How did I get here?

Social media is full of phrases defining what you believe or support based on your vote in the last presidential election or your political party affiliation.  If you’ve been on any of the popular sites, you’ve seen it.  “If you voted for Trump, then you’re a (insert insult here)” or “Hillary voters are a bunch of (insert insult here)”.  I really hate this broad brush approach, but I’m sure I’m guilty of it too.  I’ve been accused of all kinds of horrible beliefs and behaviors since November last, none of which are true.  I just shrug it off to modern times and the explosion of ignorance which reliance on the media has set off.  But it started me thinking about how I came to think the things I actually do believe.

I am chock full of opinions and obviously, patient reader, I am not afraid to share them.  I’m well educated, I think I’m reasonably intelligent, and I try to stay informed.  I’ve been on this planet for over 46 years and I joined the work force at 15 years of age.  My opinions tend to be based on my personal experience, the experiences of people I know, and generally just paying attention to the world around me.  I also try to throw in a good dose of common sense along the way.  But, I also realize I have much to learn.  I don’t claim to be any sort of authority on any particular subject, so I welcome intelligent conversation about any number of topics.  I enjoy sharing my thoughts here and I look forward to generating more dialog as we add to our content.

So, back to the question of how I came to my current state of thought.  I didn’t follow politics closely in my teen years.  My parents weren’t very political and we seldom discussed politics that I remember.  We were raised with a good, solid moral base, and to think for ourselves.  I could have voted in the 1988 election, but didn’t because I didn’t really feel like I knew enough about what was happening.  By 1992, I had graduated from college (the first time) and was pretty sure I knew all there was to know.  Even in those days, college was very much a haven of liberal thought.  I suppose I absorbed some of that thought.  I felt like the world owed me and my peers a little something anyway.  I knew I had to work hard thanks to my excellent upbringing, but still I somehow felt entitled to a good job and a nice salary by virtue of my brand new college degree.  I thought corporations were inherently evil.  I had no problem with abortion because there were too many people on the planet anyway. I wasn’t completely brainwashed, as I abhorred the idea of drug use, legal or otherwise, and I thought gun control measures were stupid.  Still, when the 1992 election rolled around, I voted for Bill Clinton.  I’ll pause while those of you who have known me less than 20 years pick yourself up off the floor.

OK, now that you’re back upright, I’ll continue.  By the next election cycle, I was starting to see the world differently. The Clintons had shown themselves to be reprehensible human beings by then.  I had been married for 4 years and out of school long enough to have learned that the world owed me exactly nothing.  It became increasingly clear to me that the politics of liberal democrats were not for me.  As I got older and gained life experience, I just didn’t buy it any more.  From that point forward, I realized the core tenets of the Republican Party more closely resembled those of my own.  In every election since, I have voted Republican, usually not because I really liked that candidate, but because I could not abide the Democratic candidate.

That’s where I find myself today.  It is clear to me neither party truly has the best interest of the American people at heart.  Their primary focus is doing whatever it takes to gain or remain in power so they can forward their agenda, regardless of whether it would be good for this nation or not.  Those who hold the power are beholden to their special interest donors, not their constituents.  The media perpetuates this as they report what they want reported about the candidate, rather than the facts about their actual platform.  A disturbing byproduct of the media’s obvious bias is the ever widening divide between Americans identifying with either party.  This is dangerous and will only serve to divide us further.  We cannot solve problems when both sides try to paint the other as extremists.  All of those who voted for Trump are not fascists, any more than those who voted for Hillary are socialists.   This attitude is counter productive, intellectually immature, and lazy.  In my opinion, there are far more true socialists in the Democratic party than fascists in the Republican.  But we have to be careful to apply these labels where they actually belong, not to those with whom we simply disagree.

The point of this blog, besides serving simply as a place for me to vent, is to generate conversation.  Hopefully, mature, logical conversation based on facts and not emotional knee-jerks and name-calling.  If you don’t agree with what I’ve written, then comment.  Come to the party with facts and logic, and we can have a conversation.  Who knows?  We might both learn something.  Come at me with vitriol and personal attacks, you’re comments won’t be posted or acknowledged.  Pretty simple.  Thanks for reading and I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Confessions of a Brass Hoarder

I seek the treasure.  The treasure is found in a variety of settings.  Sometimes it’s gravel, sometimes grass or dirt.  It glistens in the sun, available to anyone that is willing to seek it out and pick it up.  I seek it out in blazing sun, rain, and occasionally even snow.  It comes in many sizes, some worth more than others, depending on what you seek.  No, I’m not having Indiana Jones fantasies.  The treasure I seek would bore Indy and not make for a very interesting adventure.  No, the treasure I seek is the humble brass cartridge case.

I am a brass hoarder.  I admit this openly and without shame.  As a competitive shooter, the most economical way for me to acquire ammunition is to hand load my own.  This means I have to purchase powder, primers, and bullets.  But not cases.  I don’t know how many I have, but its got to be in the thousands.  I pick them up every time I shoot or visit the range.  Why not?  They’re like found money.  I don’t know how many times you can reload an individual case, but it must be dozens of times.  I see no reason to just leave them laying there.

Cases on the ground

Truth be told, I’ve picked up cases since before I started reloading.  It just seemed like the sensible thing to do.  The only caliber I reload is 9mm since that’s the chambering of my competition and carry pistols, but I have cases in .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .380 ACP, .223 Remington, 30/30 Winchester, and .303 British.  I do not own weapons chambered for .40, .45, or .380!  I’ve ended up with them in batches of cases that I’ve picked up or received for working a match.  I’ll probably start reloading for the rifles one of these days.  The others I hang on to until I hear of somebody that needs them.

If I’m shooting by myself or with an informal group, I usually wait until I’m done shooting and then I’ll try to pick up as many of the fired cases as I can.  In more formal settings, such as during a match, there are definite protocols, if not rules, for when to pick up brass.  It is bad form to get in the way of shooters walking down a stage before they shoot it to pick up brass left by the previous squad.  Following immediately behind a shooter and picking up his brass should be grounds for disqualification.  That’s my opinion, feel free to make it your own.  I used to try to pick some up as the match went on, but I’m too busy now helping to run stages.  Afterwards, however, I make time to pick up what I can.  I usually try to find a stage where there is at least one shooting position that everyone used, such as a classifier.  That way, the brass is more or less in one spot.  I have had to learn over the years that I cannot let my OCD-driven need for completion drive me to pick up all of the brass.  I get what I can in a reasonable amount of time, and let the rest go.  It goes against my nature, but sometimes that’s for the best!Clean cases

My treasure usually looks pretty rough when I first gather it.  It’s usually cleaner to pick it up shortly after it hits the ground, but it doesn’t hurt it to be out for a while.  I take it home and give it a good cleaning in corn cob and polish in my tumbler.  Once it comes out of the tumbler, it has a nice, brassy glow about it.  Then it’s ready to be deprimed, resized, belled, and loaded into a brand new complete round of ammunition, just waiting for me to pull the trigger and start the process all over again.


Porch Sittin’

We are blessed in East Tennessee with some simply beautiful days in early spring.  Today was definitely one of those, with nice warm temperatures and a pleasant breeze.  It’s a great time of year, before the itchy bugs start their annoying habits and the humidity creates a literal wet blanket across the South.  The air was fresh and clean, with the warm smell of emergent vegetation on the breeze.  After work I decided to enjoy the near perfect conditions by indulging in an activity that is nearly forgotten in the modern world; sitting on the porch.  The phrase “sitting on the porch” is far too formal for this marvelous past time.  I prefer “porch sittin'”.  In my Georgia drawl, it would come out “porch settin'”, but I’m afraid that too much vernacular might give the editorial board here at TFA a migraine.  Anyway, porch sittin’ more effectively conveys the relaxed and subdued nature of what is taking place when one spends time on the porch enjoying the spring breeze.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have spent our formative years in the South should be very familiar with porch sittin’.  In those dark days before the invention of air conditioning, houses were constructed with porches on multiple faces of the house so that one could have access to shade and try to catch the breeze throughout the day.  Today, we’re lucky if a house has any sort of porch whatsoever.  Pap and Grandmother’s house had a front porch and a back porch.  The back porch was enclosed and housed Grandmother’s washing machine and Pap’s tools.  That’s where we broke beans, shucked corn, and did other chores.  The back porch was for work.  The front porch, however, was more relaxing.  It faced US Highway 41, which used to be the main route from Florida northward and is still a very busy highway.

When I was a boy, I spent many hours on that porch with Pap, just sittin’ there, watching cars go by and talking about stuff.  They had these old wooden chairs with seats made of woven metal strips that we used for porch sittin’.  If I remember correctly, those chairs were some of the first things they had when they set up housekeeping.  I have one of them and I treasure it.  You could lean them back on their back legs just enough to get your feet up on the banister, a fine position for watching the world go by.  Sometimes we’d count cars and sometimes Pap would tell stories.  If a neighbor happened by, there was a Howdy! and a bit of conversation.  All in all, I found it to be a fine way to spend an afternoon.

Somehow, I had almost forgotten just what a pleasure porch sittin’ can be.  I haven’t done it in years.  The porch at my house isn’t very big and there is no banister upon which to put your feet.  But it’s on the shady side of the house in the afternoon and overlooks our road.  There are bird nests in the corners that I just don’t have the heart to remove.  It is a perfectly serviceable porch for sittin’, but a person has to slow down long enough to actually sit.  Like most of you, my life is very busy and driven by a schedule.  I rush to get out of the house in the morning, I hurry to get my workout done, hurry to the office, rush to meet deadlines, get home as fast as I can after work, then rush around trying to get everything done at home that has to be done in the evening so I can hurry off to bed.  I spend entirely too much time looking at some electronic device or other and just rushing around.  Porch sittin’ is a potent antidote for the toxins created by our crazy lives.

Today, I decided that I was going to get out a folding chair and do some porch sittin’.  I’m not sure what triggered my desire to do it.  I had been outside most of the day and knew it was a perfect day, and I’d been thinking about my grandparents, too.  I think about them often, but some days, they are really with me strong.  Today was one of those days for some reason.  Something in all of that led me to the porch.  I sat there for about 45 minutes, just watching the cars go by, the birds fly, listening to dogs bark and kids play.  My phone was with me but I never looked at it.  It was wonderful!  Maybe it was the simple fact that I didn’t do a darn thing for nearly an hour.  I think it was more than that, though.  I think it was porch sittin’.   There is something especially therapeutic about being outside on a warm day with a cool breeze blowing across your face and just sittin’.  It is an environment perfectly suited for allowing yourself to slow down, clear your head, and refocus on what’s important.

I wish I could say that porch sittin’ is going to become a regular part of my day.  I know better than that.  But, I do plan to do more of it before the heat of summer drives me inside.  It seems like such a simple thing, and it is.  But that’s the beauty of it!  All you need is a comfortable chair and a porch.  Do yourselves a favor, friends.  Go do some porch sittin’.  Sit with your spouse, your kids, your dog, or just go out by yourself, but leave your phone in the house.  Take a few deep breaths and remember what spring smells like.  Focus on how good it feels to just sit there.  You’ll thank me.