Dream Gun Meme

At Atomic Nerds, LabRat has posted her sensible choices for an Interweb “meme” that in my over- busyness I didn’t even know was circulating: Five Dream Guns.

Once I would have gasped “only five?” Now I like the idea of having a few well- used, high- quality Good Guns. I should postulate also that I agree with and HAVE several of her choices– my sensible lever rifle, a late 1940’s Winchester 94 in .30- 30 for instance; a shotgun that fits; and my choice for the M16 “niche”, a Czech Mauser in .223 with a detachable box mag that allows more capacity than most bolt actions but with CZ’s accuracy and trigger. I have also reluctantly more or less abandoned a lifelong affair with various 1911’s because PD and arthritis make it hard to rack a slide briskly.

The weird thing about this meme is that I have owned several that would go on my ideal dream list already and let them go, some for good reasons, a few for dumb ones, but most because I had to– champagne tastes are difficult on a cheap beer budget, never mind one that fluctuates.

The “good reason” ones include safari rifles– I have owned several and ended up selling them to friends who have been able to get better use out of them; failing a rich patron I doubt I will ever hunt Africa, and if I do I’m sure my friends will help…

I will list my choices, and only mention a couple I wish I could own again, but almost all might fit that category!

First, a new or at least unmarred English Best double shotgun– a side by side, in 16 gauge. If new, a round- action gun from Scotland; probably a David McKay Brown with 29″ barrels, like the one below engraved for the Tower of London with Raven feathers by Malcolm Appleby, though the last might be too much to ask!

If old, a classic Boss in the same gauge, with the rounded action now popular in good Spanish sidelocks. I once missed one sold by another writer, a friend who had nothing in it to speak of and would have been generous. Sigh.

A “.275 Rigby”, AKA 7 mm Mauser, by Rigby– Karamojo Bell and Jim Corbett’s dainty killer of monster beasts.

A Broomhandle Mauser because they are terminally cool, the ultimate Steampunk gun (Libby calls them “transformers” because they come apart without any screws, though more complex than modern guns). That they were used in real life by Churchill in the Boer War, T E Lawrence, ornithologist Salim Ali, and the fictional protagonists in novels by Geoffrey Household and Michael Gruber doesn’t hurt…

A really BIG bore, high- quality wildfowling gun by an English maker– Greener, Scott, Holland– an 8 or even 4- bore, preferably double. Of course I’d need a trip to Scotland to shoot geese with it. This one is “only” a ten, but Greener made bigger gauges on the same action.

My old Darne shot- and- slug “Jungle Gun” 12 bore.


Good comment from Dr Hypercube and my addition:

“I covet a Shanxi Type 17 (or a pair). I’m sure Steve knows ’em, but for other folks, they were broomhandle Mauser copies in .45 ACP manufactured in Taiyuam by “the Model Governor” warlord Yen Hsi-shan.”

Me: “if I am dreaming I suppose I could say a Shanxi model. They ARE in .45 ACP, which is nice. Trouble is, THAT got a whole bunch destroyed, especially in the Cultural revolution, for being in a bourgeois western CALIBER.

“This makes even clapped out ones go for $5000 plus while good shooters in the original (and still- made) Mauser caliber can be found for under $1000.

“I should also have said ALL MUST BE SHOOTERS (for instance I did have a 4- bore ML of dubious provenance once, neither shot nor mentioned). A lot of Broomhandles are dangerous from being shot with too- hot loads.

“And I should have said that the Broomhandle must have a holster- shoulder stock…”

More to come…

Herding sheep, and words

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted, and I have missed the blog much in the last few months. Our sheep and guardian animals are all fine and wintering well. We’ve moved the herd to the pasture at our house, so my “checking the sheep” sometimes only involves looking out the window. When we moved to the house, we started feeding hay. It’s a rich mixture of oat/pea/alfalfa, so the ewes leap high into the air, twisting sideways with joy, while chasing the feed truck every afternoon. It’s comical. We won’t start lambing until early May, so these are easy, quiet months for the herd as long as the weather isn’t too miserable. They’ve had an easy winter so far.

Every time our herd moves, it’s an attraction for predators. It usually takes a few days for our guardian dogs to clean out the coyotes from new range, but this year we’re dealing with a couple of packs of coyotes. A few weeks ago, both Rena and Luv’s Girl arrived at the house at dawn, battle-weary and bloody after a night of conflict. The sheep herd was unscathed, and had been joined on their bedground by a couple of hundred pronghorn antelope. Apparently the pronghorn realized that the safest place to be when there are predators on the prowl is with a guarded herd. Neither of the dogs was hurt badly, but Rena slept for almost nine straight hours in the spot just inside the door where she had collapsed upon entry. It was obvious from the frozen traces left on their neck manes that both dogs had been in physical conflicts with smaller animals that were trying to bite their throats. The smaller animals never succeeded, although Luv’s Girl did have some swollen, bloody bites on her nose.

Because of the sheer persistency of our coyote threats, I’ve been trying to keep one guardian dog kenneled at night – forced rest – while the other two are on night duty. Rant has been doing a really good job when he’s on duty, but he’s returned to the house nearly unable to walk a few times now, suffering from exhaustion. The size of the coyote packs are dwindling, and I’m fairly confident that Rant has decided that lethal control is the way to go.

With three burros, and three guardian dogs, and their location right outside the yard, my herd has not suffered from predation this winter, but the everyday threats are astounding. We see coyotes every day, we hear their howling every day without fail, and coyotes make tries on the herd every night. Our sheep are Rambouillets, which are famous for their flocking instinct, which helps to protect the herd from predation. Stray sheep are dead sheep in this predator-rich environment.

While the guardians have been working hard to keep life pleasant for the sheep, I’ve been busy inside. In December, we became aware that our favorite sheep magazine was printing its last issue. The Shepherd had been published for 56 years, was based in Ohio, and each monthly issue had been full of animal husbandry, nutrition, and management information. The loss of the publication was a blow we felt personally.

So my buddy Pete and I talked about it, and we teamed up to make an offer to purchase the magazine. We were somewhat surprised when our offer was successful, and we scrambled to form a corporation and jump through all the legal hoops. We Wyoming sheepherders now own a national monthly sheep industry magazine – something we had not foreseen a few months ago. The purchase did not include employees – what we bought was the brand, its subscribers, its advertisers, its 56 years of history and past issues.

We’ve just sent our first issue of the magazine off to the design and print company. Although printing and mailing the magazine will continue from a facility in Ohio, it’s with a great deal of satisfaction that we’ve moved the editorial and business operations to the sagebrush rangelands of western Wyoming – our sheep range. We’ll continue herding sheep, and words.

For those who want to know more, check out The Shepherd.

Hot Links

Archaeologists at the University of Oregon are using a blimp to help them map and photograph medicine wheels in southeastern Oregon. Loved this picture.

I find it fascinating that paleontologists have found a Permian forest almost 300 million years-old miraculously preserved in volcanic ash in China. I find it frustrating there are no pictures of it.

Russian scientists have been able to grow this plant (see pic) from 30,000 year-old seeds preserved in permafrost. They plan to look for more seeds with which to try this.

I must confess, I had never heard of the field of archaeoacoustics before running across this article.

This article on the study of ancient human fecal remains has some good information but manages to mis-use “coprolites” which is the proper term for the object of study. I think the author was too busy trying to work “poop” and “crap” into every other sentence. One of my graduate school friends studied Anasazi coprolites and we’ve always teased him about writing his theses on feces.

Oh, and Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

Just this morning I ran across a link to this lecture given by the late Michael Crichton about ten years ago, on a peculiar effect of our modern news media. I have recently had a work-related occurence which unfortunately I cannot blog about, that has convinced me of its essential truth. After you read this, I would imagine some of you will feel the same way.

To quote Crichton:

“Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.”

Not Sharing

A few days ago our local pair of Red-tailed Hawks killed a cottontail at the end of my neighbor’s driveway. Didn’t take long before the moochers started to show up.

It didn’t take much Magpie harrassment for the female to get disgusted and take off with most of the rabbit. The male refused to move and stolidly ignored the Magpies until he finished his portion. I don’t think the Magpies got much more than a smell.

Flying visit with bar & meal

Reid & Connie blew through ahead of a winter storm, down to take a look at Aussie pups which he will doubtless blog on. An early evening in the bar, an excellent elk “Brasato” courtesy of reader Roberto, (recipe below), talk til eyes closing of everything from science fiction to Doc Holliday to folk and country music, rare books, and, always, archaeology; sleep, brunch, photos and off. Amazing how many subjects good talkers can bounce through in a short time…

Lib & Connie at the Spur (grannies didn’t look like that when we were kids); my good friend of many years and possible cousin Bobby Winston, demolition expert and long- time proprietor of Winston’s Chevron, by Connie, trying to scare the camera (Bob is a descendant of Italian- Swiss miners, the Papas and the Strozzis, first into this country before 1860). He loves to give his baleful Jenghiz frown– “Be careful, I might break the camera!- but I can testify he is the kindest and most loyal of friends. Finally, Reid and me outside Casa Q; photo by Connie.

Brasato by Roberto Buonfante:

“Soak the meat in chunks or cubes in a large bowl totally covered with red wine and add the following: onion, celery, carrots, cloves, bay leaves and very important cracked juniper berries.This mix stays in the refrigerator at least 24 hrs, stir everything at least once.

“Cooking in a pan, I use copper for best results but any would be fine, extra v. olive oil sautee the meat keeping the wine and everything except cloves that are removed with a strain or placed in advance inside a half onion like nails . Add everything and cook with a lid until meat is tender and fully cooked, maybe 1 hour.

“When cooked add one glass of milk with a spoon of flour well dissolved in the milk. Pour into the brasato and cook until the flour is done, let say 15 more min. At the end I add a teaspoon of ground unsweetened cocoa, strange but amazing the result.

“I serve over polenta.”

I used elk rather than boar, added a single dry ancho chile for flavor more than heat, and considering altitude among other things cooked it all afternoon in a closed Dutch oven but in an oven set at only 200 degrees. it was at least as good as he predicted.

Old Anglo Indian Books

For bibliophiles mainly.

Conversations with Walter Hingley prompted me to bring out my favorite old fishing book: a copy of Thomas’s The Rod in India that I got from fishing writer Datus Proper, with its gold embossed figure of an Indian angler and a mahseer on the cover.* (Click all to enlarge).

The mahseer was sometimes called “The salmon of the Raj” but it is more like a tarpon (though known for strength more than aerial acrobatics). Walter found the photo; the other from Thomas.

I wrote to Walter, who had told me of another book with “Circumventing the mahseer” in the title: “My copy of Rod In India is pretty remarkable — I haven’t looked at it in a long time. It apparently belonged to someone named Woods who was a member of the Rangers in Meerut and signed the flyleaf in March 1899; he also has some tackle opinions with which he has annotated the text. The illustrations are fabulous and there is a chapter on fishing with otters which compares, perhaps, with the one on cormorant training in Salvin’s falconry book of the same era. The chapter “Circumventing the mahseer” seems to be his own writing; perhaps it was an irresistible phrase.”

They also have a version of my favorite, if never chic, fish, the monster cat.

Today they still fish for several species of the mahseer, these days mostly catch & release. I am piscivorous, but the magnificent and threatened (and allegedly inedible) mahseer needs help…

Books like this transcend fishing and evoke a lost world. They sit on my shelves with contemporaries & friends like Kipling & his father and “EHA”‘s whimsical natural history (last a gift from David Zincavage).

* Notice BTW the swastika- like pattern on the Navajo rug in the background, a common motif in both American Indian and Indian design– both Kiplings used it– before the Nazis perverted it.


The Hansons are back from their Egyptian expedition with the Explorers Club flag– and will (both Roseann and Jonathan I hope) be writing something here.


“It was fantastic. Probably the most challenging driving I’ve had over such an extended journey. Many difficult climbs to cross dune chains, then 60mph blasts across huge rolling sand sheets. Our guide very, very nearly capsized his Land Cruiser on a loose side slope the first day out. Stuck fast with a dicey recovery – we anchored his vehicle with a line to the roof rack to keep it from going over as we pulled it out…

“And we felt like rock stars the entire trip. People kept coming up to us and thanking us for coming, shaking our hands, some nearly in tears.”