, 1835.  A blacksmith mounted it there with two wagon wheels on a carriage.  It is about nine feet long and weighs two tons.

Update II: Bowie has Typhoid fever or something similar.  His wife, children and in-laws had died of a similar illness a few years before.  He's taken to the bottle more and more.  Travis and Bowie have feuded since artilleryman Col. JC Neill (sent to destroy the Alamo but who instead rebuilt it), left to check on his family on Feb 14.  Bowie realizes he is in trouble and turns his volunteers over to Travis.

Update III:  The captured Soldato is deciphering Mexican bugle signals for the Texicans.

Update IV:  Travis assigns Crockett and his Tennesee men a low wall area facing La Villita and adjoining the Chapel on the south side.  It looks like the weak point but they will hold it.  Travis has 146 men at this point, not half enough to man the cannons and the walls.

Update V: People are still moving between the Alamo and town.  The Mexican staff reports they have a spy inside the walls.  Bowie's curandero nurse, Madame Candaleria is suspected.  Travis has sent out several messengers to Houston, Fannin and others.

Day One: The Mexican Army Arrives.

  Rumors had flown for weeks about when the Mexican Army might arrive.  Travis and Bowie figured no earlier than mid-March.  When the Texicans struggled out of their hangovers mid-morning Tuesday they found the city streets full of activity- people were packing and leaving.
  The Mexicans were reported to be at Leon Creek, eight miles from town.  Travis still thought it unlikely but he posted a lookout in the bell tower of San Fernando Church on the main plaza.  Just after noon the bell rang but when Travis and others climbed the tower there was nothing in sight.  Travis sent John Smith and Dr. Sutherland out to investigate and they ride into mounted cavalry a mile and a half from town.  
  The Texicans, families and followers retreated to the Alamo, driving some cattle down Potero (now Commerce), street and grabbing all the provisions they could carry.  A few linger to raise a two-starred flag, (Texas and Coahilua), in the military plaza.  Beginning at about 3:00 the Mexican cavalry begins to arrive unit by unit.  They raise a blood red flag with skull and crossbones on the church bell tower and salute the arrival of Santa Anna and his guard with a cannon shot from the military plaza.  Seeing the flag and hearing the shot Travis fires the biggest cannon in the garrison, an 18 pounder.  Bowie sends Green Jameson with a letter to meet with the Mexicans.  Crockett and others come through the gates.
  The Mexican envoys demand unconditional surrender.  Travis replies with a second cannon shot from the big gun.  The Mexicans unlimber a few light artillery pieces and reply.
  Mexican Army units continue to arrive and defenders filter into the fort through the night.
  It's Tuesday, February 23rd, 1836.

  Update:  Santa Anna and his army crossed the Rio Grande at Laredo in 15 inches of snow in the middle of a harsh journey.  Several troopers-recruits from tropical Yucatan, died of exposure.  Commanches raided the army all the way up scalping a number of soldiers and stealing supplies cached ahead.  The wagons were driven by contract drivers who operated independently causing many delays.  A large contingent of the soldiers families trailed the army along with various camp followers. 

  Update II:  Dr. Sutherland's horse slipped and fell on him in the mud coming back from spotting the Mexican Cavalry.  The fall injured his knee and broke his rifle in half at the breech.  Travis sends him and John Smith on to Gonzales, (90 miles East) to spread the word.

Update III:  The Esparza family decides to go into the Alamo and arrives at dark.  All the gates are barred.  The father, Enrique has brought chairs and they climb up one by one, (over a cannon) and enter through a high window in the back of the chapel.  

Update IV:  Around midnight Texicans, who know every back alley and outhouse in town, steal six mules and capture a soldato.

13 Days to Glory

  Today and this evening in San Antonio, 175 years ago, the Texican rebels holding San Antonio threw a big fandango, (drunk and dance) celebrating the birthday of George Washington.  Most of the rebels were staying in San Antonio and few in the Alamo Mission itself.  By all accounts it was a hell of a party.  Crockett, Travis, Bowie and lots of folks from distant places.
  Santa Anna had dispatched a cavalry unit to attack the town in the early hours of the 23rd, but rain, muddy roads and a swollen Medina River held them up.  They would have caught the Texicans sleeping it off.
  The next day there was a rumor that Santa Anna himself attended the fandango to spy on the rebels.
  It was a Monday, in 1836.

Day 2 of the Siege of the Alamo.

I'm off to shoot for three days but Feb 24th was the second day of the siege. Santa Ana had arrived the day before in San Antonio and surprised the Texicans.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Looks like we made it.

Busted antlers. Sore muscles. Not an acorn left in the house. It's been a long season!

Texas Managed Lands Permit season over this coming weekend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TSRA Mid-Range warm-up.

Loading 80 Grain Sierra MatchKings. 200 of them.

Match rifle with Leupold 16X scope on Brownell base.

Match starts this Friday with a two-man team match. We'll be on the Camp Swift range down near Bastrop. 300, 500 and 600 yards. I'm shooting my match rifle, but scoped this time in the any rifle-any sight catagory. I'm interested, especially at Swift, in watching the wind through the scope AS I shoot. Swift is famous for switching conditions in just a few seconds.

I had to order a scope mount base for my AR spacegun. I picked the mount from Brownells. 45 bucks or so for the base and another 24 for the rail. It's modular so you can put several different rails on it. I had to get the extended rail so I could move the scope forward for prone shooting. It looks ungainly on what is a fairly ugly rifle to start with. The scope is a Leupold 16X fixed power target scope I got off Ebay a couple of years ago. Dated but serviceable. I had never used the scope before so I mounted it up and took it out to get a zero at 31 West range. It just took a few minutes and a few rounds to get on paper at 25 yards, tune in at 50 and finally shoot at 100. It seemed to shoot well at 100 off the bench and the 80s grouped better than the 69 Sierra MatchKings.

This was all off the bench in late light.

Today I went out to shoot out of position at 200 yards in good light. Lucie went along but never enjoys the sound of gunfire so she spends most of the time in the truck. I rolled out the mat and set up, having to move the scope forward one address on the flat-top of the AR to get good eye relief while prone. The 16X is very clear and you can see the mirage up to the last moment.

My 200 yard zero is up six revolutions on the elevation knob. The knob has a total of 8 1/2 revolutions of elevation so I am toward the top. I was shooting at the blank backs of two 200 yard centers stapled vertically with a black paster near the bottom as an aiming point. I shot a couple of rounds to dress up the zero and then added one revolution- 10 minutes on the gun, (40 1/4 minute clicks). 10 minutes on the scope ought to be ten inches at 100 yards, 20 inches at 200 yards. I shot a round and it looked like the hole was about that much higher than the black paster I was using as an aiming point. I ran it back down and up and shot again to check- same elevation. I added another 5 minutes of elevation, (20 quarter minute clicks or half a turn of the elevation knob and shot over that. When I walked down to the target the top group was 27 inches above the aiming point. I'll need about that much to go from 300 to 600 yards. I have another 10 minutes of elevation, (one knob turn) still left over that, so I have plenty of room. I could add more room by getting a rail that adds some elevation from Brownells so I would be up one revolution at 200 yards.

I flipped over the target so I could see the target black and scoring rings and went back to shoot five rounds with the 200 yard zero on. All Xs. I held off to the edge of the X-ring on mirage switching left and right.

Now I just have to take it apart and tighten everything up, clean it and put it back together. And load 200 rounds of 80 grain Sierra MatchKings.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fun at Panola.

Wood stock on my little hunting carbine. Doe in a cooler ready to manhandle into the back of the 4-runner.

Match rifle with wood stock configuration. Wood stock now on carbine I took deer hunting. Match rifle has now been around the block a bit- it went to the NRA Championship at Camp Perry after CMP week and to mid-range a couple of times.

First match in a while at the Panola County Gun Club. I skipped the first Saturday in November for deer season, December was more hunting. January moved off the first weekend due to the holiday and then snowed out. February bounced a weekend due to weather. Last Saturday we finally shot. Not too many folks but a nice little 3-relay crowd. 20 folks or so. Low temp- I kept checking my car thermometer in shock. 24 when we started. No wind so it was comfortable but still a little daunting for a Texan. Warmer in the sun and by the time the first relay was in the pits everyone had forgotten about the weather.

I took my match rifle out with only Scientific Wild Ass Guesses for zeros. They turned out to be pretty close. Shot 95X1 standing. (All in the aiming black: X,10 and 9 rings.) Had to borrow ammo for the rapids, (mine was seated too long for magazines), but shot a 100X7 sitting at 200 and 100X3 at 300 yards. 600 line started off easy with four Xs but at the end the wind picked up a bit and I dropped four points in the last five shots. 487x14. Sounded OK but I was disappointed not to break 490. Rifle hardly moves when it goes off. Heavy. Long barrel makes for faster bullets. Faster bullets means less wind. Longer sight radius and better sights help. Big sling. You really shouldn't miss...ever.

Justin Utley shot a 495X17 with his match rifle to get another 495 NRA club certificate and hatpin so I was just a face in the crowd. Only the 5th 495 that we could think of at that range and two of them belong to Justin.

Had a brand new shooter with an unzeroed rifle. I couldn't ever convince him to put a good Happy Meal cheek weld on the rifle. Gave up after I counted ten times of telling him. He didn't shoot any misses off his target. I think he had a good time but it's hard to tell with teenagers. Amazing to shoot at 600 and actually hit anything if you have never done it-or ought to be.
Sore today from stretching out prone with a sling. Shooting is so immersive that it's really satisfying when it goes well. Shot only one round in the eight ring all day, a late shot the wind blew out at 600. Should have caught it.

Match rifle is lots of fun. LOTS of fun.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Champions Shooter Supply rocks.

Lost a little plunger thingie off my scope stand head. It's an impossibly simple piece that would cost 100.00 make. Without it, the scope stand head works....(kind of)..but it's autistic at best. They are sending me one for free. Going to have to take them something nice at the National Matches.
Nice to have done business with nice folks. Going to do some more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


They sense his presence.

This is a little buck herd of four bopping around together. At Clarksville I had six little bucks come into the field at dusk in a line. Two spikes, two fork horns and two with smallish antlers. I don't think the big bucks pack up as much. Starting to keep an eye out for shed antlers. Probably March.

Soft Drinks and the Superbowl.

The Redhead and I don't consume many soft drinks or stock them at home. They have about as much sugar as a candy bar and it's that tricky insulin-jamming corn fructose stuff. Makes you fat and gives you diabetes, I suspect. As the Superbowl afternoon spun up, I noticed a Coke in a holiday round plastic container on top of the refrigerator and thought: why not?
The date on the container was 2007. As one might expect...(or maybe it was from the era of new and improved better Coke), it tasted flat and lousy. I'd gotten us both excited about drinking a refreshing, crisp, clean CocaCola on ice by this time so I had to stay in motion. I grabbed a jacket and the pup and drove over to Walgreens to buy one coke and one Dr. Pepper. In the traditional plastic. Back home I opened up the drink and we both had a small glass with ice. When you don't drink carbonated drinks very often, the sensation is like drinking cold, supersweet battery acid. It's amazing. You lose that sensation by the end but I can certainly understand how folks get hooked. We certainly enjoyed it.
Dr. Pepper is still sitting in the fridge. Might be there for a bit. Say, 2016.
When I was a college kid, we used to drink this stuff like it was actually good for you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

NRA Hires a Criminal

There should be zero tolerance for this kind of person at the NRA.

Update: I'm a longtime life member. I call to protest. Get phone trees and people who refer me to phone trees and message systems. I email the guy and his boss at the email addresses provided. My emails bounce back. This morning I resend them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

AC Gentry's WWI/Korea Knife.

Borrowed my neighbors knife to skin a deer up at Clarksville. It's a very distinguished knife made for Mr. Gentry by a fellow in his dad's shop at the Texas Highway Department at the beginning of WWII. He carried it in the South Pacific through several island campaigns and during the occupation of Japan. He took it into Korea and it came home with him after he was wounded.

Glad to get the loan of it to actually carry and use it a little in a functional setting.

Daily Deercam.

Snow increases the visibility in the creekbottom. The intensity level is up with reflected light. Not many tracks except small mammals and birds. Two cams have dead batts, the healthy Moultires are still hanging in. I have to carry the dog across Butler Creek which is running with snowmelt!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Doe-tagging common denominator.

I flip them in a big cooler so I can get them in the back of the 4-runner and so the blood won't get on the carpet. I've got a wood stock because I'm a traditional kind of wood-stocked rifle guy.