Friday, July 31, 2020

The latest from the riots - fireworks converted into bombs and embedded with shrapnel

The extremists behind the riots in many of our cities are now escalating matters.  They haven't succeeded so far in taking control of the streets, so they're using more powerful weapons.

Seattle PD confiscated a van earlier this week that proved to be filled with improvised stop strips, large fireworks bundled together to form improvised explosive devices, and other munitions.  One example from the many photographs taken of the van's contents:

Yes, bundles of large fireworks like that are highly explosive.  It's accurate to describe them as IED's, in the same sense as those our armed forces have encountered in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Hold one when it explodes and you're likely to lose your hand.  If one goes off next to a policeman, serious injury is not unlikely.

In Atlanta, extremists went even further.

... approximately 100 to 200 people dressed in dark clothing, backpacks, goggles, and helmets approached the ICE office in Atlanta. The subjects reportedly carried shields, bats, and large sticks.

Following the attack that left 20 broken windows, “bomb technicians discovered commercial grade fireworks with nails embedded in the mortar shell,” the document reads.

Images of the modified fireworks show multiple large nails embedded in the devices.

There's more at the link.

Improvised IED's?  Improvised shrapnel?  Things have gone far beyond demonstrations now.  This is urban terrorism, as Matt Bracken notes.

Harden your homes against attack by Molotov cocktails, or bricks followed by commercial-grade fireworks used as explosive/incendiary devices. If your home is attacked in the front by a mob, you will want to plan an egress route that does not use your front door, that will enable your family to move to safety and enable you to move unseen to a flanking position where you can engage the ABR terrorists. And yes, attacking people at home with the intention of burning them out or terrorizing them in the middle of the night is pure definitional terrorism. Plan accordingly.

So what are the rules of engagement in this new urban reality?  Another blogger takes a hard line.

What are the rules of engagement? Some might say shoot first and ask questions later. Then get out of Dodge and don’t stop for a flashing light, or anybody with a badge. The kid gloves have to come off eventually.

We didn’t orchestrate this. We didn’t want it. We didn’t push for it. We didn’t ask for it.  We didn’t start it. But, at their insistence, we’re gonna give it to them.

Avoid large population centers if at all possible. Bear arms. Travel with people you trust to have your back. Take careful note of your surroundings at all times. Position yourself according to potential threats. If you can escape a dangerous encounter without exposing yourself or loved ones to greater risk by retreating, do it. However, there comes a point in a confrontation when everybody involved knows that violence is inevitable. If you reach such a point, don’t hesitate and don’t execute half-assed measures.

Again, more at the link.

Those of us not living in the midst of urban terrorism like that aren't (yet) at the "point of no return".  We don't (yet) have to face that reality.  However, if you live in Portland, or Seattle, or Atlanta . . . you do.  Consider your options, and choose wisely.

We may be facing a return to the years of urban terrorism in America in the 1970's.

It may be hard to recall now, but there was a time when most Americans were decidedly more blasé about bombing attacks. This was during the 1970s, when protest bombings in America were commonplace, especially in hard-hit cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Nearly a dozen radical underground groups, dimly remembered outfits such as the Weather Underground, the New World Liberation Front and the Symbionese Liberation Army, set off hundreds of bombs during that tumultuous decade—so many, in fact, that many people all but accepted them as a part of daily life. As one woman sniffed to a New York Post reporter after an attack by a Puerto Rican independence group in 1977: “Oh, another bombing? Who is it this time?’ ”

I hope and pray we're not regressing to that . . . but the signs don't look very encouraging right now.  Certainly, if the extremists have their way, we will.


Neighborhood security, resident style

I note that, as predicted in these pages some time ago, Minneapolis residents are being forced to provide their own security, now that their police force is being demoralized, demonized and downsized.

Police say crime has surged in the months since Mr. Floyd's May 25 killing, in which a now-fired officer was captured on video with his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for an extended time. Shootings more than tripled in June to 75 from 24 a year earlier. In the first half of July, there were 43 shootings, compared with 29 in all of July 2019.

Police say the increase in crime follows a pattern seen in Ferguson, Mo., and other places where there have been high-profile officer-involved deaths and protests.

. . .

In late June, residents near a commercial strip that had been looted, and the 3rd Precinct station that was abandoned and burned, were seeing a surge of shooting and drug-related crime on their block.

"It got to the point where crime had no consequences," said Tania Rivera, 30, who runs a day-care service with her mother. "It was being done deliberately out in the open. Drive-through drug dealing, drive-through prostitution, everything from gunshots to assaults to sex out in the public. Everything you didn't want your neighborhood to look like."

So after a number of community meetings, neighbors began constructing a barrier to close off two blocks of their street, first with trash cans, then debris. For a while, a boat on a trailer protected one intersection. Eventually, a nearby iron maker constructed a permanent gate. Police gave their approval as long as emergency responders could get through if requested by the neighborhood.

Neighborhood men also began an armed patrol, kicking out anyone who didn't belong on the block after dark.

"We're not proud of that, but it needed to be done," Ms. Rivera said, adding that the patrols are continuing today.

"Most of the time it has been peaceful, other times not really," said Maria Gali, 56, Tania's mother, in an email. "Neighbors are armed, and some of them are veterans. They are very determined to defend their families, properties and the street."

There's more at the link.

I'm afraid that's going to become more and more the norm in many larger US cities.  It's not so much of a problem in smaller towns, where residents know the cops personally, and everyone helps each other.  (I almost feel sorry for any rioters and thugs who show their faces in any of the towns in my area.  The cops and the citizens are all primed and ready for action, and won't hesitate to deal with them at once, if not sooner.  Criminals know that, and know that they'll be dealt with just as summarily if necessary - so there's a lot less neighborhood crime.)

Generally, and even more so when police are under siege by the politically correct, the old saying is still true:  "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away".  Each of us needs to be ready, willing and able to provide our own security in their absence.  That applies not only to individuals, but to neighborhoods too.  If you haven't already established contact with your neighbors, now would be a very good time to do so.  Make sure they know about that news report, and start planning to protect your own homes and families.  It'll be too late to do so when trouble arrives.


Extremists want to demoralize and demonize all opposition. Don't let them!

The constant drumbeat of negativity, violence (implicit and actual), and barrage of "facts" that suggest the inevitable defeat of the orthodox, law-and-order, conservative position, are nothing more than a propaganda effort designed to demoralize us.  Those behind it are trying to make it appear that their victory - in November's elections, and in society overall - is inevitable;  that we can't stop their steamroller;  and that our only recourse is to shut up, roll over, and play dead.


The progressive left, their lackeys in the mainstream media, and the rioters on our streets, are all part of a deliberate attempt to deceive us.  They're doing precisely what Hitler and the Nazi Party did in Germany in the early 1930's.  Don't forget, the Nazis never won a majority in the German Reichstag prior to taking power.  They postured and bullied and screamed until they drowned out the more moderate opposition, which meekly kowtowed to them and handed over the reins of government.  Once they had power, they never surrendered it, and made sure no rivals for it ever emerged again.

That's what the extreme Left would like to see happen in America, and they're exerting themselves to ensure that it does.  Tucker Carlson accurately describes what we're seeing.

This blatant power grab can only succeed if we allow it to do so.  Instead of being demoralized and beaten down by the drumbeat of leftist propaganda, we need to stand strong and firm on the reality of the situation.  Sundance views it from the perspective of someone in Fort McHenry during the bombardment of 1812.  (Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.)

There is a great deal of purposefully driven anxiety and fear amid our nation as this multi-faceted internal war takes place.  However, there is a primary element to this effort that each person can shield themselves from, and act to counter.  Do not let your sense of self succumb to this assault.  Do not let them win the battle for your peace of mind.

It might, heck, -check that- it does seem overwhelming at times.  But that is the nature of this collectivist strategy.  That is the purpose of this bombardment.  We must hold strong and push back against their lies and manipulations.  If you look closely at their attack, it is weak and much of it is psychological bait.  Do not fall into the trap of despair.

When I share the message “live your best life”, it is not without purpose.  Every moment that we allow the onslaught to deter us from living our dreams, is a moment those who oppose our nation view as us taking a knee.  Do not allow this effort to succeed.

You might ask yourself how can I, one person, a flea looking into a furnace, retain an optimistic disposition while all around me seems chaotic and mad.

That’s the point; it ‘seems’ chaotic and mad because it has been created to appear that way.  There are more of us than them; they just control the systems that allow us to connect, share messages and recognize the scale of our assembly.

Every second that you live your life with thankfulness for the abundance within it; every moment that we CHOOSE to engage with fellowship; every day that we accept guidance from God – however you define him to be; and every moment we cherish this time to be a beacon of optimism; is a moment that we withstand that barrage and hold the flag in place.   It is a genuinely patriotic position not to succumb to the attack.

If you allow yourself to be drawn into crisis and despair, you allow them to win.  If your center of normal is based around this overwhelming onslaught, you will eventually concede liberty in favor of peace.  Once we stop living in liberty, we no longer have peace.

. . .

We must shake this mindset.  We must withstand this onslaught and rally to the origin of our true national spirit.  We must rally to a standard of Americanism and accept this is not that. In essence, we must individually take a stand.  Purposefully, deliberately and with forethought, we must engage those around us to get rid of this sense of foreboding.

This approach is how we win the larger battle.

There's more at the link.

The enemy's victory is only inevitable if we don't fight back.  As Sundance points out, there are far more non-leftists than there are leftists in this country.  Sadly, that's not enough.  Non-leftists have to stand up and be counted, or risk losing it all.
  • In what became the Soviet Union, there were far more non-Bolsheviks than Bolsheviks.
  • In what became Nazi Germany, there were far more non-Nazis than Nazis.
In both those countries, the extremists took power because the majority allowed them to do so by not fighting back.  That's precisely what the extremists hope will happen in the USA this year.  If we do nothing, if we cower supinely in our homes and refuse to engage them, they'll take power here too - and just like the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, once they hold the reins, they'll make sure no-one ever takes them away by peaceful means.  The drumbeat of "political correctness" will become a roar, demonizing and drowning out all opposition.

If every member of the "silent majority" were to cast their votes this November in accordance with their conscience and their beliefs, the radical extremists would be driven into political oblivion.  Their every effort, right now, is bent upon persuading the "silent majority" that there's no point in voting;  that the "tide of history" is against them;  that no matter what they do, they can't win, so they might as well just stay at home and accept the inevitable.

That's a lie.  It's all lies.

Our job is to spread the word to our friends, family and associates that it's a lie.  Our job is to motivate those around us to get out and vote in November.  I don't care who you choose to vote for - that's your business - but I know, just as you do, who you need to vote against.  We have to take a stand against those seeking to radicalize America, to drown out democracy and constitutional government in a tide of extremist populism, to destroy the foundations of our society.  That means voting against the politicians who support them and publicly pander to them.

Our job is to stand firm against the propaganda onslaught currently being unleashed against us.  Don't be fooled, don't be intimidated, and don't be afraid.  Take a stand, and encourage those around you to do the same.  Take heart from the example of Virginia, where a left-wing victory has led to the uniting of the "silent majority" against its dominance, and a growing resolve to stop progressive extremism in that state.  The first signs of electoral backlash are already visible.

This war won't be won by one battle, or by one election.  We're in it for the rest of our lives - and we need to go on fighting it, for the sake of our children and our children's children.  Only if we give up, only if we surrender, will the progressive left triumph.  Let's not give them that satisfaction.

We need to get out enough of the vote of the "silent majority" to overcome the "margin of cheat" that the progressive left will employ in a desperate attempt to ensure that they gain control.  We can do that, if we put our shoulders to the wheel and work hard between now and November.  Ignore the fact that the extremists control the mainstream news media, which refuses to be even-handed.  Instead, spread the word one person to another, one day at a time.  If enough of us do that, every day between now and November, the extremists will fail.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Order, counter-order, disorder...

Matt Walsh tweeted yesterday, with tongue firmly in cheek:

Almost immediately, he received this reply:

That's the thing.  All those protesters frothing at the mouth over unmarked police vehicles and/or law enforcement officers not wearing nametags are, in fact, aiming to identify and target those same vehicles and officers.  The authorities, not unaware of that tactic, are taking steps to thwart it - thereby enraging those who want to hurt them.  Why are the protesters surprised?  Did they really think they were the only ones who could figure out what they were up to?

The level of (im)maturity in the current protests and riots is exceeded only by their childish vindictiveness.



An anonymous reader sent me this graphic.  It's said to be a "senior" trying to reset a password, but in my experience most of us, senior or junior, have all had moments like this.  Click the image for a larger view.

That's one reason I switched to a password manager some years ago.  I have it generate new passwords when I need them, much longer than the minimum and containing a complex mixture of characters.  It remembers them for me, so I don't have to!  I also change passwords on critical Web sites fairly frequently, to make it harder for scammers to access my accounts.


Coming soon to a business district near you - if it hasn't already arrived

Wolf Richter points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated a trend in the business property market that began some years ago.

The process started years ago. Ecommerce, a structural shift in how Americans shop, has wiped out retailer after retailer, from big ones such as Sears Holdings and Toys ‘R’ Us, to smaller ones. It created a nightmare scenario for malls and landlords – including REITs – that own the malls, and for investors that hold the mortgages and the Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) that these mortgages have been packaged into.

And now that the pandemic is compressing future years of brick-and-mortar meltdown into a few months, the whole schmear is coming apart.

. . .

Americans are spending their unemployment and stimulus money, and they’re buying lots of stuff, they’re just not buying it at the store. The ecommerce announcements by various retailers – those that have vibrant ecommerce businesses – have been stunning.

For example, Best Buy said in an update a few days ago that quarter-to-date through July 18, online sales have surged 255% (not a typo) compared to the same period last year. The Commerce Department will release second quarter ecommerce data in early August, and it will be stunning. But the business at malls is dead.

With thousands of stores being shuttered permanently, and with other stores that haven’t been shuttered yet unwilling or unable to pay rent, malls have been pushed to the brink.

. . .

Mall creditors are not amused. Mall properties have taken a huge hit in value – down 33% over the past 12 months and down nearly 50% over the past three years, according to the Green Street Property Price Index.

And no lender wants to end up with a bunch of zombie malls on their books. So they’re motivated to talk. But there is just no good way out.

There's more at the link.

Adding to the problem is the current urban unrest, which has seen many malls and retail districts attacked by mobs of looters.  For example, the top-of-the-line stores along Chicago's Magnificent Mile have mostly been boarded up, to protect their contents - not always successfully.  Similar events have occurred in many shopping districts in many cities.  Whether all of those stores will reopen is as yet unclear.  If I were the store owner, I'd certainly think long and hard before investing even more of my money in cities where the authorities pander to the mob and allow them to loot and burn unhindered.

Think about what this means for your day-to-day needs.  You may rely on shops in nearby malls and business districts.  What if they aren't there any longer?  You'll have to drive further, or order online and endure the wait until your purchases can be delivered.  (I've noticed a growing lag between ordering and delivery from many online outlets.  I daresay the average wait time for packages is now at least a week, if not ten days or more. still offers its Prime service, but in many cases deliveries take longer than the previously advertised two business days.  I've had to wait up to a week or more recently.  I guess we can put that down to the vastly increased order workload, and the stress put on delivery systems to get a much larger volume of goods from vendor to customer.)

The business closures aren't limited to stores.  According to a recent report, 60% of restaurants that were forced to close during the pandemic have permanently shut down.  That's thrown a lot more people out of work, not just in those restaurants but in the supply chains they used.  It's also going to mean greater inconvenience for many consumers who relied on eating out rather than cooking at home.  They're likely to be cooking for themselves for rather longer than they'd intended.

Towns and cities are going to feel the pain even more than consumers.  Many municipalities depend on business taxes to fund many of their operations.  If shops are doing less business, they pay less turnover tax.  If malls shut down, the property tax owed on their property is unlikely to be paid.  The people left unemployed as a result no longer use their wages and salaries at other local businesses, to be taxed in their turn.  Many online transactions return no tax income at all to cities and states, despite laws that are supposed to compensate for that.  When so many people are so short of money, they're unlikely to feel obliged to report such purchases and pay estimated sales tax on them.

This also means that cities and towns will turn to alternate sources of income to compensate for what they're losing in business taxes.  For example, Nashville, TN recently announced a 34% increase in property tax.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said he would not have considered an increase this large if Nashville was not facing record financial challenges.

But this is exactly why critics say they can’t afford to pay thousands in additional taxes.

Again, more at the link.

I note that most municipalities are not considering major cuts to their staff and services to cope with their financial challenges, even though many of the latter are far from essential.  No, they'd rather keep their armies of drone workers and charge residents more for the dubious privilege of having them.  In their opinion, taxpayers are clearly sheep to be sheared.  One hopes that those taxpayers would vote their fiscal oppressors out of office at the earliest opportunity, but sadly that never seems to happen.  Oh, well . . . some of them vote with their feet by leaving.  That's what Miss D. and I did, some years ago, and we've never looked back.

There's not a lot we can do about the businesses closing all around us, except to patronize those that are really important to us, spending our consumer dollars there in an effort to keep them open.  I think it's very important to have local resources such as pharmacies, vehicle repair shops and the like.  A local supermarket is also an important benefit, even if it offers only a limited selection, in case lockdowns or unrest prevent us getting to stores further away.

I guess all of us are going to have to use our dollars as wisely as possible, not only for our own needs, but to support our community.  What resources, what businesses, do we really need locally?  Let's patronize them, and help to make sure they don't go away.  If they do close their doors, we'll have to plan (and pay for) much deeper personal and family reserve supplies, so that we can cope for longer periods without shopping.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A stupid, pointless death. Darwin must be laughing...

I'm afraid this man is a very good candidate for a Darwin award for 2020.

A Chesterfield County man who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound last week was spinning a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol on his finger when it discharged, fatally injuring him, police said.

The man, Kenneth Dickerson, 57, was standing outside his home in the 8300 block of Hull Street Road “twirling or spinning the firearm on his finger” when it went off about 6:30 p.m. July 14, said Chesterfield police Lt. Brad Conner.

Dickerson died of his injuries after being taken to a hospital.

“It looks like he was literally playing with the gun, spinning it, and the gun went off,” Conner said.

There's more at the link.

He'd clearly never heard of the Four Rules of Firearms Safety - or, if he had, he presumably thought they didn't apply to him.  One wonders how many people will mourn him, and wish he was still alive.  Parents?  Siblings?  A spouse?  Children?  All left bereft, due to an act of crass stupidity.

People, please don't play with your guns;  and if you see anyone else playing with their guns, particularly in so stupid and irresponsible a manner, get as far away from them as possible, as fast as possible.  If you don't, you may get caught up in such a tragedy as well.


Technology transforms opium farming - and shows the pointlessness of the US presence in Afghanistan

The BBC reports that solar power technology is revolutionizing opium poppy farming and heroin production in Afghanistan.

Mr Brittan is a former British soldier whose company, Alcis, specialises in satellite analysis of what he calls "complex environments".

That's a euphemism for dangerous places. Among other things, Mr Brittan is an expert on the drugs industry in Afghanistan.

He zooms in on an area way out in the deserts of Helmand.

A few years ago there was nothing here. Now there is a farm surrounded by fields.

Zoom in a bit more and you can clearly see an array of solar panels and a large reservoir.

Over to the right a bit there is another farm. The pattern is the same: solar panels and a reservoir.

We scroll along the image and it is repeated again and again and again across the entire region.

"It's just how opium poppy is farmed now," Mr Brittan tells me. "They drill down 100m (325ft) or so to the ground water, put in an electric pump and wire it up to a few panels and bingo, the water starts flowing."

Take-up of this new technology was very rapid.

The first report of an Afghan farmer using solar power came back in 2013.

The following year traders were stocking a few solar panels in Lashkar Gah, the Helmandi capital.

Since then growth has been exponential. The number of solar panels installed on farms has doubled every year.

By 2019 Mr Brittan's team had counted 67,000 solar arrays just in the Helmand valley.

. . .

Richard Brittan calls up a new screen on his computer.

It shows the entire Helmand valley.

He superimposes an image showing the area under cultivation in 2012.

Then, farmers were working 157,000 hectares.

. . .

By 2018 it had doubled to 317,000 hectares.

In 2019 it was 344,000 hectares.

"And it is continuing to grow," he says.

At the same time, the land is getting more productive ... As farmers switch to solar, you can see the area shaded green growing.

"All this water is making the desert bloom," Mr Brittan says.

There's more at the link.

Since its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the USA has spent at least one trillion dollars on the war there and associated costs.  More than 2,300 US service personnel have been killed there, with many times more than that wounded, maimed and otherwise seriously affected by their deployments to the war zone.

If the main economic result of that massive expenditure of lives and resources has been a massive increase in hard drug production, it'll be yet more evidence that the US's Afghan adventure has been a monstrous failure that should never have been attempted.  I've said for years that there is no military solution to the problems of that country - not unless one takes that concept to its logical, merciless conclusion, and exterminates the Afghan people and reduces the country to a lifeless wasteland.  Thanks be to God, we're not so far gone from common sense as to consider that . . . but it's high time we brought our troops home.  They're achieving nothing there right now except keeping others (Pakistan, China, etc.) out - a dog-in-the-manger game that I don't think is worth the candle.


The Dragon Lady comes to earth

Courtesy of The Aviationist, here's a great video of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane (often referred to as the "Dragon Lady") landing at RAF Fairford in England a few days ago.  It shows the chase car following the aircraft down the runway at about 140 mph, its driver talking to the pilot on radio to tell him how far off the ground the plane's wheels are (he can't tell from the cockpit due to poor visibility).  Unusually, in this video there's a truck following the car - something I haven't seen before.  (The car driver, or in this case perhaps the truck crew too, attach light, flimsy wheels to the outer wings before the plane taxies back to its hangar.)

Apparently the chase car drivers (and presumably the chase pickup drivers too) have to undergo special training to handle their vehicles at very high speeds, while coping with the jet blast from the aircraft immediately ahead of them.  It must be one of the more enjoyable jobs in the Air Force, if you ask me - getting paid to drive a sports car at high speed.  You'll find more details here (including videos) of the U-2 landing, and the chase cars in action.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Personal protection wisdom from Sheriff Jim Wilson

After my extensive coverage in recent months of self-defense issues and personal protection, it's perhaps inevitable that I've received lots of questions about training;  where to get it, who's a good instructor, and all that sort of thing.  Sadly, I'm only one man in one part of the country.  Apart from the nationally-known schools and instructors, I simply can't venture an opinion as to which local shooting ranges, classes and teachers are worthwhile.  I usually suggest people ask their local gun shops about that.

However, there are sources online that offer a lot of good, sound common sense.  Some are geared more towards the "operator", people who practice a lot with their firearms and are willing to put significant time, money and energy into mastering them.  Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to do that;  so what are good resources "regular people" can use?

I'm going to mention a few of them over coming weeks, Web sites where you'll find consistently good advice that will prove valuable and useful.  Today I'd like to point you to the blog of Sheriff Jim Wilson.  He's long retired from law enforcement, but he's been writing and teaching for decades on the subject of personal defense and security.  You'll find a great selection of material in his blog archives.  For example, recent posts include:

Follow each link to find the article concerned.  Also, spend a while going through his blog, clicking the "Older Posts" link at the foot of each page.  You'll find a whole lot of very useful material and good sound common sense.  Highly recommended reading.


Impressive! A material that can't be cut

British and German engineers have developed a material that they say is impervious to cutting or drilling.

Called Proteus, the revolutionary synthetic material is inspired not by diamonds and sapphires, the toughest natural materials known to man, but by the cellular skin of the grapefruit and the fracture resistant shells of the abalone mollusk.

Proteus is made from alumina ceramic spheres encased in a cellular aluminium, metallic foam structure, and works by turning back the force of a cutting tool on itself. In the tests performed by its inventors, Proteus could not be cut by angle grinders, drills or even high-pressure water jets.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video of an angle-grinder fitted with a cutting wheel, trying to get through a slab of the Proteus material.

That's really impressive.  I wonder how Proteus would stand up to ballistic penetration?  For example, if it were used as armor plate - or one layer within composite armor - on a tank, would an armor-piercing shell from another tank be able to penetrate it?  What about the superheated metal jet from a missile's high-explosive warhead?

If this material can be successfully commercialized, it would seem to hold out all sorts of possibilities.


Are progressive-led big cities digging their own graves?

Daniel Turner sums up why and how the liberal elite has destroyed city life for him.  He's gone, and he isn't looking back.

We put up with a lot in order to live in the city: lousy transportation, noise, traffic, pollution, and our fair share of homeless people. It’s all just a part of living in urban America. But I’ll gladly tolerate sirens and car horns in exchange for a new restaurant on the corner. For major league sports, performing arts, museums, and bars, I will put up with the occasional crazy guy on the street, metro derailment, or gridlocked traffic because an intersection is blocked by some group “raising awareness” about something or other. That’s just the price of the urban lifestyle, and as a life-long city dweller, I knew what I was paying for—and with what.

I did my part, too. My role in the fabric of urban society, overlooked but essential, was to spend my money. Eat, drink, shop, spend, tip, pay. And man, did I pay: taxes, rents, then a mortgage and HOA fees. I paid taxes on things the government deemed “bad” for me, like alcohol and cigarettes;  taxes on services which organized labor deemed “bad” for them, like rideshare. I paid gas tax, cable tax, cell phone tax, and, of course, income tax. Lots of income tax.

All I asked in return was relative safety and to be left alone to enjoy the city. City-living in America, for decades, meant tolerating mild inconveniences so that you could be left alone, alongside millions of others. That was the tacit pact.

And DC broke it.

. . .

The pact we made to live here has broken. What am I paying for?  A defunded police force? More murder? More violence? Do the property taxes I’ve faithfully paid for years not protect the CVS I can see from my bedroom—a building which recently had every window smashed and was looted because of “justice”?  When the metro was lousy, we turned to Uber. When the schools were failing, parents turned to charter schools. When one area turned bleak another neighborhood popped up. But when chaos and destruction permeate, and an exhausted people asking for relief are told their indifference–not violent looters—is the true culprit, then there is no alternative but to leave.

The protesters may think this is their moment, but there is a deep, dark secret that will crush every disaffected group now demanding “justice” or “awareness” is this: city people really don’t care. We have an amazing, almost unparalleled ability, to be indifferent.

. . .

The great beauty of the city is that we come from all walks of life and we get along.  We accomplish this by leaving each other alone.

That’s why, when DC’s Mayor Bowser spray painted “Black Lives Matter” in front of my tea spot, I knew I was done. Not because of the issue itself or the cause (remember I don’t really care) but because through her actions, Bowser effectively mandated empathy. This was government-sanctioned compassion. The mayor used taxpayer dollars—the one’s I’ve forked over for years—to force her beliefs on me. And, just like that, the pact was broken.

. . .

I am a buying, consuming, spending, law-abiding DC citizen, one who adds and adds to the city’s coffers and never takes. DC needs me. Cities need me. Cities are now angry, dangerous, garbage dumps. I’ll take my money elsewhere.

There's more at the link.

What I found particularly interesting about this article is that I've heard similar sentiments from a number of my friends, acquaintances and contacts, on both sides of the political spectrum, including some I'd classify as somewhat extreme in their views.  They include:
  • A university professor;
  • A doctor;
  • An executive at a major aircraft manufacturer;
  • A writer;
  • A member of the clergy;
  • A Wall Street investment analyst.
At least two are card-carrying members of the ACLU.  Four are Democrat and two Republican in their political outlook.  All of them have either left the cities in which they lived, or are in the process of doing so.  All of them have voiced sentiments similar to Mr. Turner's.  They were at home in the city, because they lived in tolerance of and with their neighbors, and paid their way.  Suddenly that's no longer enough.  It's expected - no, demanded - of them that they:
  • Pay more than their "fair share";
  • Not only tolerate, but enthusiastically support, extremist views;  and -
  • Put up with major inconveniences and disruptions caused by riots and blatant thuggery.
Such investments of time, money and self are demanded of them with nothing in return - and they've found it too much to ask.

I reached my tipping point in Nashville, Tennessee some years ago, when the authorities not only allowed demonstrators to swarm onto a major Interstate highway through the central business district, blocking it to traffic, but the city actually provided coffee and portable toilets to the protesters.  Motorists whose freedom of movement was impaired as a result were advised to be "patient" and "tolerant".  As far as I was concerned, that was the last straw.  Those demonstrators had no right whatsoever to obstruct my, or anyone else's passage.  They deserved to be thrown in jail, not cosseted and "tolerated"!

The very next morning, I began the search that led Miss D. and I to move our home to Texas in 2016.  We also moved from a large city into a much smaller town, one that also serves as a dormitory community for a nearby city, but is filled with people of sound common sense.  Any suggestion here that demonstrators should be "tolerated" if they interrupt traffic on nearby major highways would be met with disbelief, abuse, and an immediate exodus of one's audience to collect "items of persuasion" before heading for the disturbance, to demonstrate the error of the protesters' actions.  That sort of nonsense won't fly here.

I think the cities doing the most to "tolerate" and even encourage the current demonstrations, protests and riots have no idea of the damage they're doing to themselves in the long run.  The first signs are already evident.  As just one example, consider Minneapolis' housing market.  I'm willing to bet most of those newly trying to sell their homes aren't doing so to move to another address in the same area.  The same trends are becoming visible in other urban centers blighted by riots.

Joel Kotkin analyzes current trends, and concludes they're a serious threat to cities.

The departure of the urban middle class, with even millennials now joining the exodus, has left cities such as New York increasingly divided between a predominately white and Asian overclass and a large, and often struggling, predominantly minority population. Without the restraints that traditionally come from a politically engaged middle-class constituency pushing for moderate and necessary reform, urban politics have evolved in directions unlikely to attract desperately needed investment and higher wage jobs in the inner city.

These demographic changes have left the fate of our bluest cities in the hands of radicals such as the increasingly potent Black Lives Matter movement. The blue state political and media establishment, and their allies in the corporate elite, have conceded enormous credibility to a group whose stance is explicitly radical ... Academic Melina Abdullah ... explained: “We’ve been very deliberate in saying that the violence and pain and hurt that’s experienced on a daily basis by Black folks at the hands of a repressive system should also be visited upon, to a degree, to those who think that they can just retreat to white affluence.”

. . .

Caught between their poor constituents and a declining middle class, progressive politicians like Minneapolis’ Jacob Frey, Seattle’s Jenny Durkan, and New York’s Bill de Blasio, have looked the other way as their cities are trashed, sometimes refusing to arrest or jail vandals. Massachusetts District Attorney Maura Healey went so far as to excuse looting as a legitimate, even revered form of protest. Elite journalists compare the ransacking of Target and Apple stores to the protests to the Boston Tea Party.

This rapid reprise of what Fred Siegel labeled “the riot ideology”—unleashing violence and disorder as an intimidation tactic to achieve progressive policy goals and extract economic concessions from government agencies who just want a way to make the violence stop—has no chance of actually improving conditions in the lives of people on whose behalf, supposedly, it is carried out.

. . .

To succeed, cities need to be aspirational, safe and healthy. No city thrives under contagion or the constant threat of violence or infectious disease; what humbled late Imperial Rome can also be visited on New York. Against such threats, the nonstop righteous anger, and ever-expanding demands, and the relentless “virtue signaling” by the urban elites will serve only to further alienate the middle class and the political center necessary to achieve compromise and reform.

Again, more at the link.

Those of my readers still living in such cities might want to seriously reconsider their options . . . before it's too late.  Don't delay too long.  As Mish Shedlock noted a short while ago:

It Takes 3 Weeks to Escape Illinois

Why 3 weeks? That's how long it takes to reserve a one-way U-Haul outbound.

"Everyone is leaving. No one is coming," a U-Haul agent told us a few weeks ago.

That's a word to the wise if ever I heard one!


Monday, July 27, 2020

Preparing for pre-election turmoil

I've written many articles over the years about emergency preparations;  food, water, shelter, and everything that goes with them.  There are innumerable resources on the Internet about the same subject.  I hope most of my readers have taken steps to improve their own preparedness for when things go wrong.

We're now less than 100 days away from the November 2020 elections.  The country is already wracked by unrest, protests and rioting, and that's likely to get worse - perhaps much worse - as the elections approach.  Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and may ratchet upward as cooler weather approaches.  I think it's likely to be a long-term threat, lasting years rather than months.

Nor should we ignore the threat to stability and security in society as a whole.  There's a lot of talk about a new American civil war, and I agree it's a serious possibility right now:  but I doubt very much whether it'll be like the first one.  As Foreign Policy magazine points out:

As networks distribute power to the edges, warfighting shifts further away from a handful of monolithic forces and towards a diverse web of small actors. Warfare now often proceeds from ideologically and economically marginalized communities whose suffering and fear is wielded by cunning global actors. They become guerrillas, rebel factions, proxies, and insurgencies. Sometimes they look more like tribal conflicts composed along racial, religious, familial or economic lines, often on top of resource crises that push violence to become a necessary solution. But they are rarely simple two-sided conflicts.

To neglect this distinction risks missing the signs of coordinated disruption and violence. If we keep thinking in terms of opposed armies, we’ll fail to develop effective strategies for recognizing and containing networked, hybrid warfare.

For the United States, the shape of future homeland conflicts will be asymmetrical, distributed, and heterogeneous. A contemporary homeland conflict would likely self-compose with numerous dynamic factions organized by digital tools around ideological and affinity networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups and their counterparts engaging in light skirmishes along the overlapping edges of their networks, mixed with occasional high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they wield transgression. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less territorial than ideological.

Furthermore, digital networks erode the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can browse the literature, claim allegiance in some far-flung burb, and start whipping up violence against their targets.

There's more at the link.

If that's the case, civil-war-like disruption of towns and cities may occur anywhere at any time, with little or no warning.  Our short- to medium-term planning should therefore be accelerated to consider this more immediate threat.  We no longer have the luxury of saying, "Oh, well, I'll spend an extra $20 every time I go shopping, and add a can or two of foodstuffs, or some extra toilet paper, or whatever, to my cart, so I can store the extra".  Time is too short for that, unless we've already made sufficient preparations.

I'd therefore like to suggest that you take a serious look at your current preparedness to endure a local shutdown, from whatever cause, for a period of at least a month, if not three months.  Could you hunker down at home and shelter in place for that long?  Do you have sufficient food, water and other emergency preparations to endure - not in luxury, but the bare essentials?  If not, I fear it's now become necessary to devote some serious time, attention and resources to rectifying that situation.  You can't afford to waste any more time, because time may run out.

Of equal importance are issues such as transportation and personal security.  Are you armed, equipped and trained to secure your home and/or vehicle?  If not, it's probably too late to do much about it, unless you know friends who are prepared to sell or lend you a suitable firearm and ammunition - the shops are bare.  As for transportation, your vehicle(s) should be serviced and in good operating condition, and you should store at least one tankful of fuel per vehicle in jerrycans or other containers, in a safe place (not in your home or attached garage!).

Furthermore, keep your vehicles' fuel tanks at least half-full at all times, to allow an emergency getaway if necessary.  Your reserve fuel containers can be carried with you if there's no time to empty them into your tanks.  I also suggest keeping an emergency bag packed for every member of the family, with important documentation, medicines, important information such as medical, educational and professional records, etc. as well as a change of clothing and footwear and personal hygiene items.

We're in a situation where extremists on both sides of the political aisle are going to try to wreak havoc, to destabilize the country and push voters to support their positions.  For those of us in the middle, who are not extremists, things are likely to get pretty uncomfortable - and perhaps dangerous.  It behooves us to prepare for that reality.


The rioters are a tiny minority of society

I'm astonished at how people who should know better are getting worked up about the "mass protests" on US streets at present.  They're not "mass" protests at all - just very vocal, very noisy, and sometimes very violent.  Multiple news reports about the Portland riots, which are currently the most violent that the media is covering, indicate that there are about 2,000 protesters on the street every night - many of them from elsewhere, as is Antifa's and BLM's habit.  2,000 protesters, out of an estimated Portland population (according to Wikipedia) of 654,741 in 2019, equates to 0.3% of the city's residents.  That's less than one-third of one percent.  Hardly a "mass" protest, is it?  I'm pretty sure similar proportions apply to most other cities plagued with mob violence at present.

There's also the physical area covered by the riots and protests.  I understand that in Portland, it's no more than ten city blocks - rather less than one square mile - and usually less than that.  The city covers a land area of 133.42 square miles, making the "protest area", once again, a lot less than 1% of the total.  So much for "big".

Of course, you wouldn't know that from the news media coverage.  As always with the Fourth Estate, "If it bleeds, it leads".  They make money out of covering crimes and incidents that grab and hold reader/viewer attention.  They're making a great deal of money out of coverage of these incidents, so they're going to emphasize and re-emphasize them, irrespective of whether or not they deserve such extensive coverage.  Besides, it fits their political narrative.

It's obvious that the rioters are very organized and very determined.  They've established production lines for shields;  they're bringing molotov cocktails, high-powered lasers and other potentially highly injurious weapons to protests;  and they're also bringing portable power tools to attack barriers and other defenses erected to keep them out.  These aren't "protests".  They're organized mayhem.  There's nothing spontaneous at all about them.

The organizers and hard-liners, of course, are relatively few in number compared to the "useful idiots" who march alongside them.  There are an astonishing number of "useful idiots".  Watch video of arrests being made and you hear screams and cries of "Why are you doing this to me?", "I've done nothing wrong!" and "Let go of her! She's innocent!".  Just one example:  "I'm not sure why this is happening!".  (I'm sure.  So, I daresay, are most of us.)

The late Garrett Foster, shot and killed during a riot in Austin, Texas on Saturday night, was hardly a model for peaceful protest, either.  Consider his comment on injured Federal officers:

Note also this brief video interview with him, apparently filmed earlier on the same evening that he was shot.

If I see anyone in a riot approaching me with an AK-47 - or any firearm - I'm going to take immediate action to ensure my safety.  Depending on the circumstances, I place no limits on that action, up to and including the fullest extent that the law allows.  I'm very grateful I'm living in Texas, where the law generally understands and codifies our right to self-defense - as the late Mr. Foster seemingly found out to his cost.  (Austin police have already released the shooter from custody, a very clear sign that - at least so far in the investigation - they've found no evidence that he committed any crime.  If there'd been any doubt about that, he wouldn't have been released.)

Memes about Mr. Foster's death are already spreading, on both sides of the Internet's political divide.  For example:

So far, forces on the other side of the political divide from the rioters haven't made much of a showing - largely, I think, because they're much more law-abiding in general.  However, I have no doubt whatsoever that they've taken note of everything described above;  and I have reason to know, from information received from many sources, that they're organizing in their turn.  I suspect that, one of these days, they're going to be just as visible on our streets . . . and Antifa and BLM are not going to be happy about it.  The late Mr. Foster may be a harbinger of what's to come.


Memes that made me laugh 17

Last week's harvest from around the Web.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday morning music

An article at the BBC caught my eye recently.

The spring of 1825 was not good to Beethoven. Possibly due to his deafness, or else his angry mood swings, he felt increasingly isolated from his friends and family, complaining to his nephew about  “you, and my contemptible brother, and the detestable family that I am afflicted with”. Beethoven’s own erratic behaviour may have pushed people away, too. As a servant remembered in an incident the following year, their master would “wander in the fields, calling, waving his arms about, moving slowly, then fast, then abruptly, stopping to scribble in his notebook.” Between that and his shabby appearance, 1825 even saw Beethoven detained by police – after they mistook him for a vagrant.

Worse was to come. In April, Beethoven developed a serious intestinal illness. His doctor ordered him away from Vienna for rest at the nearby spa of Baden, and banned him from drinking wine or eating his favourite liver dumplings. As Robert Kapilow, a composer and musical commentator explains, Beethoven adored the countryside, but this trip away would be far less enjoyable. His exact condition is unclear, but from his letters he clearly feared for his life – especially when combined with his fragile mental state. “Forgive me in consideration of my very delicate health,” he wrote to the writer and critic Ludwig Rellstab at the start of May 1825. “As perhaps I may not see you again, I wish you every possible prosperity. Think of me when writing your poems.”

In the end, Beethoven did get somewhat better – and it was while recovering at Baden that he wrote the Heiliger Dankgesang [the third movement of the String Quartet 15 In A Minor, Op. 132]. Even if a dumpling-free diet really did help his recovery, the composer himself looked to a higher power. As he notes, the movement is a Holy Song of Thanksgiving of a Convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian Mode. “It is clearly a statement of faith,” explains Edward Dusinberre, first violinist in the Takács Quartet and an expert on the Heiliger Dankgesang. “You observe that in people who have had extremely hard lives – they have found that attitude of gratitude.”

There's more at the link.  Interesting reading.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Snippet: Horses, silver mines, and money

I'm slowly but surely getting back into writing, despite the rather stultifying effects of some serious medication the doctors prescribed for me after my heart attack last year.  I'm hopeful that I'll be fully back in harness by the end of the year.

To demonstrate that I'm on the mend, here's a snippet from the fifth novel in my Western series, the Ames Archives.  I hope to publish it later this year.  The novel doesn't yet have a title, but it'll involve a number of issues from previous books in the series, including the first sales of horses from the breeding herd Walt bought in Mexico in the third volume, "Gold on the Hoof".

In addition, Walt's piece of land further up the Wet Mountain Valley in Colorado, about twenty miles above his horse ranch, the Rafter A, is in close proximity to the burgeoning silver mines near Rosita.  He's going to have all sorts of problems preventing over-eager prospectors from overrunning his property - not to mention underhanded would-be mine owners scheming to get their hands on it at almost any cost, up to (and if necessary including) Walt's life.

In this excerpt, Walt has taken the first horses from his Spanish breeding herd via the transcontinental railroad to New York state, to the spring horse auctions in Albany in 1877.

Sean’s brother Mike had arranged to rent a large, well-grassed fenced field, complete with a stable block large enough to accommodate all the horses. The hands slept in the hayloft, and took turns keeping watch over the animals. Mike had warned that there were always thieves looking for easy prey during the spring horse auctions, so Walt took precautions against that.

They arrived a week before the auctions were due to begin. At first they were ignored, being far enough out of town to be away from the social whirl that was part and parcel of the event. However, when Walt rode one of the best of his horses into town to buy supplies, heads turned to follow him all down the street. It was a gray stallion, so light it was almost pure white in color, with a proud, arrogant gait and its head raised in challenge to all the lesser horses it passed. It made a very impressive sight, and Walt knew it. He had dressed to match the horse, in the best business suit he could procure in Denver. He did not strap on his usual gunbelt, since no-one else was openly carrying a gun, but wore a cut-down Smith & Wesson Russian model .44 revolver in a shoulder holster beneath his jacket.

When he came out of the store, having placed his order and received assurances that it would be delivered that afternoon, he found half a dozen interested men standing around, examining his horse closely. They had many questions about where he’d obtained it. He took the opportunity to describe how he’d found his breeding herd down in Mexico, bought it from Don Thomas O’Halloran shortly before his death, and taken it back to Colorado despite the best efforts of a villainous Mexican bandido to steal his horses. Out of the corner of his eye, Walt noticed a young man scribbling intently in a notebook as he listened, but thought no more of it at the time.

“So what happened with this Enrique Sandoval in the end?” one of his audience asked jovially. “Did he give up his attempts to steal the herd?”

Walt grinned tightly. “In a manner o’ speakin’, yeah. He challenged me face to face on the morning of my wedding. I killed him.”

There was a sudden appalled silence. Walt reminded himself that in the relatively safe eastern states, few had any personal experience of the thunder of guns and the settling of disputes in the most permanent way possible.

“You… you killed him?” the young man with the notebook asked, pencil poised, eyes wide.

“What else should I have done?” Walt asked reasonably. “He and some of his men came down the street at us. I left his men to my guards, and handled Sandoval myself. He was good with a gun, but not good enough when push came to shove.”

A man who’d stood further back in the crowd snorted aloud. “I’ll say he wasn’t! You men probably haven’t heard much about Walt Ames, but he’s a known man out west. He killed Hunting Wolf, a Kiowa war chief, in Kansas back in ’66, and faced down Satank himself a few days later. A few years after that, he hunted down the men who murdered his wife. That’s how he lost his left hand, but he’s still a dead shot with his right. He’s earned a reputation as a good man to have on your side, but a bad man to cross.”

“You have the advantage of me, sir,” Walt said politely. “How do you know so much about me?”

“I’ve traveled a lot out West in connection with railroad business, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. My name’s Loren Atkinson. I was in the area when you ran into the Furlong gang in Pueblo, and read about it in the papers. You killed all of them, didn’t you?”

“I had help, but yes, they ended up dead. Pleased to meet you, sir.” They shook hands.

The young man was scribbling again. Atkinson nodded to him. “This is Fred Lowery, a reporter for the local paper. I daresay your name will be in it tomorrow.”

“May I come out to see your horses, sir?” the reporter asked eagerly. “If they’re all as good as this one, and with a name like yours behind them, they’re sure to attract a lot of interest.”

“Sure, we’re about three miles out of town on the Schenectady road. Come out any time. If I’m not there, my men will show you the horses. I’ll let them know you’ll be coming.”

Next morning, a banner headline on the front page blazoned Walt’s name before everyone in the area. Two men came out from Albany to see the horses, bringing copies of the newspaper with them, somewhat to Walt’s embarrassment. The reporter had recounted his exploits out West in breathless detail, and described how he’d brought back a breeding herd of the finest Spanish strain of horses from Mexico. The article concluded with a promise of a follow-up the next day, describing the horses in more detail.

The reporter duly arrived that afternoon, bringing with him more men who wanted to see Walt’s horses for themselves. Several tried to buy them at once, at a discounted price, but Walt refused. “We’ll wait for the auction and let the public set the price,” he said. “I’ve got a pretty good idea what they’re worth, and I don’t want to settle for less.”

Mike Flanagan had taken note of the article in the newspaper, and was on hand to spread the word about the hunting business he was entering into with his brother Sean out in Colorado. “Walt Ames has partnered with us, and we’ve set up a separate company to handle it,” he told his eager audience. “They’ll guarantee a good hunt – our guides know where to find the best trophies in the Rocky Mountains – and they’ll provide as much luxury as possible during the trip, including the best food and wines. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime for any sportsman.” He was soon noting down names and addresses for future reference.

After the visitors had left, Mike joined Walt, ecstatic at the day’s events. “This is the finest possible way for us to kick off both businesses – your horse sales, and my – our – hunting outfit. You just watch. You’ll have people falling over themselves to buy a top-quality horse from a known gunfighter, and they’ll come to me, too, to book a hunt that they know you’ll help to arrange. This is great!”

“I’m not a gunfighter,” Walt informed him frostily, feeling annoyed. “I just happened to come off best in the fights I’ve had so far. I could meet up with a better man at any time. Don’t use that word when you talk about me, please.”

“I won’t, but please don’t sell your reputation short, either. It’s worth money to us.”

He was proved right at the auction. Walt’s horses attracted enormous interest, not just because of their quality – they were as good as the best from other breeders, and better than most – but also because of who and what he was. Bidding was brisk when his animals entered the ring, and all sold for higher prices than he had expected. The two dozen horses went for an average of six hundred and fifty dollars each, and he could have sold twice as many if he’d brought them.

The auction led to another fortuitous meeting. Walt had just finished signing a bill of sale for the last of his horses when a voice behind him said, “I don’t suppose you remember me, Mr. Ames.”

He turned, to find a tall man in his late thirties or early forties standing before him, with an attractive woman on his arm. He thought swiftly. “Your face is familiar, sir, but I’m afraid I can’t place the name.”

“That’s not surprising. You met me more than ten years ago. I was a captain in the U.S. Army.”

Walt’s brow cleared. “Captain Gordon! You were in command at Pond Creek when our wagon train passed through there, on our way to Colorado Territory in ’66.”

“Yes, just after you dealt with Hunting Wolf. I gave you a letter of commendation for the help you provided to the Army in getting the train through. May I introduce my wife, Anne?”

“Very pleased to meet you, ma’am.”

She smiled. “And I to meet you, Mr. Ames. Your reputation precedes you.”

Gordon nodded. “I was telling my wife about you after we read that article in the newspaper. I left the Army as a major last year, and came home to my parents’ horse breeding farm near here. My father has retired, and I’ve taken over the family business. I understand you breed horses in Colorado now?”

“I sure do, at the Rafter A ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley near Pueblo.”

“I understand it’s a rather larger establishment than mine, but we do our best here, too. Will you be sending more horses to our auctions each year?”

“I plan to. It’s a good market for them.”

“We may be able to help each other. I want to buy good breeding stock from time to time, to introduce new blood to our herd. You’ll probably do the same. We can sell or exchange good horses with each other. In addition, you might find it useful to have a local agent you can trust, who can accommodate your horses and help your representatives at the annual auction. I’m sure you won’t be able to come here yourself every year.”

“You speak wisdom, sir. Perhaps we can discuss it at greater length while I’m visiting.”

“That will be my pleasure.”

Walt ended up being the Major’s guest overnight at his breeding farm, which was an extensive operation and clearly very professionally run. They agreed to explore options for the future together, and the Major promised to visit the Rafter A later that year, bringing his wife to meet Colleen.

~ ~ ~

Jim Dunnett was waiting at the station in Denver to meet the train from Cheyenne as it pulled in. He greeted Walt and his men and escorted them to a nearby hotel, where they’d spend the night before taking another train down to Pueblo. Walt saw his people settled in, then met Jim in a nearby high-toned saloon. They ordered drinks, and sat down at a table against the far wall, far enough away from other patrons to be able to talk undisturbed.

“What did the assayer have to say about those rocks?” he asked, sipping his whiskey.

The lawman shrugged. “He reckoned they weren’t anything much. There was silver there, all right, but in low concentrations, only about two to three ounces per ton of ore. That’s not enough to bother with digging it out. Sorry it isn’t better news.”

“Oh, that’s not bad news at all. It means I don’t have to worry about prospectors finding something rich, and causing a rush that overruns my land.”

“Not on these results, no, but the assayer warned they were only from one small sample. He reckons he’d need to test a lot more rocks, from across the width of the area where these were found, and also from deeper down, before he could say for sure what’s there. He told me some of the silver mines didn’t show much in the first shallow samples. They had to dig down fifty, sixty feet before they found the good stuff.”

“I get it. I’ll wait and see whether any of those black rocks in other places turn up pay dirt. If they do, it might be worth digging deeper on my land; but if I started that myself, without a real good reason to do so, the miners in the area couldn’t help but see and hear the explosion of my dynamite charges. They’d want to know why I was digging there. I’d as soon not give them cause to wonder about that.”

“Makes sense to me. So, how did the hoss sales go?”

“Really well!” Walt told Jim about their success. “It looks like I’ve found a local partner there, who’ll put up my horses when I send them every year, and my men too, and help look after them. He’s a former Army officer I met comin’ out here back in 1866. He’ll be visitin’ us soon to look over the Rafter A. This might turn into somethin’ good for both of us.”

“I hope it does. You’re stretched awful thin, tryin’ to run your hoss ranch, and your freight business, and this new hunting enterprise, and your half-share in that cattle ranch in Texas. I dunno how you find the time to stay on top of it all.”

“I couldn’t do it on my own. I hire good men to run each of them, and take the load off my back. That means I mostly need to supervise. That’s a lot easier.”

They arrived at Pueblo late the following afternoon. Walt sent his men to a local hotel for the night, then hurried home, where Colleen and the children were waiting eagerly. He kissed his wife lovingly as his three-year-old son Thomas – named for Colleen’s father – tried to climb his leg, and baby Samanta – named for Colleen’s mother – burbled her delight at being in Daddy’s arms again. He handed the baby to Colleen and picked up Thomas, squeezing him tightly.

Colleen leaned against him contentedly. “I got your telegraph message about the auction. That’s wonderful news!”

He nodded. “Our two dozen horses fetched over fifteen thousand dollars between them. Even with the costs of taking them all the way there, along with so many grooms, we still cleared over twelve thousand dollars. Next year I’ll send two to three times as many.” He told her about meeting Major Gordon, and his forthcoming visit.

“That’s wonderful! It’ll give us someone we can trust halfway across the country. You won’t be on tenterhooks, wondering if our hands are coping without you.”

“Yeah, and we’ll probably do business with him ourselves, and he with us.”

She hugged him again. “That’s a great start to the Rafter A’s sales. Let’s hope we can move the rest of this year’s horses as easily, and those Nastas is bringing. He telegraphed that he’ll be at the Rafter A with a score of his people late next month. He wants them to work on the ranch over the summer months, to learn how we breed and raise our horses.”

Walt grinned. “It’ll be great to see him again. We’ll plan to go out there with the kids for a week or two. We can spend time with Nastas, check on the builder’s progress, and go through the ranch’s books. I also want to ride up to Rosita and see what’s happening at the new Bassick mine. It’s not far from our land. I don’t want the mine’s workings straying over the boundary.”

Colleen looked worried. “What if they have? How will you stop them?”

“They just took the southern half of Fremont County, where we are, and made it the new Custer County. I wouldn’t have renamed it to commemorate a man who led his entire command to their deaths because he was too damned careless to reconnoiter what he was facing, but I guess that’s politicians for you. Ula’s the county seat now, about three miles from Rosita, so I’ll see the County Sheriff there. If he won’t help, I’ll have to do it the hard way, with lawyers and courts, but I reckon a word in the right ear should help. I can be real persuasive when I have to be.”

She winked. “As soon as the children are asleep, you can show me just how persuasive you are.”

He winked back at her. “Promise?”

I hope you enjoyed it.  Look for more in due course.