Right smack dab in the middle of Winchester, VA is this lovely place:

The Kernstown Battlefield, where two, count ‘em, two separate battles were fought during the Civil War. Can you blame ‘em? It’s a lovely place to run around and shoot at each other:

I’m surprised it’s still there, given the penchant of the City Council to bulldoze tree lined properties. By the way, here’s how things look back at my house:

On the battlefield is the Pritchard House:

or, at least, what’s left of it:

The docents assured me it is haunted. I can understand why. The Pritchards were Quakers; Mrs. Pritchard was from New Jersey and a Union symapthizer, while Mr. Pritchard sided with the Confederacy. But, being Quakers, they did not participate in the fighting. They and their children lived on the farm during the war, hiding in the basement during the battles because there was some kind of rule that neither Army would commandeer your house if you stayed there while soldiers were busily running around your yard trying to kill each other (of course, there were exceptions made in other times and locales). Made for some interesting moments, I’m sure.

When the battles were over, the Pritchards brought wounded from both sides into their house and nursed them, including a very popular Union officer named Colonel Mulligan, who was shot at the stone wall right out front.

Despite the Pritchard’s care, Col Mulligan died in the parlor, one day before his wife could get there to take him home.

This is Mr. Pritchard’s office:

That’s original wallpaper still clinging here and there, and original stain on the floor.

The parlor:

That’s Col Mulligan on the left, Mrs. Pritchard on the right.

This sketch was made a couple of days before Col Mulligan died:

Ignore the idiot with the camera on the left. Look on the right: can you see Mrs. Pritchard? Take a good look, because that’s the last of her.

Mr. Pritchard had taken a loan against the house before the war started and, although a very successful wheelwright and distiller, all of his tools and equipment were “liberated” by Union forces, leaving the family destitute. Mr. Pritchard filed for compensation, and several Union officers, including General Crook of later Indian Wars fame, testified on his behalf. One week before the court made its decision, Mr. Pritchard died of a heart attack while walking along Hogue Creek, past the stone wall. He never found out his claim was denied and his entire property sold to a bidder. His two sons, 11 and 12, were apprenticed to teach the new owner how to distill whiskey (I hear social workers fainting all over America right now). Mrs. Pritchard was allowed to remove from the house only the things she brought into the marriage. She even had to buy her sons’ beds, so they’d have a place to sleep when done distilling.

And, then, she disappeared. She moved to either Kernstown or Stephens City, but no one knows where, and there is no record of her since. Just gone.

I find that heartbreaking.

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Watch them destroy my neighborhood

“Them” being the city council which, in a frenzied effort to make this a “walkable” city, decided to eliminate a park next to me (that once housed a 19th Century brick farmhouse and 100-year-old pecan trees), for a “commercial development.”

Here’s what my street looked like on the 4th of July:

This is what it looked like yesterday:

The trees with the red strings get saved. The one’s without…

All for a new Roy Rogers, next to an existing Taco Bell, and a bank, and check cashing and auto title stores.


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What I Did This 4th of July

Because central planners have decided that a proper Fourth of July celebration requires herding the peasants into some town square for face painting, 10ks, and cornhole tournaments (cornhole? Seriously?) while awaiting government-sanctioned firework displays, I decided to go do some real ‘Merican stuff.

First, I went fishing. Got up at 0600 and went to the lake:

It was an unbelieveably beautiful morning, cool and breezy, courtesy of some nearby hurricane. The wind was a bit annoying because I was using my fly rod and a popper, hoping to entice a smallmouth out of its hidey-hole, and my best, unwinding, thing-of-beauty casts ended up about three feet from the bank. The only creature that showed any interest was a sunfish smaller than the popper I was using. Since it couldn’t swallow the bait, it decided to beat it into submission, and, while that was amusing, there was no sport in it, so on to the range:

to shoot these:

M1, and M1 Carbine. War tested, mother approved.

(I’m not allowed to have a firecracker or a pop-bottle rocket, but no problem with these. Man, who let these people take over?)

The rifle target was 100 yards downrange:

which is unfortunate, because I can only see about 50 yards these days, so this was my first effort:

Shooting a little low, I think.

This was the final result, both 30.06 and 30-30:

Meh. I’ll get most of the zombies when they swarm my position, but not all of them.

Course, then I went to the 15-yard target and employed my .357 Mag Revolver, 2-shot drills:

Blow the smoke off the barrel, holster.

Later today, I’m going to a ball game and then fire up the grill and then sit on my deck with all the torches lit and listen to the far off thunder of EPA-approved fireworks entertaining the masses while I count myself most fortunate to be a naturalized citizen of the only country ever founded with the basic premise that the individual is more important than the group, the natural law trumps the statutory, and government, even at its most sincere and efficient, is, at best, an annoying, grubby, intrusion in our lives, and should be severely limited.

Hear that, central planners?


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By the Power of Odin, I Release You!

That Asgardian on yon hill is me. I was playing Odin for the last episode of Losing Cable2

(moment of silence for the end of a great series…okay, back to it…)

and it was quite the hoot.

Here’s where we filmed:

a bug-ridden, hot and rutted field with a lovely view of the Blue Ridge.

The crew, Jason and Scott:

Say, did you know that if you operate a boom mike for an hour, you don’t have to go to the gym?

My mark:

My, what a big spear you have…we’ll just let that comment lie there for a bit.

The transformation begins. From this:

(that’s not my own, personal linen undercloak, but I kinda liked it). To this:

Movie magic.

Action shots:

How I suffer for art.

Chickens were flung, grapes mashed, ale (or Cran-Grape, something like that) quaffed, and weirdos zapped back to Earth.

The episode should be up and running in a few weeks; at least, that’s what Jason said and he’s a crazy worker editor madman so stay tuned. I’ll let you know, and you will watch it or frost giants

might show up at your next barbecue.

So sweareth Odin.

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The Ship to Look for God

Now available:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L4DXOXC

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/433588



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Two out of Five Ain’t Good

I don’t mean to turn this into a movie review blog, but I’ve been to a few of the summer blockbusters and feel the need to render opinion. For those of you without the time to linger, here are the one-word summaries:

1. Godzilla: Dreadful

2. Amazing Spiderman 2: Meh

3. The Fault in our Stars: Yech.

4. The Signal: Huh?

5. Days of Future Past (hey, shouldn’t that be Passed?): Yeah!

I am not including Winter Soldier because I’ve already done that (see below) and it’s Captain America and he is far above mere blockbuster-ishness.

Now, the details:

1. Godzilla. A better title would be, “Guest Starring Godzilla,” or, more appropriately, “Cameo Appearances by Godzilla.” If you’ve seen the trailers, then you’ve seen pretty much every single frame of Godzilla in the movie. The rest is some confused mishmash about a Mothra/Cockroach monster

 that wants to mate so decides to level San Francisco. Must be some kind of turn-on. Anyways, the stoic Japanese guy wants to use a strangely absent Godzilla to put a stop to all this nonsense. I wish someone had put a stop to all this nonsense before I went to see it. Two hours of my life, gone.

2. Spiderman 2: That is not Electro. Electro is some guy in weird green-and-zapbolt suit who likes to rob banks.

The movie Electro (dreadfully played by Jamie Foxx) has Godlike powers. Spiderman doesn’t fight guys with Godlike powers—that’s the Avengers‘ job. Get it straight! Green Goblin isn’t the Green Goblin, either. It’s Green Goblin, Junior, and, you know, they did sort of a respectable job with him, for the six minutes or so he was on screen (he and Godzilla must have gotten the same contract). Then there’s the loooooong draaaaaawn out sequences with Staaaaaacy. You pretty much had to wait until the end of the movie before Spiderman became Spiderman and began a fight with Rhino, in a pretty cool-looking Rhino suit but…Paul Giamatti? Are you kidding me? Didn’t lose two hours because I caught some naps during the draaaaawn out sequences.

3. The Fault in our Stars: You are not allowed to criticize this movie because it’s about perky dying teenagers. Don’t you DARE say anything about it! Boy, did this suck. It’s essentially the First-world problems of sophisticated and very mature parents/children as they regard approaching death with much sophistication and maturity, dispensing with all thoughts of eternity and Afterwards in about, oh, two lines, and devoting much, much, MUCH more time on showing just how sophisticated and mature they are: in other words, how people from the West Side of NYC deal with life. For example, only people who live on the West Side would think a valuable use of Make-A-Wish (thinly disguised as something called Genie in the movie) is sending teenagers to Amsterdam (always a good idea) to meet J.D. Salinger. About twenty minutes into it, I was wishing for recurrence. Yeah, I said that.

4. The Signal: pretty cool until the ceramic legs showed up, then, it was all WTF? Not a waste of two hours because I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about, which I guess is hallmark of a decent movie. I mean, I didn’t want to rip my eyes out or anything. But I still don’t know if I liked it or not (feel the same way about the movie Blue Ruin). Go see it and let me know.

5. Days of Future Passed: ah, my XMen. I loves me some XMen; they pretty much approach Avengers status in doing no wrong. Hey, I even liked XMen 3, so, sue me. Days was outstanding. I got nervous when some Wolverine: Origins stuff began to show up, and I’d love to have seen a little more Havok and Toad. But, the Sentinels were cool. And it’s got Peter Dinklage!

Guardians of the Galaxy. Soon, very soon.


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The Adventures of Gracie the Wander Cat: Compare and Contrast

Why Russell gets treats:

2014-05-21 17.52.46

Why Gracie doesn’t:

2014-05-21 17.53.28

[Let it buffer]

Posted in The Adventures of Gracie the Wander Cat | Leave a comment

Including recently uncaged wild grizzly bears

Episode Five of Losing Cable2 is up and running. Hypothetically.

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Memorial Day Bike Ride: 3rd Battle of Winchester. You Are Here.



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Let Your Geek Flag Fly

Saw the reboot Spiderman 2 a few days ago. Sometime next week, I’ll go see the newest X-Men installment, Days of Future Passed, followed closely by the Guardians of the Galaxy.

It is a good time to be a comic book geek.

Which I am, but not at the uber-frenzy level of, say, those guys on Comic Book Men.  F’rinstance, I can’t tell you in which issue Daredevil changed from yellow spandex to the red combat suit, but I did own that comic. I owned a ton of comics growing up. Comic books taught me how to read. Comic books gave me heroes.

I separate my comic bookishness into Before Marvel and After Marvel. BM, which was about 1961-1964ish, I read Sgt Rock and GI Combat and some other random titles like Magnus, Robot Fighter. Then, one day, a pal evangelized me with Fantastic Four #1

and I became a Marvel True Believer. Every Saturday, I took my 25-cents-a-week allowance over to Carl’s Drug Store on Sheridan Avenue in Lawton, OK, and bought two Marvels and one pack of baseball card bubble gum…ah, those were the days. I’d get FF and Spiderman and just about every other Marvel title that came along, including the Two-Gun Kid, but my main loves were X-Men, and Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos.

That Nick Fury was, of course, a very different Nick Fury than the one currently depicted on screen. He was a tough, cigar-chomping white guy who led the Howling Commandos (Dum Dum, Gabriel, Frenchy, Izzy, Rebel, Junior, and then Pinky) on raids against the Nazis.

Captain American and Bucky helped out on occasion, although they weren’t regulars. But they showed up enough to pique my interest, and when the Avengers found the frozen Captain America floating around the Arctic Ocean, then that title became my numero uno.

The larger-than-life Marvel heroes– like Cap, Professor X, Doctor Strange, and Thor– were my reads up until 1969, when I moved to the lesser heroes, like Daredevil and SpiderMan. I guess I was losing faith in all-encompassing power; error and human failure were a bit more realistic. When I got into the martial arts in the early 70′s, then it was all Iron Fist and Shang-Chi, and then the scary stuff, Ghost Rider, and that extraordinary Tomb of Dracula series, and then…sort of left it all behind. Those childish things, you know. I had one last burst with Adam Warlock,  when my son got the Infinity Gauntlet series (which is why I’m happy about the Guardians of the Galaxy movie), but, other than a few compilations, haven’t read anything since.

So, I meet this recent onslaught of Marveldom with great glee. It’s like finding some old 8mm’s of your childhood and reliving the experience, but in HD and SurroundSound. Now, yeah, sure, these ain’t your Grampop’s Marvel stories; best I can figure out, they mostly derive from the Ultimate series, of which I am mostly ignorant. But your childhood memories are more shadow than substance, anyway, and as long as it walks the talk, s’fine.

After all, even Godzilla needs an update from time to time.

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