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Frangipani Paradise, Part II

More Frangipanis, Friends—And Fruitcakes.

If you missed Part I of Frangipani Paradise or need to refresh your memory, pull out your August issue or go to “Digital Editions” on our website. We’ll wait for you. Hmmm, hmm-hmm… OK? Ready?

Comfy in the big Caddy we rolled for the border, two small flags fluttering from front bumper mounts—the nation’s colors and the ensign of the National Police. Outside so many manicured capitals, you pass through a reeking ring of shantytown slums into blighted countryside, searching for small pockets of imperiled paradise. Not this time. This was a blink-your-eyes and pinch-yourself tour.

Many homes were almost unbelievably tiny, but all had covered patios, open cooking hearths, arrays of tables and chairs—showing the people did much of their “living” outside. Sheds and animal shelters were spacious and livestock was plentiful; plots were large, well irrigated and carefully cultivated. Every village passed the “chickens, pigs and goats in balance” test, and these telling touches: trash and litter were conspicuously absent, and well-tended, colorful flowerbeds were the norm.
Fresh paint and whitewash were everywhere. Though most people obviously couldn’t afford the time and money to paint or re-paint everything at once, it was being done as and when they could. There was plenty of evidence of “poor but proud,” and nowhere were the signs I’d been trained to note—grinding, miserable poverty; fear of authorities; disease, hunger, hopelessness. Reactions to the government car were waves and smiles, not averted faces and suspicious glances.

We stopped repeatedly for happy, chattering flocks of schoolchildren, all neatly uniformed, remarkably scrubbed and groomed and all carrying books. If there is a single critical barometer of public well-being, I thought, this was it. The crowning touch came an hour later at market time. An elderly campesiña pushed a bicycle-wheeled cart. Atop a mound of fresh produce she had placed a pack of a dozen rolls of toilet paper—and she was smiling.

A Proper State of Tension

When we finally pulled off the dusty road onto the cobbles of our destination town, the driver said, “You may wish to roll down your window, sir,” and rolled down his own. That seemed only a little strange. He then very meticulously, and I thought, unnecessarily, backed up to a circle of small shops around a little fountain, so the Caddy faced the street. Watching his rear view mirror intently, he hesitated, then asked loudly, “Do you wish to go directly to your hotel, sir?” There was movement to my right rear, and a forced, gravelly voice barked.

“No! No grand hotel for this Yanqui dog! Let him sleep in the street!” What the heck? My window filled with the midsection of a uniformed man. I could only see his gun belt with holstered sidearm and a sort of mapcase or “man-purse” dangling from a leather strap. Then a hand grasped the window frame and as the man leaned down, a more mellow voice—one I recognized—said “Welcome, Connor! Did my conspiracy surprise you?” And there was the laughing face of Ramon. This was “El Commandante,” the district commander.

A few years past we had met at a class at Quantico, and being among the few married-and-faithful guys, we wound up studying, dining, shooting and working out together. Others were impressed with what a smooth and handsome dog he was. Ramon had the air of a bullfighter and the looks and grace of a Latin movie star. I was impressed with his knowledge of international relations, his mastery of languages and the breadth of his skill-set.

Only his title, not his name, had appeared on my travel papers. As he led me to his Jeep, he admitted that was his doing, to set me up for the surprise. He started to step in, then stopped, angrily stripped off that man-purse and flung it inside. I kidded him about it.

“Our minister’s wife,” he said, “Is a fashionista. She abhors bulging pockets, and ordered us to sew our pockets closed. This,” he tapped the bag, “she copied from one she bought in Paris, and spent much budget money on it. The minister may not even know of it. When her husband changes seats, these things will go to daughters and sweethearts and my wallet will go back in my pocket.” I filed that one under “Clues to Government Operations in Frangipani”—and “Fruitcake.”

Once in the Jeep, he wanted to know right away if his sources were correct; that no arms deal had been made with the US. I confirmed none had. He was relieved.

“Our arms are perfectly adequate,” he said. “Our officiales only want new arms because our neighbors have new arms. Theirs were generations behind ours, and now they are one generation behind us. But if our officials have new weapons, as in the past, they may look for or create opportunities to use them. We work to prevent that, partly, by keeping a proper state of tension.”
He saw the question on my face: Who are “we”?

The Face of the Enemy

At dawn, in front of Ramon’s border station between the river and the road, he pointed to a shirtless, muscular man fishing from the blasted abutment of a destroyed bridge about 150 meters distant. Behind him was the burned-out, thoroughly shot-up hulk of a vintage armored vehicle with a gun turret.

“That,” said Ramon, “Is the face of the enemy. My opposite number, district commander of their local forces—and my dear friend, as my grandfather and his father were lifelong friends. Our wives are related and our families are close. We, and people like us, preserve the proper tension. We may someday fight, if we must, over a real issue. But we two and many like us work to ensure it is never over egos or avarice.”

“Hola, Enrique!” he shouted. “The fishing is good today?” The man waved, quickly bent, hauled up a stringer with two huge fish on it—peacock bass or maybe golden dorado—and yelled back, “Excellent, Ramon! One is for you!” They both laughed. “You will meet him later, in uniform,” Ramon said. “A very good man.”

Ramon explained this “tension.” On this continent, he said, history was rife with wars and border conflicts, for good reasons and poor; men dying and peasants terrorized and uprooted, many times over paltry disputes, or to distract the people from governmental failures and excesses. When pressure approached explosive levels, sometimes a brief, minor—and hopefully bloodless—conflict could relieve that steam. Sometimes fighting had to happen.

“And when bullets start flying,” he said, “The officiales are absent. Someone must bravely remain in the capital to make stirring speeches and appear in photos, you understand?” I did.
To my left on the river were the blasted remains of an old water-powered mill building, later converted to a guard barracks. Dead ahead was that shot-up armored vehicle. With enough imagination one might envision a very short conflict in which one side fires HE rounds into a conveniently abandoned, worthless old structure, then the other side fires on an obsolete armored vehicle whose crew, quite fortunately and conveniently, had inexplicably bailed out and left it in the open scant moments before. Casualties? Perhaps one soldier suffers a compound leg fracture when an ammo crate falls from the back of a truck, and somehow, this becomes a “soldier horribly wounded while bravely repulsing the invading forces of…”

Both sides could claim innocence, victimization and victory; dramatic photos and brusque reports rushed to capitals and the “war zones” sealed to all but residents, “for security reasons,” until calm prevailed.

That’s silly. Pure fantasy, right? But the scent of frangipanis can be intoxicating, and fresh fruitcake can too. — Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Another Border Tale

Frangipani Paradise, Part I.

As a boy I collected postcards, favoring those with vividly colorful tropical scenes—in stark contrast to the mostly monochromatic baked coral atolls of my youth. Later I came to appreciate the skills of the photographers, framing those scenes narrowly, because 15 degrees either side of the “paradise shot” spread mega-slum shanty towns and reeking, steaming dumps; like focusing on a flower suspended over a cesspool.

Several times I actually stood on the spots from which those photos were taken. To portray paradise there, even a slice of it, was a triumph of both the human spirit and photographic prowess. To believe in it was insane. But sometimes, just sometimes, that balance is reversed.

When the State Department’s crusty team leader learned I hadn’t been there before, he described the country as “Frangipani paradise; the whole place is like a florist display,” and their diplomats as “chuffers.” I got the former. He explained the latter:

“Their diplomats are mostly fat old guys in outgrown cutaway dinner jackets. They’ve all got big muttonchops and huge walrus moustaches, and when they chuff—blowing air from their pursed lips—their moustaches bristle and flutter. They may think it makes them look tough or determined or something.” The chuffers were his problem. I would be working with their national police on training and tactics.

The capital was drop-dead gorgeous—old but clean, treed and flowered, brick and stone and warm fragrant air. I saw very little of the city, spending my days and evenings in “generic militaria” compounds. On the last night in the capital though, I met my chuffer—and had a taste of frangipani fruitcake.

There was a formal dinner-and-drinks shindig and I had to get my papers signed by the Minister of Security for a 2-day visit to the frontier, the last outpost on the border. The Minister couldn’t have been stiffer if he’d been dipped in starch, and clearly, he wanted to impress me with the dangers of la frontera.

“You go at your own peril, young man! (Chuff!) Things are tense; quite (chuff!) TENSE there. Quite! Hostilities could commence at any moment!” (Chuff!) His whiskers fluttered, he snapped his white satin braces, signed my pass, consigned me to my possible doom with a nod and returned to the ballroom and bar, all in one practiced pirouetting motion.

The party went on—not my kinda thing. I wandered the palace. The artwork—the statuary, the paintings, the objets d’art from vases to candelabra on ornate 18th-century side tables—was eclectic—and amazing. But on one such table there was a dented, rusty oblong washtub containing a well-used washboard and old wooden tools for pounding and stirring dirty clothes. Above it, framed and lit in its own otherwise bare expanse of wall was a small, simply framed Degas of washerwomen at work. The Frangipani government could not afford all this art, but I had heard of one man who could.

A Slice of Frangipani Fruitcake

There was a light clicking of heels on the marble deck and there he was, a very short, very old man, immaculate in tie and tails; like a two-thirds scale model of Adolphe Menjou, right down to the petite waxed moustache. The sole heir of a rich landowning family, in his youth he had been a fierce, tiny soldier, who rode a giant white charger because, as he later explained to me, “I could not keep up with my men on foot. They took one stride to my four!” In battle he wore a shining white kepi with a flowing crimson neck kerchief, so both his enemies and his troops would know him on sight at a distance.

When he inherited, he multiplied that fortune many times over, and then, after surveying and cutting up his enormous properties, sold all of it to peasant farmers and herdsmen at ridiculously low rates over long, long terms. He moved into a splendid apartment in the capital and began buying art and donating it to the nation. He rocked on his heels; his little hands clasped behind his back, and gave me a twinkling smile.

“So you understand the Degas and display, yes?” I said I did and gave him my best shaved-ape grin. “Where you have washer-women well employed, it is a mark of a healthy society. I love them, even more than his dancers.” We walked. We spoke of Degas and Cezanne, Rodin and Renoir, Monet’s fixation on his water lilies. His tastes were thoughtful, piercing, and exquisite. We also discovered we shared two lesser-known favorites: John Singer Sargent and Maxfield Parrish. They lit his fuse.

“Ah!” he cried, “Masters of light and nuance! And,” he grabbed my sleeve, spinning me on the marble although I outweighed him by a 100 pounds, “They understood! You noticed; all their beauties have some small imperfections. As in real life, all great beauty is imperfect, and more beautiful for it!” Then he turned reflective.

“Art should inspire us, not with false fantasies, but with our struggles, our worst times, and the heights we can rise to; the nobility of our poorest, most mundane actions—and their importance; their inherent beauty.” He twinkled again. “Will you swear an oath of secrecy? I will show you my private art room!”

I didn’t know what to expect. Stolen treasures? Works from the looted Nazi art confiscations? “Lost” masterpieces? I had sworn secrecy, and that nagged at me now. The room had a vault door. Inside, in the center there was a raised dais with a swivel chair on top. With a flourish, he swept the door closed and hit the lights. Save for the museum lights, almost every inch of the walls was covered with cheap, garish velvet-paintings, some done with fluorescents, like DayGlo paints, the kind sold in Tijuana and Juarez for 5 to 25 bucks US; women with outlandish, unbelievable breasts; Elvis Presley in a dozen stage costumes; Pancho Villa, with and without his trademark clenched cigar and crossed bandoleers; the clichéd lonely Indian on his painted pony at dusk; the whole ball of cheap wax. Good thing it was a secret room. I was stunned.

As I sipped his fine cognac and he chattered animatedly about the boldness, the vigor and vitality of this “emerging art” I realized I was in the presence of a great and noble man—a hero, a national treasure himself—with small imperfections that made his beauty real.

On to La Frontera!

Rough ride! Oh, yeah… I had a uniformed national police driver, and my “field transport” was an old but mint-condition jet-black Cadillac with sparkling chrome and broad white-striped “gangster-wall” tires. Mounted in the rear portside window was a whirring, humming tubular air-conditioning unit. That didn’t bother my fellow passenger in the wide back seat, a suited, bookish young guy who spent his trip halfway to the border reading numbers from one ledger and making cryptic notes on another ledger balanced on his knees. I commented to the driver about the luxury of my ride considering the “tense situation” on the border. He laughed and tried to stifle it with his gloved hand. “What’s this?” I thought.

“Oh, yes sir,” he chuckled. “We have a very nice tension on the border.” Then, “We must go. El Commandante…” He seemed about to pronounce a surname, but stopped himself. “El Commandante, he is very anxious to see you.” This time his smile had a secretive little smirk to it.

Sorry, folks…this ends Part I. The story couldn’t be told properly in one shot. My apologies too for having to be cagey about dates, names and places. I spent two years, plenty wampum and countless dull, dragging hours with two lawyers figuring out how I could tell some stories without violating a knee-high stack of NDA’s—Non-Disclosure Agreements—and classified-documents oaths. I know it’s fashionable to violate them at will, but I’m serious about oaths, pledges of honor and pinky-swears to small children. By John Connor

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TWT’s & 3W’s

Volume I, Chapter One, Episode 1

We were taking a coffee break when MacKenzie called over for help unfolding his seized-up camp chair. I said “Got it,” balanced my mug carefully on a rickety wooden crate, covered it with my cap and moseyed off. As I shuffled away, Robbie, our newest and youngest crewmember, looked at the cap-covered mug, snickered and asked Uncle John, “Another TWT?” “Yup,” he replied; “It’s a Third-World Thing, kid. You’re learning.”

I like our new operations base. Set on sun-hammered caliche festooned with petrified puckerbrush and twisty weeds, it was once a wannabe ranch and forlorn farm. Stained, slashed and decorated with the burned-out shell of a stacked-rock main house and the blown over dried-out husks of pole-and-plank outbuildings, it is littered with busted crockery, piles of rusted cans, gears and shafts, unidentifiable shards in long-cold fire pits and even less identifiable mounds of moldering somethings rapidly returning to dust.

I stuck a shovel into one mound, just wondering if the main ingredient was animal or vegetable, and came up with six blue glass beads, a patch of scorched furred hide and a bent, child-size fork. Folks once lived hard lives here; probably short ones. It has a definite Third World ambience—I looked that word up—and I like it just fine. Feels like, well… home.

Maybe “home” is the wrong word. It’s just that more often than not, in the hinterlands of the Third World I’ve felt more, if not “comfortable,” then oriented, centered than I’ve ever felt in the First World, and definitely more than in the garish, ugly, conflicting high-tech/no-tech contrasts of the Second World. In the Third World, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, crystalline skies and brilliant, glittering stars can put you close to heaven. Turn your back on the land for two seconds and it’ll tip you straight into hell. Perhaps an old Brit, a leathery Africa-Asia hand described it best to me long ago:

“The Third World is comprised mainly of first, rot and muck, filth and rubbish. Second, deadly, poisonous flora and fauna and dreadful disease. Third, shattered illusions and dastardly treachery,”—adding, “My God, I love it. God help me, I love it so.” I understood completely. But I would add something: It’s at least one-fourth splinters. Go ahead, run your hand over any surface that in the developed countries would be baby-butt smooth. Or, just stand still, I swear the splinters will come for you! Most won’t slay you outright, but collect enough, they get infected, and the secondary effects will kill you deader’n Dulles.
It ain’t all that way, but there’s some of it—or a lot of it—everywhere in the 3W.

Learning Elementary TWT’s

I ’splained to Robbie: In the Third World, leave any drink uncovered and something noxious, living or recently deceased is gonna fall, crawl, hop or drop into it. Sometimes the wrong leaf or seedpod in your drink, particularly a hot one, can leave you with a mouth like a blowfish, swollen-shut eyes, an all-body rash like red astro-turf and permanent nerve damage so you walk like a spastic stork. It’s a TWT you should wisely carry over into the First World, dragging your tortured immune system behind you like a plastic sack of angry, desperate, asphyxiating weasels. Yeah, just form a mental image of that for a moment. That’s how it feels.

Robbie had already learned a couple of TWT’s. A few weeks before, he started to flop up against a stump to rest and I snagged him by the collar.

“Whoa, kid—look!” The stump would make a good backrest, true, and circling it was a profusion of soft-looking secondary growth that might look like an inviting butt-pad to the First-World eye. He asked what was wrong. I pointed out the worn runnel of a slender trail barely skirting the periphery of the secondary growth.

“Field mice, maybe rats use that trail. If you were a rattler, where’s your perfect ambush site? Don’t reach down there!” He had started to bend and part the grass.

“Wanna find him with your hand?” My first thoughts had been of bamboo vipers and puff adders, but rattlers play by the same rules. I think I hurt his feelings. Tough. He turned kinda resentfully and headed toward a dessicated but surviving tree. I followed, laughing. He glared.

“How ’bout this one? Can I catch a quick nap here, or will a crocodile get me?”

“No crocs, smartass. But look in the fissures of the bark. There’s an army of red fire ants on the march. They’ve got a subterranean condo complex somewhere close. Or, they could park in your pants. Your choice.” I smashed some with my stick and had him smell it.

“A TWT, kid; formic acid. If you’re lyin’ doggo in ambush and you get a whiff of that, abort the ambush an’ scoot! They can cover you like a shroud, fast, and it’s a gaudy, noisy way to die. If you get a buncha stings, have your buddies pee on ’em, then ya take antihistamines.” We talked. He didn’t get his nap, but he learned a few things. As we approached “Sometimes Creek,” I pointed out the hundreds of white-gray splotz under another tree.

“Not real dangerous,” I told him, “But unpleasant when 400 birds suddenly swoop in while you’re dozin’ and they commence mass poopin’ as soon as they light on the branches. The extended problem is, if they startle you, and you startle ’em back, they’ll explode into flight sounding off like a steam-powered calliope, alerting anything with ears to the presence of an intruder. You might deploy to the 3W someday. Learn smart sooner, or die stupid later.” Because I’m me, of course I expanded the lesson.

“Avoid big trees near rivers fulla fish and amphibians, especially trees offering a commanding view of the river from the top branches. The big fish-eatin’ raptors can drop a load like there’s a Doberman with diarrhea up there and their scat is way worse than that of hawks chowin’ down on bunny-wabbits. The sticky, greasy stench will cling to ya like a liberty-night-in-Olongapo tattoo. I’d rather be bombarded with owl casts than take one hit from an African fish-eagle or a South Asian osprey. And I have.

“And if you’re right under a big fish-eater’s nest or chow-table and you startle—or more likely, just irritate—one, they’ll go airborne with ear-splitting shrieks; war cries. Locals hear that, and if they don’t see a competing big raptor cruisin’ nearby—a territorial-integrity violation—they’ll know there’s a predator under that tree. Depending on the time of day, they can make a good guess whether it’s 4-legged or two. If it’s two, and that 2-legged is you, you can expect an AK-armed welcoming committee shortly.”

The Following Preview is Rated PG-13

We’re ’bout outta space and we’ve only scratched the first skeeter-bite of TWT’s and 3W’s. If you don’t wanna read any more, tell the editor. I listen when he says stuff like “Re’ this subjeck: SHUDDUP.” Otherwise, you’ll get more, between dollops of SillyStuff, book reviews, Border Stories, raging rants and unwanted advice. OK?
Future episodes of TWT’s & 3W’s may reveal to you answers to the mystifying questions, Whither poopest, pilgrim?, What the heck is a Pit-zuh Kek? and more. Learn why you should never waste time wondering why a 3W generalissimo or commandante makes crazy decisions—and what you should do in response to one; why teach 3W soldiers to sing these two songs: “Don’ sweep me, bro; no, don’t sweep me, bro!” (plus the value of adding a laser sight to the song) and “Booger-hook off da Bang-Switch, Buddy!”
You might find it interesting. OK, maybe not. Connor OUT.
By John Connor

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To The Graduating Class Of 2014

Congratulations, Condolences
And A Few Comments.

Can you believe it? I haven’t received a single invitation to deliver the commencement speech at an American college or university! Not one! Shocking, ain’t it? A simple oversight, I’m sure. Never one to be put off by, well, being put off, I gathered my notes, staggered out to the sandpile and delivered it anyway, to my usual audience—my dog Sancho and several lizards.

Congratulations! You’ve graduated! And, my condolences: Unless you go to Congress, you’ve just lost the last job you’ll ever have where you can earn major brownie points just for being present. Have you considered the irony of being prepared to go out into the wide-open, tumultuous and demanding real world by people who, for the most part, have never had to make their own way in it; who have spent virtually their entire lives within the sheltered ivied walls of tenured academia? If you don’t see the irony now, you will understand it later.

How many of you had even a single semester of logic? One, in the back there? Philosophy major, huh? Did you know that 50 years ago it was almost impossible to get any degree without studying logic, and now it’s rarely required unless you’re majoring in philosophy? Why is that?

Simple: It’s because logic is difficult. It teaches you how to think, rather than what to think, which is far easier—how to comprehend and analyze rationally, how to determine what is true and what is not. Logic stands in the way of ideological indoctrination, which is arguably the second-highest priority in American education. The only higher priority is getting your money. Also, classes like logic tend to weed out sluggards and morons, and even they pay tuition—or stick others with the bill.

How has that worked? In less than a century we have gone from teaching logic, calculus, Latin and Greek in American high schools to teaching remedial English in our universities. On average, you can’t read and write at the 7th grade level of 40 years ago. Americans now stand 16th out of 33 developed countries in reading, math and problem solving. They stand near the top in degrees received.

Bummer, huh? You’ve been pumped fulla sunshine about being “the best and the brightest,” and your future is all unicorns and rainbows? Well, I’m not Willy Wonka—I don’t sugar-coat crap. I’ll give it to you straight up, with no soda, no ice and tell you two things: First, “happily ever after” is so-o-o-o “once upon a time.” Second, yes, you can have a good life if right now you stop “being educated” and start learning.

If your degree doesn’t apply directly to building things, fixing broken things or keeping things running— whether its natural gas turbines or human organs, diesel-electric engines or logistic delivery systems— you might rethink your plans for a bicycling tour of Europe this summer, and work at getting a certificate in welding. Go for a ticket in pressure vessel welding and right away you’ll be making more money than 90 percent of your classmates while you’re trying to figure out what the heck you ever thought you could do with a Master’s in counter-cultural theatre or feminist theory.

The field of work isn’t important, as long as it falls under building, fixing or maintaining, and you have more than a scrap of university parchment in your bona fides folder. Under-served by education and stuck with a crippled, regulated-to-death economy, you may in fact be America’s lowest-qualified graduates facing the toughest job market in nearly a century. You can snivel and whine about it, or become the toughest, most determined and job-skilled grad in your class. You may have a high IQ, but if you’ve been entertained, flattered and indoctrinated by a dysfunctional system rather than educated, and you can’t deal psychologically with stiff competition for a decent job, well… I don’t know of a single paying position open anywhere for a brilliant sissy with high, but unearned self-esteem.

Multiple Moral Story

When all the other birds in their flock flew south for the winter, this one buncha young birds just didn’t feel like leaving yet. Fall was nice, and it was kinda cool to do anything they wanted with no bossy adult birds around. They dawdled and did aerobatics and lollygagged lazily until grub got short, things got cold and no grownup birds magically appeared to save them. Finally they headed south.

They didn’t get far when they flew into a freezing sleet storm. This one little fella’s wings froze up and he fell into a snow-covered pasture. His buddies, those other birds, just kept flyin’. There he lay unable to move, minutes from death by hypothermia when a cow came along and took a big dump on him. Oh, it was awful! Deep and steaming and stinkin’! He was whinin’ and sniveling and bemoaning his terrible fate when he noticed—what’s this? The heat and insulation of the cow’s dung was warming him up, restoring his life! He felt strength returning to his wings and his heart beat happily!

He poked his head out and found the storm had passed! Thrilled, he loudly trilled a joyous song! A passing cat heard the song, spotted the bird’s colorful topknot, snatched him outta the dungpile, tore him apart and ate him.
There are several morals to this story. Wh
ile it is not always wise to go with the flock, when movement is away from danger and natural consequences, those who freeze in place become victims. Wisdom is knowing when movement is meaningless—and when it’s for survival. Sometimes those older birds are both older and wiser. Others you’ve had good times with may not stop and help when they see you fall—they’ll just save their own feathered little butts. You may have thought they were real friends, but they were just playmates— “fair-weather friends.”

Sometimes having fun can get you killed when you fail to notice approaching storms. Youth and strength are wonderful, but they don’t make you invincible or immortal. Not everyone who dumps on you is your enemy, and not all crappy situations pose any serious threat—they just stink. Not everybody who pulls you outta the dungpile is your friend. And finally, even though you may be deep in poop, if you’re warm and safe, you ought to take a careful, cautious look around before you stick your head out, open your yap and start yodeling.

Closing Comments

Here’s something you absolutely will decide: The nation is at a critical tipping point. You—including those who were seniors when you were freshmen, to those who are freshmen today—you will determine the future of this country. By the sheer weight of your numbers, your votes will decide whether every single aspect of life will be micromanaged and dictated in detail by an all-powerful central government, or if you will embrace a state of personal liberty and responsibility, relegating government to the very limited role assigned it by the Constitution. It is likely that by the time today’s freshmen are seniors, that question will be decided for all of us, for an uncertain and indefinite future.

If you opt for liberty and strict limitations on government, you can fundamentally change that with any single future election. If you choose to grant overarching power to government in exchange for unrealistic promises of greater security and a share of loot taken from your more productive peers, only bloody revolution, massive destruction and the loss of countless lives can change that—and that struggle may fail. That’s not hyperbole, it’s fact.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington said that. If Marx had said it, you would have been taught it. But he would never have uttered such a truth. Choose wisely, graduates.
John Connor

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Forgotten Or Unknown

Somebody’s Gotta Speak Up For Them…

A string of coincidences over the past month or so brought these forgotten fragments to light. Naturally I thought of inflicting them on—excuse me, sharing them—with you. You’re welcome!

In the chaos of getting settled in our new compound, one of the youngsters stopped at a gas station and purchased several foam cups of a thin, nasty dark liquid falsely advertised as “coffee.” He handed one to Van Zyl, who was perched on a packing crate, and said “Here’s a cuppa Joe for ya.” VZ slurped up a mouthful and a second later leaped to his feet, turning purple and spewing the noxious stuff in the dirt.

“Hoo iss diss Joe? he demanded. “He shuud be beat-en! Hiss coffee iss KRRAAAPP!” If you could hear him say it, you’d know why I spelt it that way. VZ was unfamiliar with “Joe.” I explained, partly to allow time for Robbie to scamper away before he could be throttled by an angry giant.

“Joe” would be Josephus Daniels, who was appointed Secretary of the Navy by the notorious prig, Woodrow Wilson. Presumably, they both hated Marines and shared the morbid dread that somewhere, a sailor may be happy. Daniels campaigned against “bawdy houses” around naval bases, increased the number of chaplains and, most damningly, banned all alcoholic beverages. He pushed coffee. Sailors and Marines were sentenced to swill nothing but military coffee—an oxymoron except in certain chief’s messes aboard destroyers and submarines. Daniels became the most reviled man in modern military history.

Coffee was bitterly referred to as “having a cup of Josephus Daniels,” then “a cup of Joseph,” and finally, “a cuppa Joe.” At some point the monster was forgotten, but the term lived on.

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What did you say your name was? Yang?

Huh? What’s Your Name?

From a photo found in an old file: In June 1944, American paratroops in Normandy captured an Asian-looking Wehrmacht soldier whose command of German seemed limited to yes, no, and food, please. They presumed he was Japanese and put him in a POW camp. The Yanks were kinda short of Japanese-speakers in France. Slowly, the incredible story of Yang Kyoungjong came out.

A native Korean, in 1938 he was conscripted by Imperial Japan as an 18-year old laborer and shipped to Manchuria. For Koreans under Japanese masters, conditions were hellish. When Soviet resistance stiffened, Yang and his friends were drafted into the Imperial Army and chiefly used in suicide attacks. Yang was captured at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and shipped to a slave-labor Soviet lumber camp in Siberia, a pocket of frozen hell. Only the strongest and luckiest survived.

When Germany pushed deep into Russia, Yang and other POW’s were offered the choice between serving in the Soviet Army or being shot dead on the spot. The Sovs also used their “slave troops” as cannon fodder, “urging” them into battle at machinegun-point. Yang was captured by the Germans in the Third Battle of Kharkov—and then conscripted into the German Army! He was serving in a labor/cannon fodder “Eastern Battalion” when the Allies landed. The poor guy probably thought he would be conscripted by the Yanks too.

Ultimately, Yang immigrated to the US, where he lived quietly in Illinois, and died there in 1992. I have often hoped he took delight in shopping for fresh meat and produce, sleeping in a warm, clean bed, and got to kick back in the evening and watch a little TV.

Toughest Nut In Massachusetts?

One of our new guys mixed up Robert Rogers of Rogers’ Rangers with the story of an almost-forgotten guy who had to be one of the toughest men to fight in the American Revolution: Samuel Whittemore. We straightened him out.

Sam was born in England in 1695, and came to North America as a captain of Royal Dragoons in 1745. He fought the French in the capture of Fort Louisburg, coming away with a French officer’s sword. He left service after the war and settled in Menotomy, Mass., where he married twice, fathering three sons and five daughters.

When war with France flared again in 1758, Sam was 64. When he heard Fort Louisburg had to be taken—again—he joined a Colonial Regiment, which “reduced the fort to rubble.” He then hooked up with General James Wolf for the march and assault on Quebec. When there was no more fighting left to do he went home.
Ah, but then the Indian Wars called in 1763! Sam, nearly 70 now, kissed his family goodbye and rode to battle against Chief Pontiac in the wilderness. He returned from that campaign with a pair of dueling pistols.

Over the next decade, he came to believe a break from the Crown was necessary, telling his neighbors he wanted his descendants to, “…enact their own laws and not be subject to a distant king.”

Samuel was 80 years old on April 19th, 1775, when the retreating redcoats were fleeing back to Boston from Lexington and Concord, bayonetting wounded colonial militiamen and torching homes in their path—right through Menotomy. Sam grabbed his musket, sword and dueling pistols, and walked out to the road, where he sat down and waited. His militia buddies urged him to take a better, more distant position. He ignored them.

His pals fired on the lead grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot and fell back to reload. Sam waited. When they were at point-blank range he stood and fired his musket, killing one grenadier. He drew his pistols and fired, killing a second grenadier and mortally wounding another. As several redcoats closed with their bayonets, he drew his sword and commenced swinging. He was shot in the face, the slug tearing away his cheek and knocking him down. He continued hacking as they bayonetted him 13 times, beat him with their rifle butts, and left him for dead in a pool of blood.

A couple of his neighbors witnessed the entire melee. They stole down later to recover his body. They found Sam trying to reload his musket. Doctor Nathaniel Tufts declared it would be futile to even dress his wounds, and sent him home on a door to die surrounded by family.
Sam wasn’t ready to die. He lived an active life for another 18 years, dying at 98.

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This monument tells only a small part of Samuel Whitmore’s life.

Finally, A Requiem

Found in an old jacket pocket, a postcard from Bruno the Belgian, just before he retired from the Legion. It shows the Place des Etats-Unis in Paris. Atop the monument to the American volunteers there stands a statue of a young Legionnaire. His face was taken from a photo of an American poet-warrior who wrote one of the most moving poems ever penned on war: “I Have a Rendezvous with Death.” His name was Alan Seeger. We haven’t space for the poem here, but you can find it. Please do.

Born in New York in 1888 to a literary and musical family, he attended Harvard, where he wrote and edited for the Harvard Monthly and became known as a serious and accomplished writer and poet. In 1914 he moved to the center of European poetry—Paris—for an extended visit. It wasn’t extended. He arrived just before a bumbling anarchist shot a 3rd-string archduke and kicked off World War I.

America would not enter the war for 3 years, and as a non-citizen, Alan couldn’t join the French Army. He enlisted in the Foreign Legion. Found to be as brave as he was articulate, he was by all accounts a good soldier and a hard fighter. Soon after writing the poem he kept that rendezvous. Bleeding to death from several machine gun wounds, he cheered his fellow Legionnaires on in a charge which broke the German lines at Belloy-en-Senterre on July 4, 1916, during the greater Battle of the Somme.

The Legion has not forgotten him. Maybe we shouldn’t either, huh? Connor OUT
By John Connor

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The “State Of The Sandpile” Address

Just takin’ my turn at
the annual gasbaggery…

The sole terrain feature behind my new place is a big pile of reddish fried sand welling up through a busted crust of sunbaked caliche. My dog Sancho Panza loves the tactical height advantage. He’s got the local jackrabbit population totally bamboozled. He doesn’t try to catch ’em—he herds ’em. That’s what Border Collies do. Since there’s no pen to put them in, once they’re gathered up, exhausted and frozen in place, he barks at ’em like, “Dismissed, ya dummies,” and saunters away.

It’s also a great perch from which to pontificate, so I used it for my first annual State of the Sandpile address. I figured since every gasbag from the president to the Grand Poobah of Putterville has recently delivered their State of the Union, State of the State, State of the City and State of the Snollygoster speeches, why shouldn’t I? Herewith, some tattered shreds and remnants from my marathon 8-hour a cappella and sans-teleprompter tirade.

Comments to Congress:

Dear Congress: I don’t want to have to tell my grandchildren that America was once a great country, and have them disbelieve it. And I don’t want them to arrive at adulthood and find you’ve used them as your “line of credit.” I’ve done my part, pulled more than my load and you ought to be accountable for pulling your load, too. If I have to pull yours, it may be with a rope. Think about that.

We have way too many laws already, but here are a few I’d like to propose: No more payroll tax withholding. Everybody would have to sit down once or twice a month and write checks to the feds and their state treasurers for their taxes. Yeah, it would be a huge pain in the neck, but all of a sudden, millions of people would be awakened and enraged by the wasteful, excessive and often criminal spending of their hard-earned bucks.

Withholding is a narcotic, deadening taxpayers’ senses to the process of governmental pickpocketry. It’s like puttin’ frogs in a pot of cool water and slowly bringing it to a boil: the frogs aren’t moved to kick and jump until it’s too late. Writing those checks would be like shots of adrenaline. I predict legislators’ lives would quickly become less than comfy-cozy. That’s OK with me. I believe our liberties are never safer than when politicians are a little bit, umm…terrified. And let’s prohibit use of the fallacious term “redistribution of wealth.” For most of us it amounts to “taking whatever you’ve got left and giving it away to others.” Let’s make ’em use that phrase and see how it flies.

Pre-Vote Testing: Before any bill is put to a vote in Congress, members must pass a witnessed written test, to show they understand it in full and know its consequences and costs. If they refuse or fail, they can’t vote on that bill, and “Unqualified” is entered in the records. No substitutes, no staff members “delegated” to take it. Here’s another radical idea: If the bill is theirs—and it passes, and costs exceed 50 percent over projections, the bill’s authors have 50 percent of their salary diverted to pay off the excess costs—right into their lavishly paid pension years if necessary. Think that might achieve some belt-tightening?

“We’ve got to pass it so you can see what’s in it.” Remember that one? While we’re at it, let’s have a law that says if any legislator standing by a pile of paper utters words to that effect, they are immediately thrown out of office. Through the window. The closed window. We’ve gotta pass it so we can see what’s in it? That’s the rule for stool samples, ya morons—not laws! We could put a person’s name on that law, but let’s just call it “The Kabuki Witch Law” and everyone will know anyway.

It seems to me that most of your efforts are bent toward controlling and “regulating” people like me; military veterans, hard-working taxpayers and folks who would not willingly or knowingly violate any law. If I were meant to be controlled, I woulda come with a remote. I didn’t. You may think of yourself as one of the Good Guys in Congress, and maybe, just maybe, you are. I know there is a smattering of Good Guys within that pile of snakes. But you belong to a body which is, as now composed, the government our founding fathers warned us about. You should take care not to make us the cast of your nightmares.

Oh, and by the way—the book 1984 was meant to be a warning, not a guidebook for government.

Comments “To Whom it may Concern”:

I’ve heard a lot of people muttering that this government is going Socialist. I understand why they think that, but let’s be accurate: If you consider roughly half of the elected national “leaders” are millionaires and multi-millionaires—as opposed to about 1 percent of the rest of us—and they are exempt from so many of the rules we must obey, I think this would be better defined as a plutocracy: one wherein the plutocrats want everyone else controlled by a Socialist government. It makes sense for them. Hey, it’s better for them than making us slaves, because they can still tax the workers among us to feed and support the more docile, manageable peasants.

I’ve heard it said by “progressives” that the problem with capitalism is a small group of people could end up controlling almost everything. But the solution they offer is to give an even smaller group absolute control over everything—and all the power of the state to enforce it. Umm… What?

I don’t know where you come down on the Tea Party. Entrenched politicians call them anarchists and radicals. It seems to me their platform is to take over, stop stealing our money, adhere to the Constitution, restore our liberty and then leave everybody the heck alone as much as possible. Ooohhh, sounds pretty dangerous to me.

The government says all they need to make this country a paradise is more money and more power. I think P.J. O’Rourke said it best: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” The difference I see is many teenage boys know better than to drink and drive.

And for those of you who, like me, feel the government ignores you, ridicules you and attacks you, remember this gem from Mahatma Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win.” It’s the ignored, ridiculed and attacked who finally, regretfully but resolutely, fight.

That’s all we have space for here. If you’d like more, you’ll have to check with Sancho. He may have taken shorthand or recorded video of the whole speech. Border Collies can do that too, y’know. Connor OUT
By John Connor

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A Border Tale

Sometimes one good man is all it takes…

It never fails—not for me, anyway. You make a multi-state move, a couple thousand miles, and you can’t find the boots you wore one day before leaving, but you find a pair of dog-chewed moccasins you’re certain you had tossed out years ago. This time I also found a battered Moleskine notebook marked “Border Stories.” I had searched for it several times in the past with no success and thought it was lost forever.

The words “border” and “frontier” have always drawn me, fascinated me, perhaps because I grew up in the Pacific where borders were pretty meaningless, and what the heck would a frontier be? So I read, ravenously, all the tales I could find of wild frontiers and embattled borders, the lonelier and more disputed the better.

That only whetted my appetite for more and later, I saw as many of them as I could, like a few parts of the Iron Curtain were more like shredded gauze. Another border where two bashful teenage boys with AK-47’s and their fearsome mother secured the frontier—Perhaps stories for another time. But the book fell open to this one: a once-wild border, and the man who held it.

The Border Guard

South America: My training liaison assignment was complete. The capital’s security chief, a silver-haired, very courtly general, kindly arranged me a visit to the furthest-flung outpost of their frontier. “If,” he said, “You will execute a small official act, and perform a personal favor for me.” He produced a stout canvas case and an envelope, explaining they were for “the border guard, with my compliments.” I assumed he meant the border guard contingent.

“No,” he smiled, “One man. I am sure you will treat him with respect. Please address him as sergeant.” Officially, my mission was to “inspect the condition of the border bridge,” and unofficially, to discretely assess the sergeant’s health. Then, he said, “You will please report personally, confidentially and only to my son”—the border district commander, a colonel. Only, huh?

Confidentially? That gave me pause, but I was a young pup, and in my imagination I was already there.

Before this trip, I had read about this desolate stretch of border; the battles fought over it, the bandits who had terrorized it, the blood spilled in its rocky riverbeds. La frontera!

A long day and night of teeth-jarring travel later I stood in a tiny village, presenting my letter of authority to a short, whip-thin man seemingly chipped from flint. Age? You’d have to carbon-date him. His hair was thick and gray, but his moustache and long, curling eyelashes were jet black; deceptively youthful on his time-fissured face. His uniform jacket was faded but neat, the leather bill of his cap and disintegrating boots brushed and blacked, his spine and stature straight and true. He was obviously very tense. Then I gave him the general’s envelope and as he slowly, with great difficulty, read the message inside and neared the end, he visibly relaxed and beamed with an oversized grin.

“Most excellent!” he cried. “Bueno! We are to be friends most informal!”—and he whacked me on the shoulder with a horn-hard hand. “Oh, the General! What a good boy—and a fine man!” Good boy? He excused himself and hobbled away, his boots clearly killin’ him.

When he returned, he moved like a comfortable panther in loose pants and blouse and blown-out gum-soled sandals. Opening the canvas case in a circle of excited villagers, he pulled out ammunition and a wrapped parcel, putting them aside. The rest was tins of jam, potted beef and other delicacies, a sack of coins and a big bag of candy—all distributed amid much joy. So, our “most informal friendship” began among laughing children and happy parents.

The sergeant’s parcel was a new pair of those gum-soled sandals with short lengths of rope embedded in the rubber. He held them to his nose, sniffing their newness, and his eyes glistened wet. “My General,” he choked.

The next morning I inspected the bridge, an old wooden trestle type. It was in good shape—especially for a bridge to nowhere. It began at the foot of the village, spanned a narrow tributary and ended 50 meters from another deep, eroded channel. I looked at the sergeant, puzzled. He only nodded and turned away.

I was well trained and combat-experienced, but what followed was a consummate post-graduate course in defensive patrolling. The sergeant’s area of responsibility spanned about 40 square miles of wild, jumbled badlands. Running along the North-South bluffs over a once-mighty river, now several trickles and small streams of clear, sweet water, he had perhaps 50 observation points from which he could scan about 20 avenues of possible transit.

The first thing I noticed about them was that every single observation point could be approached and exited in complete defilade, shielded from view. Then I learned his path selections were also dictated by the direction of convective wind gusts. He was extremely attuned to creating visible dust plumes, and every time, if he raised a little dust, it dispersed unseen, in defilade—otherwise, he would detour a mile or more via other carefully chosen routes. Also, he had numerous firing points to cover various close approaches, and none were his primary viewing points.

He knew the nominal speed at which men on foot, on horseback, or in vehicles might travel from any one point of transit to any other—and where they were most vulnerable to a hidden rifleman. His daily route varied in daylight and darkness, from 10 to maybe 15 miles, and he owned every smooth, silent step. No man alive knew those badlands as he did, or could be a deadlier foe in them.
The border had been uncontested, quiet, for over 20 years, but you’d never know it from his tactics and the intensity of his watchfulness. I asked what would happen if his neighbors invaded in force. Tiny fires glittered in his eyes. He explained, “they would be delayed, demoralized, possibly stopped; plenty of time for warning.” I didn’t doubt that for a second. I asked about bandits. His fingers tightened on his rifle.

“Here—no more,” he said. I didn’t press it. His eyes spoke volumes. We parted as friends.

The Sergeant’s Story

In the district headquarters I met the colonel, a striking guy with an Errol Flynn moustache; a younger version of his father. In a private room over coffee and brandy, I made my report, and he filled in the blanks. As an orphaned lad the border guard became a cavalry company’s stable boy. When the colonel’s father arrived as a newly frocked lieutenant, that grown-up boy was already a veteran sergeant. “The kind of sergeant armies are built on, or die from the lack of,” he said.

For many years they rode and fought on the frontier together. When the horse cavalry transitioned to vehicles, they transferred to the infantry together. When the colonel himself became a lieutenant, the sergeant was the loyal linchpin of his first command.

“His only family was the army; his only life, defending the country. What becomes of a man like that when he is too old to continue military service? The civil servant post there is for a bridgekeeper, but that would not be fitting. So, my father and I, we make him the frontier border guard—a nonexistent position. At his request, his army pension and his bridgekeeper pay, all of it, goes as credits to the market at the railhead. This provides for the village and they provide for him; food, housing and respect. He wants little, and he wants for nothing. My family contributes, and sends gifts. The bridge means nothing; it need only exist so we may continue this charade.”

“And,” he smiled, “Would you wish to invade his ground?” Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Goin’ Bang, Boom And Sometimes Just PFHUTT!

Ordnance oddities Offered
For Your Amusement…

Yeah, we did it again—another multi-state 1,800-mile move, this time relocating the entire GunBums base of operations. That meant not only moving the outfit’s corporate ordnance pile, but my own guns and ammo, referred to by hysterical hoplophobic newspersons as “a ‘NARSENAL!!!”

When laid out and arranged for transport weight distribution, my personal ammo measured 20 by 7 feet, 14 to 17 inches deep, double-stacking .30-cal and .50-cal ammo cans. Don’t ask me what it weighed.

“Got enough ammo?” asked one of the younger crew. “The only time ya got too much ammo,” I replied, “Is when you’re tryin’ to swim with it.”

The last boxes loaded in were oddities—small lots, irregular ammo, samples. A few guys said they were unfamiliar with certain items, and I thought you might be too. I’m happy to share….

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German DAG 7.62×51 training ammo is great for
sharpening snap-shooting skills.

German Blue

The “German Blue” rounds are the current issue DAG—Dynamit Nobel— 7.62x51mm training rounds of the German Army. Formerly scarce, they’re now coming into the US frequently to online merchants like Widener’s. They usually run about $120 per thousand. I got my last supply from United Nations Ammo Company: 2,000 rounds for around $220.

These are not blanks or grenade-launching rounds. They’re training rounds, and though limited in range and accuracy compared to FMJ war-shots, they’ll kill you deader’n bratwurst. Accurate to 2 to 3 MOA at 100 yards, they remain acceptably accurate and capable of inflicting damage at 300 meters.

The case head is metal for pressure management and sure extraction, the body is plastic, and the 10-grain slug is plastic too. They don’t generate enough energy to cycle the actions of most semi-autos, so hand-cycle them. Don’t underestimate them. Depending on your rifle and barrel length, initial velocities run 3,500 to a screamin’ 4,700 feet per second!

I haven’t had any problems with gas system or rifling fouling, and never even heard of a dud or squib stuck in the barrel.

I use ’em to teach and practice snap-shooting, getting off fast, accurate single shots from walking/stalking, standing, quickly kneeling or going prone, with both semi-autos and bolt rifles, at enormous savings. They’re cheaper and a heck of a lot better for the purpose than the cheapest conventional .308/7.62x51mm ammo. Whether you’re a meat hunter or tactical shooter, the trophy of your life, or the shot that will save your life, will often be that snap-shot.

Great Green Goop

Check the .45 rounds with the green sorta marbleized slugs. That’s a dry, smooth lube developed by J&M Specialty Products P/L of Australia, used by Bayou Bullets to coat their cast lead slugs. I just got onto ’em recently. The non-toxic coating completely encapsulates the slugs and they virtually eliminate smoke and lead fouling.

To top it off, they keep your reloading dies clean and schmutz-free and run smoothly through automatic slug feeders, leaving no residue. This stuff is great, and you can also buy the goop from Bayou Bullets to coat your own slugs. I don’t, because Bayou’s slugs are excellent and competitively priced.

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These pretty green slugs bear a unique, no-mess dry lube from Bayou Bullets.

A Bulgarian Surprise

New to America, 7.62x39mm ammo from Arsenal-Bulgaria comes as a big surprise. This is high-quality, low-priced, reloadable boxer-primed, brass-cased non-corrosive 122-grain FMJ ammo designed specifically for US consumers. The factory is state-of-the-art, with high quality control.

This ammo has all the right features: Primers and case mouths are sealed, but primer pockets aren’t crimped, making for easier reloading. Case necks are properly annealed. Slugs are non-magnetic and brass-jacketed. Consistency in materials and dimensions is excellent. It meets all SAAMI, CIP and NATO specs.

In my iron-sighted “battlefield pickup” AK it shot 3 MOA at 100 yards, but my buddy Paul H, using his scoped and accurized Mini-30 did far better. Taking boxes of Lapua, Arsenal-Bulgaria and another famous brand to the range, he shot consistent groups of about 1 MOA at 100 with Arsenal and the much more expensive Lapua, while the third type, also more expensive, shot 5 and 6 inches.

Great stuff! A 20-round box lists for $14.99 and a case of 400 rounds for $260. For quality reloadable 7.62×39, that’s fine. Next up comes their 7.62x51mm, 5.56mm and 9mm Parabellum.

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X-Ring rubber bullets provide poppin’ fun for pennies!

Rubber Poofters

I had almost forgotten about reusable X-Ring rubber bullets until visiting my cousin MacKenzie last month. His number-one field artillery piece is a .45-70 Marlin Guide Gun. He tends to hang out in country featuring large irritable bears in dense forest, so keeping his snap-shooting skills honed fine is sorta important to him. He does it—often indoors—with .45-caliber X-Ring rubber slugs.

Available from many sources including Midway USA, they come in .38/9mm, .44 and .45. I had used them in .38 Special long ago, and a friend used them to train with his .44 Special Bulldogs, but I hadn’t even thought of using them in a .45-70 rifle. They work great! And you sure can’t beat the savings over live .45-70 rounds! A box of 50 in .45 is $14.29 and you can reuse them dozens or hundreds of times.

Seated in a sized, primed case, they are propelled by the primer only (if shooting indoors, use lead-free primers) and pretty dang accurate at short range. They’re not for horseplay among morons or poppin’ the family cat, and the report is like a loud handclap. They’re great training aids, and a good backstop can be made from a scrap of carpet.

You might dedicate one box of empty cartridges to them, and to prevent primer backout in revolvers, ream the flash holes a bit larger. Putting a slight crimp in the case mouth will help hold the hollowbase rubber slugs in place if you’re going to cycle them through a tubular magazine like the Marlin’s. You won’t have to resize your cartridges between uses.

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Hungarian-made MFS ammo is low cost but high quality.

“It Ain’t Goulash”

Finally, a recommendation for Hungarian-made MFS zinc-plated steel-cased ammunition: This stuff too is coming into the country in greater amounts lately, and if you’re looking for low cost but smooth-functioning, very accurate ammo, you should check it out.

With much of the lacquer and polymer-coated steel cased ammo on the market, hot chambers will be left with a tacky residue, which bogs down function and is a pain to clean. These zinc-plated cartridges feed really slick, leaving no residue. Primers are non-corrosive, the powder burns clean, and the FMJ slugs are lead-core, flat base.

I first tried MFS ammo in 9mm a few months ago, test-shooting a new Kel-Tec Sub-2000 folding carbine. She choked on some factory 124-grain and 115-grain commercial “remanufactured” stuff, erratically failing to feed, extract and eject and spat rounds into “minute of pie plate” patterns.

My son loaded up some 33-round Glock mags with his MFS 115-grain FMJs. The little beast chirped happily, and ran like a clock. To say the Sub-2000’s sights are “rudimentary” would be kind, but I shot one group of 15 rounds at 15 meters offhand with 14 touching and one a 1/2-inch out, with similar groups at greater distances. Function was perfect. Later, shooting 145-grain .308 MFS ball in his Primary Weapons Systems Mark 216 rifle, it shot around 1 MOA, right up there with the best loads. The boy just smiled.

“It ain’t goulash, Dad,” he smirked. Happy shooting! John Connor

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Since Mowing The Lawn Is Outta The Question

Time For A Book, Isn’t It?

Scoop the cat outta the easy chair; place on sofa. Carefully step over the snorin’ dog, stick the poker into the fire and stir things up a bit. Add two splits of seasoned larch, the heartwood. Fetch mugga coffee, perhaps “anointed” coffee, and carefully place on coaster. Pat shirt pocket—yup, reading glasses ready. Wait a minute! What’s missing? A good book! Let me help, OK?

Armies, by Max Boot

The subtitle is, “An epic history of guerrilla warfare from ancient times to the present.” The core message is that what we tend to think of as “conventional warfare,” historically, is the exception, and “unconventional;” i.e., partisan and guerrilla warfare, has been the norm for the past 30 centuries. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and it takes Boot, a prodigious researcher, and 567 pages to do it. The appendix, page notes and index alone are the size of many modern novels.

As he did in The Savage Wars of Peace, Boot goes far beyond facts and figures, sketching the individuals, the scenes and stories in highly readable form. The first great empire on record, Mesopotamia, fell to nomadic raiders from the Persian highlands. Since then, time after time, mighty nations have been brought down by relatively weak and disorganized forces, producing two valuable lessons: First, that given the right conditions—or the wrong responses by the “target country”—the biggest, strongest nation can be overwhelmed by small but determined or desperate outside forces; second, that mighty nations can find invasion of an undeveloped “weaker” state relatively cheap and easy—and then be bled dry, completely unable to occupy that conquered country.

You’ll know some of the conflicts, but others, like the Peninsular War of 1808-1814, Xiongnu vs. Hon, 200 BC-AD 68, Persians vs. Scythians, 512 BC, Garibaldi’s 40 years of war on two continents, might be fascinating new ground for you. One chapter alone—“The Guerrilla Paradox: Why the Weak Beat the Strong”—makes the book worth the bucks.

Bamboola, by Christopher Buckley

I heard the term routinely as a kid in the Pacific. Applied to small, old, paint-peeling, rusty chuffing freighters—the lifeblood of the seas—it mostly meant “steaming to various out-of-the-way ports; the backwaters and reefed-in atolls the big ships couldn’t get into, carrying low-class cargos nobody else would fool with.” For many of those who crewed the tramp freighters, it also meant “steaming to I-don’t-know and don’t-care-where.”

I’m sure you know Chris Buckley’s father, the author, political commentator and founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley. Christopher, the son of this intellectual and highly successful figure, stuffed his prep-school blazer in a drawer and signed as a deckhand on a Norwegian tramp when he was only 17 years old. Ten years later, after establishing his own bona fides as a writer (he was managing editor of Esquire at 24), Chris went back to sea as an ordinary rust-scrapin’, crate-wrangling, watch-standing crewman on yet another aging tramp, the Columbianna.

She was pulling out of Charleston, heading for the North Sea ports bearing whiskey, machineguns, refrigerators and 38 seamen: steaming to Bamboola. The ship herself is a character, one of a dying breed replaced by modern, computerized containerships, but it is the men, from the captain making his 100th Atlantic crossing, to the motley multinational roughneck crew who add the color—and the craziness—to the story.
Whether you know the sea or not, it’s a great read, written with style, insight and irony.

Chimpanzee Politics, by Frans De Waal

Chimpanzees rarely wear suits and ties, and they don’t do at all well walking in high heels. Shaving and applying makeup seem to be beyond their grasp, or maybe just out of their interests. But depending on the study you read, humans and chimps share between 94 and 99 percent of their DNA codes, and where it shows the most is in our behavior, specifically, our political behavior. If you define politics as a social process determining “who gets what, when and how,” distinctions between human and chimp behavior virtually disappear. The chief difference says the author, is that chimps conceal their motives less effectively than do humans; that “Their interest in power is not greater than that of humanity; it is just more obvious.”

I first read Chimpanzee Politics over 20 years ago, when it was a new and groundbreaking work, avidly read and studied by certain serious folks in intelligence analysis; the dissectors and forecasters of human behaviors and intentions among our country’s actual and potential foes. The individuals and groups, the nations and social conditions have changed significantly since then—but not the basic behaviors. Those dynamics are timeless, hard-wired into our genes. This 25th anniversary edition of the book simply updates the material with later related studies and observations.

Dominating and submissive behaviors, the formation of coalitions; manipulation of the strong by the weak, the art of the double-cross and coup d’état, the feigning of fear and pain, and the effectiveness—and failure—of bluffing, all of it is more clearly observed among chimps than between humans, but the goals and results are practically identical. After reading this book, you’ll see them played out all around you.

Geography, by Robert D. Caplan

In 1942, China was in ruins, occupied and devastated by Imperial Japan. Three long and bloody years of island-hopping Pacific warfare lay ahead for the United States. Hitler’s war machine held all of Europe and threatened the British home islands. At that time, in that situation, who would be arguing for a strong post-war alliance between America and a re-armed Japan? Who could declare that leaving Germany defeated and disarmed after a still-uncertain war could be disastrous for the Western powers? Who could foresee the emergence of China as a major economic power and global threat, so powerful that the Western Pacific “will be controlled not by British, American or Japanese sea power but by Chinese air power”? That was Nicholas Spykman, a Yale professor, great American strategist—and geographer.

“Geography,” he wrote, “Does not argue. It simply is.” China’s future, he explained, would most likely be dictated by its sheer size, its placement on the globe, its topography and climate; in other words, its geography.”

Why are Russians obsessed with the idea that other peoples covet the very earth of Mother Russia? What drives their tendency to cluster behind the walls of their forests, and always, always look with fear and suspicion toward the great steppes? Why is the Korean peninsula so critical to Russia, China and the US? Today, why do both Indian and Chinese strategists eagerly debate, study and quote Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American naval officer and geostrategist who died in 1914?

Got your attention? All I’ll say is, read Revenge, and you’ll never look at a country or a region the same way again. It’s serious reading, but it will hold your interest right to the end. Connor OUT
By John Connor

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More On Christmas

Or, “A Moron, On Christmas,” Whatever….

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so many Christmases away—like far, far away—from home and family, and so often celebrated Christmas long after the 25th of December had come and gone, but I freely admit it: I’m kinda crazy about Christmas, and particularly about giving unusual and unconventional gifts. That works out just fine because so many of those on my Christmas list are sorta’ unusual and unconventional critters themselves….

For me, Christmas shopping is a year-round thing, and I usually have my gift list all made out, with many gifts already purchased and the others decided upon by late September. My habit of having a pen and a little leather holder fulla 3×5 cards on me at all times helps. As I see likely prospects, or hear someone casually comment on something they like or wish they had time or money for, I surreptitiously scribble notes on those 3x5s, heading the card “CGL” for Christmas Gift List. At end of day when I’m sorting To-Do’s from Info’s etcetera, the CGL’s go in their own file for action.

Nutz? Well, consider this: First, I never, ever have to fight my way through the wildebeest-like mobs of marauding shoppers who seem to have very little Christmas spirit in their hearts, just plastic in their tight little fists and savage determination to snatch whatever there’s only one left of on sale. Just one experience like that can put a huge dent in one’s Christmas sense of peace-on-earth and good-will-to-all, ya know?

Second, for me, it spreads good, warm Christmas thoughts throughout my year, and I have the wonderful benefit of secretly, sneakily thinking things like “Boy, is Rank Frank (or the Memsaab Helena, or VZ or Little Red or whomever) gonna be tickled on Christmas!” dang near all year. Listen, when times are kinda tough, being able to bust out those positive thoughts during less-than-pleasant episodes can be great for my morale.

Third, I spread the fiscal impact out over about 9 months rather than mercilessly ravaging my bank account over a coupla frenzied weeks. Personally, I think that’s when most well-intended but frustrated people wind up spending far more money than they intended or they can handle, for gifts they’re not really pleased with. If that has happened to you, you might wanta try the Crazy Connor Christmas technique.

Get Jiggy With It

Gifts, especially for the shooters and wilderness-wanderers on your list, don’t have to be things that fit neatly into a festively wrapped box.
Here’s one suggestion: If you don’t know a reputable gunsmith or armorer who offers “detail cleaning and inspection” services, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one. Now think about your shooting pals, family and friends. Who has a rifle, shotgun or handgun that you suspect hasn’t been armorer-cleaned and inspected in way too long? Get a quote on strippin’ it down to frame and lockworks, giving it the full deep-solvent-tank treatment, fouling removal et al and nit-pickin’ inspection, and arrange pre-payment or billing to you for the complete basic service.

The ’smith might find a worn part that needs replacement, springs that have lost their sproing! or some other suggestion for improvement. You could opt for the ’smith to call you first, so you could decide whether to cover some minor additional costs, or if he should call your giftee to discuss the situation and let them decide what to authorize. Weird gift? Not if you’re kinda weird to begin with and your giftee knows that. Is it a sincerely appreciated gift? Oh, yeah!

Another: A pal of mine was at the range with his old an’ trusty but worn-shiny 870, and he mentioned to a couple of the Rat Canyon range-rats that yeah, it sure needed refinishing, he keeps fightin’ to deny rust a beachhead on it, and he’d like to have it Parkerized, but blah-blah-time, blah-blah-always something else getting in front of that in line, yadda-yadda. I slunk away and made a CGL note. Guess what he opened on Christmas morning?

It was a gift-wrapped brick with a bow on it. On top of the brick was his “coupon” for a Parkerizing job. After thanking me profusely, he squinted at me and asked, “Seriously, Connor—who the heck even thinks of gifts like this?” I was truthful. “Uhh… Guys who appreciate your treasure-trove of stupid puns, your distinctive body odor and buzzard-breath, and your friendship, pal.” The look on his face was my Christmas gift.

A genuine military adjustable rear sight to replace the crummy commercial flip-sight on a pal’s M1 carbine; new tritium sights for another buddy’s rapidly-fading 15-year-old set; a pair of proper walnut grips marked exactly the same as another pal’s ancient cracked grips—all gifts that came as complete surprises. To me, they’re the very best kind of gifts, and gifts that show you notice things, and truly value your giftee; gifts that clearly aren’t knee-jerk pro forma presents.

Other Ho-Ho Stuff

When we both got our annual bills for range membership fees, another shootin’ buddy remarked like, “Dang it! It always comes the same month as my wife’s birthday and our anniversary, and now, our daughter’s tuition! Geez, that makes it tough!” I scratched a quick CGL. For Christmas, he got a really weirdly wrapped gift.

I found a wrecked and rusty tossed-out replica of a twin-engine airplane about 2 feet long with an 18-inch wingspan. Basically, I just taped gift-wrap paper right over it, so it was obviously airplane-shaped. I’ll bet he pondered that sittin’ under his Christmas tree! Inside the airplane was a rolled note: “Come next May, pardner, you’ll be getting your new range card and NO bill. You’re paid, dude. Merry Christmas!” Being “different” has an array of intangible benefits….

Is there a pay-by-the-hour indoor range nearby—and there’s someone on your list who more than once has opted out of a shooting session ’cause the bite came when their pockets contained more lint than coins? Consider pre-paying him or her some hours. Gift-wrap a punctured basketball and put the coupon inside with a note like, “Here’s the condition: You spend two of these hours at the range with me, and the burger and a beer afterward are on me.”

Check the Brass Mower in the Christmas Gift Guide in this issue. It’s a terrific gift for any shooter! Within a week of getting mine, I bought two for friends, one with recent back surgery and the other is getting to the age where he shouldn’t be bendin’ over pickin’ up brass. If you give one, pick up a 5-gallon plastic bucket for about 3 bucks at most home-improvement stores; they’ll need one anyway. Assemble the Brass Mower, put it basket-down in the bucket and wedge it in place with wads of paper and tape to keep the handle stickin’ straight up. Put the bucket into a square box that’s a fit for the bucket.

I had some Styrofoam blocks salvaged from packing material. One about 9 inches square got a hole poked in it and squoze down over the top of the handle. Then an empty paperboard gift-wrap roll was taped in place as a cross-member about 6 inches below the “head.” Two 4-inch Styrofoam blocks were added to its ends where “hands” would go. Wrap with a gaudy array of wrapping-paper scraps, and deliver carefully to your giftee—then chuckle an’ snort right up to December 25th.

I told you “crazy about Christmas,” didn’t I? Merry Christmas and God bless you all! Connor OUT
By John Connor

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