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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo – and probably only Ol’ Robbo – is delighted by this article:  State-Owned Bexar County Ranch At The Center Of Latest Warbler Fight.

Short story, the State of Texas buys up a ranch in far northwestern Bexar County, with plans to develop it for residential use as an outer luggshury burb of San Antonio, the profits going into the state’s public educational funds.  Reasonable enough, especially when real estate is booming.  The plans are kyboshed, however, when it is alleged that said ranch contains a micro-environment crucial for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.  As of the date of the article, the state was trying to unload the property and recover its initial investment.  The bulk of the article describes the debacle and the resultant finger-pointing, due-diligence claims and counter-claims, and questions whether said warbler is even really endangered.

A ridiculous enough situation and one that may be snark-worthy in and of itself, but the reason it got Ol’ Robbo’s special attention is this:  The ranch involved is the one on which we used to hunt back in my misspent yoot!

Yes!  It’s referred to as “Rancho Sierra” in the article, but back in the day it was the Karsch Ranch, the name of the then-owner, a hell of a nice fellah.  (It’s been better than 35 years since I was last there.  I don’t know if Mr. Karsch or his heirs sold directly to the state or whether there have been intermediate owners.)  He sold something like twenty or twenty-five deer leases for hunting the bulk of the ranch during the season, although we also went for wild turkey and Russian boar.  We held a lease for maybe twelve or fifteen years altogether.

The tallest peak in Bexar County (located on the ranch) also gets mentioned, although the article calls it Mt. Smith.  To us, it was known as Flag Top.  I have no idea where the “Smith” came from – I’ve seen the marker at the summit and although this was a loooong time ago, I’m reasonably sure our name was the right one.

Flag Top, then, contained two deer stands.  One was called “Flag Top Road”.  It was a tree-blind on the main trail across the mesa.  (The view out the back over the valley was pretty amazing.)  I helped the Old Gentleman overhaul it when it started falling apart, and indeed it was from that blind that I bagged my first buck.  I was eight at the time.  (I save this little factoid for only the very specialist of my snowflake acquaintances.)  The other one was called “Flag Top North”.  I cannot recall if it was simply a box on the ground or if it was a small tower, but I know it wasn’t in a tree.  It was on a spur from the main track, maybe a couple hundred yards off and right near the summit.  In all our time there I do not recall ever hunting that blind, although we did drive up to restock its feeder now and again and to have a look at the marker I mentioned.

And speaking of driving, it was on this ranch that the twelve-year-old Robbo learned how to drive.  (There are a couple photos in the article that give a sense of the terrain and trails.)  The Old Gentleman got hold of a VW Beetle.  He had the shell, the dashboard, and the back seat removed, and put on a roll-bar, a plywood rear platform and engine box, and oversized tires.   Reasoning that if something happened to him when we were way out in the back of beyond, he insisted that my brother and I learn the trails and, when we were big enough to reach the pedals, how to drive the buggy.  Once I grasped the mysteries of driving a stick, it was loads of fun.

Good times.  Good times.

Incidentally, I myself never saw one of these warblers, but I gather they only visit the old ranch during the nesting season and I was really only there during the winter, so there’s that.

Oh, one other piece of nostalgia?  The article quotes a good bit from one Gene Dawson, an engineer who did some assessment work for the state.  His parents were our next-door neighbors in San Antonio and his mom often invited us to use their pool.  (We did.)  Gene is probably eight or nine years older than me and we never had much contact, but his younger brother Sam, who I think graduated high school a year or two before I entered, was infinitely patient and good-humored about playing with us younger kids in the neighborhood.

Small word, ain’t she?

And you never know when the past is going to come bubbling up again.

A glass of wine with my brother, who stumbled across this article recently and mentioned it to me over Thanksgiving.

UPDATE:  As long as Ol’ Robbo is thinking about it, a few more fun facts about the old Karsch.

The article mentions a couple of springs on the ranch.  I knew one of them and indeed sipped water out of it more than once.  It was located in a small, deep valley known as Wolf Hollow.  The story went that Texas Rangers once got the drop on some desperado camped out there and shot him down, burying him in his boots.

Whether that was true or not, this is: Nestled up against one side of the hollow are or were the remains of an old settler homestead, a hearth built out of stone.  I knew one or two others scattered around the ranch as well.  There was also said to be a settler graveyard, but I never saw that.

An old stagecoach road runs across the ranch, linking Leon Springs and Boerne in the east with who knows what to the west.  I remember one section of it in particular that, instead of trying to go up and over the top of a small hill, followed a contour line on one side around it.

Shortly after WWI, a single-engine plane carrying mail ran out of fuel and crashed on a hillside deep inside the ranch.  When a search party arrived, they found the pilot had broken his neck in the crash.  We hiked in one time to find it.  Of course the canvas had long since rotted away, but the iron framework was still there and remarkably intact.  I kept a piece of rusty aileron as a souvenir.

During WWII, a heavy bomber got lost in a fog and slammed into another hillside, blowing up on impact.  I knew approximately where this happened but never tried to find the actual site.  It was said there was nothing left to see anyway.

Finally, the article also mentions a ranchhouse.  I wonder if it’s the same one we used back in the day?  It was a little house set a bit aside from the rest of the compound and served as the hunters’ HQ.  There was a kitchen, a bedroom with bunks (we never stayed over), and a main room.  In the main room was a large wall map of the ranch with all the deer blinds marked and named on it.  (There were maybe twelve or fifteen altogether.)  The map was overlaid with a clear piece of plastic and a grease pencil was tied to a string next to it.  When you went out, you circled which blind you were going to and wrote your name in the circle.  Not only did this ensure two different parties didn’t try to get the same blind, it also acted as a sort of buddy-system to ensure everybody came back in at the end of the day.  (I think somebody from the ranch came round late in the evening to check the map to ensure the last party got in okay.)

I suppose that if the place does eventually get overrun with McMansions, all this history will be wiped out.  So maybe the golden-cheeked warblers aren’t such a bad thing after all.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How about a little this and that?

♦  Ol’ Robbo is quite disappointed he wasn’t invited to Google Camp to discuss the impending Doom of the World with the High and the Mighty.  Not.  As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, I don’t want to hear another goddam thing about my carbon footprint.  When the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s a crisis, then maybe I’ll listen.  Until then, they can STFD and STFU.  (You will, I hope, pardon my French.)

♦  And while we’re on politicks (which I seldom visit here), how much of an idiot do you have to be to allow yourself to be maneuvered into defending Al Sharpton, or denying that Baltimore is a hell on earth?  I mean, come on!

♦  Well, it’s getting on toward that time of the year again.  Middle Gel (now a sophomore) went back to campus yesterday (she’s there early because she got a job as a front desk monitor in one of the dorms this year), and Eldest (a senior) toodles off in (I think) two weeks. Meanwhile, Youngest spent a goodish time over the summah checking out various schools, and has decided she really, really wants to go to Miami of Ohio.  Fingers crossed.  At least it’s a terrific motivator for her to go flat out this semester.

♦  As I mentioned previously, my place of employment moved to a brand-new building this past week. (More on that as I settle in.)  I used to have samples of the Gels’ collective art work taped up all over my office walls at the old place, but that was from ten to fifteen years ago.  Somehow, it seemed appropriate not to repost it in my new digs, but simply to put it all in a file in my drawer.  I suppose it’ll be wedding and grandchildren pics soon.  (And they’d better be in that order, dammit!)

♦  I grow increasingly dissatisfied with Nexflix and its evident decision not to put any real effort into maintaining in its DVD library anything more than about five years old.

♦  I also mentioned the other day that I’m currently reading some John Buchan.  Several friends of the decanter have been urging me to do this for years, and I duly raise my glass to them.  Specifically, I’m working on the Leithen Stories, which might best be described as Old-School Tory adventures.  Crisply and cleanly written, and exciting on a small scale.  (I particularly like “John Macnab” which is all about poaching in the Scottish Highlands.)

Whelp, that’s about it.  Port Swiller Manor has been teased the past couple days by some very strong thunderstorms that just didn’t quite make it all the way here.  I’m hoping we finally get a piece of that action this afternoon.  (Happily, it’s my day off, so I won’t get stuck trying to commute in it.)

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A four day weekend for Ol’ Robbo. WOOT!  As noted below, my primary task, if I can muster the energy for it, will be to clean up cat pee in the basement.  I know exactly which cat does this and exactly why: The eldest of the three, and she does it when she’s mad at me about something.  In this case, recently I’ve broken up a number of squabbles between her and the two younger ones and chased her off, so she went and got even with me.  The result is pretty stinky.

This same cat has been yacking all over everything this summah as well – tables, chairs, rugs, the shelf in my closet where she likes to sleep.

She’s about thirteen or so, now.  It may sound a bit cold, but I don’t think she’s going to be all that terribly missed when she shuffles off.

Speaking of animals, I see that PETA hit the trifecta of silliness this week.  First, it decided to pick a fight with the Murr’land crabbing industry on the grounds that crabs are people, too.  [Narrator’s voice: They’re not.]  I laugh at this one mostly from the sidelines since I rarely eat crab myself – the meat’s a tad too much on the sweet side for my taste.

Then, there’s its campaign to get a memorial put up on Route 1 in Maine where a lobstah truck crashed near Brunswick.  (The MDOT quietly said go pound sand.)  Now with this one PETA strikes closer to home, since Ol’ Robbo truly lurves him some lobstah.  Alas, I didn’t make it up ta Maine this year, and although this is going to sound horridly snobbish, the truth is that when you’re used to buying them straight off the boat, you shudder at the idea of getting them from some supermarket tank hundreds of miles away.

Finally, and perhaps most insanely, there’s PETA’s victory over the Animal Crackers box design. Yes! No more circus cages! The pictures of the animals are now free-range…..pictures of animals.  Take that, Nabisco! We shall overcoooome….!!! (In fact, this doesn’t even appear to be enough for some people, but I’ll be damned if I link to Vox.)

Speaking of which, is there anyone on the planet who didn’t think it intensely amusing as a small child to bite the head off the animal cracker first and proudly display the remains?  Seems to me that’s a pretty telling clue about the hard-wired relationship in our braims between Man and the animal kingdom.

Remember with all of these: Somebody gets up in the morning and goes to work to do this.  And somebody else actually pays them to do so.

UPDATE:  Apropos to a post on insanity and virtue-signaling, I was in line at the store a little while ago.  When the old coot in front of me got up to the register, he loudly said, “Paper, please! No plastic for me, heh, heh!”  He then flipped a smug, triumphant smile around to everyone.

Brave man.  Brave man.

That reminded me of the gnus earlier this week that Kroger is going to do away with plastic grocery bags in its stores.

I don’t shop at Kroger’s.  In fact, I don’t even know where the closest one to me would be.  Instead, we usually go to the local Gourmet Giant (pronounced “Ger-may Gee-aun“.  The other choices are a couple of Safeways, both of which are grungy and depressing, or else the new hipster Harris-Teeter (known as “Heinous Ta-Tas” in my misspent yoot).  So far as I know, none of these chains is following Kroger’s lead.

Which is just as well.  I mention the three cats above.  Well, we also have three kitty-litters that seem to need scooping constantly, and all the groc bags we bring home get “repurposed” for holding cat poo.  I just don’t see paper bags working out quite the same way.

Of course, Kroger and PETA would probably argue that the way around that is to not have cats in the first place, to which I would reply, “Oh, go ban yourselves.”

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hadn’t realized until today that this weekend is the big “Tide-Pod Kidz Against Icky Guns” rally in Your Nation’s Capital.  And it only hit me personally when I left the office this afternoon and discovered that crews were out and about setting up crowd-control barriers and whatnot and, in the process, blocking several intersections key to my commute.

Rush hour traffick in the Swamp is bad enough, especially when the crowds of tourons reappear in the spring.  When this sort of thing happens, however, one finds oneself feeling like Frodo and his friends trying to get out of the Old Forest but being dragged back in by Old Man Willow.  (At one point, I started to make an illegal left turn to get clear, but there happened to be a cop sitting on my right rear bumper.  He started blatting his horn at me menacingly, so I quickly abandoned my escape attempt.)  It is extremely wearing and grrrrr-making.

So perhaps I’m even more prejudiced against this stunt than I might otherwise have been, but I don’t really think so.  I’m disgusted with the Kidz, of course – snot-nosed little narcissists who think virtue-signaling about their feelz trumps Reality.  But I’m actually enraged by the Authoritarian Left machine that’s exploiting these idiots to push disarmament of law-abiding citizens and strip me of my right to defend myself and my family.  (And no, I don’t think Ol’ Robbo is wandering into tinfoil-hat territory here.  There’s Soros Money in them thar protests.)

Anyhoo, all this kerfluffle has been having the opposite of its intended effect – at least with me – in that I’m motivated to finally get off the Port Swiller backside and start doing some serious research and pricing, especially now that Mrs. R has given me the green light.  I may have mentioned here before that I’ve never actually fired a handgun, so I know very little about them and will need to get proper training, advice, practice, and so on.  However, I used to do a good bit of bird and skeet shooting as a teenager, using, among others, a Remington Model 1100 12-guage.  It seems to me that one of these would be a good first step since I’m already familiar with it.  (And, after all, isn’t this what Joey the Plugs “Choo-Choo” Biden recommended?)

In the meantime, these Kidz can get the hell off my lawn and go back to their Tide-Pod eating.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Must be an awfully slow nooz cycle this afternoon, because at the 6 P.M. top o’ the hour break on the local classickal station, Nihilist Propoganda Radio devoted a portion of its precious three minutes to getting it’s knickers in a wad over the Wisconsin State Senate eliminating the minimum hunting age.  [Sorry, no linky at the moment because WordPress is acting up this evening.]

The piece was mostly about “critics'” concerns that the woods would now be filled with unsupervised shotgun-toting toddlers spraying Death left, right, and center, and How Could Any Responsible Government Allow This?

It was only at the very end the reporter admitted that, in fact, 34 other states have no minimum hunting age.

I laughed out loud at that.

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t been hunting in nearly thirty years, nor has he passed on to the Gels any of his remaining knowledge of it.  Mrs. Robbo has a strong Bambi Complex, and said sport was never important enough to me to be worth picking a fight with her over it.

Nonetheless, the nooz does provoke some fond memories.

I must have been about five or six when I first started tramping around after the Old Gentleman as he went quail hunting in South Texas.  On certain special occasions, I was rewarded for my pains by being allowed to fire off his shotgun at a piece of wood floating in a stock tank.  At least once, the thing knocked me down.

When I was seven, I started learning how to shoot in earnest, firing a little .22 at tin cans set up on fence posts in our back yard.  (There was no one living behind us, only empty scrub.)

The next year, I graduated up to a Remington .222, and put in some earnest time at the local rifle range.  During hunting season that year, I bagged a white-tail buck and a big tom turkey (which we had for Christmas dinner – delicious!).

When I was about twelve or thirteen, in addition to my rifle work, I started learning to use a shotgun, shooting skeet in the summah and hunting duck in the winter.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was actually a pretty decent wing-shot.

And that was it.  I went off to college and don’t recall ever deer hunting again.  The aforementioned Last Hunt (dove hunting with the Old Gentleman in the South Carolina Low Country) was over Christmas Break of either my first or second year of law school, and my eyes were so damn bad by then that I couldn’t even see the bloody birds, much less knock them down.

So that was that.

Still, as I say, I’m fond of the memories.

Now, so long as I’m on the topic of guns, I will also say that the one thing I dearly wish to happen is that the Gels all learn to arm and defend themselves.  Alas, I can’t put them any knowledge myself, because I’ve never actually fired a handgun in my life.  The signs, however, are hopeful:

For one thing, even though Mrs. R still loathes hunting (because Bambi), she is gradually shaking off her belief that guns are evil and icky and likely to jump up and shoot you all by themselves.  I’ve almost convinced her to let me bring a weapon into Port Swiller Manor for home defense.  (Which reminds me:  My brother still has his Remington 12-guage given to him by the Old Gentleman for Christmas one year.  What the hell ever happened to mine?)  And she does not flat-out object to the idea of the Gels arming up, either.

For another, one of Eldest Gel’s profs teaches an off-campus shooting course from time to time, and she’s said more than once that she’s going to sign up the next time it’s available.  She’s also said she plans to buy a gun as soon as she’s old enough.

For a third, Middle Gel recently went out to a local range with a Young Gentleman friend of hers (and his family), and had a ball blazing away at the targets with a variety of hardware.  (I’m especially concerned about her because she’s such a petite thing.)

Fourth, Youngest is keen to give it a try as well, although based on her learner’s permit driving woes (she struck out on the test for a third time), I’m not sure she has the necessary focus yet.

So there’s that.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry about the most recent dearth of posties here – the fact of the matter is that the Mothe’s passing has hit me rather harder – and in more different ways – than I thought it would, and I simply haven’t much been in the mood.

Nonetheless, I feel a bit more inspired this evening, so here are a few bits and pieces for you:

♦ Prayers for the folks along the Gulf Coast suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which, I gather, is now coming back for a second landfall.  From what I’ve read, the people there are really coming together to help each other out.

♦  Most of the stories about Harvey have been coming from around the Houston area, but I b’lieve the storm actually made first landfall farther southwest, and am curious about its effects there.  This is because Ol’ Robbo spent a good bit of his misspent yoot fishing and duck hunting out of Port O’Connor, Texas, much of it within sight of the ruins of an old Coast Guard station destroyed by another storm in the late 60’s or early 70’s.  I’ve an idea that Port O’Connor was somewhere near the eye of Harvey, but can’t find any real information about it.

♦  I saw some pictures of the First Couple visiting Corpus Christi this afternoon to view the damage.  Totally off topic, but by God, Melania Trump is a beautiful woman.

♦  Speaking of politicks, Ol’ Robbo has been trying to come up with a label for the leftist goon squads that have been so much in the nooz lately.  I had considered Neo-Jacobins, but regretfully rejected it as being probably too historickally obscure.  But I’ve hit on an even better one for this day and age:  Antifassholes.   (I don’t care if somebody else has also thought of this – I promise I came up with it my very own self.)

♦  And I think…I think…that the whole Antifasshole movement has overreached itself and is not going to be able to mau-mau the country after all.

♦  Anything else?  Well, probably.  But I can’t think of it right now.  Oh, except Ol’ Robbo has been taking a very, very keen pleasure the past two days asking the two Younger Gels and Mrs. R, “And how was school today?”  Most. Wonderful. Time. Of. The. Year.

No, I am not at all a nice man.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo just got back from visiting the Eldest Gel for Parents’ Weekend at SBC.  All in all, quite the interesting experience.

The other day, the Gel requested and required, in her straightforward way, that Mrs. R and I try not to make conspicuous fools of ourselves while visiting.  Overall?  I’d say we were roughly 60% compliant with that request order.  (At least we didn’t bring baby photos to show the Gel’s friends.)  Our first fault – which I should have spotted and more forcefully deterred – was that Mrs. R kept forgetting that she was a visiting parent and not a visiting alumna, so she spent large amounts of time glad-handing faculty, administration, and other students, trying to set up networks, offer suggestions, and generally rallying to the flag.  All worthy endeavors, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  When Mrs. R was going at Maximum Shmooze, I could see faint puffs of smoke coming out of the Gel’s ears.  (Not just because Mom Wouldn’t Stop Yakking, but also, I believe, because there’s a kind of territorial thing developing here:  The Gel has so quickly taken to the place that she now assumes it’s her turf and that Mrs. R is an intruder.)

Also, Mrs. R indulged in her favorite pastime of trying to jam Too Many Events into Too Little Time (something which has driven me absolutely batty the last quarter century).  This culminated in an ill-advised late movie date with the Gel after her theatre production was finished last evening, leaving the Gel an extremely irritable zombie this morning.   I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been better for all involved if we hadn’t simply slipped off for home after the show instead of staying for brunch today.  (The production of “The Trojan Women” was, by the bye, quite well done for all my critique in the linked post.  Great leads, well-staged, and pretty gruesome all around.)

Ah, well.

A few other things:

The Gel may have been an irritable zombie this morning, but so was Ol’ Robbo.  This was because last night was the second night in a row in which I got virtually no rest.  Now, long-time friends of the decanter may recall that Ol’ Robbo does not do well sleeping in beds other than his own in the first place (e.g., on travel), but this was somewhat worse.  For one thing, there was something going on with the pipes at the inn where we stayed.  Do you remember that sound the sabotaged reactor plant made in “The Hunt For Red October” that forced the crew of the October to shut it  down? That metallic ka-clang! ka-clang! ka-clang!?  We got that, off and on, all night.  For another, this weekend happens to have been Homecoming at the Younger Gels’ high school.  We had allowed them to stay and go to the game and dance provided that  they stayed with approved friends and that we worked out security understandings and arrangements with said friends’ parents ahead of time.  So last evening, we couldn’t even think about going to bed until we had received confirmation from home that the Younger Gels were safe, sound, and not in requirement of bail money.

(The above paragraph is, by the bye, an apologetic explanation to long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory for why I didn’t appear at his church for Mass this morning.  I had thought to tool over the mountains, in part because ODT’s church was one of the nearer available options, in part because we’ve been blog-friends for years on end but had never met in person.   But I was so wiped out that I simply couldn’t get myself up in time.  Mea culpa!)

The Gel’s operating procedure during most of our visit was to deal with us until she’d had about enough and then dismiss us until she was ready to reengage.  This left some time on our hands, so yesterday Mrs. R and I decided to walk round the campus on the traditional loop known as “The Dairy”.  It’s a farm road that, starting behind the performing arts theater, passes over some fields, climbs up the backside of Monument Hill, passes through the stables, and then dips down into the dell where the graphic arts program is housed in the buildings and barn that used to hold the working dairy back in the day – hence the name – before climbing back up toward the main campus.  (The Dairy – which supplied fresh milk and ice cream to the dining hall when Mrs. R was there – was forced to close in the early 90’s because of the added costs associated with complying with strict new EPA regulations championed by AlGore.  Of course, Big Dairy – cosy with the gubmint – could afford to swallow such regs while all the little operations like SBC’s were run out of the market, so from the point of view of both the Bureaucracy and the Major Players, everybody won.  And that, boys and girls, is what we call Crony Capitalism or, to put it more succinctly, Fascism.)  The loop is something in the neighborhood of three miles all the way around.  (The Gel walks it at least twice a day.)

Anyhoo, as we tramped along outbound across the fields, I suddenly stopped.

“What is it?” said Mrs. Robbo.

“You’re going to think I’m completely mad,” I replied, “But I’d swear I heard the skirl of bagpipes coming down the wind.”

We continued walking.  A few moments later, I stopped again.

“Yes?” said Mrs. R.

“I heard it again!” I answered.  “Are the Campbells coming?”

A few more yards and there could be no doubt:  Somewhere up ahead, a piper was doing his thing.

As we tramped along up the hill and the musick got clearer, I couldn’t help feeling a certain chill, even a romantic urge.  (My father’s family is almost purebred Scots, you know.  It must be something in the blood.)

Eventually, we tramped up to the top of Monument Hill and there he was, a Lone Piper (albeit in t-shirt and jeans) solemnly striding back and forth and puffing away.  At first I had thought it was some kind of honorary tribute to the spirit of the school embodied in the Monument.  However, as the fellah kept starting and stopping and repeating certain phrases, I realized he was just practicing, and probably doing so at such a remote location because he couldna’ do it anywheer else fer yon dozy knippits who dinnah unnerstan teh pipes!

Made my day, however.

The other get-rid-of-parents activity in which Ol’ Robbo participated was the fly-casting clinic held by a couple of profs down by the boat house.  Now, the Old Gentleman taught me how to fly-fish when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up a fly-rod in twenty years and wanted to see if I still have the touch.  Well, my friends, it seems that I do.  However, I also have something that I didn’t have back in the day:  A maximum pitch-count.

So there you have it.  Mrs. Robbo and I are home again after a reasonably entertaining weekend, the Younger Gels are safe and sound, and the Eldest can breath a sigh of relief and unclench.

UPDATE:  For your delectation:

 

Although I’m mighty-near purebred Scots on my father’s side, my family were not true Highlanders, having held lands primarily slightly south of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so I dinna know where we stood re pacification and relations with the Brits.  But I know ye ne kin trust the bludy Campbells!

It’s stories like this that keep me from completely giving up on the Mother Country:  BBC Hawk Kills Pigeon As Staff Look On.

When the BBC spent tens of thousands of pounds on three Harris Hawks to protect staff from pigeons and gulls at its new £1billion headquarters in London, it promised that no birds would be harmed.  However, yesterday it emerged that earlier this year BBC staff watched as one of the birds of prey made a kill outside the entrance of Broadcasting House and refused to return to his keeper.

You see, the hawks had been specially trained only to give the pigeons a good talking to.  Bad hawk! Naughty hawk!

Ann Mann, a campaigner from the London pigeon group, said the BBC was wrong to kill pigeons. She said: “It is disingenuous and wrong, the hawks don’t care if the pigeon is killed. The pigeons only real crime is the speed at which they breed.”

I have no idea what the “London pigeon group” is.  Wouldn’t that be akin to the “New York City rat group”?

The BBC hired the hawks – Scout, Travis and Rio – last year to create a “no fly zone” around Broadcasting House. The corporation said that pigeons and seagulls posed a “health and hygeine risk” to both staff and the building.

Don’t these people know that getting hit by a bird bomb is supposed to bring good luck?

The birds of prey, which have a wing span of up to three metres, are released early in the morning three times a week to deter pigeons from perching or nesting. The BBC refused to disclose the cost, but hawks used to keep Trafalgar Square pigeon-free have cost up to £60,000 a year.

You know, you could probably arm a bunch of kids with sticks and squirt guns and get them to shoo the pigeons out of Trafalgar Square free.  Heck, they’d probably pay for the privilege.  Just saying.  Speaking of such things, the Mothe insists that Winston Churchill once suggested that gulls might be trained to land on German U-boat periscopes and poop on their lenses.

A spokeswoman for the British Falconers’ Club said: “They are birds of prey and they are designed to kill things. A spokesman for the Hawk Board said: “It would be killed very quickly. It’s quite likely that the one it went for was a bit weak or old and sick.”

So not only did the hawk commit murder, it also violated several anti-discrimination laws.  Hate crime!

The RSPCA warned last night that birds of prey should never be used to contain the soaring numbers of feral, urban pigeons. “They should not be used as a mechanism to reduce populations by killing,” said a spokesperson.

I thought the RSPCA was spending all of its time, energy and monies harassing country folk who want to hunt Mr. Fox.  And aren’t those people into eco-friendly technology?  What could be better than natural methods?

A spokeswoman for the BBC said that as far as the corporation was aware no pigeons had been harmed or killed.

Ah.  It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up!  Pigeon-gate!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Well, here we are on Christmas Eve.  I think, I think,  that aside from the actual cooking of tomorrow’s roast beef dins, our holiday preparations are complete.  It’s off to the “family service” at RFEC this afternoon, followed by Midnight Mass for Self later on, in between which I will no doubt be dropping suitable Christmas thoughts here as part of my effort to stay awake.

At any rate, perusing the public safety notes in the local fishwrapper, I came across the following item of interest:

A resident living in the 1400 block of C—— Street told Vienna police that on Dec. 7 he heard a loud noise near the front door to his residence.  When he went to investigate the noise, the resident discovered the front storm door glass had been shattered, police said.  The resident  told police he had found what appeared to be BB gun pellets mixed in with the broken glass.  Police responded and determined that several inflatable Christmas decorations in the house’s front yard also appear to have been struck with BB gun pellets, authorities said.

I wish to assure those friends of the decanter who may find themselves entertaining suspicions to the contrary that ol’ Robbo had absolutely nothing to do with this attack, despite his deeply-held opinion that inflatable lawn Christmas decorations are among the most abominable indicia of the season.  Robbo does not wantonly destroy other people’s property.

Which isn’t to say that this item didn’t cause ol’ Robbo to daydream of purchasing, say, half a dozen of these giant snow-globes, snowmen and the like himself, just for the pleasure of setting them up and shooting them.  I even got so far as to image rigging up a trebuchet so as to loft them in the air, wing shooting of course being far more sporting.

Do you suppose it’s too late to ask Santa to bring the doings?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It seems that a case of teh blahs is working its way around the corner of the blogsphere which I am accustomed to haunt.  The lovely and talented Diane mentioned it the other day, and even Ace needs a break.  I confess that I’ve got a tetch of it myself.  I don’t know what the cause is – the approaching solstice, familial sickness (there’s a low-grade bug circulating at Port Swiller Manor), the seemingly endless stream of nooz stories suggesting that Western Civilization is flat-lining – but I certainly feel it.

So what to do? Well, on the larger scale I would simply say keep the faith.  What else is there to do?

On a much smaller scale, however, we should remember to appreciate the little pleasures that come our way from time to time.  This post is about one of those.

troutRegular friends of the decanter will recall a couple weeks ago that I said I had been put in the mood to read Lt. Zebulon Pike’s journals of his exploration of the southwestern part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1806?  Well, I started in on said journals last evening (after weighing through an awful lot of introductory material detailing a rayther nasty feud among historians over why Pike eventually wandered into Spanish territory).   Most of the entries concerning his gradual journey up the Missouri and Osage Rivers are fairly humdrum – distances traveled, weather conditions, game killed and the like.  But in his entry for August 11, 1806, after giving such details, Pike suddenly says this:

“This day, for the first time, I saw trout west of the Allegheny mountains.”

I burst out in a chuckle of delight when I read that line.  Perhaps it’s because I used to cast a pretty decent fly.  Perhaps it’s because of my fondness for geographical references of this sort.  Perhaps it was the sudden fellow-feeling I had for Pike in that he obviously felt the thing important enough to jot down.  Whatever the reason or reasons, the mental image that popped into my head was quite refreshing, almost as if I was splashing about in the waters of the Osage myself.

So there you are.  (I said it was a little pleasure.)

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