Springfield Trapdoor Carbine 1884

Posted: September 21, 2017 in SASS, Uncategorized

One of the reasons I recently went down south-

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curly drew

Image  —  Posted: September 19, 2017 in SASS, Uncategorized

Bullies

Posted: August 15, 2017 in Memoires

I didn’t get into many fights as a kid and generally I didn’t do well at protecting myself in such circumstances until I was a teenager and had started to study karate.  There were a few physical altercations of note in my grade school days though.  I wasn’t tall in junior high though I was chubby and that bulk kept me off the radar often and I had a reputation for having large entertaining parties near the tail end of elementary school.  This worked out well for me among my own cronies, the kids I had known since kindergarten several of whom I still connect with today.  Mom wanted me to go to a better school though.  To be totally honest she wasn’t wrong.  Bloomington is a bit of a hole and the junior high has always been close enough to falling down that several of the rooms were only used for storage when I went there.

So instead of going to Bloomington Junior High with all of my friends I started the school year at Terrace Hills Junior High in Grand Terrace.  To say that I was miserable there from the beginning would be an understatement.  Not only was I the strange kid, but I was the new kid too.  It took me about five seconds to determine that I had a deep resentment of gym shorts and that sweats were the way to go for me.  I never went swimming on swimming days because there was never any warning which days would be swimming days.  If you didn’t bring a towel you were supposed to use your shirt to dry off after you had showered.  New strange kid plus chubby equals zero desire to get half naked in front of strangers, much less wholly naked in a locker room full of pre-teen boys.

If you have ever been the new kid then you know that everything you do is scrutinized.  Every mistake and awkward moment is magnified tenfold and the tribe needs to test you so you become the target for pretty much everything.  I was not a particularly good target, just the easiest to hit.  It took maybe a week for the big fish to notice me and much less time to learn that I had no patience for bullies.

I grew up in a much worse part of town and in a much more physically demonstrative family.  My mom is a long time hippy and pacifist so starting a fight was never encouraged and actively discouraged by swift stinging punishment.  Take note, my mom never beat me, I was not abused in that way nor by her.  When I screwed up I got slapped or on very rare occasions spanked.  My family wasn’t so much worried about a child’s personality as they were the swift and decisive correction of bad behavior.   But my mom was never unreasonable, not about bullies and fighting anyway.  She knew which way the wind blows and that sometimes people just need to bash on each other.

A week into my scholastic career at Terrace Hills I had two pleasing surprises.  My science teacher turned out to be a total geek who wore fish ties.  His class was interesting and his classroom was an afternoon haven of interesting subject matter.  Surprisingly the other awesome part of my week was my math class.  I know anyone who reads this that knows anything about me knows that I am not strong for mathematics, other than geometry which is a game with rules that make sense.  But this math class had something, or rather someone else.  Heather.  Lovely, painful, aggressive, amazing Heather.  The last time I had seen her was in the 5th grade, Mrs. Hanley’s class, and she had straight auburn hair, gray eyes and was boyishly slim.  She moved away so I never saw her in 6th grade but here she was looking exactly the same other than not being so slim.  I didn’t have a solid understanding of the changes a young woman’s body went through at that age, but I liked it!

Now in the 5th grade it is safe to say that we spent most of our time together, lunch and recess.  It is also safe to say that we regularly beat the living crap out of each other four out of every five days a week.  The reasons why were irrelevant, but we fought like cats.  In short I had the serious 5th grade hots for Heather.

The second week into this mess the existing power structure decided that I was an outsider and a valid target.   The PE teacher was a caricature, a former athlete slowly deteriorating like a collapsing grain silo in a barren field.  His attitude was that boys will in fact be boys.  His teaching assistant, an 8th grader, and The Jock (you know the one) decided that I needed a little attention one rainy day after we had had to sit through sports related movie.  So this young bravo and The Jock decided to go drill sergeant on me.  I could hit the deck and do push-ups or terrible punishments would be forthcoming.

My reply was a definitive, “screw you” and would they please go drown each other in the nearest toilet as I had zero interest in their bullshit.  I may have also implied that if they were so into each other perhaps they should go play grab ass in the showers.  Yes I know it was a homophobe thing to say but this was the late 80s and my comment was chosen for maximum effect and it pissed off tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dumber to no end. Now my cunning plan wasn’t well planned nor particularly cunning.  My wise ass remarks may have hit the target but here I was squared off with two big guys and their pals.  I may have had a few people in the peanut gallery who thought well of my verbal sally but none who would step up and help out if things got physical.

This spirited discourse spurred The Jock to action and like most young men with no training he decided he was more intimidating if he was suddenly standing two inches away from me flexing his neck and chest and looking down at me.  Now at this point in my life I had little to no martial arts experience.  I had had some tutoring by my friend Paul who was the son of my third grade teacher (he had just got back from Japan and had the hots for my mom) and I had survived growing up with my uncles which is no small feat.  It is safe to say that I knew getting right up in someone’s face like that was a bad idea and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to try and slug me from that close.

When the shove came, I turned sideways.  I like to think that this was my innate martial prowess coming to the fore, but in all honesty I just didn’t have anywhere to go.  There was a bench and some lockers behind me and a towering asshole in front of me.  His hands went by on either side of me and I rammed my shoulder into his chest.  He went ass over teakettle into the lockers on the other side of the isle and before further damage to life and limb could be enacted the Gym Teacher broke things up, gave us a patronizing lecture and sent on us on our way to our next class.  Except me.  He held me back and told me to explain myself.  I tried to get my point across that these two jerks were messing with me but he “assured” me that it was just harmless hazing and now that I had stood up to them everything would be fine.  He was wrong of course.

I was harassed for days and eventually one of the other chumps from the shallow end of the gene pool decided to take his shot at me.  Shorter than I was, his mouth made up for the lack of size.  That and the three people behind him made him feel quite large indeed.  They all decided to follow me down the hill from the gym and make sure I had my daily ration of shit.  I was taunted, insulted, pushed and tripped down the hill.  I just kept walking.  Maybe forty or fifty feet from the door to my next class, the little asshole said something, and I really don’t recall what it was, but it got to me.  I lost my pre-teen shit and turned around.  He and his pals stopped a fair distance away and continued the verbal harassment.  A crowd gathered, like they do in such situations, no doubt hoping for blood.  I don’t think anyone had had any particular love for the asshole and I was still the new guy so it was rare entertainment for the masses.  I don’t remember if I said something particularly brutal or if they just got tired of waiting but they closed at speed and with intent.

This school didn’t have lockers so my knapsack was nice and weighty with the day’s required textbooks.  I swung this off my shoulder and clobbered all three of them in a seriously three stooges moment.  I think the guy closest to me got the brunt of it but the asshole went down like a stone and guy on my left was busy dodging textbooks.  My poor knapsack had been new sometime in the early 70s and the red white and blue star spangled monstrosity was obviously not the newer more stylish Jansport style backpack.  Yet another point of personal mortification for me and ammunition for my detractors.  That vintage backpack erupted in a spectacular manner as it collided with my assailants, adding a cloud of text books, note pads (trapper keeper of course) and writing utensils to the immediate airspace.

I dropped the now very empty book bag on the ground, clenched a fist and moved forward to clock the little loud mouth as he was getting up.  The science teacher with the goofy fish ties waded into the melee to part the combatants.  It was his class I was going to and his door was not far from the battle.  I do not remember what happened to the other three as I did not see them until later in the principal’s office.  My science teacher helped me gather my stuff then walked me front office.  My mom showed up a little later and she was pissed.

I thought she was mad at me for fighting.  I mean my book bag was ruined my clothes were a mess, I was in trouble with the school.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see the light of day until I was old enough to vote.  Maybe.  If I was lucky.  She might have been mad at me, she expected better of me.  But at that time in that place her formidable ire was focused on the faculty and staff of Terrace Hills Junior High.  She knew I was having a difficult time, she knew I was being bullied and picked on and the fact that the faculty of the school had pretty much ignored that.  I did not know at that time but she had had similar experiences and she didn’t want the same things to happen to me.  I doubt that anyone in that school district had ever been chewed out as thoroughly as my mom reamed that principal.

It worked out alright so far as I was concerned. I went to Bloomington Junior High with all of my friends, it was just down the street from my grandparent’s house, so no bus or waiting around for a ride for me.  Other than one stupid stunt regarding a pencil and the lock to Miss Trujillo’s science class and a few bad grades (math) I didn’t have any more discipline problems in school.  There were a few encounters with a kid named Eric B. and I never knew what his deal was or why he took a dislike to me.  But one day he bounced a hard rubber skateboard wheel off a wall where a bunch of us were eating lunch.  I caught it right before it smashed some girl in the face.  Eric never bothered me after that.  During those two years I met my best friend, crushed on girls, had one crush on me (and no I did not handle that well, I was an ass) and made my way carefully through the classes I hated and the very few that I enjoyed.  Overall, junior high wasn’t very eventful but I did learn that I despise bullies with a fiery purple passion.

Dogs and Homework

Posted: August 15, 2017 in Memoires

1981

I don’t recall many specifics from the world stage of this time.  I was six years old.  We had a really nice place to live, well nice for Fontana.  I had my own dog, a pair of roller skates and a bike that tried to kill me on a semi regular basis.  I remember both the Pope and the President were in the news.  Both men had been shot and wounded that year.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was in the theater and we saw it on a double feature with Warlords of Atlantis.  We were not regular patrons of the walk in theater, my mom was doing well but it was still cheaper to go to the drive in, and in many ways more entertaining.

As I said I had my own dog, Mae, named for Mae West because she was a pretty strawberry blonde pitbull.  She was a little derpy but lovable and loving.  I was not a big kid.  Born almost three months early I was a skinny tow haired child so slight that my family nicknamed me Bones.  At eight months old the dog weighed almost as much as I did.  My physicality, or lack thereof, had very particular effects on my day to day routine.  One of the most notable instances was the time I decided to take the dog for a walk while wearing roller skates.

We lived in a fairly new condo in a mostly gated community.  The fact that the gate never actually seemed to be closed didn’t bother anyone.  There were big grassy courtyards between each set of buildings so the whole complex looked like a block printed figure 8 from overhead.  For the dozen or so kids who lived there it was great.  The U shaped driveway that went around the complex was smooth blacktop.  All the sidewalks were smooth and in good repair and the tennis courts were lit so if we could get in then we could keep skating and riding and playing in the evening.  Honestly, Fontana is not a place where people play tennis.

The idea of walking the dog while wearing my skates was met with enthusiastic approval by my mom, who was probably just happy that I was going outside for a while.  Though in hindsight she may have had an inkling as to how this adventure would play out.  I thought I was being clever, the dog would pull me along on my skates and I would tour the complex, the envy of my peers for having a means of locomotion that did not require me own expenditure of energy.  I soon realized my mistake.

The dog went straight to her favorite stand of bushes, right outside our front door and did her thing.  I am sure the landscaping crew who came on the weekend didn’t care for that.  Otherwise my adorable derpy pooch was quite content to just sit next to wherever I was.  So if I skated down the drive she would trot along with me and stop when I stopped.  Once I resigned myself to this outcome I found it still fun enough to skate along with my dog even if my plans had not come to fruition.  All was tranquil until she spied a neighborhood cat.  Now Mae was a pretty good pooch, she would stay when told, come when called and despite being a bit derpy she wasn’t exactly stupid.  She had always been around other animals, dogs, cats, birds even livestock on occasion.  But when that cat caught sight of Mae and took off, something in that doggy hind brain kicked over and the predatory reflex to chase running prey took over.  I had a moment of clarity in cartoon like slow motion to realize what was about to happen.  My dog had just found the motivation to move and move she did.  My weight at the other end of the leash proved to be no impediment what so ever to her forward momentum as I was yanked off my wheeled feet, dragged over the curb, across the sidewalk and to the far side of the manicured grassy courtyard.

I was just enough of an anchor that the aforementioned cat was able to ditch into the bushes before we got to it.  Like I said, Mae was derpy so the cat made a clean get away while she sniffed around the bushes.  To add insult to very grass stained injury gaining my feet while wearing roller skates while suffering the love of a heavily muscled dog was not easy.  Once I was able to get her to stop sitting on me I made it the forty feet back to my front door without incident.

Also of note that year was the Great Homework Scandal of 81.  It didn’t get any media coverage but in our house it was akin to the Iran Hostage Crisis.  I was in the first grade and I rode the bus to school, an activity I came to detest in later years.  I firmly believe that school busses are cruel and unusual torment designed by people who dislike children.  However, the bus and more importantly the walk from the bus stop to my grandparent’s house provided me with what I thought of as an unparalleled opportunity to preserve my afternoon free time.  There were four houses between my bus stop, the drive way of Carrie G’s house, and my grandparent’s house where I stayed until my mom got off work.

It’s an old neighborhood and had no sidewalks so the trash bins were on the street more often than not.  One day I decided that one of these trash bins would be an excellent place to deposit my homework.  Later when asked if I had any homework, I could honestly answer that I did not.  This is a cusp moment that lead to my family learning the importance of semantics.  No one asked if I had done my homework, just if I had any to do.  For three months I had a homework free existence and felt I was quite clever.  My cunning plan did not take into account parent teacher conferences or that Mrs. Fredericks would tell my mom that I had not turned in any homework for three months.  I know that not all schools today require homework be graded but back then it was a thing.  My mom was so very not impressed with my ingenuity or problem solving skills.

The next three months I did my homework every night, under guard as it were, and when that was done I worked on homework from the previous three months until it was time to bath and go to bed.  I made up the lost ground in jig time apparently as I was allowed to advance to the second grade with my peers.

Memories of an Elder Geek

Posted: August 15, 2017 in Memoires

I remember being a relatively calm child, a few notable exceptions withstanding.  I don’t think anyone should expect a small child to maintain calm when presented with a massive lobster on a silver serving platter.  I was, and still am, an avid cartoon lover and one would think that a child who spent a significant amount of time watching Loony Toons might be prepared for anything that may be under the domed cover of the serving tray.  What could possibly surprise me when I had seen all manner of cartoon terribleness presented in just this way.  The introduction of a giant orange ocean spider, staring at me while steaming nicely on the serving platter inspired a screaming fit of terror on my part.  A deep seated atavistic fear pushed me as far back into the leather covered booth as I could get.  I am sure it goes without saying that as an adult I relish every bite of lobster with vengeful glee, and melted butter.

My mom maintains that I was a quiet, intelligent child and that I could read before I started school. I don’t know how much of that is a mother’s love and how much is factual but I like to think that she isn’t blowing smoke up my ass.  I can’t say that my memories of the time are really solid.

Some of my most vivid memories are media related and sensory keyed.  Anyone reading this account after 1993 probably thinks of “media” as the internet since it is now the largest multi-media repository of pretty much everything you can think of and many things you would rather avoid.  But I am forty-two this year and when I was a child there was no internet.  Even the BBS system which lead Commodore Quick Link and AOL and what would become the internet was in it’s infancy.  The smell of old books on our shelves, and the smell of new books and magazines is a longtime favorite.  I find that I still prefer the sound of vinyl records and cassette tapes over CDs and digital music, though having music at my fingertips is pretty awesome.  And everything was tinged with the smell of cigarettes.  When I was a kid you could still find smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants.  I distinctly recall watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater, notable because we usually went to the drive-in because it was cheaper, and watching the movie through a faint blue haze of smoke.  The seat arms even had little ash trays.

I could tell you my Saturday morning cartoon lineup for most of the decade of the 80s.  Sundays are easier because there was less variation year to year.  Popeye and friends kicked off the morning.  Hosted by Tom Hatten.   At ten AM Mr. Hatten would leave the “boat” from which he hosted the Popeye cartoons and after a brief commercial break we would see him again in a comfy chair with a clip board of film facts, sitting next to an old 35mm projector.  For two hours he would give us anecdotes about the classic film we were watching.  At noon KTLA 5 ran reruns and the line-up would change now and then but generally included The Three Stooges, The Munsters, F-Troop, Gilligan’s Island and Gidget.  Three PM would herald the return of Mr. Hatten and the Family Film Festival.

My family all seem to recall me being a bookworm, though I wonder if that wasn’t because of any great desire of mine to read so much as books were easily carried entertainment.  Though given half a chance I would draw on whatever paper was handy.  I had this thing for antique cars with big wheel wells and I recall spending a lot of time pouring through Ed Emberley books.  Once I started playing D&D in the 4th grade I must have drawn countless dungeon encounter maps.  One of my largest regrets is not focusing on art at a younger age.

Despite my adult preferences I did not like horror movies as a kid.  I mean a viewing of Darby O’Gill and the little people in the first grade gave me nightmares for days.  When I was six years old the uncle of my best friend took us to a drive in double feature.  What was playing you ask?  John Carpenter’s The Thing and the truly terrible Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.  I don’t think I got a full night of sleep for two weeks and my mom was way pissed off at the “adult” supervision that took two six year olds to a horror movie double feature.  Granted I was a weird kid.  I loved all things piratical, had skulls and crossbones on many of my t-shirts and a pirate themed room so maybe the thought was that I could handle it.  I didn’t watch another horror movie until I was 17.  Although I avoided scary movies I spent an inordinate amount of time reading about spooky things.  Myth and legend and history of weird happenings, UFO, cryptids, Ghosts, you name it.  I was constantly checking out books on ancient Egyptian funerary practices, werewolves, the Lost City of Atlantis and all manner of stories about things that went bump in the night.

The third Nightmare on Elm St movie had come out in 1987 and by 1992 it was pretty common on TV and Cable around Halloween.  I loved the special effects and the mythos behind the character of Freddy Kruger.  That was easily the start of my lifelong love of eldritch horror.

Gallery  —  Posted: March 23, 2016 in Uncategorized