Grail-Grail, Puzzle-Pieces

When you start building a project, whether it’s a rifle or a vehicle, you need to begin with the propellant/power-plant unit in mind. I know everybody builds Fords and Chevys, but where I can find a 1918 Hispano-Suiza V-8?  – or maybe here? 300-something HP seems to be the goal for the motor, not sure about the weight… Some awesome Kiwis built a few.

After that a reproduction kit, or something. A few hundered hours spinning wrenches and slapping dope on silk, volia!
Since I live on a hill, when it’s done it will be relatively simple to get it push-started and off down to the airport below, no?
If I had a ranch in Texas and a Class III stamp (and a dozen Dillons set up for .303 British) the Lewis gun would be cool (and the synchronized Vickers too), and I could fly around with it and rat-a-tat to my hearts content.
With a few lights and some IR stuff it would be an awesome-bitchin’ night-fighter shootin’ wild hogs – as long as the exhaust and engine heat-plume didn’t make the IR bloom…
And of course it would be cool to have a ridin’/flyin’ buddy to join along. I know there’s a bunch of Aero-Gunny types out there besides Bridgid, like Murphy’s Law for instance…

Civilization and the Grail

Probably most of you are familiar with Marko’s essay on Why the Gun is Civilization, (also widely copied and mistakenly attributed to some unknown “Maj. Caudill” ) and maybe also with the “Grail-Gun” series at Borepatch by, ASM826 – which  got me thinking about how many of my own guns are “Grail-Guns,” and it seems to me that the Holy Grail was really the chalice of Civilization, so grail-guns are really our way of holding onto that surprising Relic.  Interesting confluence, that.

My first rifle, the Krag-Jorgenson M1898 inspired me to learn to shoot – and I almost got into re-enacting.  I was bent on acquiring several pieces of Soldiers’ kit, but while looking around the whole turn-of-the-century military re-enacting “scene” pretty much dissolved.  So now I have a hat that’s worthy of the era, and an old leather belt and holster, and a 1900-dated Krag bayonet – because before the Gun was Civilization there was The Knife – and it’s a big one!  I also set to reading and studying to learn more about the conflict in the Philippines where the Krag rifle saw the most action.   I had never known or been taught anything about that time before, and the enthusiasm of it all inspired me to obtain the appropriate side-arm – but not the weak Colt .38 that caused the adoption of the 1911,  only its immediate predecessor would do, the M1909 Colt New Service.

I enjoyed firing the old rifle in bolt-action matches at my gun-club (that I joined because my dirt-ridin’ friend who helped me learn to shoot was a member), and thereupon came the second grail; an 1944 M1 Garand from the CMP.  And with the fire of Civilization ignited within me, I sought out the companion side-arm, a Colt M1911a1.  Had I been from a family of Marines an Ithaca or a Remington-Rand might have been the Grail, but my dad was Navy.  And it didn’t stop there, because my brother had an M1 Carbine I had to have one too.  His was a Rock-O-La, and mine became a National Postal Meter Carbine.  And I also needed bayonets for each rifle and carbine, and the book War Baby detailing the development and wartime production of the carbine, distributed among ten different contractors.

And as an aside for the Garand, while my Father-in-Law was dying a few years ago his roommate (briefly) at the sanitarium was an old soldier who had served in the Pacific Theater as an original Army Ranger.  His short term memory wasn’t much better than the FIL, but he could go on at length about his war experience, hiking up and down the mountains of New Guinea in the mud.  He said that years later he was at a WWII museum in Hawaii where a rifle was on display, and he recognized the serial-number – it was his own Garand.  And so I read The Ghost Mountain Boys, about the New Guinea campaign and then Sledge’s “With the Old Breed” about the fighting at Peleliu and on Okinawa.

But apart from these small bits of study and besides reading about WWI aircraft as a kid, my Military History and tactics knowledge is slim, thus NotClauswitz – which I even spelled wrong.  I was never good at playing RISK either.


Guns-n-Airplanes of my Youth

In the fall towards the end of my 7th year we left our precious and protected bubble-life among the BayAryans, and flew to an overseas destination that was anything but protected.

It was on a cool and blustery morning that we climbed into a hulking Pan-Am helicopter at the local airport and flew up to the big airport in San Francisco, then away to foreign land on a Pan-Am Jet Clipper 707s.  Hawaii our first destination was delicious nectar.  We stayed with old Missionary friends of my parents and ate poi at Church on Sunday – a slightly different take on the usual Communion Host.  A few days later Japan was next and it was raining upon arrival.  Tokyo was *interesting* wet-and-hot, and more Church friends to visit in Kyoto.  Following that we arrived in Bangkok Thailand (and stayed in a Missionary bungalow – you get the picture?).  The waterways called klongs and general environment was exotic beyond belief, and the heat had increased.  Our friends there were the Naval Attaché whom my dad knew from Annapolis.  Finally we landed in Calcutta – which was hotter than hell and stank like the devil, and still a hundred miles from our final destination.

At eight years old, desperately bored in the heat and humidity of the blistering sun, I would lay on my stomach on the cool red-purple tile floor and choose a random volume from the Encyclopedia, and open it up to and read.  The first long, multisyllabic word that I asked my older brother how to spell was, “How do you spell, Machine-gun?” And he replied patiently because he was a whole year-and-a-half older, “Mac-Hine-Gun – you pathetic moron.”  So learned to spell Machine-gun and studied its operation.

The diagrams in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the air-cooled gas-operated .30 Caliber gun were tiny but detailed, with arrows and numbers.  It was a treasure-trove.  My young eyes and inquiring mind sought out each detail, from the combustion of the propellant, to the bullets’ travel, to the gas pushing on the bolt to reverse the bolt impulse, to cambering another cartridge – and it was there that I knew the cartridge was not one thing – a bullet – but that it was comprised of other components: primer, case, powder, bullet.  Like how molecules build on atoms, and dysentery was made of various stains of surly and extremely unpleasant amoeba molecules that could nearly kill you as fast as a bullet.   And I got sick that winter and nearly died.  There was a week-long period of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea until I was so weak I couldn’t stand up from my bed and had to crawl into the bathroom.  It sure seemed like I was done-for, and that’s how I remember it , but my parents don’t seem to remember anything much except for few doctor visits from the Missionary Clinic.  It must have been something bad in the food or unsanitary food-handling that even the unpleasant typhoid-cholera-diphtheria shots didn’t help.

Between the age of eight and eleven, I could tell you about many of the makes and models of WWI aircraft that ever flew – including their horsepower-to-weight ratio and engine size/hp – because I was busy reading, and the Encyclopedia Britannica had flight instructions and take-off and landing procedure as-documented were also very studiously examined, and nearly as important as reading Biggles – the legendary British airman, of whom the adventures  were usually available at the railway station reading/magazine cart.

I read about Otto Lilienthal who flew gliders in Germany and shifted his weight around to control them.  I read about the aces like the American Frank Luke who landed and took-off from a German observation dirigible, and race-car driver Eddie Rickenbacker, and the Canadians Ray Collishaw who flew a Sopwith Triplane, and Billy Bishop who flew an S.E.5a with a Lewis Gun mounted atop the wing and who may have shot-down and the Red Baron – Manfred Von Richthofen.  And in reading all this I also learned about Richard Wagner, the composer of the Flying Dutchman and the great French Aces like Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser .

So I *knew* how machine-guns worked and also *how* to fly, and my brother and I built numerous tissue-paper covered model airplanes – not just from those simple die-cut and numbered “kits,” but hand-built from wax-paper diagrams pinned down to a table where you had to cut all your own sticks and pieces and spars and shapes.  The center-of-gravity was a known concept and necessary component to aircraft design, and when I was nine I was determined to build a glider, and fly it off the rooftop of the old, three-story Missionary Bungalow.  Mom (always) said, “Not today, we’ll do that another time.”  And so my plans for a fabric-winged bamboo airplane never took final shape because it was dangerous.

Which was weird because we played with knives and the other usual dangerous toys, shot airguns (that were heavily controlled), swung from tall trees out over a canyon after jumping off a roof, slept under mosquito nets to avoid Malaria, traveled on steam-locomotives that stank like the devil, saw Leprosy and Elephantiasis close-up, had cobras rounded up from the garden – and generally lived amid a diverse population of where aboriginal bow-and-arrow hunters wearing only a lungi could be found sharing-space on the train platform next to a well-to-do Babu in perfect saffron-colored Kurta and Dhoti standing next to a khaki-dressed soldier holding a black-painted Short Magazine Lee Enfield with it’s forearm wrapped in wire.

And then they shipped us off to Boarding School and everything changed, again…

The second day is always worse

Got up in the AM more sore than yesterday, the day that we took-off from demolition. I was sore from shoulders, chest, lower-back, right-hip, right-elbow, bum knee – you name it: Ibuprofen!
After breakfast coffee we went down to look at what we had wrought. Damn, the angles of the purlins throw-off all the framing. We’re looking to make boxes for solid flooring, and the craptastic added-in 2×4 blocking that came later shifts everything off-square at the base into trapezoids. Some sense of confusion reigned so we called our best-buddy the Licensed Contractor and he came around to straighten our heads. Most helpful – so then we tore back into it.
crossing members
I might still take out those last two crossing X-beams in the back tomorrow – “Don’t cross the streams!” echos in my head. Since the bottom of the 4×4 compression posts are framed-in there’s no need for all the purlin cross-bracing. New stringers above the wiring could tie-in the tops above head-height if I feel extra AR about all this, and I probably do.

Back to the basement

Made a lot of progress today removing over-hanging weirdness and some old junky, thickly-layered clutter.  It took everything the DeWalt had, from square-drive bits to philips’ to flat-head – and sometimes all three in one unit of sketchyness.  And nails.  My dear wife has the gentle soul of a gardener, but she can swing the big Eastwing and run the crow-bar – it’s just much more tiresome work.  I can see a dump-run in the near future, but just a bit more clean-out and we’ll be ready for Monday.

Ghost in the Machine

More finery seen at the Tahoe Show.
Vette In fact there was a bunch of plain-Jane exotica stuff laying around, including (what amounted to the wreck of) Henry J. Kaiser’s own racer-boat, the Scooter Too. Google the 24-cylinder Allison motor monster that could not run at full throttle, and think fondly of Obamacare (Kaiser Health) at the same time…
Metal Beast
Old Hank liked to go fast and didn’t give a hoot about healthcare except it made his workers work for just him, and faster – same thing today. Must make Liberals brains bleed and boil to imagine…no, sorry, nevermind they boiled-out already. Forget it ever happened. Memory Hole has achieved equilibrium.
From Homewood Boatworks and Hydroplane History:

Kaiser chose to power his new unlimited hydroplane with the 24-cylinder V-3420 Allison. Essentially, an experimental engine designed to increase the power output and fighting capability of America’s Allison engines during World War II. Unfortunately, Jet-power was also being developed at about the same time and proved superior in performance.

It was still a bitch on water and ran at 186MPH across the lake at somewhat less than full throttle – it’s driver was too scared to push the throttle open to the stops.
I’m thinking that Henry J. and Howard H. would have had a lot to talk about over cocktails at the Ritz, but Howard got all the movie-biz attention and was younger so he couldn’t listen as well…

Beast of a Machine

Curtiss-Smith V-12
Among the many stunningly delicious boats at the Tahoe show was this monster-motor in Miss Detroit III, first piloted (to victory) by Gar Wood himself and then removed put into storage – and the hull lost to damage. Now resurrected in painstaking detail and at excruciating cost within a new hull – the original 1918 Gold Cup winner… They cranked it up just to let the rubes watch the valve tappets pop and hear the stomach-churning roar of the coffee-can sized cylinders. It was religious.
Thank-you Mr. Moneybags-Whoever for this as fine a service to mechanical-humanity as could possibly ever be done, in the water as in flight, amen. Those rich-racin’ rum-runners knew the biz, and a V-12 Liberty powered launch was there as well as a slew of other mahogany mega-fauna of the boatistic variety, including this Jaguar-powered wood-shop refugee:
mahogany mega-fauna
There were more miles of polished mahogany and exotic wood than in a dozen flooring show-rooms. Next year’s select-featured hors d’oeuvres will be the really big V’s, including a couple V-16’s I believe…
Just. Stunning.

Changes in Latitude

Since our new domicile lies in the Heartland of the Summer, just below Chaos Mountain and above the Sizzling Plain, we have been forced to adopt new strategies for age-old pursuits and habits: water is everything. Instead of wasting the nectar-fluid in long luxuriant showers I now wash-up quickly with a bucket. That altered another habit – the shower-shave ritual. Previously and for the past thirty-five years I shaved while I showered (luxuriantly), using a multi-bladed Gillette product to scrap the face smooth of every last nubbin, and occasionally draw blood.
Now I am reduced to driving a Norelco diesel mower across my visage while leaving bits of yard-waste everywhere – it’s not a golf-course quality shear anymore, but a rough-cut. Still I can more easily motor-off the top-fluff and attack the weird thickets of old-man whiskers that erupt from the ears and other untoward places without drawing a pint.
20-bucks a monthAdditionally there is another practice adopted a couple years ago to save beaucoup de gris-gris money. She Who Must Be Salon-Capitane does the #2 trim with some French equipment that is astonishingly pink. After four years, 20-bucks saved every month is plenty of ammo – close to a grand’s worth…

Emergency Gardening

Whilst in the Burg of Rose, up Olde Orgone Way, we had a landscaping emergency that required immediate tending-to. Rather than flit about between the Patchouli Wookies and Vegetarian Harly-riders visiting wineries, we opted to be stay-at-home budsmen and plant a few patchy stalks of Lavender and various other things.
The Middle-boy having completed four-something tours to the sandy non-Oasis and also the badlands of ‘Stan, had severed his ties to the Army and was off to the oilfields of Dakota’s – and his truck with him – which is why I was originally enlisted to haul the U-Trailer. The Seargeant-Eldest was north of Seattle and heading back to another training gig in 200-degree Arizona with the wife and girl-child, while the youngest was on the East Coast somewhere in between being a Medic and a Sous-Chef… With the boys gone Sister-In-Law was alone, overwhelmed, and with only a lousy car-type vehicle in which to haul a load of tanbark and other heavy soil amenities for the front landscape. So I drove my truck (to Lowe’s).
The house was originally owned and built by a Japanese couple, and the orientation was Feng-Shuei’d to face the wrong way, so we landscaped the drive-up side-front, and dug plants too – and added quick-connectors to the miles of garden hose that were strewn everywhere.
One of the things about Orgone first noticed and especially appreciated by a Californoodlian was the sheer abundance of water-water everywhere, and green plants instead of bone-dry brown. We hauled the hoses to various location and turned on the rain birds, and thus was sung the sound of Summer. Ka-shik-shik-shik-shik *ting* chew-chew-chew-chew-chew as the water sprayed in an arc. I love that sound.


Awoke sore and achy wondering what had hit me until I rolled over and mentioned it – and She replied with the same aches in the same places – could only mean one thing: Golf.  Had not swung that wild club in over a year or more, and the 2nd day of after weird exercise is always the one that catches you out.

Better remember to limber up next year. Meanwhile the sinus and goober Infitada has waned substantially today, with all signs pointing towards clearing-up instead of a tumor or worse.  After a week of yucky green and streaky stuff with post-nasal sore-throat, and now with the advent of a high-pressure system overhead (hot weather) I had not expected this result. Yay! Ow!

All the yardwork last week and prior, out in the “garden” turning over rocks with clearly mildewy residue beneath – and wind – and then hauling them around in the Little Green Deathwagon – something must have insinuated itself in my nasal cavity and begun to fester.  Fortunately (I suppose?) my strength was not depleted and my body rallied.

The murky brown haze that hung over the Lost City of Sacrament yesterday has been replaced by a wall of hot, steel-gray haze – the city is gone nowas far as anyone can tell.  Hill-country temps escalating into the upper 90’s, the whole Valley is gone too – as if we are alone in an oasis of Heat.  So this is what retirement is like: now I must wander out sweltering, hitched-up in high-waisted pants with a good section of sock showing, and find someone younger than me to badger.

UPDATE: And today (Friday) is better yet, and I need to get some seat-time on the bike.