Monday, November 29, 2010


Just yesterday I found a Christmas present for myself, a copy of John Bianchi's book called BLUE STEEL AND GUNLEATHER. It was in a half-priced book store, and so Mrs. El Fisho was kind enough to get it for me. We do some surprise gifts, but like yesterday, well it seems more prudent these days to economize when possible, and I know I'd be getting it anyway.

Here's a blurb from John's website shown below:

Bianchi authored for firearms industry best selling textbook, Blue Steel and Gunleather, the definitive book on the history, development and use of holsters. He has designed and manufactured over twenty million belts and holsters during his career as the world's best known holster maker.

So I will be excited, perhaps Christmas night or the night after, after a day of gifts and toys and games and food and TV and such, things will settle down and I can read through this book on the couch. I remember back when it was first out, many years ago in 1978. I already owned a few Bianchi holsters by then, and had ordered their catalogs when I was in high school.

Soon, when I became a police officer, our duty gear was detailed as clarino leather (patent leather) on a double 2 1/2 inch Sam Brown belt. I'm not sure if Bianchi made that type of gear, but all of my off-duty and plainclothes holsters were Bianchi.

And guess what? Thirty years later, those holsters still look like new and more importantly, work as designed. Over the years, I've bought and sold various Bianchi holster, but there are a core group I've kept, and since the advent of internet auction sites, I've added to the collection.

I hesitate to call it collection, because my holsters are either working concealment holsters or IWB holsters. I have a very nice ankle holster for the Colt Cobra that saw frequent use as a backup in my police days, but I don't find it near as comfortable to wear now as I did then.

Same with the upside down shoulder holster. Yeah, I know, it's not a secure holster in a physical altercation, but it does conceal well under a fairly well tailored suit or sports jacket with a small gripped J frame and it conceals great under a medium or bigger jacket or hoodie. Yet, after my good friend a partner Smitty was on a knife weilding mental health call as a backup, his Smith J frame dislodged from the upside down shoulder holster in physical altercation and he had to kick his gun across the room under the couch to keep said mental patient from grabbing it. It was a doozy of a wrasslin' match, judging by their ripped suits and shirts afterwards. I don't recall Smitty every using that holster again.

Yet, I retain several upside down shoulder holsters as well as my old ankle holster. All of them look near new and work like new.

But there are favorites that I do frequently use.

The Model 6 IWB holster made of single layer suede with a belt clip. This is my favorite J frame holster and I just got a second one, new old stock one with the silver clip as a backup to my first one, although this 29 year old Model 6 is just getting broken in right about now.

I also like the Model 56 paddle holster and have one each for the Cobra and for J frames with hammers. The 56 has a suede covered paddle and is very comfortable.

I also like various belt holster, low profile ones for both revolvers and autos, with thumb breaks.

And I have several Askin's Avengers, the finest leather belt holster for an auto ever made, for Glocks, 1911's and several other guns.

I've never had any issue whatsoever with a Bianchi Holster.

And now, John Bianchi has a new Holster operation. Very custom. Very nice. Read about it here. I know I'll be getting some kind of single action holster rig from him this next year, I can feel it in my bones...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It's been forever since I've done my album posts about favorite new and old albums of mine. Yes, I still call them albums. So I'll be stacking up months worth of albums that I'm listening to currently in the near future.

This Ronstadt album is one of my all-time favorites of the country rock genre. I mean, it just couldn't be done better than this. This is one of those ESIGA albums, meaning an album where Every Song Is Good Album. There are alot of ESIGA albums out there, and of course they vary as to our own personal taste, but let me tell you why this is a great album not only in the history of rock and roll but just for listening and rocking out.

The history of Linda Ronstadt and the band known as the Eagles is intricately intertwined in this album. You can hear it in the playing and in the feel of the album. When Heart like a Wheel was released in 1974, I had been drumming for about 4 years. I was well in command of the drum set enough to cover exactly the parts on the album, and the cover bands I would play with the next few years in high school and thereafter into modern times would cover many of the hits of the Eagles and Ronstadt.

The short version is that Glen Frey was recruited by Ronstadt in LA in 1971 to put together a backing band to record Linda's self-titled third solo album. All of the folks who would form the Eagles were playing in the L.A. music scene at the time and knew each other. Of course, that was an exciting time to be an up and coming or connected musician in L.A. and probably a very good time to be a club live music listener in L.A.

Don Henley had a band called Shiloh, and ultimately he and Frey formed the Eagles. Several personnel changes occurred along the way, losing originally members Meisner and Leydon for Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit.

The Eagles came right out the gate with their first album in 1972 being a success, and several years later as listed in the personnel below, the Eagles guested along with a crowd of excellent musicians on Heart Like A Wheel. You can read more about how that all happened here

Ronstadt is in her finest form ever in 1974 with this album. Her vocals are on fire, and driving the band AND the song like a great vocalist should. When she belts out the opening lines of "When Will I be Loved?" or "Willin'", you feel it.

I know she did lots of great stuff both before and after Heart Like A Wheel, but imho, it's her shining moment. Frankly, it's the only album of hers that has remained in my collection, and although I do enjoy her early solo work, it's the only album that made the transition to cd from vinyl 20+ years ago in my collection.

It is the legendary players who make this album phenomenal. It's a who's who of first call L.A. studio musicians, band members from bands like the Eagles and various other musicians who were then or are now famous for being rocking on their axes.

First and foremost, Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel makes Heart Like A Wheel unforgettable. What an excellent pedal steel player. Sneaky Pete was already well-regarded when he did Heart Like A Wheel, but to me it's one of his finest moments. I'm a big Sneaky Pete fan.

Look at the great personnel who played on this #1 album, which by the way has never been out of print since 1974. It's been a big hit for Ms. Ronstadt. I'll just throw out a few of the more well-known names from the list below, like Eagles Don Henley and Glen Frey. Timothy Schmit and J.D. Souther. You can't miss some of the big names like Cissy Houston, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur or David Lindley either. Those are some pretty heavyweight names. Andrew Gold was a big factor in the musical success of this album as well, being a well-regarded multi-instrumentalist and arranger.

Linda Ronstadt – vocals, background vocals
Andrew Gold – guitar, percussion, piano, drums, keyboards, electric piano, tambourine, ukulele, background vocals
Peter Asher – guitar, percussion, background vocals, cowbell
Ed Black – guitar
John Boylan – guitar
Paul Craft – guitar
Kenny Edwards – bass, background vocals
Chris Ethridge – bass
Jimmie Fadden – harmonica
Richard Feves – bass
Glenn Frey – guitar
Emory Gordy – bass
Tom Guidera – bass
Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals
Don Henley – drums, background vocals
Dennis Karmazyn – cello
Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar
Russ Kunkel – drums
Lloyd Myers – drums
David Lindley – fiddle
Cissy Houston – background vocals
Sherlie Matthews – background vocals
Maria Muldaur – background vocals
Clydie King – background vocals
Wendy Waldman – background vocals
Joyce Nesbitt – background vocals
Herb Pedersen – banjo, background vocals
Danny Pendleton – pedal steel guitar
Dennis St. John – drums
Timothy B. Schmit – bass
J. D. Souther – guitar, background vocals
John Starling – guitar
Bob Warford – guitar
David Campbell – viola, string arrangements

It's a great album and won all kinds of sales records and accolades for just being an excellent album. If you're an Eagles fan, you'll like this album. If you're a fan of the legendary country-rock genre, you'll love this album.

It's a slice of the mid-seventies. The Eagles were about to make a turn in their sound, moving from country rock to lots of flat out rock, adding Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmidt to replace Randy Meisner and Bernie Leydon. Rock and Roll was really at the top of it's game by this point, with artists from Led Zeppelin to Bad Company to Heart and Aerosmith and countless others filling the air waves with rock and roll. Country music was likewise flying high, with everything from traditional artists making career high singles and avante garde country artists like Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson also flying high.

The mid-seventies was a great time for great music. Music that is memorable to lots of people. Like this album. Heart Like A Wheel has never been out of print since 1974. I'm sure there are other albums like that, but I can't name one right here off the top of my head. So it's selling and it's been selling steady since 1974, otherwise it would have gone out of print except for special marketing efforts.

This is one of those albums like Van Morrison's Moondance or John Klemmer's Touch, where you can really feel the emotion of the music coming from the players. It's real, and it's always nice to feel something real.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I missed it. And I'm ok with that. At the last minute, got a call from a friend with an extra ticket. A really good extra ticket, right up front and everythang. But me and El Fisho Jr. were in the middle of having quite a day, and I mean, as much as I like Roger Waters and his concerts, music and especially his choice of bandmates that he plays with on tour, he can't measure up to El Fisho Jr.

So instead, tonight I'll watch my dvd of the 2000 IN THE FLESH tour, featuring one of my favorite Texas guitarslingers, Doyle Bramhall III. It's almost not fair to single out Doyle as outstanding on that tour, but he was. He sang and played the Gilmour parts with great respect and interpretation. Likewise, Snowy White and Andy Fairweather Low on guitars and Graham Broad on drums and a host of other great musicians were on that tour and there's a great CD of it as well.

I remember seeing Pink Floyd back in 1977 on the Animals tour in Houston at Jeppensen Stadium. Well, sorta I remember. I do recall the great music played by the Floyd that night, and I'll never forget the helium balloon animals floating around the stage.

I wasn't old enough to go see concerts when the Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon came around, and frankly I'm waiting for Mr. Waters to release a DVD of his 2007 Dark Side of the Moon tour, which like the Led Zeppelin reunion, was filmed but remains hidden from the fans like me who couldn't make the show but would pay real American dollars for a nice dvd with great sound. I've seen the boots on the web of the Led Zep show, and of course the sound disappoints.

Here's a note copied from the website of Mr. Waters, as to why he is performing THE WALL in it's entirety for this tour:

Why am I doing the Wall again now?

I recently came across this quote of mine from 22 years ago:

” What it comes down to for me is this: Will the technologies of communication in our culture, serve to enlighten us and help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart?”

I believe this is still a supremely relevant question and the jury is out. There is a lot of commercial clutter on the net, and a lot of propaganda, but I have a sense that just beneath the surface understanding is gaining ground. We just have to keep blogging, keep twittering, keep communicating, keep sharing ideas.

30 Years ago when I wrote The Wall I was a frightened young man. Well not that young, I was 36 years old.

It took me a long time to get over my fears. Anyway, in the intervening years it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with it’s concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns.: Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, Whatever! All these issues and ‘isms are driven by the same fears that drove my young life.

This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent lost in the intervening years.

In some quarters, among the chattering classes, there exists a cynical view that human beings as a collective are incapable of developing more ‘humane’ ie, kinder, more generous, more cooperative, more empathetic relationships with one another.

I disagree.

In my view it is too early in our story to leap to such a conclusion, we are after all a very young species.

I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of
each other.

I feel it is my responsibility as an artist to express my, albeit guarded, optimism, and encourage others to do the same.

To quote the great man, ” You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

- Roger Waters, 2010

So for this tour of THE WALL LIVE, Roger has once again surrounded himself with excellent musicians. Although Doyle isn't on this tour, his bandmates read like a who's who of Brit rock for the past several decades. Here's some wiki info on the tour itself:

My personal favorite, Snowy White, first appeared on the Animals Tour in 1977 as a second guitarist to help cover the guitar parts done in the studio by Gilmour. Since then, he's played with the band on tour and in the studio, and after the band broke up, seems to have remained friends with the remainder of the band and played with them as well as Roger on his tours.

On this tour, G.E. Smith is the big name that's got everyone excited. Folks tend to either love or hate G.E. and I'm one of those who thinks he is a great guitarist. I used to always make sure to pay attention when he was leading the Saturday Night Live band for the station breaks, when you could get a glimpse of G.E. blazing away on his guitar. I've got one of his solo albums, and he's a bluesman to his soul, who can also play some rock 'n roll.

Graham Broad is another favorite of mine. A great drummer, I've listened to the double CD of IN THE FLESH to grab his licks and his style as much as possible.

Here's the line-up of his touring band, per the wiki site above:

Roger Waters - Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, & Trumpet
Graham Broad - Drums, Percussion, Ukelele
Dave Kilminster - Guitar, Banjo
G. E. Smith - Guitar, Bass Guitar, Mandolin
Snowy White - Guitar
Jon Carin - Keyboards, Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar
Harry Waters - Hammond Organ, Keyboards, Accordian
Robbie Wyckoff - Lead Vocals (songs or parts of songs originally sung by David Gilmour)
Jon Joyce - backing vocals
Kipp Lennon - backing vocals
Mark Lennon - backing vocals
Pat Lennon - backing vocals

I've heard that Gilmour himself is rumored to possibly appear at several of these shows, and that other folks are being added to the band as well.

I just hope that Roger and his production crew will get the DARK SIDE OF THE MOON tour DVD going soon and one from this tour as well. I can't wait to see them.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I know that the Pocket Fisherman is not the finest fishing rig available, yet I've had some very good times with it over the years and now have several of them. I've caught lots of fish with the Pocket Fisherman, and for some types of improptu fishing in which you either don't have a lot of room for a full size fishing rig like on a sailboat or when you need to get the rig in use or out of use quickly as when canoeing or kayaking a river with rapids in it.

I wrote about my history with The Pocket Fisherman back in June of last year. Since then, I stumbled upon the patent application for this interesting item here:

And here is a succinct cleaning post from a blog where Pocket Fisherman not casting right was being discussed:

Like you, I just picked up the 1972 Popeil Pocket Fisherman off of eBay and found it out of the box unusable. I tried to actuate the thumb brake to cast the line out and it would not budge. I took off the side cover and inspected the internals of the reel. Turns out the mechanism was just jammed due to lack of use and gumming up of the grease lubricant. I cleaned the spring loaded clutch rod and lubed it up and now casts almost like it was new out of the box. I used Coleman fuel to clean up the parts and some 3 in 1 oil to re-lube. I need to find out the type of grease that would best work inside this reel. Still hunting on the net for that info.

I'll update this post in the future with anymore information I discover.


I am simply dumbfounded at the uproar over trying to ensure that we the American traveling public are safe in air transportation. I'm a lawyer, and I understand the legal arguments that the opponents to scanning or physical searches are posturing with. I also understand the rhetorical argument about giving up freedoms means you've lost the war.

So I guess according to the pundits of the recent efforts to increase air travel safety, we should just be willing to be sacrificial lambs for any terrorist that might want to attack a plane we happen to be on so that we can be spared the embarrassment of a body scan or OMG, someone brushing up against our junk to make sure there is no bomb in our undies.

The commentary that surprised me the past few weeks about body scanners and pat down searches didn't come from the usual suspects, the liberal and oft-misguided left, but from Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Texas Congressman Ted Poe.

My representatives in Congress.

Actually, it was only Ted Poe's idiotic comments that surprised me. C'mon Ted, I remember hearing you lecture us in baby prosecutor school several decades ago, attempting to motivate us not to have "cold feet" in prosecuting cases. You said you and some fellow prosecutors used to put a new pair of heavy, thick socks on the desk of other prosecutors who were afraid to try cases.

And as a Texas District Judge, with a reputation for a stern judicial demeanor and heavy duty sentences for violent criminals, you were a hero to the prosecutors and police working in the trenches with the worst of the worst violent criminal offenders. You were a hero to the average Joe in Houston because you worked hard to keep us safe from the criminals who passed through your court.

You Ted, of all people, should know the random and senseless evil that lurks in the hearts of some men and women, and how our bureaucracies and law enforcement agencies mired in policies and civil rights and laws and lawsuits have to rise above their own level of inefficiency to be of any use at all. You know that despite our best intentions, our security and law enforcement folks will miss signs along the way, like with 9/11. It's human nature to make mistakes. That's why we need to not have cold feet when deciding we're not going to let terrorists kill us in our own country.
Ted, you're the guy most of us want to replace Senator Kay with in the near future. You really need to think about your stance on this issue, because a lot of American voters, and particularly your constituents, have strong feelings about protecting our country. We need you now more than ever.

So when Senator Kay, who out of loyalty to the State of Texas should have really retired back in 2005 when she was mulling her attempt at running for Texas Governor in 2006, and absolutely should have retired when she ran for Governor (and failed miserably) this year, comes out and says that she thinks body scanners and pat down searches are bad, I'm not surprised.

She's been as useless as teats on a boar hog for at least the last half of this decade in Washington, and it's really time she face the fact that she will not be re-elected and that the biggest favor she could do this state and nation is to resign and let us get someone up in her spot who has not lost their common sense and who does not have cold feet.

You see, Senator Kay, we're in a war. We've been in a war now for a long time. I don't know how you missed this crucial fact of life in your analysis of increasing airport security, but somehow I guess you've forgotten about 9/11. Or Osama Bin Laden. Or the crazed army psychiatrist bastard up in Killeen, in our very own state.

Your state.

Our enemy are cowards. They attack as cowards. They are largely faceless, until they attack and we discover their identity. They are largely stateless, although some nations help them out of Muslim loyalty or out of fear of being a target if they don't. Saudi Arabia seems to making a change in their attitude and deciding that maybe it's a good idea if they're on our team, but like Pakistan, you can never be really sure of their loyalty.

So I would think that Representative Poe and Senator Kay would have had the same sense God gave even fools to come in out of the rain and would have been in support of these measures.


Well, I guess there has been a news blackout for the scanner protest crowd the past few weeks. Terrorists have been sending bombs and what are apparently test bombs into Europe and America the past few weeks.

At least that's as long as we the public have known about it, and I suspect it's been going on longer than that and we are just now finding out about it. That's generally the way intelligence and that kind of national security law enforcement and the military are, according to friends of mine who have worked with various federal agencies in intelligence matters. We the public find out much later than they do, and generally we only know the tip of the iceberg as far as how bad it really could have been.

And again, there are reasons for the secrecy of our government. Bad guys can figure out where leaks are coming from based on what is known by our spies, so it's in our best interest not only to keep our operatives safe who are giving information but our methods as well.

I'm sure they explained this to you in baby congressman school, but maybe it's time you go back and take a refresher course. Or do something astonishing and contact some folks like me in your district, because everyone I've talked to about this thinks you both are morons for opposing increased airport security. And most of my friends and people I've discussed this with are Republicans like me.

So for Senator Kay and Representative Ted, when you go back to Congress after the Thanksgiving break, take some heavy, thick athletic socks with you to keep those cold feet warm. Maybe when you get the fightin' side of you back, Ted, you'll realize that law abiding Americans don't have a problem with increased security at airports.

Better yet, go to the mall when you're home. Go to some restaurants, or OMG, a bar or two. How about go to different parts of town and stop at houses on Turkey day with a small entourage (remember, bring pies to give the houses you visit) and talk to constituents YOU DON"T EVEN KNOW and ask them how they feel about this.

You'll see I'm right. Surveys say 80% of Americans are in favor of these measures and willing to deal with them.

Don't have cold feet.

Yeah, so some TSA employee might see my junk on a tv screen, or my not so perfect body. Big woo. If it helps make sure some other passenger does not get to attack the plane I'm flying on, then that's great.

To me it's like a border crossing. Or going into a jail or other secured facility. You have the right not to go to the place where you will be searched if you don't like increased airport security. You can hire a charter plane, or ride Greyhound or Amtrack.

Meanwhile, myself and the other members of the flights I'll be on will be dealing with the realities of this war we are in. We'll be good Americans like our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were during rationing in WWII and take one for the Gipper and just frickin' deal with it. For our own safety and our own good.

And yes, we'll keep praying for the safety of our brave soldiers who battle this very different war, both at home and abroad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Despite the fact we are both Houston natives with an active interest in the history of Houston, I've never crossed paths with Mr. J. R. Gonzales, who writes a blog for the Houston Chronicle called Bayou City History. If we did meet, I'm sure we could find a lot to talk about. J.R. and I are about the same age, but with vastly different backgrounds, yet we share the same interest in stories and places and people of Houston past.

His blog is in my blogroll, and right now he's got an interesting copy of a Sig Byrd story from 1952 at the site Sig Byrd: The Queen of the Hidden Ward, Et Alii .

J.R. recently wrote a very interesting series of posts about the old Sears store on Richmond. I spent many hours with my family in that store as a child, as well as learning to play drums just across the street from Sears in the now-defunct Brochstein's Music Store from drum guru Joe Raynor.

Years later, I rehearsed with a band in the late 80's that were housed in a really small ramshackle row of old time small apartment/warehouse-like structures just off Main street and just down the street from Sears. Despite having had been around that area pretty extensively for most of my life, I never knew those warehouses were there until I started playing with that particular band and using that rehearsal space. A hidden place.

So I like J.R.'s stories.

One thing Mr. Gonzales and I have in common is an interest in the writing of the late Houston newspaperman Sig Byrd. What a gift with words Sig had, and what stories Sig told about the Houston that existed just before my birth. I've written about Sig before,
Sig Byrd's Houston, and received great comments and several emails about my post, some even from kinfolks of his. Really nice people.

When I was a kid on up through my high school years, I was often downtown with my father at his office. Sometimes, I'd have a friend with me, but either alone or with a buddy we explored downtown Houston and the surrounding areas pretty thoroughly. Being young musicians, we'd hit Parker Music downtown, and the pawn shops that used to be all over lower Main street. Back in the late 60's and all through the 70's and 80's, lots of downtown was filled with urban blight.

There were some pretty cool boot and leather goods stores downtown and near downtown, like The Palace Boot Store and Stelzig's. There were lots of cheap clothing stores for "nightclubbing" clothing, but tucked away here and there were shoe stores and suit stores where you could get good deals on nice clothing. One of my favorite places was always F-15, the old police supply store near the corner of Washington and Houston Ave behind the police station, for looking at guns and holsters and all kinds of police gear and running into police friends of my fathers.

We'd eat at the old Cotton Exchange Building restaurant, or sometimes at the Avenue Grill or Otto's.

I often ran errands to the courthouse complex for my father, and back then Congress Avenue was lots different than it is now. One of the biggest "fighting words" insult you could make about someone back then was to call them "a Congress Avenue Whore", because there were a whole lot of that breed of cat on Congress on both sides of the courthouse complex. Winos were all around the lower Main street area and Congress, and several dilapidated downtown hotels served as residences for those down on their luck.

Some years later, when I did become a police officer and ultimately do quite a bit of patrol in downtown and the surrounding areas, I guess I was living the life of Sig Byrd, even though I had not heard of him at that time. When I was a kid, we avoided Market Square, the bad parts of Congress Avenue and certain alleys in and around the lower Main street area because of the riff-raff that hung out in them. As an officer, I no longer avoided these areas, but I still respected them because I had seen and heard of the seriously bad crimes that sometimes happened downtown over the years and knew that because of the transitory nature of many of the folks who "hung out" downtown, bad stuff did happen in those dark corners of downtown.

And there were hidden places downtown. For instance, near the old parking garage on Fannin where my dad parked, hidden inside of a small and very run down downtown grocery store which was mostly patronized by transients was a small soul music record store with highly eclectic soul and African rock music for sale. In '75 or '76 as a teen, it was the only place I could find the Gil Scott-Heron album containing his song Johannesburg which had just been played that year on Saturday Night Live. None of the record stores in town had it, and the African store owner also gave me a used Fela Kuti album, telling me "trust me, you'll like it and you'll be back to buy more Fela albums."

The record store was a hidden place because you couldn't see it from the street when you passed the grocery store. You had to go into the store to know there was a tiny record store in the back. Only the most desperate of downtown workers ever went into that store, because it mostly served the wino/transient/street criminal population that hung out and lived downtown then. They sold smokes and single beers and wine and a few foodstuffs and not much else. Pretty much a broke down alcoholics convenience store. It was dingy when you looked at it from outside and dingy on the inside until the music hit your ears. It was the kind of place where you wanted to put you wallet in your front pocket before you walked in the door.

So thinking about Sig and his writing and stories makes me think about my own memories of my own Houston past.

When I discovered the writing of Sig Byrd, I mentioned it to my father, who had known the lady who owned the Houston Press well. All I can recall is that her name was Maggie (I think) and that she was a helluva crusader against drunk drivers during the 1960's. My father found charm in some of the same type characters and denizens of old Houston that Sig did, and had met Sig on several occasions. We both lamented that there was no Sig Byrd reporting in Houston anymore. In the 1960's and 70's, Houston radio and television reporter Jack Cato both came close to being a modern day Sig Byrd and I'm sure there were others I've forgotten or don't know of. Of course, the late Marvin Zindler was, in his early reporting days, covering stories like Sig would on many occasions.

It's funny that despite the microscopic media and social media focus that we have on almost every individual aspect of our lives that we don't have the tinted observations of a writer like Sig to break it all down for us so we can understand what is really going on in our world. What I mean is, Sig could convince you he could see right through these people, to their essence, and despite the fact so many people put everything about themselves online, we know less than we did about people than we did when reading Sig's take on them.

Now what I want is to find out if there is a mother lode of Sig columns somewhere that I haven't read yet.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


All pictures from the TPWD website, who are excellent and should be applauded for going above and beyond the call of duty in running these great facilities on a shoestring budget. When you drive up into the hills in this State Park, there are amazing views.

Every year, we go fishing for the rainbow trout that are stocked in Texas State Parks and some other public locations for fishing. A special trout stamp is required, and be sure to check the special limits and regulations depending on where you fish. If you ever read this blog, you may know I've been doing that since I was a pre-teen with my family, taking near yearly winter trout fishing vacations to the Guadalupe and otehr trout stocked locales in my youth. In my twenties, I began to range all over the state, or at least, all over the eastern half of the state, enjoying different state and county parks and lakes and having a great time fishing in winter when there is not much other fishing going on.
Winter Texas rainbow trout fishing is the sure cure for cabin fever, or at least an effective treatment. Repeat as necessary.

One of the most memorable trips I ever had for stocked rainbow fishing was during a brief winter sojourn north of Austin back in January when I was in my mid-twenties. I was much younger then, of course, and was escaping and ending a dead end relationship in Houston. I'd managed to wangle spending some education time near Austin for some weeks, and had accommodations that I could use on the weekend. Already being in Central Texas on the cusp of the Hill Country, I was in striking distance already of lots of places that my home in Houston were lots further from.

Due to the aforementioned deteriorating relationship, and other holiday stuff, I had not yet had the opportunity to do any trout fishing yet that winter. Of course, I had the hatchback of my Toyota Supra well stocked with all the rods and tackle related gear I might want to use, as well as a variety of outdoor coats to facilitate rainbow trout fishing in inclimate weather.

So as I was driving around town that afternoon eating lunch, I heard on the radio that trout stocking would occur the next morning about 7:30 in the town of Meridian, northwest of Waco, at the State Park lake there. I went out that night and got some stuff for the trip, got packed and plotted the route on the map and took off about 4 a.m. the next morning.

I was able to plot a route that went up back roads from Jonestown up through Killeen, then west for a bit through Copperas Cove and then north for about 40 miles or so heading towards Gatesville, running alongside the Fort Hood Military Reservation for much of the way. After Gatesville, I veered back westward passing through some historic towns like Clifton and Norse, and since I was way ahead of schedule, was able to stop and read historical markers and learn of the large Scandinavian population of that area.

Several things I'll always remember from that trip up to Meridian that day. First, it was a very cold and overcast morning, probably about 30 degrees, so the sunrise and frost and fog and such was really a great background for the beautiful and rugged terrain I passed through on that trip. That was truly the time of day to be on that 40 mile or so stretch of road between Copperas Cove and Gatesville to just be awed by the normal beauty of Texas. Deer, of course, were everywhere feeding at that time of day and there were patches of ice here and there, so I drove slow and had a nice time enjoying some Texas country I had never seen.

Secondly, back then, gas stations and convenience stores weren't open much at the the time I took off at about 4 a.m. I was used to living in Houston which was just then sorta turning into a 24 hour town in the 80's, and at least convenience stores were open at that hour for a cup of coffee for the road. It took awhile that day, I recall, to encounter a business that was open at that hour, even though I was passing through some larger towns.

Finally, I nearly had the roads to myself that Saturday morning. Dang near, which was nice. Everything was shut down in towns like Copperas Cove and Gatesville as I passed through them, save for a lone gas station in each.

After lingering through communities like Clifton and Norse, I got to the State Park, still ahead of schedule, where I met the Ranger and headed down to the lake. When the fishery truck arrived, there were probably ten people assembled. We watched as the fish were poured into the lake, and after a few minutes, I began fly casting out in that area, quickly hooking fish. It began to rain lightly, and it seemed the fishing got better the colder it got and the more drizzley it became.

I was geared up, and several others had rain gear, but those who did not left despite the great fishing. I gave my fish to several families with lots of little kids who were obviously fishing for food, since the wives were fileting the fish as soon as they were out of the water, and pretty soon they were limited out and were ready to get back to their warm home and eat some fresh trout.

Pretty soon it was me and a couple of Park Rangers and Game Wardens out there fishing. Everyone else had gone home. Some of the best fishing I ever had for Texas Rainbows. Just nonstop catching. Not every cast but nearly so, and with the fairy wand ultra light tackle I was using, there were some fun fights with fish that day. So good that I stayed overnight in Meridian and came back the next morning. It was still good, and still cold, and still raining and still empty. And the fish were still biting until it was time for me to drive home.

The Game Wardens, guys about my age, became very nice once they learned I was an officer on mini-vacation, and I ended up teaching them how to fly fish. I left my fly rod with them when I went into town for lunch. My car started running rough, and I pulled into the local Exxon full service station (long gone, btw) and was getting gas and and the owner took a look at my badly running car and said "spark plug wire" and went and dug through some boxes and found one he liked that looked good and said that this was a used one but it worked and it would last me a while but I should replace it when I get home. He put it on and then gave me an extra and said put that back in your car in case that one or another goes out and refused to take even a dollar for fixing my problem or the wires, because they were leftover from some repair job long ago.

When I ate in town after that, I bought a pie at the restaurant and took it over to his place as thanks. It was the least I could do. I don't know if everyone in that town woke up on the right side of the bed that day, all I know is, they knew I was not from there and went out of their way to roll out red carpets just all over restaurants and the gas station and at the State Park. And I'm just an ordinary El Fisho.

Those days of things like full service gas stations where you often dealt with the owner are long gone. And I miss them. There's still great people all over this state, but as work ethics change and I grow older, I remember how it used to be.

Back then, I proclaimed Meridian as the friendliest town in Texas to all my compadres, and it's still holding the title. It was a day of days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


That's what I'm feeling I need. Way much working lately and not enough playing. I need a road trip with no schedule. Pick a direction, pack up some fishing gear and head somewheres into the vast expanse known as the Texas Hill Country. The whole family has been operating at peak capacity since the beginning of the school year, at work and school and extracurricular activities. Our last mini-vacation to Port A was too long ago to remember.

Cabins can be found to rent for reasonable amounts throughout the Hill Country, and some for quite high prices. I've found plenty of nice ones (read: something that the bride will be attracted to as a clean and relaxing place to read a book and sit on a patio looking at a big river or creek or lake, whilst the men in the family fish and explore.

Seems like folks have been more flexible on minimum stays and have had some lower rents this past year. Things have been tight all over, I know, and I've seen some deals and lots of empty calenders on various cabins I've been looking at for a weekend rental before it gets too chilly. Really, it could stand to cool down a bit right now, being mid-November almost, but the time is perfect to do some heavy fishing with very little sweating.

Pearl Beer, a nominally popular beer in my youth that was somewhat tolerable as far as cheaper beers go, claimed in their TV and Radio commercials, burned into my then elementary school mind, about how their beer was different because it was brewed from the cool, clear waters of the country of 1100 springs, The Texas Hill Country.

Actually, there's lots more than 1100 Springs in the Hill Country, and perhaps that slogan dealt with the property or watershed they obtained their water from. It's entirely possibly because there are, or at least were, springs everywhere back then.

My Hill Country fishing exploits have led me hither and yon to all kinds of rivers and lakes and creeks in the nebulously defined Hill Country area. The Llano River down in Junction. The Llano River up near Mason. The Llano River down near Casteel, just outside of Llano. Same river but entirely different fishing in all of those places.

Same with the Colorado. I don't fish any of the lower Colorado these days, although the pollution and water quality has markedly improved over the past 20 years. I do love me some upper Colorado fishing up near the community of Bend, Texas, which is literally located a bend in the road.

There's now a State owned park up there where private fishing camps used to be, as well as some private fishing camps. Billy Ray and I had an enjoyable day some 25 years ago, out on some guys fishing camp property there who had vast acreage fronting the Colorado. I remember we spent the afternoon fishing a huge deep pool under a large cliff face that was about 50 feet tall.

Springs were seeping water from the cliff face on the opposite side of the river. There were rapids above and below us, and we were able to pull right up to the river and set up our fishing camp with the vehicle and gear right there. Our side of the river was flat and sloping, contrasting greatly with the cliff across from us. As the afternoon wore on, various different colors began to reflect from the canyon face, something I've seen before in pictures and paintings of the canyons in Big Bend, where purples and blues come out of the previously dull rock face when struck the right way by the right kind of light. Moonlight often brings forth these colors as well.

So that's the kind of place I'm thinking I need to be right now. There's places to stay at the private fishing camp in Bend, Texas, but I'd be more interested in spending a night out at a fishing camp with a load of firewood, some easy chairs, a small tent in case the urge to nap hits and a canoe or small jonboat to run a trotline through that deep hole we fished that 25 years ago. The bride would have to be esconced away in a nearby town that had a good motel with cable, whilst El Fisho Jr and I do the all night fishing camp thing. Proabably with Billy Ray dropping by to help us out, which of course would be entirely welcome.

There's tons of other places to fish in the Hill Country. There are cabins all over the place for hundreds of miles that have ponds or lakes or live water frontage like rivers or creeks. The Guadalupe has some great fishing, if you can get access to private property via a cabin rental or the like and you're out of the tube zone. I like fishing both above and below Canyon Lake, but have had better luck fishing the upper portion of the Guadalupe near Hunt, where the headwaters of that powerful river lay. But there are some monster trout downstream from the dam (catch and release only, barbless hooks) that have lived in those cold Canyon Lake waters, which I understand come from the BOTTOM of Canyon lake where it is really cold.

Thus below Canyon Dam there are big browns and rainbows that live year round. My friend from Sugar Land, a famous fisherman named Geoffrey, once showed me photographic proof and had credible witnesses to his catching some HUGE browns and rainbows using 3" beetle spins in root beer and purple on a cloudy day. Go figure. They were in the five to six pound range and were huge and beautiful creatures. I think it was during this time of year when he caught them, when tubing had slowed down. He was fishing from shore and caught heap big fish.

Drive out any distance from towns like Bandera and you'll find low water crossings galore that offer quick fishing on any number of just idyllic creeks that flow into the Medina River. There are just all kinds of nice large creeks surrounding Bandera and I've parked near many a low water crossing in that apart of Texas and caught nice sunfish and small bass with fly rods and ultralight spinning gear with spinners in these creeks.

While fishing some of these crossings, I've had locals stop and tell me I could go onto their place and fish if I wanted to follow them down the road, and I always do. Guess they felt sorry for me, but often low water crossings are good structure for a food chain that ends with the fish (unless caught and not released) and fishing pressure on these creeks is often very light. In fact, I've had more than one person tell me that no one ever fished in the creeks they live on that they knew of in the area, although there are fish all in them. Nice clear creeks, and if you get lucky you can get access to some of the deep pools that are near some crossings by wading. Your fishing odds improve greatly when you can get to a deep pool.

One last place I'd like to fish some more is a series of 3 (I think, at least 2 but I think there are 3) low water crossings on a dead end road that ends near a community called Reagan Wells, sorta north of Uvalde and just a bit west of Concan. On the way to Reagan Wells, you'll cross the Dry Fork of the Frio River at these crossings, which at the time I visited, was completely full of water with a large deep rushing force of nearly a river. I guess it might run dry, but I saw lots of fish around the crossings and a healthy food chain of minnows and algae in the water, so it looked pretty healthy when I saw it.

There were plenty of nice places to safely park and plenty of rock areas going off the low water crossing for some nice fishing and it's some rough country. But there are some scrappy panfish in the the Dry Fork of the Frio River that gather near the low water crossings for food, despite the name of the river.

The Medina River itself is probably the nicest fishing and floating river in the State, when there is enough water for floating. In a "normal" state, it flows slower and with less vigor than some other rivers in the State

We got lucky one year, and floated from the town of Medina to Bandera. We had to do some canoe and kayak dragging intially, but after the first couple of miles, it was paddling the rest of the way. Much of this River flows through vast ranches during this trip, so there are lots of parts of it that are indeed wild.

The Medina features gin clear water that turns a gorgeous green in the deep pools that are found along it's course. We saw lots and lots of very respectably sized bass and catfish on that float, which began before daylight. I saw one hawg of a bass, it had to have been at least 10 pounds or more, just a monster, in about 2 feet of water. Like other Texas Rivers, landowners don't want river folks on their property, but there are plenty of gravel and sand bars on the river that provide rest stops.

The Medina is a great fun river, because the water flows slower and less harshly than a river like the Guadalupe. There are smaller rapids that in higher water like we ran can be very challenging, and the wild nature of much of the river means hairpin turns at the end of rapids that slam you into huge spider filled reed banks of bamboo that seem to end each larger rapid.

These bamboo forests sometimes grow across the entire river at the bottom of a rapid, which are all runnable by canoe, and you have to take paths and hit deadends trying to find the main channel through them. I think we hit two of those during our trip. Like a bamboo maze, filled with spider's webs and all sorts of brackish water and bugs and such, which are all magnetically attracted to you as you paddle through it.

So that's a few suggestions about Texas fishing places that make a great weekend trip for the family. Again, most of the areas in The Hill C0untry have rivers and streams and creeks. We've had some rain here in Texas this year, and so these waters should be running fairly well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is a bag that I've had for nearly thirty years now. I got it at a Foley's, it was a bonus with some holiday cologne purchase, and it's basically a canvas with leather trim larger sized doctor's or train bag. Probably about 16" long and 14" wide, with a very cool large hidden pocket on one side and a large outside pocket on the other. It has a hard bottom of some sort.

The large hidden pocket with a heavy duty zippered opening is large and sturdy enough for my Thompson Contender pistol and a small cartridge belt of shells for it. So it will pretty much hold any other pistol I own with ease. Normally, a larger caliber handgun goes in this pocket, such as a Glock .45 ACP or a 4" .357 Revolver, along with a holster, extra ammo/carrier. Each gun will be loaded with shotshells for the first couple of rounds then ball or semi-wadcutter (.357) rounds.

Inside the front outside pocket is a good place for the snake bite kit, extra knife, small first aid kit, flares and one of the .22 pistols and a small box of .22 ammo. GPS. Compass. Flashlight and extra batteries. Some carbiners.

Inside the main part of the bag goes the fishing gear. A spare baseball cap. A pair of gloves. Some bottles of water and bags of juice. Peanuts. Energy bars. An empty belt bag, for carrying stuff in when you're afield. A good hank of rope, about 50' to 100' long.

Other contents vary as to what part of the State I'm going to, but there's a small shoulder creel/bag made canvas that I carry inside that has the basics that go from place to place on nearly every fishing trip. The creel has two sets of needle nose pliers, a leatherman tool, a plastic dehooking device, wire cutters (in case someone gets hooked and you need to cut the barb off of the hook to get. it. out. Ow. Very recommended. I carry several different types and sizes of small wire cutters, in tackle boxes, bags, etc. Needle nose pliers with a cutter can do in a punch, but there are some better tools available for cutting fish hook barbs off.) a filet knife, a small folding knife.

Normally I'm carrying fly fishing gear whenever I go fishing, just in case. I've got an Orvis Frequent Flyer rod that fits into this case, as well as a nice 80's Fenwick ultralight spinning rod. A reel for each of those rods, a very small shoulder bag that carries fly boxes and my necklace "fly vest".

Then, there will be several small plastic tackle boxes, containing lures appropriate to the fish and locale I'm heading to. Sometimes I'll throw a live bait box in along with this bag, that has all kinds of live bait stuff, particularly for catfishing. I also have a small Plano double sided box with a shoulder strap set up for river fishing in Texas. It's got a selection of spinners and plugs and lures and live bait fishing stuff in it and will even hold some pliers.

I've got larger tackle boxes for larger lakes and waters and different kinds of fish and a ton of vintage/garage sale/ gimme lures gathered from over the years grouped by type of lure and these tackle boxes go into bags that hold them. Lots of these old lures are classics but were beat or had bad hooks or paint or hardware or were discolored or whatever and I've repaired/refurbished them and they have no collector's value so they are fishing fodder. For example, I got for several dollars a collection of plastic "Mudbug" lures that scrape the bottom of lakes stirring up muck and mud and supposedly attracting all kinds of LARGE bass. They were all the rage in the 70's, but I got mine from a garage sale in the lae 80's. I have a collection of like 20 of those that need to be fished at the right lake on some kind of gravel grade, clear of weeds and such.

So despite all of the gear that might come along with me, the kit bag remains near constant. It has a couple of plastic boxes of lures for the ultralight rod that will work in areas I'm likely to be, and I can throw any number of other boxes in the car to take with or exchange for what's in there. Generally, across Central and East Texas, it's gonna be the same stuff, with just a few different and smaller/larger lures in the Hill Country.

So the bag sits by the door, waiting only for the guns and juice and snacks, ready to go. If I jump in the car and head into East Texas, it's ready. If I head west, it's ready.

And if I'm heading south to the salt, the freshwater rods, reels and lures come out of the kit bag but the creel bag and tools stay in and the kit bag goes to the beach. I put my nicer saltwater reels in the kit bag, along with fly fishing stuff for salt water fly fishing and again, the necklace fishing vest. Usually, there's a Curado, several AbuMatic 290's and a surf fishing reel. The more workhorse reels stay on the rods in the SUV.

I've tried to find another kit bag to use for saltwater, but it's no use. I even found a very cool backpack with a rubber waterproof bottom and liner that I used for some years. But to no avail. This kit bag has been on so many adventures with me over the years that it's an old friend.


A ways back I wrote here about the old time term for your field bag YOUR KIT BAG and YOUR KIT GUN , your bag of "kit" that you carry into the woods or outdoors with you. You don't have to be a hunter or a fisherman like me to carry a kit bag, lots of other outdoors folks carry them and just call them a backpack or knapsack or a shoulder bag nowadays.

Back in the western days, cowboys and other horse travelers carried their kit in their saddlebags, which might be cooking gear, eating utensils, personal items, clothing, ammo, a spare pistola and whatever else a cowboy might want on the trail back then.

Today, you're likely to find high tech flashlights, knives and communications devices inside someones kit bag. A sat phone or a sat emergency beacon suddenly can bring communication or help anywhere in the world, although I don't do any kind of traveling that merits those devices.

But one thing that you'll be likely to find in a Texas outdoors mans' kit bag is some kind of .22 caliber pistol, particularly when that Texan is engaged in fishing or hunting or camping or just outdoors. Bears are few and far between in Texas, but medium and large cats, hogs and rabid animals like skunks do tend to be found in many parts of the state where an outdoors man might be. A .22 is not my weapon of choice against either of these except the skunk, and even then, I'd want to shoot a bunch of times.

So the .22 is kind of an extra gun to bring along for shooting fun. No recoil. Lower noise. Very cheap to shoot. These are the virtues of the .22 and the reason many make it a tackle box gun for fishing trips, although I must confess that I am likely to also have along a .38 or .357 with a 4" barrel when outdoors to go along with the .22.

There are tons of .22's out there. I particularly like the 9 shot Taurus .22's with the 4 " barrel, and some of the .22 auto loader pistols are pretty cool as well. The Walther and the Sig .22's are very cool guns, but my gunsmith and my gun dealer both recommend (and they don't know each other) the Browning Buckmark Camper over either with Walther or a Sig or even a venerated Ruger as a great deal .22 pistol to buy right now.

Likewise, there are some very cool and well made .22 semi-auto rifles out there. The Smith and Wesson .22 version of the M-4. The very cool Sig .22 assault rifle. Both go for about $500, and there's other brands out there that resemble other weapons like the MP5 in .22 going for the same money.

I'd like to add a Sig .22 assault rifle, a nice used Marlin bolt action tube magazine .22 with a scope, a 9 shot .22 revolver with a 4" barrel and a semi-auto .22, either the recommended Browning Buckmark Camper or a Ruger Mark III with a fluted stainless steel target barrel.

It would be nice to find a reasonably priced "classic" .22 revolver like those made by Colt, Smith and Wesson and High Standard in all metal even though they generally hold 6 shots instead of the more prevalent 9 shots nowadays. Main thing is, adjustable sights on the revolver for some accurate fun shooting.

But for those of you looking to buy a new or used .22 kit {hand}gun to go in your fishing or hunting kit, let me make some recommedations from the economical to the extremely nice.

ECONOMICAL: There are lots of used revolvers and semi-autos that fall in this catagory, under $300. You can even get a new Ruger Mark III for right at $300. There are a plethora of good used guns from single action .22's (try to get one with an extra .22 magnum cylinder for extra fun and power) to double action .22 revolvers to semi-autos of all types in this price range.

There are a lot of good Rugers out there in the $200-$300 range.

There are very good .22 handguns that can be had for under $100 in the used catagory, and I commonly see excellent condition used Remington, Winchester and Marlin .22 rifles in excellent condition for under $200, often with scopes.

Same with older .22 handguns. Older Harrington and Richardson, Excam, FIE and other brands commonly sell even in like new condition for under $100. My Harrington and Richardson 9 shot 4" barrel .22 revolver has fired thousands if not tens of thousands of shots in the forty plus years we've had it. Still pinging right on with only a cylinder hinge screw replaced about 20 years ago. It probably cost about $25 or $30 back when new, and we've certainly gotten our money's worth out of that gun. It and the Excam .22 Single Action have logged as much time in my tackle box as my favorite fishing pliers and knife, which is to say, a lot.

MEDIUM RANGE: This is where you find the non-collectors Colt Woodsman and Huntsman guns. Also, the great Smith and Wesson all steel .22 revolvers made from the 1950's through the 1980's. If the guns were in pristine condition, I'd pay a little extra for most of the Colt or Smith .22 revolvers made in days of yore, as practice guns for law enforcement were often made in .38/.357 and .22 to facilitate not only training but cheap practice.

HIGH END GUNS: Guns like the Colt Single Action .22 revolvers, the Colt Diamondback revolver in .22 caliber, the Walther PPK and PPK/S in .22 caliber and one very cool gun, a 3/4 scale .22 version of the HK P7 that could be had with interchangeable barrels for .32 and .380 as well. All of these guns are out of production and command various collectors prices, but they are great guns if you've got a hankering for a fancy or unique .22 pistol or revolver.

It's hard to imagine a better kit gun than the Smith and Wesson Model 18, the .22 Combat Masterpiece. S&W is still making it, but it commands a very high price, MSRP'ing at over a grand. You could buy a budget beginning arsenal of used guns, or even a complete arsenal of new and/or used .22's, for that kind of cash.

I'll talk more in the next post about the kit bag I keep at the ready.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The letter asked the President to deploy Federal troops and engage in other matters consistent with the bloodbath occurring in Mexico and which has already spilled over into Texas. We just have not seen the bloodbath killings here like have been occurring all over Mexico, and particularly in the border area with Texas.
The President refused to accept that letter. He shrugged it off to an assistant. Our Governor, Rick Perry, made a bold stand. He broke protocol. He was a Texas Gentleman about it as well. He clapped when the President exited his plane, as he should, and he heartily shook the President's hand and sincerely welcomed him to Texas. Again, as he should.
As a native Texas, it was a snub not unlike when Clayton Williams refused to shake the late Ann Richard's hand when running for Governor twenty years ago, and Ann Richards got some strong voting milage out of old time Texas types that would not have voted for her otherwise.
With the clocks turning back an hour, my body is back in it's natural time zone. I don't know about anybody else, but my body was set for living during the fall, winter and spring when we are falling back.

Elections are over, the phone calls and mail has stopped, but the politicos will be out fundraising their rears off because you know this election was expensive. I'm mostly glad that the people are sending a message to our politicos. I'm not a Tea Party guy, and although most of my friends and the elected officials I support are Republicans, there certain folks I do vote for who are Democrats.

I damn sure think our Texas Governor ought to be running for President. And I'm thinking that Rick Perry can beat Barack Obama flat out bad in 2012. In fact, I think President Obama might oughta start listening, because I believe that Perry is going to be coming to Washington D.C.

So it's been worth the peace and quiet having the the Democrats and the liberal media basically STFU for a few days and stand around looking very pale and generally speechless. It's nice to hear their promises of compromise now, but hey buddy, don't take out any long term leases on housing in DC just right now. You might want to wait for that next election cycle.

So the peace and quiet from the liberal yammerers in the media and in Washington has been worth it's weight in gold. I know such things aren't meant to last, as was said about a different subject altogether in the Matrix franchise by Monica Belluci. But in combination with the time change, it's been a great end of the week and weekend.

I spouted my "RICK PERRY FOR PRESIDENT" hypothesis on Billy Ray on election night. Billy Ray has no read for politics unfortunately, always voting for the independent and the green party candidates. Even now, with some nice Tea Party action happening, I'm pretty sure he voted for the losers. As is his right, God bless him.

I could go back to the early eighties and discuss Billy Ray supporting fringe candidates or the most unlikely Democratic Presidential nominees or other number of non-viable candidates, but it'd just be one big tale of losers who later became bloggers for the Huffington Post. Basically, when you watch election results and see that seven or eight people actually voted for the independent or green party candidate for Governor and you say to yourself, "Self, I wonder who voted for those people. I never heard of the candidate before tonight. They must not have sent out bios to the paper."

Well, wonder no more, Billy Ray is one of those folks who vote for them.

But now Billy Ray has decided I'm onto something. Of course, Billy Ray was predicting last spring that one of our Texas Senators, Ms. Kay Bailey "I used to be a TV reporter in Houston" Hutchinson was gonna beat the wampum out of our now third term Governor. THE ONLY third term governor in the history of this historic State. Of course, KBH fell by the wayside, and I know that caused Billy Ray to open his eyes a little bit.

So for now, and I really mean FOR NOW Billy Ray is convinced, as am I, that Perry should run for President. The American people need a can do President. One who can make President Obama look in his eyes and get a'scared, like the President and Senator Pelosi were looking in pictures last Wednesday.

His support for Perry for President won't last, but mine will. There will be some fringe candidate from, say, Florida or perhaps Utah, and they'll be a lesbian-wiccan/reformed old-school Morman upbringing who has full sleeve tattoos AND neck tattoos and some kind of bad hair problem and that candidate will catch Billy Ray's eye as a viable candidate, with some kind of nutso stand on gas drilling or perhaps candy production or some other side interest that can motivate Billy Ray to follow an Independent or Green candidate.

But here's to you, Rick. Don't even listen to anyone in the national party telling you to take a VP slot behind Palin. Palin is yesterdays news and everyone knows it. You need to find someone on your own for a VP that can compliment you in the areas that won't like you because you're a Texan. Run your own ticket and I think America will get behind you.

We've got Attorney General Greg Abbott here who many of us hope will run for Governor when you move up to D.C. Texas will be alright but the Nation needs you as President.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I've found this picture which shows the Satonge in pretty good detail. It may or may not be Roger from the band Staff Benda Bilili, but he is playing the Satonge, which is simply a stick, a tin can and a guitar string.

I'm no stranger to lutes, being a fan of first the quasi-westernization and electrification of the Gimbri by Justin Adams, once playing with Robert Plant in the band Strange Sensations, where the Gimbri gives a workout on the classic Hey Joe, the likes of which immediately endeared me to this instrument.

From there, I got an Angolan instrument that is more similar to the Satonge, but with four strings and a large carved wooden bowl with a large tanned animal hide tensioned over the hollow face of the bowl, and instead of tensioning the strings via the neck as with the Gimbri, you do it via the large drum/animal head attached to the face of the large lute. Just as you can play a rhythm on the Gimbri surface, so can you on the Angolan instrument, whose name escapes me at the moment. I'll update with the name off of the customs receipt from when Mrs. El Fisho brought it back from one of her many world travels.

Both the Gimbri and the Angolan instrument use gut strings, which I have kept on the Gimbri but which broke on the Angolan lute several years ago and were replaced with artificial sinue, which does a great job. If'n I had a clue what kind of gut strings they used on the Angolan lute, I'd find some more, and maybe some Portugese expat working over there will have pity on me and find me a music store with some gut strings and mail them to me, happily reimbursed by me.

So I'm not new to trying new musical instruments. As a percussionist, and not merely a drummer, for 4/5th's of my life, I like all kinds of percussion instruments, and am particularly intrigued by the simplicity of this lute. It seems to sound like an electric guitar, and gets various voices and tones based on the playing of it.

I found some more hints at another blog discussing their music, and it's a good read, and first the excerpt and then the link below it:

"Behind them is a young and entirely acoustic rhythm section, and to top it all there are the weird, infectious guitar-like solos of Roger, a teenage prodigy who plays a one-string electric lute ”satonge” he designed and built himself out of a tin can. The satonge, which consists of a guitar string tensed between the drum of a tin can and a wooden bow inserted in its base. Melodies are created by plucking the string with one hand while the other moves the bow in and out, changing the tension of the string."

So the above may answer a few of the questions I had already written below, but certainly not all of them. I'll be doing a few emails to these folks, particularly the band management, and see if they'd do some interview questions via email and their managers for me here. We'll see about that.

I give myself until next weekend to have a functioning, or at least make the attempt(s(s) to have a function Satonge, sans electronics. I'm not in the building phase yet. I've got the guitar string, in fact, many of them, and I have all kinds of tin cans. I just need me a stick that is basically shaped in a "U" with about a six or seven inch gap in it.

And there are a whole lot of gaps in my knowledge base about just how to build one of these.

So what I want to do is build a Satonge, or more likely, several models of them since so much is unknown to me about their construction. I have a variety of pickups and transducer acoustic guitar mic and even a small condensor mic that will easily fit inside the smallish sized tin can because THE BIG ATTRACTION of building this one string lute is the electrified sounds this kid Roger is getting out of it. Some sound like a Slide guitar, while otherwise it sounds like a guitar or an electrified lute. Some very cool sounds and the press and articles and reviews speak to a multitude of tones and indeed, sounds that can be made with this highly simple instrument.

Besides, it can be electrified, Clyde, and that means it can be processed through various reverb or guitar effects to make even more interesting sounds. A little distortion, a little phase shifting, some delay, various types of reverb...the possibilities are endless and sound kinda cool.

What's more, send it through a computer into pro-tools or Ableton and see what you can attach to it as far as other sounds go.

Being a white male American, and putting something together off the top of my head, I must pontificate the various materials and methods of construction of this item which I know little about, whereas when Roger the Satonge virtuoso built his first one, it was likely quickly slapped together without much of a thought.

And so I'm already overthinking how to build this device.

So instead of going into my yard and finding a green branch of sufficient size that I can bend, here in the middle of fall with winter approaching, and I think about WHAT KIND OF WOOD I should be looking for. In my yard, it's not likely I could find a bent branch of the right size within reach with a ladder, as I've never seen any bent branches on my trees like that, but I'll likely have to go to the woods to find something the right diameter and length and rough shape and most importantly, type of wood, although it is possible I could bend a green piece of wood dry it a bit and form it as I need it.

Chances are, the wood that Roger made his Satonge from the living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not growing in my area in Texas. I don't know what kind of wood he used.

There's a post about it on kind of a webfeed site, and he says it was a tin can, a guitar string and a piece of bent wood. As I said, chances are at the time, he didn't give much thought to it, when he made his first Satonge. He used any old guitar string. But what was the tin can made of?

Does it make a difference what the tin can is made of? I know from being a drummer for 4/5th's of my life, and a musician in general, how the characteristics of sound and resonance have everything to do with what an item is made of. Great cymbals are a mix of certain types of metals, and crappy cymbals don't use that mix. Great drums and guitars made of wood with all kinds of variables that affect and effect how that wood vibrates and thus transduces sound when amplified.

So I'm really going to try to make this easy and not overthink it. I have no information available, either in words or in picture format, showing:

1. How (if at all) the stick that forms the the post for one end of the guitar string
is attached to the bottom of the tin can.

2. I don't know if either end of the tin can has actually been removed. Maybe a punch can opener was used to make a small hole to take whatever was in there out. More likely, the bottom and/or top is open. The youtube video showing a mic cable running into the inside of the Satonge doesn't clearly show if it's going in the top or the bottom or what.

3. What size guitar string is used?

4. How does the other end of the guitar string attach to the tin can, or does it somehow attach to the other end of the stick instead of the can.

5. What kind of transducer or microphone are they using to mic the Satonge, how and where it is attached, and what is the signal path after leaving the Satonge? Does it go straight into an amp, or direct to a board? Any effects used on the amp? And what kind of amp, because I assume he and the band have to hear his playing?

So many questions, but it's quite fun to think about it.

My best guess at this point is what my first prototype will be.

The Goals: To make each part resonate as much as possible. I assume the mic'd sound of the Satonge comes from inside the can, where the string vibrations would resonate the can at different frequencies, or simply broadcast the vibration of the string at different frequencies based upon the tension applied to the stick and string.

After that, it'll be easier to tell where the sound is coming from and where the best place to put a mic/transducer to capture that sound.

1.The can is open at the top. A small hole is drilled for one end of the string to be tied to (or alternatively, strung down to the end of the stick inside the can.

2. the other end of he string will be somehow attached in some way to the stick.

3. mic placement inside the can will initially be trial and error using some sort of foam double stick tape for mic placement.

4. The end of the stick that is inserted into the can will be via "church key" openings in the bottom of the can. Alternatively, the bottom of the stick could be attached via screws to the can bottom itself. It would seem like this might transfer vibration as well, somewhat like a guitar neck, but it could do the opposite. I'll just have to see how this works.

I'm open to any suggestions.