February 2011 Journal of a Gypsy Cowboy



January 30-31, 2011

Fifth weekend. No matches.

I had long thought that Hell was a swamp in Cambodia, or perhaps the night of April 5/6, 1970 at Fire Support Base Mary. One of my lieutenants said Hell was the swamp in Cambodia, but he wasn't at FSB Mary.

Those are still right up there for encouraging a virtuous life in a desire not to return, but I've just discovered another level of Hell, not quite as bad, but not a weekend with 5 porn starlets either. (4 I could see. 5 was just excessive.) The latest level of hell is the Social Security office.

I had to go there because I decided to sign up for Medicare Part B after first rejecting it on my birthday. I rejected it because I have the VA. But then in November I saw an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon at the ABQ VA. The expectation was that the neurosurgeon would do the ulnar nerve surgery, and the orthopedic surgeon would do the hand surgery. Then the orthopedic surgeon thought I had been sent to him for both operations. He said he did the ulnar nerve surgery all of the time. He told me to think about it then call him or his PA to schedule it if I wanted it. It needs to be done first. So the next week I was at the hospital and tried to schedule it. The lady at the surgery clinic told me I would have to talk to him. I asked how. She said she would have him call me.

Then, once a week or more, from then until the end of January I called and tried to get him or his PA to call me back. Nothing.

Meanwhile, giving up, I talked to the neurosurgeon within 5 minutes of calling her. I have an appointment the end of March. She won't schedule it before then and only schedules a month ahead, so I figure there's a 5-10% chance that I'll actually get the surgery done in April or May. I figure the chance of getting hold of the orthopedic surgeon are slim and none, and Slim is playing poker in Reno.

So I decided I need the option of finding a civilian surgeon to do the thumb work or at least offer a second opinion. January 31 was the deadline for signing up for part B without penalty and getting it effective April 1. After 4 hours on the internet by The Redhead and an hour on the phone by me I discovered you have to do this in person at a SS Orifice.

So we drove 287 miles through heavy traffic, mostly hordes of Mexicans firing automatic weapons indiscriminately in the air and yelling "Viva Napolitano!" But we got there. We went inside. Security consisted of one bored man who said, "Do you have any guns, knives, keys, money, cell phone, belt, shoes, or underwear?" If you said yes he sent you back outside to strip down to acceptable levels. Well, except for the underwear. He wanted me to leave that so he could "watch over it." Then you went to a computer screen that told you to push a button according to what you were there for. There were 42 choices, with "Other" on the bottom. Choice 1 was "Have you recently arrived from Mexico and desire Social Security and Medicare and want your first 5 years' check right now?" Choice 2 was, "Have you recently arrived from Yemen and want assistance writing your will for your upcoming meeting with 72 virgins before your potassium nitrate and diesel filled truck parked in the handicapped zone gets towed away?" It got worse after that. I didn't get to read them all. The Redhead reads faster than I and pushed "other."

A machine spit out a ticket with a number on it, Z101.

We sat down.

A flat screen on the wall was playing a Chubby Checker Social Security advertisement. Chubby Checker??

Below that were 5 lists of the next number up. One was Z192. Yep, 192. What the hell does that mean?? Did they call 101 through 191 while I was walking 5 paces from the kiosk to my seat?

Two hours later the number changed to 194 and flashed red. Then 195. Then 196. Sometimes people behind the windows called out a number, seemingly at random with little or no relation to what was on the screen.

Chubby Checker came and went 6 times, as did Patty Duke. Occasionally the signs were in English, but not that often.

About an hour later the Z number changed to 193. Then it became Z82, then Z82. Another hour went by, and it went back to being 193, then 197, then 198, then 199, then A21, 22, 23. WTF (Over*)? Then it finally went to Z100, then Z102, but the guy at the door called for Z101 after no one showed up for Z100. There was a dead body in the corner holding Z100. I would estimate he had been dead for at least a day.

Inside we told him what we needed. He was very nice and told us we had to fill out a form, and then Part B would start in July.

Wrong. No Kewpie doll. "I'm pretty sure it's July, Would you like me to check?"

With steam coming out of my ears and my blood pressure 150-110, I softly said, "Yes, would you please?"

He was happy and ran out of the room, no doubt to take his morning break. He came back just before closing. "Yes, April 1."

Then he left again. Idly I said to The Redhead, "The security at this place is just designed for a mass shooting." "Shh! They'll never let you out of the jail." "But it would be so easy. The bad guy could just walk in, shoot the guard, and then he's got a room full of targets with no place to go."

This conversation proved one thing. We weren't being monitored.

Just before dark I got out of there.

*- Vietnam vets will understand that. We were saying Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over long before WTF became a texting shortcut for World Tango Federation.


After we left the SS office, it got magically brighter. The sun came out. Cracker Barrel served me breakfast and The Redhead dinner, and we went back to the bus. I decided to get in a little practice.

I put guns back in the car (removed for visit to the SS in case the parking lot was a gun free crime zone) and drove to Cowtown, got my gear and guns out. The sun was shining bright, and there was joy in Mudville until I fired the first shot. A small black cloud blew up overhead and dropped 42 inches of rain in 15 minutes.

The phone rang. It was Don Ziegler of American Pioneer Powder. They're out of powder. They've closed for renovation and won't be shipping much before July. This is a problem as I have half a bottle of 3f and need to load .38s and shotguns, and I use it in the pistols, too.

I put the wet guns and such back into the car in a heavy downpour. When I climbed into the driver's seat the rain stopped. I went back to the shop and oiled the guns and put them away, then went inside the bus and started searching for APP 3f. I called (Let's call him Deep Powder, a distributor friend of mine). He doesn't have any but will try to come up with a case. Larsen has some on order that got filled before the ax fell, and he's offered me some.

So I'll have a little anyway. I looked at my powder supplies, lots of APP sticks, not useful for any main match guns, a bottle and partial of Jim Shockey's Gold 2f, which I had tried in the pistols, just not consistent in SASS level loads. I can use it up in shotguns if I check every case for powder at station 3. I have 2 bottles of Pyrodex P, which should work in the pistols, 2 bottles of 777 3f and a partial of 2f, and 2 partial bottles of Pinnacle 2f and a partial of 3f. I can make practice cartridges out of 777 2f, 3f**, or Pinnacle 3f. The Pinnacle 2f would work just like APP 2f for shotguns.

I have a source for Goex 3f, which will work for everything but .38 special cartridges (for my purposes).


**-oops, scratch that. Hodgdon says the fires of Hell will open up and consume you if you use 3f in a cartridge. I would never use 3f in a huge .38 Special cartridge.


Door Mat Du Jour:

Doormat of the Day:  Keys, Wallet, Mobile Phone


1January 24-29, 2011

Thanks to Justice Lily Kate,

This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union address
occurred on the same day. (Well, it didn't really this year. Just go with it.)

As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition of events:
one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little
intelligence for prognostication while the other involves a groundhog."

0.5 gr. more powder needed.

Looks like I needed about 0.5 gr. more powder. This was a .45 Colt load in an R & D Conversion cylinder.

Mostly practicing, working on the bus, the trailer, etc. Exciting stuff.8



January 16-24. 2011

A Short Story

On Saturday went to the Yavapai Rangers match with Ol' Short Tom and Two Sons, 6 stages of cowboy, 4 of Wild Bunch. I don't know how they did it, but the range is arranged so the sun was in my eyes all day. Primary shotgun broke. It trapped a round under the extractor. Johnny Meadows has it to work on it. He loaned me a shotgun. Ol' Short Tom and Two Sons are blazingly fast and accurate.

I wasn't. One 29 second stage. Everything else was slowed by smoke, glare, broken shotgun, rifle rounds that went click, and my incompetence. We had dinner at the Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City. Good food, confused service, and, since we ate at the bar in order to not wait 30 minutes for a table, a trio with an extremely loud drummer. Unfortunately a quick check of local laws via smart phone elicited the fact that it's illegal to shoot drummers in Arizona except in self-defense. Defending your ears doesn't count.

The rifle rounds that went click had Federal primers. They didn't fire after 2 hits.

January 15-20, 2011

Shot at Cowtown Saturday. 4 Frontiersmen on the posse. I was 4th. Really slow. 4 misses. But other than that I was pretty bad.

Sunday shot the Wild Bunch match there. Did better.

Practiced Tues, Wed, Thurs. My thumb was killing me after shooting the engraved ROAs. The 1958 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup truck overload spring mainsprings necessary to pop caps were too much for me. I pulled out the spare ROAs. They felt like Jimmy Spurs Vaqueros in comparison. Stage times dropped dramatically, well, at least a little. Thursday I had two failures to fire from the same chamber on one gun. I switched out the nipple for the unused "red" nipple. I noted the one that I took off the active chamber had developed a "lip" from the peening of the hammer. I measured its OAL length. 0.517. Intrigued, I pulled out a new one. 0.524. 10 new ones measured between 0.523 and 0.526. I pulled the ones on the engraved guns. 7 were in the 0.517-519 range. Two were in the 0.512-.523 range. I replaced all of them and ordered some 1/2 ton overload springs from Wolff. Will try them in those guns when they arrive.

Almost out of APP, so reloading has stopped until latest order arrives.

It took till Monday afternoon to get the 3G MiFi. It works, after a fashion.

January 14, 2011

Doormat of the day:

Dog's Doormat

Spent a lot of time with Verizon. Got The Redhead a Verizon 4G modem. Then we discovered it wasn't MAC compatible. This isn't a problem with her computer, but it is for mine, of course. We'll have to take it back and either go back to the old 3G card or get a 3G MiFi We were getting it partly for the speed, and partly for the new 10Gig/month plan. We can get that without the 4G card. Verizon 4G only exists in cities where there are NFL teams at this time.

January 9-13, 2011

Got too busy to work on this. Deadline for the Cowboy Chronicle article was running at me at flank. I dodged it by that much. Then, of course, there was the Tucson tragedy.

Overshadowed by the Tucson shooting was the announcement of the death of Richard "Dick" Winters. Winters was the Easy Company commander whose World War II exploits were made famous by the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers." He was 92.

Winters was born Jan. 21, 1918 and studied economics at Franklin & Marshall College before enlisting, according to a biography on the Penn State website.

Winters became the leader of Company E, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, after the death of the company commander during the invasion of Normandy.

During that invasion, Winters led 13 of his men in destroying an enemy battery and obtained a detailed map of German defenses along Utah Beach. In September 1944, he led 20 men in a successful attack on a German force of 200 soldiers.

Occupying the Bastogne area of Belgium at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, he and his men held their place until the Third Army broke through enemy lines, and Winters shortly afterward was promoted to major.

Among his decorations was a Distinguished Service Cross. For those of you not familiar with military decorations, the Distinguished Service Cross is what you get when you should have gotten the Medal of Honor but, for some reason, you didn't. It's also our country's second highest valor award. In his case the theater commander decided that there would be only two Medals of Honor given out for the D-Day invasion.

When people asked whether he was a hero, he echoed the words of his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney: "No, but I served in a company of heroes."

I'll let others debate what constitutes a hero. The definition seems to change often in this country. I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. He qualifies as far as I'm concerned.

His long and distinguished life reminded me one more time that you have nothing to fear in this life. In combat you learn quickly that anything you do in combat can get you killed, including doing nothing.

Once you realize that, you realize you might as well do your job without fear, or, at least in spite of your fears. If you realize that life is combat in that respect, then you might as well live your life without fear.

January 8, 2011, Saturday

Shot the ACSA match, clean, won FM. Hard to lose, as all of the other usual suspects shot other categories or boycotted because they heard I was shooting FM. No really good stages, just clean, with a little help from, let's just say, spotters who gave me the benefit of the doubt about 3 times. Since I'm not allowed to argue with spotters, I let it go. ;)

Went to the Ben Avery Shotgun Venue RV Park and got on the list for a spot this winter. Pioneer RV Park is fighting with the state to renew their lease, have been for 3 years. Many regulars are leaving, usually people in park models, which means they generally can't move their park models. Most are too old to get into other parks. Memo to prospective full time RV ers: DO NOT BUY A PARK MODEL. The reason given for the State's not wanting to renew the lease is too many park models. Most of the 400 or so spots are park models. They consider that a trailer park, not an RV park. Residents have been warned by a state official that it would be prudent to seek alternate living arrangements.

Then I turned on the radio.

January 7, 2011

Shot the fancy ROAs yesterday and today, about 6 stages each day, percussion, no conversion cylinders. They worked almost perfectly,, one cap only ignition this morning when I shot the first stage without popping caps first. Larsen gets away with that with APP. I don't. I do with Goex. I've shot the first stage of a lot of matches with Cowboy because of this, then switched to APP 3f. These sessions were nearly all APP 3f, one Goex stage yesterday. Ran out of Wonder Wads then. Today I had one cap that either didn't fire the first time, or I mis-indexed the gun, both possible. I used mostly the old Remington caps. Much more confident in them now, but I'll shoot the green ones at matches.

January 3-6, 2011

Attempts to get the orthopedic surgeon or his assistant to call me back have proven, so far, still unsuccessful. Whenever all you turkeys who were for Obamacare finally get it in place you can learn how badly the gumment handles anything, including medical care.

Got daily practice. Tried 2 handed, 1 handed, and finally went back to Frontiersman. I THINK I can handle those ROAs with the '58 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup truck overload springs. No misfires in several stages, even though I was using the old style Remington caps (I've got a ton of them. Gotta use them up.)

Oh, yes. The Redhead won the mega millions lottery.

Unfortunately, she only won 2 dollars. Too bad. There went the ultimate CAS shooting facility.

January 2, 2011 Sunday

Shot the match at Cowtown in Frontier Cartridge. Slow. One stage in the 20s. Good match, though

January 1, 2011 Saturday

Took the day off.

Looked at my resolutions for 2010:

I will:

1. Drink at least 5 Margaritas a week.

Didn't manage to keep that one. They're 250 calories, and I'm down 20 lb.

2. Attend the SASS matches that are in range that I want to attend.

Did that for the most part.

3. Practice when I can.

Did that.

4. Play with the dog, the cats and The Redhead as often as possible.

Did that, but not as often as I wanted to. I'll try harder in 2011.

5. Not eat Vietnamese food, or Thai food.

Did that!

6. Remember--Don't sweat the small stuff.

Wish I'd done that more.

7. Remember--It's all small stuff.

REALLY wished I'd done that more.

8. Be nice to waiters and waitresses and overtip.

Did that!

9. I will stop having sex with supermodels, porn stars, and high priced escorts, no matter how much they offer to pay me. I don't want to lose my sponsors.

Did that. Sponsors, you can all come back!