Wednesday, January 28, 2009

100,000+

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Sometime in the last ten hours I had my 100,000th visitor come to the borderlands. I find this amazing...unfathomable...crazy...

Inconceivable!

Since May of 2005 over 100,000 people have read my tales. Sure, most of them came because of the cat bite, but hey I'll take what fame I can get! Sidenote: the fourth and sixth pictures up on a google image search for "cat bite" is my finger.

There was a few times when I almost quit this blog. Life, normally crazy by most people's standards had become even crazy by my standards. But each time I was ready to throw in the towel a bunch of readers jumped up and convinced me to keep going. To you I humblly say, "Thank you".

I've made some amazing friends because of this blog. People willing to head off on any crazy adventure I dream up... Long time readers have watched Miniwether change from a smallish little adventurer to a bare-handed-fish-catching beautiful young lady. You cheered for me when Misseswether, Miniwether and I headed to China to get Mambowether. You've laughed at my physical pains yet wept when I lost Oz. Every joy I have gets shared with you and so becomes multiplied more times than I can count. Every punch I take gets spread among all of you, diluting it's impact. You read me, I need you. It's a wonderful relationship and one I'm so very, very thankful for!

I wish I could buy you all a beer. Alas, that particular action is limited to those in the Houston area who've hunted me down. The rest of you will just have to raise a glass to the mirror and say, "Merriwether LOVES you!".

Adventure! Excitement! Inconceivableness!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

57

The events of this blog post occurred between 5:00pm Friday, January 16th and 1:00am Monday January 19th, 2008.

5:00pm Friday-1:35am Saturday
I was racing home through Houston rush hour traffic on a Friday evening while fighting to stay awake. Blurry brake lights on the car ahead snapped me into sharp focus. The last thing I needed at this point was be in an accident. Tonight neighbors were coming over for a dinner party. Mmmm, smoked turkey, good wine, fine fellowshipness, really late night. The original plan was to have supper followed by supper and then watch a movie together. But we all had too much fun just talking and never bothered to put in the movie. Midnight was far past by the time the last goodbye hugs were given and the night ended.

1:36am-3:30am Saturday
Tossed and turned in bed due to insomnia. At 3:30am the big military cargo jet thundered by just a few thousand feet overhead. The sound relaxes me and I finally fell asleep.

7:00am-9:00am Saturday
Got up, showered, got the Wethergirls up, fed them, packed our adventure gear and headed off to Montgomery County Nature Preserve.

9:01am-2:15pm Saturday
Met up with Clark and the Clarkettes, Wildcat and his Kittens, and a friend of Wildcat's. We all headed down to a sandbar on Panther Branch Creek for a day of appreciating nature with fire, food, bushcraft, conversation, and Coca-Cola.
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Sand + Girls = FUN!!

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For only a dollar a day or thirty dollars a month you can feed a starving child...

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Wildcat building a bird trap out of river cane and two pieces of twine.

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Another shot of the trap under construction.

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Finished trap.

I spent most of my time cooking up six "loaves" of stickbread. After only six hours it was time to go. The girls didn't want to leave (which was a good thing) but they did enjoy watching steam erupt from the fire as it was doused with creek water, stirred with a stick until cool enough to touch (messy!), then buried under a thick layer of sand. Then it was back to our trucks with the girls clutching the treasures they had found.

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Look! Tail bones and a skull from an armadillo and some pieces of river cane!

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Look! A the rest of the armadillo!

2:16pm-5:00pm Saturday
Fell asleep on the living room floor while playing with Miniwether.

5:01pm-5:35pm Saturday
Woke up and accidentally smashed Lego castle Miniwether had built on my chest. Feeling like a horrible daddy, I run to the shower and cleaned up for the evening.

5:36pm-6:05pm Saturday
It was Clark's birthday. Misseswether and I were joining him and his wife for a night of adult entertainment. Um, I mean kid-free entertainment (I don't really get out much any more). A babysitter had been arranged, dinner plans had been made, and comedic stylings were to follow after that. But first we had to get across town. Did I mention Poppawether used to be a professional stock car racer? You can do a surprising number of things in a large Honda SUV that normally only occur during competitive driving.

Unfortunately, drifting isn't one of them. Probably for the best as traffic was pretty heavy. Plus Misseswether's gasps and screams were already kind of distracting. They did help me stay awake though, so that was good.

6:06pm-6:09pm Saturday
Entered the Clark-hold and met the babysitter. She was tall, blond, athletic, light brown eyes with a touch of gold, the sort of smile that makes a middle-aged man glad he has young kids...

6:10pm-6:11pm Saturday
Violence erupts! I receive a sharp jab in the ribs from Misseswether's elbow.

6:12pm-7:37pm Saturday
Grab a Coke from the Clark fridge and we are off to get some food. Struggle! Every place we go has an hour wait. Finally found a mostly-empty French place (had some German's come through recently?) and enjoyed a nice supper next to a roaring fire. Sidenote: it was on fire when I got there, probably from the afore-mentioned Germans. Had two more Diet Cokes.

7:38pm-10pm Saturday
Attended ComedySportz Houston's only competitive improvisational comedy act. Sidenote 1: "competitive" doesn't automatically mean "full contact". Sidenote 2: "Matt" can't take a punch. Sidenote 3: Suggestions of "a herring" will be ignored. Sidenote 4: Improvisational humor + 1200mg caffeine = altered states of human mental activity. It was a lot of fun!

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Us having fun.

10:01pm Saturday-12:07am Sunday
Hung out at Starbuck's because none of us parents were ready to take our kids back from the tall, blond, athletic, light-brown with a touch of gold eyed babysitter. I avoided any caffeinated drinks and focus on sugar instead.

12:08am-1:00am Sunday
Get kids and paid babysitter. Misseswether insists I have another Coke to prevent me from falling asleep on the drive home. I grabbed a Coke from Clark's fridge and drove home with Led Zeppelin CD cranked up loud. Got home in one piece and we carried the girls to bed.

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Misseswether gets the small one.

1:02pm-4:02am Sunday
Surf internet while rest of the family sleeps. Jittery hands makes fine control of the mouse impossible.

4:03am-7:15am Sunday
Sleep some.

7:16am-9:45am Sunday
Get up, shower, then get the kids and hype them up on usual chocolate chip pancakes. Original plan was to take Miniwether fishing while Mambowether spends the day with mommy. Mambowether throws megatantrum. I decided to take her along fishing and just plan on not fishing myself. Misseswether takes pity on me and offers to come along, too.

9:46am-4:30pm Sunday
Drive over to Roy Burroughs Park. Texas stocks rainbow trout in Houston-area ponds each winter. The pond over in Burrough's Park had been stocked with the trout Saturday morning. It usually takes a day for them to settle down and start eating again so I figured Sunday supper would be a mess of fresh rainbow trout!

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Optimists!

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Optimist, boredom, and hunger.

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Hunger satisfied and now back to optimism.

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Still optimistic!

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Still optimistic!

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Aw, screw it. Let's build sand castles instead.

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No fish. Luckily there was some left-over turkey from Friday night.

Sidenote: Other people were catching trout and kernels of corn seemed to be the best bait. The farm-raise trout are used to eating food pellets which look a lit like corn. The pile of trout lures I picked up earlier in the week didn't even score a nibble.

4:31pm-9:00pm Sunday
Drove home from the park with a truck full of sleeping females, which isn't a bad thing. Had some turkey and dressing for supper then went for our nightly walk. Orion stands directly over our neighborhood this time of evening and the Wethergirls love to hear stories of his battles. The three of us walk down dark sidewalks past silent houses as I begin to spin a tales of Orion's battles. Miniwether stops me and asks for a different tale. She doesn't want to hear about orion, she wants to hear about how Clark and I flipped Seeker's Fate when we hit a submerged pipeline while we were trying to run Spring Creek under flood conditions...

9:01pm Sunday-1:00am Monday
I finished putting the girls down and began blogging of my adventure hunting deer with an antique Russian battle rifle. Around midnight I hit the "Post" button and then grab a beer from the fridge downstairs. Misseswether had already been asleep for several hours. I drank the beer and then read for a while in hopes that I would eventually grow tired. At 1:00am I turned off the light, snuggled close to Misseswether and closed my eyes. My alarm was going to go off in five hours and I'd have to get up for work. I knew even if I fell asleep now I'd be awake for the 3:30am military cargo plane, though.

Yep, it flew over right on schedule.

Adventure! Excitement! Bite me, Jack Bauer!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spending time with St. Peter

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My rifle named St. Peter.

Another deer hunting season has passed here in Texas. As usual I did not get a deer. The difference with not getting a deer this year compared to not getting a deer other years was this year I actually went deer hunting. I used to do a lot of hunting while growing up back in Minnesota and a bit while in South Dakota. I had finally found some private land to hunt on in New York when I ended up moving down to Texas. I figured Texas was hunter's heaven but it turns out there's very little public hunting land available here. Worse, what public land there is is swarming with people during deer season. I don't like those odds. So I was overjoyed when Wildcat invited me out on an overnight hunting trip on private land!

My hunting rifle is a Mosin-Nagant Carbine manufactured at the Tula armory in 1944. In light of it's history (and the fact that it would hopefully send deer and wild pigs to deer/wild pig heaven, assuming there is such a place even though it is counter to current Catholic religious teachings on the ability of non-human creatures to posses souls...but I digress) "St. Peter" seemed a good name for this rifle.

Hey, if Elric can swing around a hunk of steel and call it "Stormbringer" why can't I give my updated (which is a funny use of the word considering the rifle is a relic) steel a name?

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Sighting in.

Mosin-Nagants make pretty good hunting rifles as they are sturdy, inexpensive, accurate enough, powerful (equivalent to a .30-06), and the ammo is really cheap. They really only have two down sides. The first is that the sights aren't easily adjustable. In fact, it's easier to see where it does shoot and then adjust your aim accordingly. The second issue is that they do not have a hunter-friendly safety.

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Step one: control the bleeding.

Okay, I'm just playing with you. The above injury was not the result of the Mosin-Nagant's lack of a safety. It was due to Wildcat's axe not having a safety! Within ten minutes of getting to the deer camp Wildcat managed to slice open his shin when his axe glanced off the log he had been chopping. It took a lot of gauze and duct tape to seal the wound. Thankfully, he was nice enough to not go to the emergency room for three days so as to avoid screwing up our hunting trip. Of course by then the doctor said there wasn't anything to be done except for painfully scrubbing it out and giving him a tetanus shot.

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Same leg, two weeks later.

There's an old house on the property but it's over-run with rats and snakes so we pitched camp in it's yard. Wildcat used a hammock and I actually broke down and used the tent I used out backpacking in Big Bend.

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Ready for a nice, relaxing sleep...uh, what was that noise?

The house actually started out as a school back in the late 1800's. Now it's just a convenient way of keep junk and trash from getting wet when it rains. Next to the house is a really cool well. The opening is about three feet across and it goes down fifteen feet or so before opening up to an underground cistern. Next time we go there I really want to bring my ladder and metal detector along to check this thing out.

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What lies in the bottom of the well?

We saw lots of signs that prey was present, but never actually saw a deer or wild pig. However, Wildcat did come across a crow stealing grain from their cows and took appropriate action.

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Yes, this is legal.

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And suprisingly tasty!

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I'd say better than goose or duck but not as good as pigeon.

Wildcat uses a nice little 20 gauge, single-shot shotgun whose barrel he cut down to 18" (he does his own gun smithing, not to mention forging knives, leather working, and assorted other amazing stuff). He keeps assorted shells in a carrier on the butt of the shotgun so he can take down whatever game (deer/dove/rabbit/squirrel/etc...) he comes upon while strolling through the woods. I thought a 20 gauge wouldn't kick much but because it's so light the thing really knocked me back the first time I tried it. Still, I like the concept and am looking to buy my own 20 gauge single-shot shotgun. Drop me a line if you have one for sale (Local area only, I don't want the hassle of having one shipped to me).

Sadly, the weather worked against us with rain and mugginess. Worse, it turned beautiful right about the time we were leaving. Deer season is over but luckily my license is still good for feral pigs until August. With luck a few of them will end up in my freezer and St. Peter will have earned it's name.

Adventure! Excitement! Bang!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Candy from Strangers?

The great thing about paranoia is you get to meet so many wonderful people.

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Me and a few of my friends from the Equipped to Survive forums

I spend a lot of time on assorted forums devoted to wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, and and assort other sites for, um, cautious people. When you live in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes, numerous power outages, violent crime, and the most dangerous light rail system in the USA you need to be ready for stuff. Being an adventurer with a great family also means I want to return from my adventures in a condition conducive to unimpaired employment. So I like to stack the deck in my favor and that means hanging out with like-minded folk.

Which, in light of the paranoia this implies, it probably seems odd that I'd head off into the woods on an overnighter with a guy I just met through the Zombie Squad forum (We Make Dead Things Deader!).

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No worries though, he bought me a beer first, so I figured he was cool. I was right, too!

BabaB and I were able to escape our families and all other obligations for a great overnighter along Spring Creek during the Christmas holidays. His job involves flying to Angola twice a month to fix airplanes, which you can guess is a high-stress sort of occupation. According to him the food sucks, too.

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Not to worry, stickbread to the rescue!

I'm getting pretty good at stickbread. I've taken to using those 49-cent packets of pizza dough flour from Walmart. I'll dump 5/7 of the packet into a quart ziploc bag, add a strong dash of Italian seasonings, salt, and garlic powder then add the warm water a little bit at a time. I knead the dough inside the ziploc bag until it reaches a consistency like play-do, then set it aside for a while to let it rise. Finally, I coat my hands with the unused portion of pizza dough flour (this prevents the dough from sticking to my hands) and wad the dough around a 1.5" green stick whose bark I peeled off. The wad of dough is slowly rotated over a bed of hot coals until it's golden brown and the woods are filled with the smell of a pizzeria. Now that's good eating!

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A sandy version of Nirvana (a place of eternal peace for enlightened people, not the band (who totally rocked)!)

As men have done since time immortal, BabaB and I talked of many things as daylight turned to dancing flames then glowing embers. We covered books, movies, comicbooks, music, past loves, future hopes, and current fears.

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With the occasion dose of liquid wisdom and a puff of ambrosial leaves. Tell me how sitting home watching television can possible compare to this? Sure, the howling pack of wild dogs was a bit unnerving but they were on the far bank and never bothered to swim over to our side.

This being Houston, the weatherman lied. It was supposed to be a mellow evening in the mid-40's so of course when we woke up our tents and gear were covered in frost.

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How to predict if it'll drop below freezing in Houston? Find out if I'm going camping...

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In spite of the frost, it was a beautiful morning. I actually slept until 8am. BabaB had been up for a while and had the fire going. Soon I was filling my cold stomach with warm maple/brown sugar oatmeal with a packet of hot chocolate mixed added. Now that is a woodman's breakfast!

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Another shot of the sandbar.

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Filtering the water.

Spring Creek is free of industrial and agricultural pollutants. It's only danger is due to high bacteria counts, so it can be rendered safe to drink with either boiling, filtering, or chemically treating it to kill the bugs. This makes camping along its banks much easier as one doesn't need to lug lots of water along. I prefer the simplicity (and thriftiness) of just boiling it. I do filter (before boiling) the bits of silt and other chunkies out by running the water through a bag made from the leg of an old pair of jeans. This works like a military Milbank bag Water treated this way still tastes a little funky, but tea and powdered drink mixes take care of that.

The sandbar had lots of beaver sign (tracks and trees chewed down), deer tracks, dog (coyote?) prints, and piles of clams shells left behind by raccoons, but nothing visited us while we were there. The only non-bird wildlife we saw were armadillos, one while we were walking around in the woods and the other was hanging out near an old building.

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I love these guys. They are blind as bats and tough as steel.

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My home away from home.

Longtime readers know I'm too lazy to bother with a tent while camping. The picture above was my tarp in a Forrester configuration. I tried this setup out to see if it'd work better than my normal C-fly configuration. I think if my tarp had more tiedowns it would have worked better. This Forrester shape didn't give me enough room (though maybe because I'm really big) and I had a problem with dew and other moisture condensing on everything inside the tarp. I may breakdown and start using a tent again to see if I still dislike them.

Alas, after 24 hours we had to return to our homes. We were a bit sandy, a bit smelly, and a bit smokey. In other words, we were perfect! Hopefully our schedules will match up so we can do this again soon, maybe with a few others along, too (Pointing a finger at you Clark, Wildcat, LoneStarC, Valkyrie, Wildcat, Izzy, Kmat, BigDaddyTex, Desperado, Nighthiker, Gizmojumpjet, SBRaider, Wildman800, Bennjamin, OldBaldGuy, Blitz, Canoedogs, Windrider, Crogan, Ironraven, Thorian and all my other friends who live modern but dream primitive...). Trust me, it'll be great!

Adventure! Excitement! Woodtime!

-Merriwether

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Among the Dead

When hell is full the dead will walk the Earth

Sometimes when I'm alone in the woods after sunset or exploring an abandoned building I start thinking about all the horror movies I've seen. When you are some place dark and scary it's hard not to think of zombies. I'll admit it, at times I get scared when I'm out there alone. So it struck me as odd that when I finally was surrounded by the flayed and gruesome corpses of dozens of people my actual response was "This is making me hungry".

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My child sees dead people.

We finally got to see Body Worlds 2: The Brain - Our Three Pound Gem down at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Misseswether and Miniwether had been wanting to see this exhibit ever since it was announced that it was coming. Miniwether loves books on human anatomy, loves discussing the human body, and loves examining the guts of non-human creatures such as chickens, fish, and deer. I'm assuming every five-year-old girl does. She thought it was really cool at first but soon got bored with it. Having a heart sitting right there but not being able to touch it made her annoyed. She did get to play with a kidney, but that just isn't the same.

I found the exhibit aroused feelings of interest, then boredom, then hunger, then disgust. I found the unusual bodies to be the most interesting...the spine twisted by scoliosis, the man with twelve fingers and twelve toes, the diseased organs, and the body reconstructed with every implantable medical device, pin, and plate. Yep, I could relate to these people.

There are a lot of bodies at Body World. Each is posed as if they were doing something ordinary such as hitting a baseball, doing yoga, or just sitting there thinking. You know what, after the third or fourth heart they begin to look the same. After ten or twelve they just get boring. Then your mind starts comparing them to other guts you've seen and you realize once the skin is off all meat looks the same. Looking at them made the soccer team's actions much more understandable.

Um, yeah.

After that rather unpleasant epiphany I wandered into the "baby room" which was probably the worst thing I could have done. After all we went through to get Mini and Mambo seeing jar after jar of dead babies sickened me. The eight-week old had tiny little, perfectly formed fingers...

I didn't stay in that room.

The rest of the exhibit passed in a blur. Miniwether didn't want to see any more either so we headed out to the museum gift store where she fell in love with the book Grossology and You.

While the bodies' tissues had lifelike coloring they did have a plasticy look to them. The plastination process leaves everything looking kind of like the parts of the old Visible Man model.

I'm still not sure what I think about the whole experience. I certainly don't feel the exhibit should be banned or anything like that. At the same time I personally regret going to it. It seemed like...a violation. Sure, the adults offered themselves freely to the process but the babies... It just seemed wrong to me.

And the quote I started this with kept coming back to me...

Adventure! Excitement! The End of the World!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I'm Back!

And what stories I have for you! Adventures involving packs of wild dogs, large explosions, a deer hunting trip that ended in the emergency room (of course), and a day spent examining cadavers (and uh, how it made me hungry).

I also want to follow Izzy's example and do some gear reviews. Speaking of Izzy, I want to say again how very thankful he agreed to cover for me during my break. I really hope y'all follow him back to his home turf to keep up with all his reviews, tips, and adventures. Um, truth be told you are a lot more likely to get home safe and sound with him than with me.

While I am currently safe and sound at home I can also tell that by tomorrow morning I'm going to be sick as a dog. My nose has started running and my joints are beginning to ache something fierce. The flu has been making the rounds here but I don't think I have it. It seems like it'll just be a whopper of a head cold.

So now I'm going to go to bed early in hopes of beating this bug. Sorry, but you'll just have to wait a few days to read my adventures. Until then here's a few previews.

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Sledding.

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Frosty.

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Toasty.

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Boomy.

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Bangy.

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Scary.

Adventure! Excitement! I'm Back!

-Merriwether