Monday, February 28, 2011

Home yet again, 1920s


Here's one more image of
downtown Massillon. It's said to be from the 1920s, about the time that my father was born in a farmhouse a few miles outside of town.

Like the 1966 photo I posted a couple of weeks ago, in this shot the camera faces east. From what I can tell, it was taken from an upper floor (or perhaps the rooftop) of one the bank buildings on the south side of Lincoln Way near the center of town.

That's the facade of the Lincoln Theater in the left foreground and the spire of the Methodist church rising against the winter sky. They were there during my own youth 40 years later, and both still stand today.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Four freedoms & seven steps

Staying on the beam about World War II-era culture here, today I'll take a look at a wartime leader's wishes for the world, and also how our government pressed citizens to help hold back inflation. One can tell us a lot about how we landed in our current fix, while the other exposes our refusal to do what it takes to get out.

In his 1941 State-of-the-Union address, less than a year before the Empire of Japan struck U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated what he called "four essential human freedoms":

  1. Freedom of speech & expression
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear
Here was the President of the United States articulating not freedoms but aspirations. His first two points are enshrined in our Constitution, which protects opportunity; the third and fourth "freedoms" are not.

FDR's vision is seen by many as defining the core principles of liberal political ideology. Some consider his "Four Freedoms" speech as tipping America in the direction of socialism. There's little doubt that it laid the foundation for the United Nations.

I could make a value judgment about each of those effects -- and if I did, it wouldn't be pretty -- but instead I'm going to focus on more practical matters.

The goal of ensuring "freedom from want" has bankrupted America. Domestically it created a "social safety net" and a parasitic entitlement culture. Globally it made us the world's bank, cop and philanthropist, at the expense of stability and solvency here at home.

"Freedom from fear" is the ultimate expression of government-as-parent. (See the illustration by Norman Rockwell, above.) Integral to the constitutional provision "for the common defense" is the bearing of arms -- collectively and individually -- and yet the fourth of FDR's "freedoms" has been used to support the gutting of military readiness and the wholesale disarmament of citizens.

Humans aspire to happiness, and certainly we'd be happier free from want or fear. The Declaration of Independence acknowledges "the pursuit of happiness" among our "unalienable rights" -- not the achievement of happiness but its pursuit.

Independent humans are satisfied with opportunity. We'll do the rest on our own, thanks.


During the wartime years of the 1940s, Americans had roughly 40% more purchasing power than there were goods available to buy -- a prescription for runaway inflation. After watching prices jump by more than 60% during World War I, the federal government was determined to avoid a repeat performance.

It instituted rationing, price controls and other measures, all promoted by posters, ads and events. Central to the "Help US keep prices down" propaganda campaign were seven steps that ordinary citizens could take:

  1. Buy only what you need.
  2. Don't ask more than you must for what you sell.
  3. Pay no more than ceiling prices.
  4. Pay taxes willingly.
  5. Pay off your old debts -- all of them.
  6. If you haven't a savings account, start one.
  7. Buy and hold War Bonds.
From our perspective, a few of those suggestions ring of common sense -- be frugal, save money, get rid of debt. A couple of others -- don't overcharge, don't overpay -- fly in the face of today's pseudo-capitalism. The remaining two won't sit well with neo-cons mindlessly committed to reducing taxes.

The government wants to raise my taxes? What, and I'm supposed to pay them cheerfully? And the feds want me to buy War Bonds, too?

Yes, actually, to all of the above. The reasons were both patriotically sound and fiscally responsible.

The Greatest Generation knew that supporting the war effort meant supporting the revenue-generating measures required to pay for it, distasteful and difficult as that may have been. Second, increasing taxes during wartime was intended to be a pay-as-you-go strategy -- squaring the national ledger as money was needed and spent. And third, reducing American consumers' purchasing power was an important anti-inflation by-product of higher taxes.

That wasn't sinister -- it was smart. The feds' scheme worked, too, by most historians' accounts, holding World War II inflation below 25%.

Today our nation is crippled by ideology. The left has abandoned constitutional principles for entitlements and the illusion of safety -- the government will provide. The right has forsaken the role that sacrifice plays in patriotism, acting as if representative taxation is antithetical to freedom.

If we don't learn from our history we are, in a word, screwed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Over my grandfather's farm

In the years after World War II, a handful of former U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps reconnaissance photographers formed The Zekan-Robbins Company in Harlan, Iowa. They flew all over the country taking aerial snaps of farms, estates and villages, selling their images to small-town newspapers and proud property owners.

I can't say exactly when Zekan-Robbins took this photo of my paternal grandfather's farm, but if I had to guess I'd say it was 1950 or so.

My grandfather's death and the sale of the property would follow several years later, not quite two years before I was born. I grew up not far away, and yet I visited the farm only twice -- once when
my father and I went plinking at the adjacent quarry and again in the late 1970s the morning after the farmhouse, which was abandoned by then, burned to the ground.

In the foreground of the aerial photo are the big frame house in which my father and his siblings were born, the spring house, vegetable gardens and the chicken coop. Beyond the farmhouse are stables where the draft horses were kept. Those are fruit trees to the right.

The outbuildings include the barn, a bow-roof implement shed and a corn crib. An empty wagon rests just off the driveway, a hay rake sits idle in the corner of a newly baled field, and that looks like a late-1940s Ford pickup truck parked inside the haymow.

It's all gone now, of course.

Sole survivors

Five days after a pair of neglected old clod-hoppers emerged from long-term storage, they're ready for their closeup.

I'm absolutely thrilled with the way they turned out. The three-step restoration process -- a thorough scrubbing with a horse-hair brush and Montana Pitch-Blend Leather Oil Soap, followed by two applications of Leather Oil & Conditioner and finally a light coat of Leather Dressing -- brought back the uppers' original olive-brown hue and gave the hide a supple, like-new feel.

Still on my to-do list: adding a pair of simple foam
insoles and (maybe) replacing the laces. Other than that, they're ready for the woods -- or the yard, or whatever else I might ask of them.

I don't know who manufactured these boots for Sears four decades ago, but the all-leather construction -- upper, tongue, ankle collar and full lining -- is impressive. Most seams are double-stitched; a few actually are triple-stitched. That this pair is intact after years of hard use (and disuse) testifies to high-quality materials and workmanship.

Two things I do know for sure: The good stuff lasts, and it's always worth keeping.

(Sears lace-up boots, manufactured ca. 1971, before & after)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Urban Resources: 'Dry packs'

When I began resurrecting my 40-year-old hiking boots the other day, I washed them inside and out with Montana Pitch-Blend Leather Oil Soap. Then I stuffed them tight with wadded-up newspaper to preserve their shape and draw out some of the remaining moisture. Several hours later I removed the damp paper, stuffed them again and left them that way overnight.

By the next morning the leather lining was drier but not yet dry, so I tapped a simple
urban resource -- homemade "dry packs." Here's the shopping list:
  • Coffee filters (cone-type)
  • Cat litter (clumping, unscented)
  • Stapler
To make a dry pack, I pour a small amount of litter (one-third to one-half cup) into a filter, fold over the open edge and staple it closed. Then I fold in each "ear" and put in a couple more staples. That's all there is to it.

These inexpensive do-it-myself packs aren't meant to replace silica-gel desiccant packets, but they're great for dropping into shoes, motorcycle helmets, luggage, gun cases and ammo boxes -- anywhere that dampness could cause problems.

(Substituting baking soda for cat litter, by the way, makes an effective "odor pack." The imagination reels...)

Yesterday I put two dry packs in each of my old boots and stuffed the shanks with newspaper (loosely this time). I expect that they'll be good and dry by later today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quote of the day

"A constitution, a parliament, freedom of right -- of speech, freedom of -- of -- of whatever kind of freedom. I cannot -- I don't know freedom to speak about freedom. I have [been] born and raised in this generation. I have been brainwashed not to think that freedom is a right.

"What's next? What's next are the educated people, the civil people, the loved people, the peaceful people joining all together to rebuild this country again. I'm not going to call it the Libya of tomorrow. It's -- this is a term that everybody is getting sensitive of -- it's going to be the
real Libya, the Libya that nobody got to know so far."

(An unidentified Libyan woman, speaking by phone today to
CNN, on what she'd want to see after the hoped-for departure of dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi.)

Poster eyes

When I illustrated yesterday's entry with a half-dozen World War II-era posters, I could almost hear the reaction from some quarters -- a combination of nostalgia for a nation united and revulsion at government propaganda.

It was a different time, a different country. Most Americans alive today can't grasp the concepts of self-sufficiency, conservation and recycling even for their own sake, much less actually sacrifice in service of a greater good.

Take something as fundamental as food. During World War II, citizens were encouraged to plant "
Victory Gardens" (called "War Gardens" during World War I), ostensibly so that more farm-grown produce could be channeled to our fighting forces around the world.

It's estimated that by 1944 a stunning 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the U.S. came from 20 million Victory Gardens.

The feds also urged Americans to "Can All You Can" -- to "put up" surplus home-grown produce for use between growing seasons. (Now you know why your grandma had all those Ball jars on her basement shelves.) Not only did gardening and canning help stretch families' budgets, they also made precious ration points go farther.

Sometimes we forget that
The Greatest Generation endured wartime rationing of -- ready? -- tires, cars, typewriters, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, shoes, silk, nylon, fuel oil, coffee, stoves, meat, lard, shortening, vegetable oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods, dried fruits, canned milk, firewood, coal and more. The national speed limit was 35mph.

I have a lasting memory of how my father ate green onions -- base, leaves and all. He was the only person at our family table who did that. At the time I thought it strange. Now I get it.

He wasted nothing. As a child of The Great Depression, he never knew for sure when his next square meal would come. And as a young man during World War II, he understood that food was, in truth as well as by the government's definition, a weapon of that war.

He always cleaned his plate. So now do I and, coincidentally or not, I'm the only one at our family table who can be counted on to do that -- every single time.

Grow your own food. Make it last. Clean your plate. Sound advice -- but can you imagine the dustup today if those suggestions came from the federal government?

Big Brother! Groupthink! Socialism! Hell, these days the First Lady can't plant a garden or push breastfeeding without getting
criticized by Caribou Barbie or the Mindless Minnesotan. Nanny state!

There's no law against propaganda campaigns containing good stuff, and yet we've become embarrassingly adept at saluting or dismissing ideas based solely on the source. That's what sustains all anarchists and anti-government cynics. But as I said a couple of years ago,
"Blind rejection, blind acceptance -- both are manifestations of ignorance. Not everything that our government does is sinister, any more than everything it does is wonderful. Skepticism (not paranoia) instructs us to differentiate between the two, and then critical thought (not ignorance) allows us to see facts."
The same goes for political campaigns, of course.

Americans pulled together, albeit briefly, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We couldn't sustain our unity, however, choosing instead to withdraw to safe cover behind walls of ideology.

I don't believe that we have it in us to do what The Greatest Generation did. Our "more perfect Union" is divided beyond the capacity of today's Americans to repair.

What individual citizens can do, within our homes and communities, is to begin reclaiming our American legacy of respect, hard work, frugality and selfless service. We won't see this nation's strength restored in our lifetime, but the work must start now.

How does your garden grow?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Missing, presumed lost

I was born to parents of "The Greatest Generation," their American ethic forged in the fires of The Great Depression and World War II.

They and their peers walked through this world as living examples of respect, hard work, frugality and selfless service. Their children, Baby Boomers like me, were given every opportunity to carry on their legacy.

We, as a generation, failed them.

We sabotaged our nation, living as if we're entitled to what our parents worked to achieve. Raised by good stewards, we became addicted to consumption and irresponsible acquisition.

We presumed that the "American Dream" was our birthright, that "
American exceptionalism" was in our DNA, willfully ignorant of the fact that both were earned through preceding generations' sacrifices.



As we grow older we see what we've done, who we've become. We struggle to right our self-absorbed ship and teach our kids, belatedly, what our parents taught us.

It's having little effect, of course -- and is it any wonder? They've been watching us. In their eyes we have no credibility on the subject.

Because our example is missing, the lessons are lost on them and probably for another generation at least. Perhaps our children will pass through trials of their own -- economic collapse, terrorism on these shores or other crises -- and build a new American ethic that'd make their grandparents proud.

I'm not optimistic about that.

(See hundreds of other wartime posters
here on The American Legion's website.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Finds

I was on something of a mission when my wife and I stopped at our rented storage unit yesterday. See, for the last several weeks I've had a taste for Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and I seemed to recall that we'd put some hard liquor into storage during our 2009 move.

I was right. When I rolled up the locker door I went straight to the correct box and extracted a bottle of Knob Creek and another of Maker's Mark. I also grabbed a fifth of Jack Daniel's and a bottle of Gosling's Black Seal Rum. All were unopened.

The way I drink, four bottles should last me the rest of my life.

On the floor next to the booze box was a large plastic tote. Curious, I set the bottles down and popped off the lid.

Inside, packed away for decades, was a good chunk of my Scouting stuff. There was every handbook, from Wolf to Eagle, and every single wallet card, including all of my rank and merit-badge records. (I even found my
Totin' Chip.) Neckerchiefs and slides, patches and hats...I don't remember the last time I'd laid eyes on my short-billed Cub Scout beanie.

Nestled in a box at the bottom of the tote was a pair of Sears lace-up boots, what we used to call "clod-hoppers." My parents bought them for me in early 1972 so that I'd have proper footwear for a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch that summer.

Those boots, now sporting what must be their fourth or fifth pair of soles, served me well beyond Boy Scouts. I wore them throughout my college years. They carried me to Europe and back, and they were the only boots I had with me 33 summers ago in Montana.

They've seen miles upon miles of trails, countless campfires and untold hours of yard work. They were my first motorcycle boots.

Running short on time yesterday, I re-packed the tote and tossed it into the truck. I knew what I'd be doing as soon as we got home.

The old boots still fit. The leather is soft, the stitching is intact and the Vibram soles are nearly new.

I wore them around the house for a few hours before taking them off and setting them on my work table in the basement. Soon, I think, their well-loved hide will get the full
Montana Pitch-Blend treatment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sharps: A pocket sheath for the woods

In Tuesday's post I talked about using a small leather pocket sheath to carry an everyday fixed-blade knife and a single-AAA light. Happy with that result (and sensing a bit of momentum), I dug another unused sheath out of my box of orphans and put together a pocketable kit (right) better suited to woodcraft.

The butt of a
Bark River Little Creek (McKnight Grind, Antique Ivory Micarta), borrowed from my EDC rotation, peeks out of one side of the sheath. What's hiding in the other compartment? Take a look:

The sheath easily swallows a quartet of firemaking basics -- firesteel and striker, a chunk of
fatwood and a length of jute twine that serves as both tinder and tether. And yes, I could spark the firesteel with the spine of the knife, but it's no bother to carry a dedicated striker.

Together with the Little Creek -- my favorite small fixed-blade, by the way -- this is quite a functional setup, but
I may add another item. There's plenty of room to stuff some dryer lint into the bottom of the fire-kit compartment.

I've got one more small sheath in my box of orphans, a
leather sleeve like the one that holds my Victorinox Farmer. I'm thinking that it might be a good choice for a neck-carry fire kit -- stay tuned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nose-to-tail tales

For efficiency's sake, I try to wrap errands into my daily trips to fetch the younger spawn at school. And in the interest of remaining aware of my surroundings, I vary my route and survey a different part of the local landscape each day.

While heading south on a rural road this afternoon, I ended up behind a county sheriff's cruiser. The deputy maintained a steady 32mph in the 45mph zone -- only mildly annoying, since I was running well ahead of schedule.

We came to a stop sign; he turned left. I turned right toward the high school, easing the Trailblazer up to the 50mph posted limit.

No sooner had I reached cruising speed than I attracted a tailgater, a pickup truck riding my ass so close that I couldn't see his grille in my rearview mirror. It was textbook get-outta-my-way behavior, consistent with his passing maneuver a mile later -- he shaved it close when re-entering the lane, his way of sending me a message.

They're out there, aren't they?

As luck would have it, I pulled up right behind him at a traffic light a few hundred yards down the road. On the tailgate of the pickup was the the image of a scroll bearing the heading, "Bill of Rights" -- I'm not sure if it was paint or die-cut vinyl, but it was quite impressive. On the bumper below was a vanity plate: GOP NRA.

Seems the guy's big on sending messages.

Since I share two-thirds of his advertised sentiments, I'll chalk up his poor road manners to what (I predict) he was listening to on the radio at the time -- I mean, it was between noon and 3pm. And Rush does have a way of making otherwise decent people discard common sense and act like complete idiots...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bugging: A new primer from WLC

I shared one of Kevin Estela's helpful PowerPoints back in 2009; his name also came up in "On 'false gods'" a week ago. Now I'm pleased to pass along another of his Wilderness Learning Center presentations -- enjoy and learn.
View all presentations from Kevin Estela on slideshare.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trading liberty for continuity

As recent events unfolded in Egypt, the government thrashed about in an effort to preserve the regime. In a nation that had been under "emergency rule" for three decades, we saw even more restrictions imposed -- curfews, wholesale censorship, closing banks and blocking access to the Internet, mobile-phone networks and more.

It's tempting to point to the departure of Pres. Hosni Mubarak as "proof" that those measures failed and, by extension, that the Egyptians' "people power" won. It's also incorrect.

Mubarak may be gone but the government, steered by the same military council that ran the show before the popular uprising began, remains -- and that was the goal from the start.

Virtually every nation, state and city has what's called
continuity of government or continuity of operations plans, crafted to make sure that the government emerges from a crisis -- whatever it takes.
Earlier this week we got a look at what the State of New York has in mind. In "A Legal Manual for an Apocalyptic New York," The New York Times reported on the release of an official guide for judges and lawyers in the wake of a terrorist attack, a major radiological, biological or chemical contamination, or a pandemic.

From the Times article:

"Quarantines. The closing of businesses. Mass evacuations. Warrantless searches of homes. The slaughter of infected animals and the seizing of property. When laws can be suspended and whether infectious people can be isolated against their will or subjected to mandatory treatment."
The New York State Public Health Legal Manual (pdf here) is as chilling as it is dispassionate. Here's an excerpt:
"...the chief executive of the locality is authorized to 'proclaim a local state of emergency.' ... Once having done so, local authorities may establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies and, under certain circumstances, suspend local ordinances."
In other words, when the shit hits the fan, all bets (including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) are off. A careful reading of the New York manual reveals that the mess made by "deprivation of liberty" will get cleaned up after the crisis has passed.

I'm sure that's what the Egyptian government said 30 years ago.

Thanks to continuity plans, the first casualties of a crisis will be our individual liberties. What's more, there's absolutely nothing that we can do to prevent the assault -- our government will do whatever it takes to sustain itself.

We'd be foolish to waste time now protesting the all-but-certain decimation of human and constitutional rights in a crisis -- really, it's futile. When threatened, a government always will act in its interest, under the banner of preserving the State for the People, no matter what the Constitution says.

That's what governments do.

For us, a better choice would be to get familiar with what our nation, states, counties and municipalities have planned for "emergencies" and, of course, to prepare ourselves accordingly.

That's what independent citizens do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sharps: EDC mixup

My EDC schemes are pretty well set. Over the last six months or so I haven't tried anything new, which means that I haven't learned much, either. Such stability makes for a functional rut, but it's still a rut.

Time to mix things up a little.

My
Victorinox Farmer has been living in a leather sleeve in my pants pocket for quite a while. Last week I threaded a 29-inch ball chain through the hollow rivets at the open end of the sleeve, and voila -- a humble pocketknife became a necker.

The setup is comfortable to carry (leather beats Kydex every time) and access is surprisingly convenient. It doesn't work with all modes of dress, of course, but I declare this experiment a success.

As small fixed-blades go, the Bark River Custom Micro Drop Point is a wonderful knife and part of my regular rotation. (Mrs. KintlaLake carries one, too.) Ordinarily it rides on my belt in a simple bushcraft sheath, but yesterday I decided to test-drive it in a two-up pocket sheath I had laying around.

The smaller compartment is perfect for a single-AAA light, so I'll probably alternate between an iTP EOS A3 (pictured) and a
Fenix E01. Either way, it's a tight fit -- a good fit, that is -- and a short lanyard is a big help in withdrawing the light from the sheath.

With both knife and light on-board, the pocket sheath rides nice and flat in the front pocket of my jeans. It's not as bulky as one might suspect -- just like the slipjoint sleeve, the pocket sheath makes its chunky cargo less noticeable by distributing the load.

It'll be a couple of weeks of carrying before I can say for sure, but I think I have another winner. Whether I roll with this new setup for a long time or just a little while, I sure am glad that I crawled out of my rut.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Home again, facing west

Finding a photo like the one I posted yesterday... well, it was like pulling on a raveling.

Casting about for other views of the city in which I was born, I found the east-facing perspective relatively less common. At left are five more images of Massillon -- 1850, the 1930s, 1941, 1955 and 1966 -- looking west toward the river.

(Click on the collage for a larger view; if your browser re-sizes images to fit your screen, you may have to click again to display it at full size.)

The graphic chronology intrigues me. Naturally, I identify most with the latest photos, since they depict the city's "main drag" as it was during my childhood. Massillon's annual Sidewalk Festival, for example, preserved in the 1966 image, was something that I remember looking forward to all year long. (Check out higher-resolution versions of that Life image
here and here.)

That 1955 photo is my favorite, though -- the
Tiger Swing Band high-stepping through town on a football Friday, Obie in the lead, six cheerleaders captured in mid-leap. (Higher-res image here.)

Lest anyone get the idea that I'm painting this blue-collar city as perfect, even idyllic -- it was neither.

I'll take my leave of the subject by suggesting that KintlaLake Blog readers make one more visit to Google Books. "A Town's Troubled Mood As a War Comes Home: The 'credibility gap' widens in Massillon, Ohio" (Life, August 12, 1966) is a stark portrait of my hometown during America's turbulent mid-1960s.

"Massillon, like many small cities in the country's heartland, is a blend of payroll town and rural trade center, of boosterism and nostalgia for the past, of complacency, generosity, bigotry, progress and decay."

"Though it voted for Lyndon Johnson over (Barry) Goldwater in 1964, Massillon, like much of America between the coasts, is politically, economically and socially conservative. It has a staunch John Birch chapter. Its citizens voted down urban renewal and twice rejected fluoridation of the city's water. Its school system, run by young Ph.D.s, is good. But progress has largely bypassed the shabby downtown, which is losing shoppers to the suburbs."

The eight-page article is, for this native son, poignant. It's also disturbing in places, particularly if filtered through present-day sensibilities, but I'm here to tell you that it's real, honest, accurate.

It's home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Home, 1966


I grew up exactly four miles west of this spot, in farm country but on the same side of the same street. The image, from the
Life archives hosted by Google, looks east into gritty downtown Massillon from the Lincoln Way viaduct over the Tuscarawas River.

I could spend hours burrowing into this photograph. I probably will.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Almost heaven (but not quite)


(Two images of the Hatfields of West Virginia, circa 1897. Clan patriarch William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, who led his family's legendary feud with the McCoys, is the fierce-looking fellow with the long beard, seated in both photos.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back fifty-two to 'Fifty-nine

If you were alive and awake during the 1950s and early 1960s you remember Civil Defense shelters, "Duck & Cover" and other signs of those precarious times. Back then, TEOTWAWKI wasn't idle talk -- the prospect of a nuclear attack, followed by an invasion, was all too real.

The dangers confronting us today bear little resemblance to the ones we faced then -- nukes and nations have been supplanted in our collective consciousness by terrorism, shadowy cells and lone wolves. Still, I find it interesting (and arguably instructive) to revisit Americans' attitudes toward the threats of two generations ago.

To that end, I offer a pair of snapshots from 1959. These two articles were published in Guns Magazine just a few months apart, and both were received enthusiastically by readers.

I'll provide links to the entire magazines (in pdf format) at the end of this post, but to start with, here are the opening paragraphs of "Where are Tomorrow's Minutemen?" from the January 1959 issue:

"We like to think of ourselves as 'a nation of riflemen,' self-armed, ready and able to dash out any time and become an effective, fighting, guerrilla force in resisting any enemy who might attack our country.

"But is it true?

"Except for a very few widely scattered individuals -- and possibly small groups in certain also widely scattered areas -- no.

"We're not 'a nation of riflemen.' Hardly 5 per cent of the men inducted into the armed forces for World War Two knew how to shoot a rifle even passably well. A stunningly high percentage had never so much as fired a rifle or handgun. And it is highly doubtful that as many as one of 100 of the men who were familiar with weapons knew enough about woodscraft to live off the land and fight effectively as guerrillas.

"If this seems to you to be a pessimistic appraisal, ask yourself this question: If this country were hit tonight and you were a survivor, what would you do?

"Involved in that question are these questions: Where would you go? With whom? How would you get there? What would you take with you? And what would you do, or try to do, after you got there?

"Time was, you remember, when the American colonies helped defeat invaders by the more or less individual efforts of the 'Minute Men.' Armed with gun skills and woods skills gained in Indian fighting and in getting meat for their tables, these men were a formidable force against the world's finest soldiery. But times have changed, and men have changed with the times. How many men today could survive and fight under similar conditions?"

"The Rifleman in Civil Defense," which appeared in April, begins,

"You were somewhere else when it happened. Now you stand beside the smoking pile of rubble that an hour ago was your home -- in the debris-strewn area that was your city. The sights and sounds around you are horrible. Seventy miles away the big metropolis was Ground Zero -- one of 63 major U.S. cities defense authorities estimate would be vaporized in the first minutes of nuclear attack. Your car radio is chattering hysterically about enemy troops dropping from the sky -- they'll be here soon, you think.

"What do you do? Some fellow on television told you last fall, but you switched to the ball game. A magazine article had suggestions, but you were too busy to read it. Will a Civil Defense Rescue Unit come charging up the street to help you? You doubt it. Neither you nor your neighbors paid much attention to Civil Defense over the past few years, and it's too late now.

"So, what do you do? What are you going to do it with? You don't know...so you are chalked off along with seventy-five million other Americans in those 63 major cities who sat, fat and happy, and laughed at the people in Civil Defense who warned, and played cops-and-robbers with fire hoses and guns. Now you, too, would like to play the game, but there aren't enough "toys" to go around. You're out. You are dead...not because Civil Defense has failed to try to save you, but because you and your neighbors rejected their efforts.

"Can this picture be prevented? Not entirely, but your chances of survival can be increased many times by efficient, effective preparation. In your home, now, you can organize things to help yourself cope with disaster. Matters such as at least two weeks food supply for your household; containers of water tightly sealed; towels, bandages, blankets, and first aid supplies, could make a difference. And you can join your local Civil Defense unit now, and become an important member in the organized fight for survival."

If you consider those words to be anachronistic or alarmist... or if your ass catches at the mere mention of the word "militia"... or if you see our current government as "tyrannical" or "socialist" and you're itchin' to overthrow it... you've missed the point completely.

When you get right down to it, it's pretty simple. Here it is:

Threats come and go, technology advances and tactics evolve, but the preparedness mindset doesn't change.

Think about it -- and while you're at it, take a lesson from the 'Fifties.

(As I post this, both of those 1959 issues of Guns Magazine still are available in pdf format. You can view the complete original layout of "Where are Tomorrow's Minutemen?"
here and "The Rifleman in Civil Defense" here. And if you enjoy those two, you also may appreciate ".22's for Survival?" from August of 1958 -- it's another intriguing piece, quite thought-provoking.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On 'false gods'

I've been contemplating this post for quite a while. My thought process originally was prompted by a brochure for a winter-camping course, noting that fire is a "false god" in cold weather -- the human body, properly stoked with fuel (food), is its own furnace. With adequate clothing and shelter, the heat it produces can be conserved.

The Inuit have learned to do it, the brochure advised, and so can we.

Another angle came to me earlier this month via Kevin Estela of
WLC. In "The Training Modifier," which he posted on Forest & Stream, Estela describes how a broken metacarpal on his strong (right) hand forced him to rely more on his off (left) hand.

After weeks of using predominantly his left hand he "noticed improved dexterity, strength and function." He encourages us to actively seek ways to modify our training -- varied experience, he maintains, can yield better skills and more complete capabilities.

With that as background, then, I got to thinking about the false gods around me, including those in my own life.

Five days a week, for example, I pick up the younger spawn at school. Lately I've paid close attention to the students and their parents -- specifically, how their behavior exposes thoughtless presumptions.

On these bitter and snowy days it doesn't surprise me, really, to see most teenagers emerge from the building attired in hoodies, jeans, untied Nikes and no socks. (Mindless fashion and hormone-driven invincibility rule at that age, I guess.) When I see adults show up dressed for an August afternoon, however, it's a clue that they worship the everyday equivalent of fire.

Apparently these folks come straight from climate-controlled garages, relying on their vehicles' heaters to fend off the elements until they return to their residential cocoons. But even if their school-day errands are as short as my eight-mile trip, a mishap like running out of gas, a flat tire, a mechanical breakdown or a fender-bender could put them in a cold-weather survival situation -- unnecessarily.

I have my own false gods, of course, and in the front of my mind these days is my over-reliance on armed personal defense. Especially since acquiring a
concealed-carry permit last April, I've become comfortable with my ability to use a firearm to protect myself and my family -- way too comfortable, it occurs to me. Truth is, I've passed up opportunities to hone alternative means of defense -- backup, hand-to-hand, unarmed, less-lethal and so on.

In short, a loaded gun became a false god. Now here, off the cuff and in no particular order, are some others deserving of our wariness:
  • Coffee
  • Artificial light
  • A wireless phone
  • An Internet connection
  • Hot & cold running water
  • An electronic security system
  • A locked door
  • A "safe" neighborhood
  • A "survival" knife
  • Four-wheel drive
  • Mobility
  • Readily available gasoline
  • Readily available groceries
  • GPS
  • ATMs
  • ROI
Ridding ourselves of false gods begins and ends with mindset. The sound practice of "having three," for example, works best if it's built on a commitment to the principle of cultivating contingencies -- not just for worst-case scenarios but in all areas of our lives.

Learning to distinguish a convenience from a necessity helps, too.

The myriad things that we depend on day to day, whether tethered to technology or simply close at hand, may not always be there for us. We should get a firm grip on that and act accordingly.

That's not pessimism and, as I've said before, it's not paranoia -- it's just good old-fashioned common sense.


(So maybe you thought yesterday's post was the last you'd see of the Model 67 on KintlaLake Blog? Fat chance. The image above was clipped from a 1950 Winchester ad in Popular Mechanics, and the ad below appeared in the same magazine two years later. More, perhaps, as I discover others worth posting. It's what I do.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Visions (illustrated)

The visions I mentioned at the end of Monday's post persist this morning. The memories linger.

Seeking still more of my father's frame-of-reference, I found an ad (left) depicting Winchester's Model 67. The single-shot .22 was promoted as capable and (most important, considering the times) inexpensive.

That ad appeared in Boys' Life when my dad was 11 years old, about the age I was when I first fired his Model 67. He wasn't a Scout, however, and his family was dirt-poor, so the only way he might've seen the magazine would've been at school.

The Model 67 was produced from 1934 through 1960. I managed to dig up
print ads for the rifle through the mid-1950s, all characterizing it as low-priced but every bit a Winchester.

Pushing further toward the turn of the century, I traveled back one more generation. I shifted my attention to my grandfather -- Depression-era dairy farmer, son of a hard-working Scottish-immigrant coal miner.

He was 20, not yet a dad himself, when Remington gave us "Father Will Show You How to Handle Your Rifle" (
right). The ad is charming, practically outlining a father-son talk -- from taking care of the gun to accepting responsibility.

(Something tells me that dads in those days didn't need a script for that stuff.)

A few years earlier, Forest & Stream magazine had published "Give the Boy a Twenty-Two" (
below -- click on the image for the full article). George Brown wrote the piece almost a century ago, and yet I don't think I've ever read a better primer on introducing a young person to a rifle. It rings of Heartland tradition, capturing principles of both mentoring and gunhandling that are as relevant now as they were then.

In my imagination, I can see a father and his son traipsing through the woods toward a quarry. I can hear my grandfather instructing my father just the way that Mr. Brown suggested.

I'm pretty sure that's how it happened because, decades later, it's the way that my dad schooled me.

(The Winchester ad above dates to the October 1937 issue of Boys' Life, page 24; the Remington ad comes from the July 1920 issue of Boys' Life, page 45; and "Give the Boy a Twenty-Two" was published in the August 1917 issue of Forest & Stream, pages 344-345. All can be viewed on
Google Books.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chowder, please -- hold the chicken



"Whoever advised Palin to say this should be fired." (Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post)

"I read that answer several times, and I still really don't know what she's saying." (Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary)

"All defensiveness and self-absorption. A hefty dollop of chowder-headed babbling re: Egypt as well." (Mike Murphy, GOP consultant, via Twitter)

"We should be used to this by now: lots of feathers, no chicken."
(Jack Cafferty, CNN)

"I have a big problem with people who glamorize dumbness and demonize education and intellect -- and I'm giving a pretty good description of Sarah Palin® right now." (Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter, "The Social Network")


("Sarah Palin" is a registered trademark -- or it will be, presumably, as soon as the former Mayor of Wasilla and former half-term Governor of Alaska re-submits her application to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The first time, last November 5th, she neglected to sign it. And just to show that certain traits are inherited, her daughter did the same thing when applying to register "Bristol Palin.")

Monday, February 7, 2011

Forty-five

Like millions of other Americans, my wife, younger spawn and I watched Super Bowl XLV. We settled in our living room, the glow of the TV before us and a fire flickering on the hearth behind.

From the bluest of blue-collar cities, small markets both, Green Bay and Pittsburgh brought a refreshingly non-NFL atmosphere to the Jerry Dome, an enthusiasm rivaling that of big-time college football. And three former Buckeyes -- A.J. Hawk, Ryan Pickett and Matt Wilhelm -- earned championship rings as members of the Packers.

It turned out to be a pretty good game, too.

As you might expect, I could do without six hours of pre-game falderal. Ditto a pop star
flubbing the one song she was paid to sing -- the National Anthem. I was out of the room during the halftime fluff, but from what I hear it was a gremlin-infested Charlie Foxtrot.

I do enjoy the commercials.
Bridgestone's beaver brought a grin, as did the VW ad with the kid in the Dick Cheney getup. But my runaway favorite -- by a mile -- was this Chrysler spot.



That one pulled me out of my recliner -- from concept to production it's pure genius. Whether coincidence or not, it's the second
Chrysler commercial that I've dropped here on KintlaLake Blog.

As the football season faded into memory last night, we turned off the TV and retired to bed. Sleep eluded me for a time -- my mind was restless, but it wasn't replaying Super Bowl highlights. It was still stuck on
rewind, conjuring scenes from 42 years ago, remembering one foggy summer morning when my father and I went plinking down by Coxey's Quarry.

It'll be a while, I think, before I can shake those visions and move on.
(My father hadn't yet marked his first birthday when this ad appeared in the July 1927 issue of Boys' Life. Methinks that Remington's claim is a bit of a stretch.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The rewind continues

I returned to Google Books again this morning, focusing on a particular topic and how Boys' Life treated it when I was a Scout.

I'd graduated from Webelos to Tenderfoot less than a year before this installment of "Scoutcraft" (right) appeared in the April 1969 issue. At camp a few months later, I'd fire a gun for the first time -- a .22 Winchester Model 52 with peep sights.

I was 12 years old.

Before we had political correctness, universal psychotherapy and other forms of
wussification, a rifle was a tool and marksmanship was as much "Scoutcraft" as knot-tying, whittling and firebuilding. For any self-respecting American boy, hell, handling a rifle was an essential part of growing up in the Heartland.

My dad took me shooting shortly after I returned from Camp Buckeye that year. We drove out to the farmstead where he was born and raised, parked the car and trudged through tangle to the edge of a
sandstone quarry.

It was the very spot where his father once taught him to shoot.

To my adolescent delight, we spent the morning bagging tin cans, one shot at a time. We took turns plinking with a well-loved Winchester Model 67 -- fittingly, the first gun that my dad ever fired.

I remember noticing how much my father enjoyed himself that day. It wasn't until many years later, when I had boys in my own life, that I understood why -- it was a
rite of passage.

That Model 67 is mine now. I think I'll take my 15-year-old spawn to the range soon and give him a turn with the old single-shot .22.

Checking the calendar, though, I see that it's not 1969 anymore. Our culture has changed -- for the worse, in my opinion -- along with what boyhood means. There's no rewinding that.

Move these items out of the "expected" category and file them under "endangered": inspirational ads for Winchester, Remington or even Daisy in the pages of a magazine for boys; encouragement to become a Junior Member of the NRA; tutorials on how to be a crack shot.

A boy who wants to learn to shoot raises more eyebrows now than he does smiles. In some places, a dad who hands his boy a gun -- even an air rifle -- risks having his name inscribed on some nanny's list.

Writing a couple of years ago about vanishing traditions, I
concluded,
"We've lost so much more than we've gained."
That commentary on our society, sadly correct though it may be, shouldn't prevent independent Americans from raising our children the way they ought to be raised.

(This classic Winchester ad appeared in the August 1967 issue of Boys' Life.)