Time to rebuild the porch steps…

I was able to scrounge some used lumber a week or so ago…

Nearly new, since it came from some interior framing. I had asked Neighbor S if I could tag along next time he went to the Lowes in the big town about 50 miles away because I needed some lumber. He said he had just salvaged some and that I should help myself. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but I did not argue.

The treads are okay but the platform planks were getting kind of rickety.

And it’s Monsoon, and I want to be sure of traction on wet wood. So…

Tobie and I replaced the platform.

A Generous Reader sent me some traction tape quite a while ago…

I knew right where it would eventually go, and stored it most carefully.

And I’ve got a bit of a quandary here because I would normally nail it down with roofing nails. But the adhesive works so well on new lumber that it doesn’t appear to need that. I’ll keep an eye on the situation; I’ve got lots of roofing nails.

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Monsoon is getting more intrusive…

It didn’t even rain very much yesterday afternoon, at least not down here. I suspect the rain was heavier up on the plateau, because the wash ran just a little bit.

That in itself isn’t all that significant. What I found interesting – and a little ominous – though…

Open puddles twelve hours later? On deep sand? Oh, boy. It’s already saturated, and it’s not even July.

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Even my Plan B has improved…

It’s on the order of five years ago that S&L moved to the Gulch fulltime, and L started insisting on washing my clothes once a week. I did not vigorously demur: In addition to a washer and dryer, S&L have a water softener! And soon my clothing stopped being capable of doing alternate duty as abrasive material.

But after going on sixteen years living in the boonies on the economic edge I have quite a number of rules I stick to as faithfully as possible, and two of the ones at the top are:

1) Never get too dependent on other people, for shit doth happen to us all, and…

2) Always have a Plan B.

Anyway: Neighbor L went out of state and it might be a while before I see her again, right at a moment when my supply of good gelsocks has passed minimum. When you’re an amputee, Always Use Clean Stumpsocks is a rule you learn not to break very early. I’ve been obeying it for over fifty years now.

So anyway: This morning I’m looking at the contents of my nightstand drawer. And I get to thinking it’s time to implement Laundry Plan B. I’m still okay for a few days, but with the weather the way it’s been I might need that long for thick gelsocks to dry.

For just a moment I mourn the loss of S&L’s water softener, but then it occurs to me: There’s been one at Ian’s place for a year and a half!


So this morning Tobie and I, and my old manual agitator, took ourselves to Ian’s big sink. Hot running water and a TDS count below 300? I’m there!

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Monsoon’s early this year

And it’s a pain in the neck.

Started abruptly last week, and it’s forecast for every afternoon in the foreseeable future.

At least it’s cooler, and we could use the moisture. But it’s still a bother.

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This is the sort of day that’s less unpleasant from a distance.

The crazies are out there and I’m out here.

I’m always happy about that but today I’m practically ecstatic.

You ever get the impression maybe Washington has too much power over peoples’ lives, no matter which wing of the stinking carrion bird happens to be holding the reins this year?

Good luck out there.

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The well water here is very hard…

…thick with calcium and iron oxide, and abusive to anything it touches. Galvanized plumbing is right out; the water eats right through it. Plastic won’t dissolve, but calcium deposits eventually gum up moving parts – like toilet valves.

So before I installed the ivory throne this morning, and while it was conveniently in the shower tub anyway, I took the opportunity to clean out the tank and preemptively replace the plastic bits inside…

…which left another mess to clean up before I was done.

But now I can scratch that job off my summertime to-do list.

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“Dammit, Tobie…”

Laid down grout on the bathroom floor this morning. Went outside to clean the bucket. Forgot something very important…

No big deal, just an annoyance and mostly at myself: Of course he went straight in to investigate. Totally my fault.

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Or maybe the Jeep is plotting against me…

Something extremely weird happened yesterday.

Around 3 in the afternoon I loaded Tobie in the Jeep for chicken chores but we didn’t go anywhere, because the Jeep had no electrical activity of any kind. I mean capital-D Dead. It was so dead so suddenly that I didn’t immediately assume the problem was the battery. After all, everything worked just fine on Monday.

But the problem was the battery. It wasn’t just ‘dead,’ as in click-click-click goes the starter. It was dead as in may as well not be present.

It’s nearly new! This made no sense.

I went looking for an explanation and found it in what should have been the most obvious place: The headlights were turned on and apparently left on all night and all day.

Except that made no sense either! The light switch isn’t a button that could be accidentally pressed, it’s a knob on a steering column stalk that has to be twisted. I very rarely go anywhere at night, certainly didn’t Monday night, and honestly wasn’t sure at first yesterday where the light switch even was. Seriously, the column has two stalks and I never use either of them: The windshield wipers haven’t worked in years, and to whom would I signal a turn? It’s so unlikely that the light switch would accidentally get turned on that the most plausible explanation I can come up with is that somebody snuck into my yard and turned it on deliberately.

No, I’m not really suggesting that’s a plausible explanation. Just saying. It’s a weird thing to happen.

And for a while I thought I was really in trouble, because when I hooked up my Battery Minder I got a red light, like “forget it.” And I don’t have a regular battery charger anymore. I seriously had plans to ride my ebike all the way to town today to buy one. But I left the BM on overnight anyway, and fortunately it did charge the battery – though the battery is undoubtedly damaged.

So I’m good, but what a very strange thing to have happen.

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If there were an Olympic event in procrastination…

…I like to think I’d be the betting man’s favorite for U.S. gold.

Yup: Only five years after I tiled the main cabin, and more than a year after I put a fake-wood floor over the tiles which hadn’t worked out very well, I finally got around to tiling the bathroom – which is less than 10 square feet.

Yup #2: When the voice in your head says something like, “You should go ahead and put the toilet back in, you can always take it up later to finish the tiling,” you must always tell that voice to shut right the hell up.

You may notice that the rest of the bathroom is entirely unfinished after more than 10 years of residence and absolutely will remain so for the rest of my residence, so clearly it wasn’t a particularly emotional issue. Never would have gotten around to finishing the floor if the toilet hadn’t worked loose – entirely due to the unfinished floor.

I guess the good news is that I had everything I needed to knock out the job right at hand. Mortar, grout, a nice tile saw abandoned by a former neighbor several-going-on-many years ago…

…which has seen a lot of use since then, and of course…

…that free Honda Generator which has become one of my most prized possessions. No more trouble with power tools at the cabin!

Tomorrow I’ll grout (yes, really) and then Thursday I’ll remount the toilet. In the meantime, I hope the rain holds off because I’ll be getting use from the Plan B chair out on the porch – one of the benefits of no neighbors within visual range. 🙂

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When Tobie wants to help…

Usually Tobie is content to nap for a couple of hours after his long morning walkie. Since it has unexpectedly turned rainy in the afternoons I intended to take advantage of that to sneak off and get some ammo reloading done: I just about finished off the last of my lead-bullet reloads yesterday, and need a lot of practicing with the newly revised revolver.

But Tobie, for whatever reason, decided that naps weren’t his thing at all. In fact, he was most anxious that we should go off together and do something interesting. His method of imparting this desire is really quite subtle. You might miss it, if you don’t know him.

So I figured what the heck: He’s been spending a lot of time at Ian’s lately since I shower there just about daily, so he ought to be all right while I sneak off to the reloading shack in the back of the powershed. But Tobie…

…was just in a clingy mood this morning. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s the recent thunder, though he didn’t seem very upset by it at the time.

Whatever: It turned out I didn’t have enough sized and primed cases for my purpose, so I moved the priming operation into Ian’s Cave to keep him company for half an hour till he settled down…

…and then I snuck off to make some practice ammo.

He’s my boy. He doesn’t always get his way, but he does get a vote.

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…and then I did something that hurt my heart…

Okay, so yesterday after the rain I roughed in the zero on the revolver’s new sight. Then this morning before the rain I took it out to 25 yards with a rest and fined it in…

And THEN I had to harden my heart and do something really scary…

This really committed me to the new thing, because I only have one holster. Now that I know it works, I’ll work on smoothing out the cut and learning how to burnish cut edges.

Introducing the new EDC normal!

The disadvantage, obviously, is that the pistol isn’t quite as useful as a quick reactive defense weapon*. The overwhelming advantage is that I can see the damned sight in all light conditions**, with or without glasses.

*But mostly when I fire the pistol for realsies it’s just as a noisemaker to change a hostile animal’s plans. I very rarely have to kill anything but the occasional rattler.

**One of the things I feared was that full desert sun would blot out the red dot, a problem with red dots of 10 years ago. But they seem to have overcome that even in the lower-price models.

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A personal encounter: Did I miss a shot or dodge a bullet?

My summertime routine for going to town in the middle of the week, a relatively rare practice, is to drive the Jeep to the county road and then take my ebike the rest of the way. This is, admittedly, a fairly eccentric thing to do even by cedar rat standards. And since I don’t bother hiding the Jeep, it raises occasional comment. It’s perfectly obvious why I do that, and so I’m basically announcing to my tiny corner of the world that Joel Doesn’t Have A Driver’s License.

Nobody speculates aloud in my presence about the reason for that, but I can guess what they’re guessing: Joel must be an unrepentant drunk with some DUIs on his record. In fact that’s not the case: I’ve never driven (very far) drunk in my life and I have no criminal record of any kind. But I’m a little sensitive about drawing attention, even the benevolent kind. I’m also neurotic about any involvement with any woman I don’t know well. My social record proves that I should never trust myself to know how to behave around strange women.

What do those two things have in common? Well…

Yesterday I went to town in the morning to pick up my pistol’s new electronic sight. I went straight there and straight back and I had just finished strapping the bike to the rack when a small sunbleached car pulled up next to the Jeep, from the direction of the desert, with the driver clearly wanting a word.

The driver was an older woman, somewhat weatherbeaten as who wouldn’t be but actually rather attractive. She asked if I wanted a ride to town*, and I replied that I had just come from there but thanks very much.

Then she asked, quite out of the blue, if I wanted her telephone number so that I could call her for a ride in the future if need be.

Alarm bells and klaxons! A list of possibilities was instantly composed, typeset, printed, bound and opened to page one before my mind’s eye:

1) She’s just a nice person who’s being more kind than is really good for her.
2) She’s an obnoxious temperance missionary.
3) She’s looking for a hookup with an unattractive total stranger. (TL/DR: She’s crazy.)
4) She wants something else, TBD but don’t get involved.

Desert folks can be, well, eccentric. Most of the ones I know are perfectly nice people. The ones who aren’t are why I bar my cabin’s doors at night.

I thanked her kindly and said no, I just rode my bike into town for fun. And then we went our separate ways with smiles and waves. I’ll probably never see her again.

And I drove home to play with my pistol’s new sight, wondering very hard what the galloping f*ck was that all about?

*Sidebar: It occurred to me later that this is why I love it here: I had taken off my ‘going to town’ overshirt and so my magnificent cedar rat panoply was naked to the world. I’m a short squat desert hermit in worn dirt-colored clothing with a rag tied around my head and a bunch of aggressive shit strung from my belt, and a woman I’ve never seen before in my life stops unbidden and asks if I want a ride.

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Red dot installation on a S&W Revolver…

One of the things that pleased me about my third-hand Model 69 was that in the redesign S&W was farsighted enough to take the possibility of aftermarket sights into consideration. I found an adapter plate from a site called EGW Gun Parts, which may be well known to everybody else but was totally new to me. To keep things simple I also got the sight from them, so I was pretty sure they’d be compatible.

I’m glad I made sure the sight worked before taking the pistol apart. The Vortex Venom, it turns out, has a real problem with the battery housing. I put the battery in and then couldn’t screw the cover down no matter how I tried! Thank the Lords of Shooting for the Internet, because this is a common problem. The Vortex solution (Poke a screwdriver into the printed circuit housing [!] and press down the contacts) did not work for me and it also did not work for many other users who took the time to scream about it on Reddit. But prying the gasket off the inside of the cover worked great, and doesn’t seem to interfere with sight function.

Taking off the stock rear sight is simple enough…

…and may I say I patted myself on the back once again for having scored a set of gunsmith screwdrivers. Not a big deal with semiautos but essential with revolvers.

I decided to make sure I had the installation figured out before I broke out the Loctite because between the plate and the sight I was faced with a bewildering variety of screws to choose from. And I got it wrong the first time…

Even though the threads were right, I was pretty sure those were the wrong screws for mounting the plate to the pistol. I was proved right – about being wrong – when I tried to mate the sight to the plate. Took it apart and did it again right…

And then mounting the sight to the plate was just another two screws.

I went out to the driveway target and popped off enough rounds to confirm that I’ve got a real zero problem … and then it started to rain! Hadn’t even noticed the big storm cell that had rolled in while I was preoccupied. That was a problem since the ebike was still strapped to the back of the Jeep. So Tobie and I took a quick trip to Ian’s place.

Now I’m going to take it all apart again and apply Loctite, and then weather permitting I’ll go to the range with some paper and a shooting rest. Once I have it zeroed, I can turn my attention to the next problem…

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And here we go…

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this. Got the email late yesterday afternoon and just got back from riding my bike into town. Lords of shooting please don’t let me screw this up, because…

…I’m about to put a red dot on my everyday revolver.

I’ve got nothing else planned for the whole rest of the day. Stay tuned…

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“Alex Jones is where you go for real news, and CNN is where you go for outrageous conspiracy theories.”

I heard that phrase on a podcast that was playing in my ear while I cooked breakfast, and rushed over to write it down before I lost it.

It pretty much encapsulates the upside-down world I’ve been trying to wrap my boomer mind around for the past few years. Bizarro world. By nature I’m more of a news and politics junkie than is good for me, and lately I’ve tried to isolate my thinking from – as I constantly repeat to myself – all that bullshit. In my situation I can mostly get away with it, but never entirely. It all came back to mind when I ran into some neighbors a few days ago. These two are like my smarter, older brother and sister: I love them to pieces and would do anything for them, but I swear they get their entire worldview from what they’re spoonfed by the big box in their living room. They hate Donald Trump with all their collective heart and soul, had just finished raptly watching the first night of the “J6 committee hearing,” and they were both – how shall I put this – righteously outraged anew.

Longtime readers know I’m no big fan of Donald Trump, or republicans, or politicians and bureaucrats in general. But sheesh – I’ve never seen such a stereotypical example of ‘drinking the Koolaid’ and it makes me wonder how many people like that there are, waiting faithfully for the voices from the television to tell them what to think, say, feel, believe…

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Moscow…

The bread shelf at the crappy little market in the crappy little town nearest where I live…

Glad I bake my own, though of course the price of flour is going the way of all things.

The rise in the local price of gas has paused. Last week it passed $5: Yesterday I poured the last of my bottled gas into the Jeep and brought all the empties to town. Last time I did that, it cost just about $80. Yesterday it was a hair over $85. And regular gas was the same price as last week. First time that’s happened in a while.

Really don’t know how you guys put up with it.

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The internet is not drunken-redneck-proof. For the record.

So shortly after I posted the below, my connection to the outside world abruptly went away.

I live down in a hollow in the middle of the wilderness, nowhere near line-of-sight of any cell tower. Until a couple of years ago there was nothing unusual about my cell service dropping out completely. It’s always slow. Part of the price of entry.

But this was like somebody threw a switch and turned my service right off. No variations, no edge-case almost-connections. Just “No Service.” I walked my phone up to the top of the ridge where I can always get a signal. Nothing.

Next day, same thing. This was starting to feel personal. After 24 hours or so I actually drove to a neighboring house to see if they had service. Alas, nobody home. It’s not like I could phone around.

Yesterday I went over to D&L’s for the Monday water run and learned, rather to my relief, that they had exactly the same problem. We went to town, and…

It was quite the topic of conversation. Everywhere.

And it wasn’t just the crappy little town nearest where I live. It was widespread, at least half the (large) county. Maybe more. And the rumor was…

…somebody took it into (his? Pronouns, Joel) head to shoot a remote transmission station with a shotgun. Dunno if it’s true, but I heard that in two different places. Dunno why somebody would choose to do that, assuming it’s true. That’s one mighty shotgun. Or one very poorly designed communication system.

I don’t know what it’s like in cities – I suspect it’s like this but more so. Nothing gets done if the Internet goes down. And though we’re repeatedly told differently, nothing really stops the Internet from going down at any time.

It came back yesterday evening, so slow at my end as to be unusable but that’s really not unusual for a normal evening let alone one where every smartphone-addicted teenager in the county rushes to get his or her fix. Seems fine this morning.

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He’s never ever gonna hear the end of this…

Yup. I’ve been dad to a daughter. I got things this wrong on a fairly regular basis.

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Reduce Reuse Recycle?

It’s funny: The political climate in this country has gotten so toxic that even ‘living green’ has an element of hostility to it. I’m kind of living the stereotypical green dream, but I imagine that your average greenie would rather see Redneck Joel dead.

I was thinking about that this morning, while reducing an old stepladder to its final incarnation. I’ve got this backbreaker somebody was going to throw away – oh, many years ago now…

Wow, it’s a wobbly thing and I haven’t used it in maybe seven years, because – cue the “people throw away the damndest things” logo – I have a much nicer old stepladder somebody was throwing away. It’s been cluttering up the yard and I kept meaning to get rid of it – and, since I scrounge all my firewood, “get rid of it” meant…

…break it to pieces…

…and cut it to stove lengths. Not much meat on its bones, of course, but every little bit helps. And the only part that ends up in a landfill is a little bit of hardware.

Tobie has apparently gotten to enjoy keeping me company through these little yard projects. He just sits there in the shade like a big boy, never gets bored and demands attention. Except for some evening zoomies Tobie has outgrown the more obnoxious puppy phase now, and he’s a lot easier to live with.

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Shadow and the Water Well

I was futzing around in my desk drawer last night and came up with a thumb drive that had gotten smooshed to the back. Had no idea what was on it.

Among other things were a bunch of stories I wrote 13 or 14 years ago, my last gasp as a would-be fiction writer. They all concerned a desert hermit called Shadow, who had kind of taken things to extremes.

The other thing the stories have in common is that most of them aren’t very good. The problem with Shadow’s life, as a fictional character, is that it wasn’t very interesting. Even when I wrote him half-mad, so that he was never quite sure if he was hallucinating or living in a magic world, I found him dull.

This is one of the best of a bad lot, and unfortunately he spends half of it doing a valve job on an old Briggs & Stratton engine. Which, take it from me, cannot be made to seem exciting.

But hey, it’s free. This is a short story in a never-to-be-finished anthology, and it’s called Shadow and the Water Well. Continue reading

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