Compleat Idler, Preparedness

Idler’s kitchen – cool weather

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

It is hard to believe that fall is coming. It used to mean training events, camporees, campouts. All of these equate to food. And in cooler weather, we need warmth which means fuel. Granola is criticized for the fats—the fats are what your engine burns to keep your body warm inside that super insulated parka you laid out the big bucks for.

But while granola or preferably GORP is good for snacking you need a good breakfast. While my camp coffee requires an EPA permit for disposal, it is not enough to really warm up. Next to dessert breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And here I am going to discuss two, if you have enough time, get a couple bowls of both before you head out on your “trail.” Both require cooking which tends to turn some people off—it is one of my few outdoor activities left.

First we make a pot of oatmeal. No, I do not mean one of those little pots that come in the one or two-person cookset from Scout supply or and outdoor or Chinese goods outlet. A note here: Aluminum burns and burns nasty. I still have an aluminum GI messkit and a couple small pots, but I prefer Lexan or enameled plates. I used to use my enameled canner but it has lost some of the enamel and I do not remember whether I pitched it or remembered to save it to sterilize topsoil. If your group gets up to twenty or larger, use a big stainless pot. This also doubles for boiling water in wine or beer making and deepfrying turkeys.

Ingredients: Water, butter, brown sugar, rolled oats, chopped or dehydrated fruit. Remember that you can add more water, but you cannot reduce it. Leftovers do not reheat.

Equipment: Gas burner or campfire. The way things are going I would use the gas burner for more control and less fire hazard. Pot, depending on size of group. Steel, long handled spoon which can be used to both stir and serve. A towel to wipe your hands on is essential unless you have no qualms about wiping your hands on your jeans.

Procedure: Bring water to a rolling boil. Toss in the rolled oats—the generic rolled oats are packaged differently, but they are the same thing. As the oats begin to form, throw in a couple sticks of butter and chase them with at least half a bag of brown sugar, keep stirring while someone else pours in the fruit. I like raisins and apples. And add your cinnamon at the end and stir it in. My friend an mentor Richard Branson (The design professor, not the millionaire) would throw in a bag of red hots. Buy your cinnamon in the restaurant size. You’ll use it up in a couple trips. I am not much on measurements but a carton of rolled oats will serve 8-12. A half a bag of brown sugar will be enough. If you have 30 or so you add more of everything.

A note on sugar: I am sensitive to this issue because my wife is diabetic and I have the tendency on both sides. I have also had campers who tend to hyperactivity—a lower amount of sugar beat Ritalin as a countermeasure. There is a substitute called Splenda(tm) which measures about the same. Avoid aspartame.

At home in the kitchen: Use quick cooking oats and small quantities. The amount of activity is somewhat less.

Now we’ve dealt with my grandmother’s idea of a breakfast—although she would have real problems with the way I do it. So let’s cut to the chase with what I have heard described as Mountain Man Breakfast, farmer’s breakfast, arterial pollution, death at Lauds, etc.

I know people who believe the ads that say a particular coat or outfit will keep you warm. I have never in my retail career made such a claim. Clothes are like shelter—they ideally hold the heat in (unlike Oklahoma City) but they cannot create heat. In cool, say 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, weather you need both shelter and heat. The oven is within and the fuel is protein and fat. When you are working strenuously in the cooler weather, the fuel burns easily—if you are sedentary and working in a temperature controlled environment, this can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke and morbid obesity. (I have never figured out why people who tip-toe around the crimes of battery, rape etc with the term “abuse” will refer to people as “grossly obese” when the term “morbidly obese” is less judgmental and is, in fact, used in medical reports—I have read it in post-mortem reports.)

So here is my particular approach that I jokingly called Prelude to Angioplasty—Southwest Style.

Ingredients: Sausage, lard or butter, frozen hashbrowns or finely chopped potatoes, dehydrated or freshly chopped onions, eggs, frozen or canned corn, cheddar cheese, black pepper, ground Ancho or Chamallo pepper and salsa (chile).

Equipment: Dutch oven(s) or cast iron skillet, large stainless steel spoon for stirring and serving, spatula for stirring and browning the meat. Iron sheet or “Lewis and Clark” cooking stand to hold charcoal and prevent fire from spreading. Shovel to move coals. Dutch oven tool. A gas burner can be used but it is less impressive. If you have a crowd, you may need a couple or three ovens full. Ditto on the warnings about aluminum—yes, I have been present when an aluminum Dutch oven caught fire. Mixing dish big enough for a dozen or so eggs. Fork to whip eggs.

Procedures: On this one I could go into detail on shopping, but suffice to say that you will get plenty of grief at checkout. Cast iron can and should be pre-heated. For each 12 or 14 inch Dutch oven you should use at least one of those pound wrapped packs of mild sausage (you’ll take care of the spice with the pepper and salsa). You start by browning the sausage—in the old days this produced enough grease to brown the potatoes and onions. Do not brown onions first because the moisture will cool the oven and retard the cooking of sausage. While this is going on, someone needs to break and stir the eggs—about a dozen per oven. You’re now browning the potatoes. Fresh onions would go with the potatoes, but I prefer the dehydrated variety which get mixed in with the eggs. Also a dozen eggs would get about two tablespoons of pepper. When the potatoes are looking brown, add the eggs. The heat from the cooking food will cook the eggs and the corn which follows the eggs in. Cover and move some coals onto the top of the oven—this is why I use only cast iron. The lip was invented by Benjamin Franklin who appreciated the Deutsch oven though he fought to eradicate the language from Pennsylvania. Let this sit about five minutes and then remove the cover long enough to dump and stir in about a pound of grated cheese. Cover for a couple more minutes and remove from heat.

Serve with salsa on the side. Use salsa from the Southwest or Mexico or make your own. None of that stuff from New York City. If you feel a need for more carbs, you can serve it with tortillas or make up some fry-bread.

Bon-appetit. Cardiologists are listed in the yellow pages.

Free Society, Preparedness

Night military maneuvers in Massachusetts

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

A cautionary tale

There was a night Back in ’75
Or so I’m told, the story’s alive
The officials went out with 800 boots
to confiscate the powder that shoots

And maybe capture a traitor or two
Old Adams was there and Hancock too
There’d be no alarm at Concord of Course
They’d captured Revere, and taken the horse

And there as they arrived at Lexington green
Were armed Minutemen–very few were seen.
The officials alert so quick to the gun
They neglected two men on the run

‘Twas over in minutes- the rebels in retreat
And redcoats marched on up the street,
To Concord where there was powder none
Except that loaded in horn and in gun

While Adams and Hancock who thought redcoats silly
Sat in the coach that would take them to Philly
While the Redcoats back to Boston did go
Pursued by the rebels with no spoils to show

Compleat Idler, Preparedness


(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

It has been some time since I went to a Gunshow. According to the folks in Washington and New York these shows are a hotbed of illegal weapons sales. I have made personal purchases from other customers—sometimes a trade. But every dealer has to go through the NICS process.

I very seldom buy weapons but I check prices which are driven by demand.  And a key factor in demand is regulation and rumors of regulation.  Back in the early nineties there was a rumor that ATF would require that primers have a shelf life of no more than six months.  While this is possible, the chemical process would be iffy–the shelf life starts at the point of manufacture.  Existing primers shot up in price and disappeared.  Also, semi-auto weapons have had ups and downs depending on the political climate.

Also there are knick-knacks and coins as well as Pakistani swords and knives for the RenFest crowd.  I brought home some t-shirts for the family that said, “PETA People Eating Tasty Animals.”  There are various political and attitudinal bumper stickers I would not want on my truck if I were a defendant in a self-defense shooting case.

What really makes gun shows interesting are the tools and books.  These are not just reloading and gunsmithing tools but metalworking tools from which can be made machine tools,  My theory has always been that the way out of a breakdown and collapse is the rebuilding of a manufacturing infrastructure–one wind generator and home workshop at a time.  My son steers me away from tables where they have multi-bit screwdrivers, which I am reputed to accumulate.

I really enjoy seeing the used books and coins.  There are a lot of turn-of-the-20th-Century two and four volume encyclopediae that have instructions on manufacturing techniques as well as Kurt Saxon’s books that excerpt them.  Also there are some out of print classics such as some of Ruark’s less than politically correct books.

Coins fascinate me and I might be tempted.  The artwork and history are really important to know.

Citizenship, Education, Free Society, Preparedness

“Well-regulated Militia” in search of Definition

This piece appeared in my now-defunct newsletter POST1791 with my copyright(C) Earl L. Haehl 2011.  This may be printed in its entirety provided full attribution is given.  Book rights remain reserved.

The term, “well-regulated militia” is one of the most misunderstood in the Constitution of the United States. The opponents of firearms ownership tie the bearing of arms to participation in a “state militia” which is regulated by acts of the legislature and finds itself defined as the National Guard. In some of my earlier writings I have discovered that I at one point subscribed to that interpretation having been influenced by my eighth grade US history teacher. Why Madison used this phrase instead of quoting the Virginia Declaration of Rights language is one of those mysteries probably best explained by his tendency to compromise.

As a cadet I was subjected to a manual known as FM 22-5 Drill and Ceremonies and spent several hours a week engaged in close order drill, with and without weapons. The repetition trained my muscles to respond to the point that when my son showed up with a surplus Garand I immediately did inspection arms, closed the weapon, returned to order arms and did the seventeen count silent manual. I just sort of got caught up in the spirit of the thing and what I had not done in 30+ years came back like riding a bike. Now, if I could just see targets like I did back then.  We were taught that this would teach us to obey orders and watching the drill team was impressive as they moved in precision to sharp commands. I was not on the drill team for the same reason that I tended to avoid school dances which is that I was much more comfortable with a slide rule than with my feet but I continued to drill as I was assigned.

The training taught us to face right, left, oblique right, oblique left, and rear. We also learned to march in formation in those same directions. We marched in quick time and double time and learned that you march out of step on bridges so as not to create the vibrations that cause the bridge to give way. We did not learn the slow ceremonial march which burial details use in ceremonies. Our step was thirty inches which made an equilateral triangle with my 30 inch inseam. And we marched crisply, each cadet moving in concert with the rest. The was called regular pace. FM 22-5 has a lineage that goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War Drill Manual which brings us to the meaning of it all.

The way it happened is this. The Kings soldiers were regular, disciplined, full time soldiers—the thin red line of literature. They would march compactly into the field, break into two lines, the front kneeling, the rear standing. With the Enfield Brown Bess musket, they were able in an efficient amount of time to begin laying alternate volleys of fire to the point they could fire up to six volleys a minute. This made the regulars a killing machine.

The hapless colonials, on the other hand tended to walk onto the field, line up and sort of fire at will. This was not a killing machine but a bunch of slow moving targets. Little wonder that during the early years of the Revolution the Colonial victories were few and they amounted to guerrilla raids in lesser populated areas, and the occasional picking off of a few red-coated troops on the march. Contrary to what the militia advocates say when knocking back a Bud, the Pennsylvania long rifle did not exist in sufficient numbers to make a difference except on the frontier. They were slow to load and had to be fitted by hand—the British had stifled industry in the colonies.

Enter the Prussian! In 1777 the Compte St Germain introduced Dr Franklin to an out of work Prussian aristocrat named Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben who styled himself as a Lieutenant General and a baron. Von Steuben was neither a baron nor a general officer and had a checkered past, but Franklin engaged in a policy of don’t-ask-don’t-tell and sent the Prussian to General Washington with a letter of introduction.  Washington made  Steuben a major general and put him in charge of turning colonials into soldiers. If any European army was a match for the redcoats it was the Prussian.  In fact, the British and Prussians were reluctant to engage each other preferring war with the French or Austrians. To do this  Steuben wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual and began training sergeants—an accomplishment that has imprinted FM 22-5 and the drill sergeant on my non-military brain.

Thus began a slow building, unit by unit, of a colonial army. While some on the frontier had some experience fighting the hit and run attacks of Indians and reciprocating those attacks, the folks on the coast where the fighting was heaviest were not as proficient. Also, contrary to the views of some of my friends who watch a lot of movies, experience in low intensity conflict does not translate to fighting against a real army.

In the Carolinas, Francis Marion provided a hit and run diversion for Tarlton and Cornwallis. This gave General Greene time to move his army into position. The song goes, “Corwallis led a country dance, the like was never seen, sir/ Much retrograde and much advance, and all with General Greene, sir.” The day came when, as the King’s Regulars approached, Col Dan Morgan instructed the untrained militia to fire two rounds and retreat on command. The King’s troops marched into the clearing, the militia fired two volleys and retreated. The redcoats, sensing an opportunity to pursue and slaughter, broke ranks to do so. They pursued as far as the next clearing where Morgan’s “regulars” were waiting with their own Brown Bess and Charleville muskets, in a formation capable of firing up to six volleys a minute. The rout turned out to be the other direction. It was happening all over the colonies. This particular rout lasted a good distance as Lord Cornwallis kept retreating from Green to a position where he found himself confronted by General Washington’s regular army at a place called Yorktown. It had taken five and a half years since von Steuben’s arrival but the colonials were going head to head with some of the finest soldiers and mercenaries in the world.

This is not to denigrate other factors such as the length and inadequacy of supply lines or the effects of the nascient navy on disrupting the seaways. But it was not until there was a well-regulated army that the victories began coming.

So when the anti-federalists clamored for a Bill of Rights they were armed with language drafted by George Mason. Section 13 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights reads as follows:

SEC. 13. That a well-regulated militia, or composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Madison was also aware of Alexander Hamilton’s objection to a general, undisciplined militia on the grounds that they would be ineffective. For this reason the final language used the term well-regulated militia. The idea was that citizens would gather on the green and drill on a regular basis after which they would repair to the pub for fellowship. This unorganized militia was to be the basis of defense. While this may sound somewhat naïve and archaic, it was a response to having a standing army in the midst of the population to enforce the will of an oppressive government, remembering that these amendments came from the anti-federalist faction.

The Militia Act of 1792, Passed May 8, 1792, providing federal standards for the organization of the Militia was an attempt to standardize the requirements of citizens with the ideal being a musket in every dwelling. The first section of this act reads:

I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.

This is a fairly comprehensive detail of what Congress wanted. As a practical matter it was never enforced and militiamen, when they did show up for call, brought what they had. Quakers and Anabaptists were exempted and the Act was finally replaced by the National Guard Act of 1900 which created the structure we operate under today.

During the undeclared naval war with France, Hamilton served as John Adams’ general-in-chief and formed a small national army. But Hamilton was unfortunately not around in 1814 when “his” regular army was routed from the national capital and the redcoats made the assessment that the defenders of Baltimore were merely militia. As the song goes. “O thus be it ever where free men shall stand, between their loved homes and the War’s desolation….” The militia prevailed because they drilled like Prussians and they deployed firepower like Prussians.

So, should everyone arm themselves and train under FM 22-5? I know there was a version when my son was in basic training in 1989. But the answer is probably not close order drill—how do you do a manual of arms with some of these weapons. Even when I did the cadet thing in the early sixties we marched because it looked good to the community and gave the appearance of leadership while we studied how to win World War II. The current high school cadet programs do close order drill and “leadership” training with the occasional recruitment pitch. Nor was it the marksmanship training that is critical. It was the occasional field maneuvers that went with instruction in small unit tactics.

The technology of warfare has changed since 1783. The idea is the same but the regular movements now involve armor, cover, concealment and firepower. There is even a new rifle that does not need to be aimed directly in development. And there is use of remotely controlled drones. I remember an interview done with General of the Army Omar Bradley in the late sixties, early seventies time period. He was asked whether the Air Force and missile programs had made the Army obsolete. What he said was that unless Infantry has actually occupied ground you have not achieved the mission.

A note here: firepower is a term used in small unit tactics regarding the concentration of fire from multiple sources, not the number of rounds in a particular magazine. The volleys of the redcoats were firepower. The rifled muskets at Anteitam were capable of causing more casualties in four hours then all the modern full auto weapons in Afghanistan since 2002.

Therefore, a well-regulated militia is an armed and well-trained society. While there are those who say modern armies, etc, have made the militia obsolete, I would point out that the decision by the Japanese not to invade the mainland United States was based on the perception of a fully armed population and the experiences they had in the Aleutians with the native population who were armed with .30-30 hunting rifles.

A note here on my qualifications to write this article. In addition to study of the history of conflict and degree in English, I do have a law degree and took coursework in Constitutional Law from Lawrence Velvel and Paul Wilson. I also learned to read from the same sources as late eighteenth century politicians, namely the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.