Sunday, July 29, 2012


I wish to beef up my Thompson Contender set up. I've got one barrel and what I think is the First Generation receiver. I'd like to get one of the receivers made circa 1983 as I used to have one of those and it had a three position switch on top of the hammer for the firing pin: centerfire, rimfire and safety. If I recall correctly.

What do they call this type of Contender receiver? Is it the second generation, what they were selling new in 1983?

I'd like to get a few rifle barrels and a stock. Did Pachmayr ever make a rear stock for the Contender? I know they make/made a forearm stock and several pistol grips, because I have one, but did they ever make a stock for the gun? I've seen the harder plastic stocks and I'm wondering did anyone, including Pachmayr, ever make a softer rubber covered stock for the Contender rifle?

I certainly want a T/C rifle barrel in .223. Does anyone know if a T/C rifle or pistol barrel was made in 7.62 x 39mm?

I'm also curious about mounting scopes on the T/C. Can you mount rails and then transfer the scope from barrel to barrel and still have a reasonable chance of zeroing? That would be the ideal way, although alot of red dot and small scopes are so cheap used nowadays it wouldn't be outrageous to outfit several barrels with different scopes.

I've run across several deals that could still be done on a lot of Contender barrels. I don't need a lot of barrels, just a couple, and this fellows prices are reasonable and he's also interested in doing some trading for some stuff I haven't used in years.  I always intended to get further into the Contender shooting sports as they were raging in the Houston area back in the 1980's, but never did.

As I've mentioned, my friend The Raven had an extensive collection of Contender rigs and barrels. He was into competitive steel plate and such shooting. He did rather well at it. He took to hunting with them as well. He did rather well at hunting as well. So I had several chances back then to try out different barrels and calibers. He had all kinds of custom barrels and wildcat calibers, as I recall. He would pull them like an arrow from a quiver or a golf club from a golf bag as he competed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I carry every day. I have carried personally and professionally for many years now. It's amazing how a slightly different shape or thickness of leather can vastly effect how a holster can hold a gun, and as important, how the holster itself "wears" on the users body.

One recent holster I've been very impressed with was a Mitch Rosen open top belt holster for the Kimber Solo and branded by Kimber. It's an excellent holster, and perhaps one of the more comfortable and actually concealable belt holsters out there. I'd like to get a slightly larger version of the same holster for the glock, the 1911 and perhaps a few other pistols I have. It puts the gun at just the right spot on the beltline, which is key to prevent floppiness without having to cinch your belt down tighter than you might normally like, and that's assuming a "suitable for use as a gunbelt" belt is being used.

Being a fellow who often brings multiple handguns afield with him, I like the idea of a so-called universal holster. Yeah yeah yeah, I know that many of the cordura holster that are more or less one size fits all in certain catagories can accomplish this purpose, and often times the cordura/nu but one choice I've been using for the past several years is the Tagua "inside the waist" holster in both large and small.


The pictures show the large model, which is for Glocks, FN's, Springfield Armory, 1911's, Browning Hi Power, Beretta 92 and so on, Kel-Tec PMR-30, Ruger Mark pistols, Luger P08  and modern Sigs, HK's and other big frame handguns. The smaller size fits such guns as the HK P7, Browning 1911-22, the Kel Tec P3AT, Kimber Solo, Ruger SR-22,  a Walther PPK, the Colt 1903, an Ortgies .32, and the small size also better fits (imho) the 1911 and Browning Hi-Power.

The small size carries the 1911 of all barrel lengths and the BHP and keeps the hammer (on the old school 1911's with regular non-commander hammers and not as much of a beavertail grip safety as most of the newer 1911's use and that the Browning Hi Power sports. Sometimes, I have found, when one's middle age gut gets poked in the side by some steel object like a cocked and locked hammer protruding into said gut, it hoits! So this holster does a really good job of keeping the hammer part of the gun really away from the body, while at the same time tugging the rear grip of 1911 toward the body for maximum concealment ability.

It's truly not only a multiple gun fit holster, but a multiple use holster. You can wear it as an IWB holster, using the sturdy clip, or you can thread the belt through the clipless side and wear it as a "Yaqui" belt slide. This is my most frequent use, although it's one of those nice "in a pinch" holsters to have in the glovebox or briefcase to throw a variety of handguns into an IWB holster when perhaps you had not previously anticipated wanting a handgun on your person, but just in your vicinity.

But wait, as Ron Popeil used to often say in his Pocket Fisherman infomercials, there's more! Since this holster has belt loops on BOTH sides, you can thread a belt through the clip side of the holster and with the clip side out and place the holster between the belt and the pants of the wearer, for a bit more concealment on larger guns. In all cases, this holster is worn with the clip facing away from the users body.

Oh, and although I have not used it as such, it's ambidextrious as well. How about that for a bargain? But wait, there's more...the clip is removeable as well.

For switching back and forth between different pistols, the belt slides are great. Very handy at the shooting range. They do a pretty good job of pulling the butt of the weapon close to the body for good concealment yet at the same time keeping the hammer/sight areas (where applicable) away from the middle aged gut. It's not pleasant getting poked in the side with the traditional hammer of say a 1911 or a Browning Hi Power. Not pleasant at all.

I have not tried either of these belt slides with a revolver of any sort. Instead, I find that the Galco Combat Master belt holster for the Colt Cobra/Detective Special will carry basically any snub nose that is Detective Special size or smaller, including all S&W J frames. I think the Ruger SP101 will also fit in this holster. Vice versa would not be true, as the Detective Special and it's one extra round over the J frame means a Detective Special won't fit generally into a J frame holster.

A recent ebay purchase was a very cheaply priced SIMPLY RUGGED holster for a 3" barreled L frame Smith and Wesson revolver. Since I have one of these, but with a 3.125 inch barrel,  I took a chance. It fits like a glove, a perfect fit for the barrel and fiber optic front sight of my L frame, and it also takes a K frame and a snubbie Python securely. It is pancake holster that can be worn in two ways on the strong side as well as in a cross draw fashion, and with the included snap belt loop attachments, it's an IWB holster.

It's well made and the leather smells better than any I've smelled on a holster or belt in a long time. Stitching is solid and the design is highly well executed. The removeable IWB snap loops and the belt slots being sized at 1.5" are great little features that mean a lot.

Ironicially, I've got a list of four holsters I was gonna order from Simply Rugged after reading about his stuff for so long on the Gunblast site, and fortunately for me, this holster was one of what I was gonna order. I'm still gonna get one for a Government model 1911, for a 3" 1911 and for the Kel-Tec PMR-30, a very cool holster that Simply Rugged calls Field and Stream, featuring an integral extra mag holder. They are priced reasonably from their maker but I was glad to get a true ebay deal on this holster.

Finally, I got a Fobus paddle holster for the Walther PP/PPK/PPK-S series that doesn't fit a PPK at all. At all. It will kinda sorta hold it in there but doesn't "snap" in like my other guns do in Fobus holsters and feels as if it could fall out if I took a tumble. I worked with the adjustment screw and the gun fitting it for over an hour with no better result than I had initially achieved within five minutes of getting it.

It's obviously made to accomodate the shorter PPK and PPK/S as well as the longer PP. That's not a big deal to me, if it would work as intended. I've checked the model number on the holster and it's the right one, but it ain't right, if you know what I mean.

I'm a big fan of Fobus holsters for both revolvers and semi-autos. All of the ones I've bought up to this one have worked perfectly out of the box with the intended firearm.  But this one is going back on ebay for a sale soon.

I continue to use Bianchi holsters, mostly what would be called "vintage", on a daily basis. I enjoy their "hip hugger" paddle holsters with the suede covered paddles and thumb breaks, their upside down revolver holsters and normal "vertical" shoulder holsters, the Model 6 IWB suede out holster for small snubnose revolvers and their belt holster Model 5 in the many forms it has come in.

The hip hugger is one of my favorites, and as I've mentioned before, I need two of them: One for a 4" N frame and one for a 4" K frame or .38/.357 Medium  frame Revolver (it will say .38/.357 Med Fr Rev).  If they made one for a Ruger Blackhawk with a just under 5" barrel that would be great too.


I am one of those lucky folks who actually enjoys their job. I'm lucky to have it, and I've always felt that way. It's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid, and for all those years along the way when my inability to process the logic of higher math like trig and calculus and even geometry led teachers and counselors to attempt to steer me into the vocational auto mechanics program and away from a college bound curriculum.

My day job, my career, has nothing to do with music, which I'm fixin' to do some talking about.  There are other types of work I'd like to do. I'd like to be a newsman, for instance, or a writer of books. I'm a little old for the former, and haven't been able to focus enough on long term writing for both fiction and non-fiction ideas I've had going for years.

I wouldn't mind being a gun shop owner, particularly specializing in revolvers and 1911's. Sure, you'd sell glocks and AR's and quality AK's and such, but I'd like to focus on doing some buying of certain used revolvers that I know have a high return on them. Plus, revolvers are sort of a dying breed. Yeah, you see a lot of low end Rossi and Taurus and Smith and Wesson offerings, and some very decent Ruger offerings, but the exciting days of the great Smith and Wesson and Colt revolvers is mostly gone. This is a venture I am considering very seriously for the immediate future.

At one time, I wouldn't have minded being a vintage guitar and/or drum shop owner, but having friends who have been both very successful and not so successful in the music retail business, I'm glad I didn't venture there, despite having some really offers from some really good folks to join them.

In hindsight, I wish I had taken that auto mechanics program, or the HVAC program, because I still would have gone to college and done fine and then law school and done fine but I'd have some great skills for fun (auto mechanic) or for home betterment (HVAC). Just having those HVAC skills would have saved me tens of thousands of dollars over the last 30 plus years and would have allowed me to rescue my parents when their multiple units at their house crashed during hot times.  Thankfully, we've always had great AC guys to fix our stuff quickly.

 I hope no one is discouraged by negativity they may get from their high school counselors or teachers and don't let that stop them for reaching for their dreams.

The teachers and counselors also told me I'd never be a rock and roll star or a successful musician, despite my positions in the top school bands and many UIL awards I won for various kinds of drumming and percussive instrument playin'. They was right! But despite them, I went on and until somewhat recently, was performing on a regular basis with many different bands, mostly of the Texas blues variety, and I've played all over the state and on several occasions with a semi-famous band in N'walins.

Not that I was going around saying I was going to be a rock and roll star, but within four months of beginning the school band program in the 6th grade, I had a band of my own practicing at my house during the christmas holidays. And we were not that bad. Piano/organ. Guitar. Drums. Trumpet. Sax. Clarinet (?). We thought we were the next Jackson 5 or Osmonds, playing songs like Greensleeves and House of the Rising Sun, with our own arrangements.

And so after that band, it was band after band after band and so on. In high school I sometimes played dances with bands I was in and was making decent cash for being a high school student playing church dances and school dances while still under 16.

My first good band was one in the 9th grade, featuring the fellow I mentioned later in this post named The Virtuoso on guitar. Like me, he could read music, whereas most of the other rock band musicians in high school could not. He was a monster then, and could play Hendrix then at age 14 better than many of the so-called current famous guitarists can play Hendrix now after many years of playing. The Virtuoso  has some kind of musical photographic memory that once he's played something, or even sight read the music if there is a score or sheet music or lead sheet or chart, he'll never forget it.

In our high school band, he could play any song current or past from the radio or non-radio archives at the drop of a hat, note for note and from start to finish. Obviously, being in a band with a guy like this who has a great ear and a phenomenal memory has big advantages for the lesser talented like me and the other folks in the band.

It was great fun.

Somehow I always knew I'd never be a famous musician, or at least someone who was making money playing music without being famous like backing or touring or studio musicians. By my early 20's,  I knew I was good enough as a drummer to work as a touring guy and was better than some of the folks I saw working with famous touring acts back then, but the chops of most of the studio musicians I saw were WAY beyond anything I'd ever be capable of.

I even toyed with going to music school after college, as a break before going to law school. Again, I should have done that year long drumming program out at PIT in Hollywood back in the early 80's, when as a single man I could haved lived fairly cheaply, it was "pre-crack" everywhere and although still ultra sleezy and somewhat crimey in the Hollywood Blvd. address where PIT, or the Percussion Institute of Technology, a part of the then infant Musician's Institute, it was doable and I would have lived through it.

Many famous musicians came up through the programs at MI, with GIT (Guitar), BIT (Bass) and the drumming program providing not only education on other instruments but meeting those cats and forming bands with them for school and for playing out on the town. The instructors back then at the drum school were some of the biggest names in the music business, the studio guys that had done hundreds of hit songs and played with all the big artists.

Famous drummer Joe Porcaro was big in the PIT program, in fact, I auditioned in front of him. He was kind, recommended a bunch of rudiments for me to hone in on before I began the program, told me where I was deficient and good but said my time was great despite my manhandling of some of the fairly difficult snare drum material.

The audition music was absolutely crazy with time signatures all over the place, and although I've always been a good sight reader for snare and other percussion instruments like the mallets and tympani, my drum set sight reading skills have alway been poor. Give me time to make my own charts using the much easier Nashville System for the drum set and I'm good to go, but sight reading tradition drum set music always nutted me up.

So Joe Porcaro was kind to me and was cool. A bunch of his studio musician contemporaries like famed guitarist Tommy Tedesco also taught there. Most of their names now escape me but in those pre-digital and pre-computerized music making times, these guys were the shi-zizz as far as cats like me were concerned. These guys were the real talent you heard on records with the biggies.

I met a bunch of the folks who played on the Steely Dan albums when hanging out at MI and evaluating their school and got to watch various ones doing all kinds of jamming and recording there. It's incredible, awe inspiring and instructive to watch this caliber of musician perform, and I can still remember sitting on the carpets of the performance rooms because the place was packed watching these legends mezmerize with their music.

So it was a hugely stimulating environment with these guys with incredible musical chops and imagination teaching you. And mostly, they did a pretty damn good job of teaching "how to make better art", which is hard to do.

Joe Porcaro's son, the late Jeff Pocaro, a famous studio drummer in his own right and drummer for Toto, was also involved in the school, as were other Toto members, who were also big time studio cats in LA. I made several visits there in 1983 and 1984 trying to convince myself to gut it up and go for the gusto, and would stand in awe in the halls as all the drummers and guitarists and bassists who were in my record collections were talking to me as an equal.

My old songwriting buddy and foil Mikey Ray was desperate to attend the GIT guitar school there, and was really wanting me to go to PIT. At the time, of course, my folks thought it an extremely foolish venture, fearing I'd get sidetracked from going to law school and get involved with some California woman and get hitched or pregnant or any of the things that can happen to a young man on his own, and certainly the then girlfriend (sort of a Kate Gosslin personality type) was absolutely against it. I wussed out and didn't go, but again, I did enjoy the several trips out there hanging with all kinds of musicians and seeing all kinds of acts and actually learning quite a bit during "sample" classes I attended.

Poor Mikey Ray was devastated that I wouldn't go, and even offered to pay for some of the costs like rent and tuition as he was from a somewhat monied family and had some kind of trust fund. He's a real nice guy and very generous and wasn't talking loan but gift. I had to decline his very kind offer.

He just didn't have the wherewithall to move to a strange place by himself, he wanted a support system there, and I can see that. That wasn't my issue, I would have had no problem at that time moving to a new place. I had done it the year before for a year and made tons of friends right away and a full social system going within a week. That's always been my story in new environments.

So it would have been a classic time to attend MI, and it's probably one of the few semi-regrets I have that I didn't at least attend the 12 week summer program that they then offered. The high school friend The Virtuoso who has been a monster guitarist since the first moment he touched six strings did go out to the MI school in LA at that time and went through the full GIT program and became a teacher there at MI for a very long time thereafter and has written several highly acclaimed instruction books on blues guitar playing.

When not teaching or playing around LA or Texas with medium famous artists of the past and present, The Virtuoso is sometimes on tour with various acts of all kinds, again, mostly the medium famous kind.  He's the only one out of all the folks I know who makes money at music, and even he supplements his income with a side business having nothing to do with music.  

Back in the day though, in the 80's and 90's, The Virtuoso was playing with lots of top named people and doing lots of tours with "the big acts" and making very good union scale.

Back then, I thought the tuition was significant but now it is seemingly paltry and a total bargain for a 12 month intensive musical education program that certainly would have turned me into a far superior drummer than what I am, particularly in terms of chops. I think it was something like $2,500 for a whole year. Yeah, nowadays, although that's still A LOT of money, it doesn't seem so daunting an amount. They had student loans, and at that time I had already worked my way through college with no college student loans. Once through with the school, I could've paid that back in a few months. I wonder what their tuition is nowadays, some 29 years later?

Of course, to attend MI for a year, you had to cover your own rent and food and any other expenses. Since MI had no student housing,  you could live in scummy Hollywood close to the school if you had no car (not for me as I had a ride, but many there did not, thus needing to live close), but plentiful and pretty cheap apartments in the Valley were close by and the hodgepodge of rental guest houses and garage apartments all over West LA and The Valley and even Silver Lake and other nearby areas were going for like $350 or $400 back then. Places a drummer could live and play his drums, at least at reasonable hours and maybe even rehearse some bands at a reasonable volume) without going to jail.

Some people might not think those were cheap prices for 30 years ago, but really it's what similar places were going for in Houston back then. And back then (not now) the prices I found when scouting places in LA were mostly not offensive to me. Of course, I wasn't looking in Bel Air or Beverly Hills or Malibu but there were plenty of decent areas not too far from the school, which was in a 2 or 3 floor building on Hollywood  Blvd. with an annex somewhere within a block or two back towards the Hollywood Hills, which were immediately behind the school.  The Hills, not the sign.

And back then especially in LA, like in Houston, it's location, location, location. Being in a decent area is imperative in towns like that, and although both Houston and LA share the problems of bad areas near great areas, it was possible to stay away from high crime areas and still not have to spend a fortune for rent back then in those days when I was 'a rentin'.

So I've enjoyed making an incredible amount of music over the years, with a ton of different musicians and bands some long term and some transitory. Some just happened for a few songs on a stage somewhere by chance, where guest musicians of great talent in Austin or Houston jump onstage and really light things on fire.

There were times when the often meager income of a working local musician  came in really handy and saved the day, back in student times, and there was at least one band I played with for a couple of years back in the late 80's where I always came home with over $100 bucks in my pocket, and usually closer to $200. The band leader would work the often large crowd with that tip jar and it was one of those rare bands that had lots of followers that would throw down bigtime with the money in appreciation of our "art". It was fun times.

I haven't ever really had any bad times as a musician. There were a couple of abrasive personalities and mental cases who I met over the years, and certainly an awful lot of "I'm gonna make it this year to the bigtime" attitudes but those are easy to say adios to if spotted immediately or if it's a one off gig, once the commitment is over.

I've even paid other drummers on two occasions to do gigs with troublesome  fellows in bands. I hired friends who were underworked union drummer guys needing some income on the side with the advent of the digital age some 25 years ago when studio, tv and movie scoring work began drying up for some.

In one instance, I could do no right. I was filling in for the band's regular drummer, who was filling in for the lead singer who was out or gone or something. We had a gig at a town outside of Houston where a major music band's guitar tech had just bought a ranch and was having a house warming party and was paying the band a large amount of money to come to the country and play for the crowd.

The bassist, Scott, did not like me. Not one bit at all. The guitarist, Wesley, went to college with me and we had a music theory class together and had started doing fill in gigs with each other. Wesley was fine with my playing. He thought it marvelous and had no issues. Scott the bassist was Wesley's childhood friend, and Wesley explained after several of Scott's histronic episodes of complaints directed at me that Scott had a rough childhood and a rough life BUT WAS NOW SOBER and in more control of his temper.

Wow. His temper was pretty bad. You would've thought we were rehearsing for a gig at the White House or an audition for a major label with the vigor with which he was directed his venom at me.

Too fast. Too slow. Too loud. Too quiet. Too cymbally. Not enough cymbals. Not the right kind of cymbals. You're rushing. You're dragging. What song are you playing? I can hear your bass drum pedal squeaking (true that, a Ludwig Speed King notorious can hear Bonham with the same pedal and same squeak on one commercial Zeppelin cut, I forget which one). I want you to play louder but not too loud. Maybe a little on the quieter side of loud.

This was the constant barrage I was getting. We were playing cover tunes of the day, the early 80's, and some popular classic rock standards that we all knew. I had heard all the songs a million times on FM radio, and most I had played, so it wasn't that big a deal to play them  with about 95% correctness, which was acceptable to me under the circumstances.

But the bassist Scott wanted uber perfection. And frankly, he was a horrid bassist. Sloppy. Lots of notes being fretted badly and his volume was like an earthquake on a richter scale, up and down, up and down. He was self-taught, couldn't read music and by that point, I'd be playing music and taking lessons and playing in bands for some 12 or so years, so his criticism didn't attack my self-worth or self-esteem...I knew I was a mediocre drummer but that I was SOLIDLY mediocre, meaning I could cover note for note pretty much anything on FM radio in the early 80's. Wasn't a lot of fancy drumming going on back then for the most part. Pretty easy stuff.

But as I am far from perfect in so many areas, and as in my personal spectre, so I am in drumming. Garage Band on the Mac laptop is great because I can dub over my mistakes and crappy guitar, keys and bass playing. If I can play a few ONE measure segments correctly, I can copy that into a basic blues or rock song or even something symphonic.

So after a horrific gig with lots of shouting and rock starring by Scott the bassist, I didn't want to do the two follow up very well paid gigs that were the next weekend. Instead, I hired my good friend Venus (not his real name), a far better drummer than I (and I mean FAR better) who was an actual professional union drummer for big time folks, and I had Venus do the gigs for me and it cost me $50 bucks (I did and do have a real job and Venus did not and was not a well to do fellow) extra per gig in addition to the gig pay to get Venus to tolerate Scott for two gigs. And it was money very well spent. And back then, $50 bucks was some actual cash you could do something with.

The first time Scott railed at Venus, by the way, led Venus to hum a drumstick at him, hitting Scott in his sizeable gut. Venus was a pretty big fellow, not one that many would choose to go to fist city with, and Scott wisely shut his mouth apparently after the drumstick surprise. I'll note that Venus hummed the drumstick by sort of sliding it across a cymbal as if crashing it and then launching said stick in the direction you want. It's quite accurate with a little practice and rock stars do it all the time when hurling sticks into the crowds at big rock shows, or least those rock shows back in the day that I saw.

Whereas in the olden days, you needed bands or at least orchestras to play the music for movies, tv shows and to back recording artists, it can now be done by as little as one person with  the right electronic based gear, and sound like an roomful of musicians. Mark Mothersbaugh (?) is a good example of this with his soundtrack work, and the various hip hop and R&B producers who have come and gone over the years using these same computer based music making gear

High school taught some stuff but college taught it over again and since I could write fairly well long before I hit high school, I wish I was a better car mechanic or could keep my own Texas monster sized  AC/HVAC system functioning at top capability and with ultra high performance. AT ALL TIMES FROM MAY TO OCTOBER!

So had I taken that car mechanic vocational program, I might be more likely to have a 71 Z-28 in midnight blue as a project car in my garage or perhaps one of those huge old Chevy 1950's 4x4 trucks that are super wide and look so very nice when restored or enhanced. I could still work on major systems in restoring a car, but the innards of a non-wankel engine always cause me problems.

I worked for a year as an auto-mechanic on Wankel engines, and they were much simpler to rebuild. During that time, I rebuild many, many carborators and became familiar with how they function. Likewise, with braking and steering and suspensions systems, I think I know a bit more than the average joe.

But I'd know a heck of a lot more had I taken that auto vocational class. One of my friends who was and to some extent still is a rebel without a cause took the auto vocational program the counselors beat him over the head with and ended up owning a HUGE and very successful luxury car repair facility.  The school folks were not trying to help him by diverting him into a vocational track, but were trying to get his horrid grades out of the system for school stat purposes. He was dragging the average way down, as I did in trig and calc.

Auto mechanicing is a long way from being a musician, but they both kind of merge together because of the vapid predictions about me (and my interests in cars and music) of those high school counselors and teachers who mostly seemed a bit on the tight-arsed side.  They predicted doom and gloom for more than one of my friends who have been very successful in their respective fields.

I've got tons of band stories. Many funny. Some sad. Probably a lot of them are boring and only interesting to me so I'll try to do some self-editing here before  throwing it out there.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I believe in the power of prayer, and most appropriately, in the most dire of circumstances. As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes.

As Zach has mentioned on his site, tragedy doesn't take a holiday for the summer. He's asked for prayers for his neighbor, a 17 year old fighting a tough fight against her own body, and also lost a brother-in-law recently.

Likewise, at the Fishing Musician household, I lost an aunt last month and my father-in-law unexpectedly passed a few days later. Today, I received news from a good Houston lawyer friend of mine that one of our collegues, now a judge himself, who we call Homer (after Homer Simpson), underwent surgery for a brain tumor at M.D. Anderson in Houston today. A shocker.

Another much older judge passed on earlier this week, dying of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 83. He was an early role model to me and I spent quite some time in his court as a young prosecutor learning to try cases. I tried a bunch a bunch a bunch of cases in that court, some against some pretty famous (as well as infamous) Houston lawyers. He mentored me, and tens if not hundreds of young prosecutors and defense attorneys in his more than 20 years on the bench, and all this after a long career as a private practice attorney and the mayor of a then-small city.

We just called him The Judge. The Judge had served in Germany at some point after WWII, freshly discharged from college and an officer for I believe the Army. His mission was supervising a team of bomb demo and dismantling specialists, and it's easy to see why he was such a calm guy later in life. Nothing like a little HIGH STRESS HIGH DANGER military work as a young man to put things in perspective for the rest of your life.

He took an interest in me early on in my career, and when not in trial or around too many other people, would address me by my first and middle name. When growing up, my mother would address me by my first and middle name, but only when I was in trouble. When The Judge said my name, it rolled off his tongue with a joyful lilt, that made me smile before we went any further.

The Judge was one of the most honest men I ever knew, alongside my father. I went through several situations with him where "ex parte" contact was attempted by "powerful" political people who had kin in big trouble in his court and were seeking to smooze with The Judge and work out some secret deal.

It didn't happen, because as soon as these high powered politicos started talking about the kinfolks case,

The Judge figured out their improper motive, told them off and immediately came to my office and reported it to me. I was impressed. Some judges I know would do the right thing as he did, but others are too political and would just try to keep the whole thing quiet. After all, who other than the judge in question would know but the politicos and they wouldn't be telling anyone about being spurned.

The Judge read the law, as some of us lawyers actually do, and many a day I encountered him in our law library reading case law. He was always threatening to take me up to his family place near Brenham to fish in his pond there, and I knew from talking to his kids who are my age that the fishing was good up there. We never got around to running up there one Saturday, and if I have one regret about my relationship with him, it was that I never made the time for that fishing trip. I'm trying to keep from making that same mistake with others these days, so I did learn a lesson.

So I'll miss The Judge greatly.

The other friend, known as Homer, not because he is a dullard like Homer Simpson but because he kinda looks like old Homer. Our families have known each other since before he and I were born. I never knew him as a kid, and we didn't actually meet until our young thirties, both working as prosecutors in the same office.

My uncle, another Houston attorney, was big buddies with Homer's late dad for many years, and by virtue of that, my parents knew his parents. Houston was a much smaller town socially back in the 60's and 70's. In fact, as a teen, Homer used to mow my Uncle's yard in Memorial in Houston. I might have seen him once then when visiting my Uncle's home. When we finally did meet, we found we both had a rabid interest in fishing farm ponds and small lakes. He had a small 12 footer boat with an electric motor and for several years we spent many an early Saturday morning out on various lakes in Houston and surrounding counties, and we were pretty much the kings of the 2 to 3 pound farm pound largemouth bass.

It was funny the first time we went fishing, we had some of the same gear. Same reels (Garcia, Abu and Mitchell reels from the 70's) and many of the same lures common to Texas Coastal Plains and Piney Woods bass fishing. A ton of the same lures. Topwater and diving plugs. Extensive plastic worm setups. Same colors. Spinnerbaits. Plastic weedless lures. We had mostly all the same stuff in our tackle boxes. We did pretty good fishing together, and as apart from some of my other frequent fishing friends, I can't remember a time out of 20 or 30 trips where we didn't catch at least one largemouth bass each.

Like me, he was into fly fishing, but so many of our trips where when it was HOT HOT HOT and HUMID as a SAUNA that we were usually not fishing topwater but deeper down around structure and such. I remember one fishing expedition our host insisted on driving us around his 5 acre lake in an RV in very bad shape. So bad of a shape that the ceiling was collapsing on top of us in small pieces with every bump.

And there were many bumps. It was an endless rain of who knows what kind of toxic materials used in those ceiling panel deals. The whole thing featured way stinkin' shag carpeting and the mechanical condition of the RV was no better than the interior. Bad shocks, bad tires, a messed up transmission, and engine that needed a ring job and some of that burning oil smell leaked into the passenger cabin so that all the windows had to be open. The AC was not working, and it didn't matter because he had to run the heater to keep the engine from overheating.

And of course, the "trail", and I use that term loosely, that surrounded the lake had not been graded in decades. Huge holes threatened to swallow the axles of the RV, and several times it sounded like parts were being torn off as he powered through the bad parts as fast as his slipping auto trans would let him.

You get the idea.

So there we were, trapped for a 30 minute tour in this horrid excuse for an RV. We looked like we had been through an earthquake when we exited this fine ride, which our host told us he was in the process of "fixing up", as we were covered from head to toe in dust and ceiling particles of unknown manmade composition.

Another time we headed out to another real big farm lake of about 5 acres that had not been fished in decades. It had once been stocked with Florida Bass. They were still there, and much bigger. We got some four and five pounders out of there, knowing  there were some bigger ones there. It was just one of those days when fish were jumping into the boat, no matter what lure or technique was used and no matter whether fly or spinning or baitcasting was the method, them there bass were a biting. They were obviously bored as hell with years of solitude and went after these seemingly new food sources we call lures with a vengence, hitting hard hard hard. It was a day of days.

So when I heard that Homer had surgery today, I figure I'll run down to Houston this weekend or next and go see him when he's up to visitors. Our mutual friend the legal magnate Mikey Ray  II (not to be confused with the guitar playing Mikey Ray who is a different Mikey Ray altogether)  called to inform me of all this bad news about The Judge and Homer. We don't know many details, other than that a large mass was removed from a lobe of his brain and that they are planning chemo and radiation as follow up to surgery. Regardless of the specifics, he and his family need your prayers, like the freinds and relatives of Zach, not forgetting Zach and I and our families.

And I know the Judge is doing quite well in Heaven right now, getting fitted no doubt for Angel's Wings  and keeping an eye on earthly loved ones. I know his children and wife need our prayers to help get them through this rough time.

So yeah, like the song says (not to minimize the nature of these horrid events), it's been a cold cruel summer so far.

El Fisho Jr. just finished a daily seven week strength and workout camp for his sports next year. We're both overworked and been working hard at our regular gigs plus this whole remodeing thing we've been doing fairly full force since May. Mrs. El Fisho just jet setted to the West Coast, where I enviously report that it's much cooler and much less humid than here in Texas.

So El Fisho Jr. and I will have to head to the Hill Country to some sparkling cool spring water to get some relaxation. At least when you get hot hot hot fishing in the Llano or the James or the Guadalupe or any other numbers of rivers or creeks you can plunge yourself down in the crystal clear water and enjoy it's cool, springfed nature.

Let the waters wash away the blues.

El Fisho Jr. and I are going out tomorow and do some outdoors fishing and shooting with his good friend and good friend's dad. I might be able to talk old friend Billy Ray into hooking up with us in the Hill Country, up past Johnson City, where our friend's families place is.  Out to their deer lease with some fishing holes in tanks and ponds and an air-conditioned vehicle to hide in when the heat gets too much. I'd like to stay the evening over in Kerrville or Fredericksburg and get some fishing in on that part of the Guadalupe starting befroe sunrise before heading home Sunday.  It's gotten so dang hot that you have to go hide in the shade by 10 a.m. Besides, that's a good time to hit one of the good German restaurants in those cities before heading back home.

We'll celebreate the life of The Judge with a good meal, and pray for our good friend Homer. Mikey Ray and I are organizing a fishing trip for him when he recovers enough from surgery and if he doesn't start chemo or radiation right away. Homer and  I have a great mutual lawyer friend who has a swankienda horse ranch in Central Texas, replete with about a 2 acre lake brimming with HUGE channel cats and the afore-mentioned 2-3   pound bass.

Brimming I say.

 It's one of those places I never strike out. Even Billy Ray caught a fish there years ago, and El Fisho jr caught his first fish, a channel cat about 40" long there, which was taller than he was at his then age of 4 years old.

So maybe we can take Homer out for a day to hopefully have some fun and forget the present. That particular lake has a nice boathouse and partly covered pier with boat slips adjacent to it, and it would be easy to throw a spare window unit ac in the truck and take over there to cool that building down so Homer wouldn't get overheated. We could fish all day and night on the lighted pier if we were so inclined, with several houses and abodes on the property just a few feet away to crash in once we get tired.

Good luck to all and to all a good night.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Here in nebulous part of  Texas where I live, it's back to being hot hot hot again. Up in the 100's today, with high high high humidity and nolo in the wind department. It's down in the 80's now, with a slight breeze blowing that is actually on the cooler side.  This past week, we had several inchs of rain, and although it needs to keep-a-coming for the rest of the foreseeable future, we're happy with the rain we've been getting this year compared to the drought last year.

I always liked the song HEAT WAVE , first done (afaik) by Martha and the Vandellas in a swinging style with "that" snare drum that I can hear in my head anytime I think of their version. Some years later, Linda Ronstadt did an excellent rockin' version as well. Even the Phil Collins version is tolerable, although I guess after more than forty years I'm used to a female belting it out. Because this song HAS to be belted out to rock.

Of course, on Ronstadt's version, you've got the super talented...the late, great  multi-instrumentalist Andrew Gold, and an "A" list of stars in their own right, some notorious and highly talented Hollywood session men and members of various top bands and their touring groups, like  Personnel: Linda Ronstadt (vocals); Emmylou Harris (vocals, guitar); Andrew Gold (acoustic & electric guitars, musette, piano, organ, drums, percussion, background vocals); Peter Asher (acoustic guitar, musette, percussion, background vocals); J.D. Souther (acoustic guitar, background vocals); Eddie Black, Danny Kortchmar (electric guitars); Lowell George (slide guitar); Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Herb Pedersen (banjo, background vocals); David Lindley (fiddle); David Grisman (mandolin); Jim Connor (harmonica); Glen D. Hardin (piano); Kenny Edwards (bass, background vocals); Nigel Olsson, David Kemper, Russell Kunkel (drums); Maria Muldaur, Don Francisco, Pat Henderson (background vocals).
I don't know which of the above-personnel from that album that Heat Wave appears on played on the song with Linda, but it hardly matters with the class of folks on that disc. I'm a big fan of more than one of the above artists, guys like David Lindley, the late Lowell George, David Grisman, Nigel Osson,  Russ Kunkel, Maria Muldaur, J.D. Souther and Danny Kortchmar. I'm sure the other musicians are of similar caliber to the ones I'm familiar with, but the ones I've named are ones that I've often tracked down obscure releases of over the years.

For example, Kunkle played a time for Jimmy Buffett, and Believe produced or co-produced some of JB's work. Muldaur's first album containing the hit "Midnight at the Oasis" was played by a another laundry list of fine session, touring and band members.  David Lindley and El Rayo X has always been great, and he's great to see as an acoustic act as well.  Who doesn't know the drumming of Nigel Olssen from Elton John's glory days? Last but not least, the session work of Kortchmar, the many bands of Souther, the jazz stylings of Grisman and the amazing catalog of work with Little Feat with the late Lowell George crooning.

So I was outside early this morning painting a HUGE new shelving unit and by 8 a.m. it was sweat and swelter, as my friend and former roommate California Bob used to say about Houston, before he fled Houston forever for the West and later East Coasts and cooler climes.

The humidity made the paint take forever to dry, despite the wood virtually sucking up nearly 2 gallons of paint and taking three HEAVY  coats to get the kind of good shiny coverage I wanted, including using a heavy coverage primer as the first coat.

Then came assembling some large IKEA bookcases, which got much easier after the first one. We have a lot of books. Four bookcases later, with one to go in the morning and another vertical DVD case for the wall, it'll be time to paint the trip and cabinetry after recent housewide remodeling. Painting the trim throughout the house after repainting the kitchen, laundry room, hallways, and entry, we've still got bedrooms to go,new ceiling fans to install and a plethora of other projects for the office and baths as well. And some cabinetry on the back patio.

The tough stuff is done, and since it's indoors at least we have the AC going, but that doesn't mean you're not sweating profusely because you're working hard, like my home AC unit's are working hard.

I have one HUGE AC or HVAC or whatever it is unit for the house. Athough 85% of the year it is more than adequate, when the heat waves hit it can struggle as we have a lot of windows and live in a historic house. Insulation is good but not great.  

Last summer, I took a friend's advice and since we were the benefactor of a pretty huge window unit AC from the Maid of Honor at our wedding who had just replaced it with a more powerful unit, we added it to the bedroom in the back of the house. It can't be seen from the street because of fencing and it really helps keep the house cool. It gives us one super cool room to hide in at the heat of the day and helps cool the rest of the house meaning the house stays cooler and the main AC doesn't have to work as hard or as much or as often as it does when going solo.

So the end result is that our electricity bills went down about $100 a month with the window unit added and some judicious use of floor fans to get hot air from the living room and hallway to the AC returns. I'm thinking of adding some of the higher tech window units to several parts of the home, as although it is vented via the attic for modern AC and that's what we have, there are a couple of rooms that just are hot rooms in the summer.

These higher tech units apparently go outside under the window and are very low profile not sticking out like a window unit at all. Either a hose or the top of the unit pokes in through a window opened 6" or 8" or so providing AC. Mrs. El Fisho saw a "in-room" unit for about $300, that is, an AC that resides completely inside the home, and that might be getting got tomorrow for our newly remodeled living room.

The key I think is that the window unit and these other units run on 110 instead of 220, thus the energy usage is less because of the lesser voltage draw. All I know is, I like a temperate house in a heat wave. We've put in new, more energy efficient ceiling fans that crank out and move some serious air, so we've really increased the comfort factor in our home the past year of working on it.

I know the same kind of heat wave is gripping large parts of the country like it did us here in Texas last year. My sympathies to those coping with heat waves and/or droughts and/or wildfires. We had all three last year. It's tragic. God Speed a return to healthy and safe living and condolences for those who passed on in the Colorado fires.

If I had my way, I'd be like the fellow who has the cool house in California called Rimrock Ranch and have a steel roof built over my house to shade it. He's in the desert, and yet his home stays about 70 year round with little or no assistance from an AC unit in the daytime heat. I'm not sure what kind of heating he uses, but has a sub-roof under a huge heavy duty metal roof covering that shades the entire house.

They do this in West Texas on trailers, and perhaps on houses, to keep the unrelenting sun and winds at bay. I'm sure they have a name for it but I don't know what it is. It would be a tremendous platform for not only a huge rainwater water collection system but also solar cells and a solar water heating system.

We had a solar hot water heating system for a long while at our last home, and it worked well. Our neighbor has a two tiered rain collection system. One tank collects water that is first filtered fairly well, then run through a purification system for storage in  sterile tank in the home. The other larger amount of runoff collected goes in a huge outside tank where it automatically waters the urban farmer garden yard of my neighbor and keeps her place fairly green and lush without having to use a water well.

I've got one large shaded area in my backyard next to the shed/workshop  that just won't grow grass. For many years, we've tried carpet san augustine, seeds, plugs and all kinds of other grasses guaranteed to grow in the mostly shade in this area and the only one remotely successful has been some spotty growth of bermuda grass. So I'd like to dig it up all that, put down a liner, fill it in with some nice crushed pink granite gravel for trim and sidewalks and some big white Texas limestone as a flooring, put up a simple roofed, screened shelter replete with ventilation for a good BBQ pit, smoker, a woodburning stove for the colder times   and whatever else I might want to have out there. A nice table and comfortable chairs with a couple of HUGE old school ceiling fans would make a nice outdoor lounging spot. While building the shelter, a nice table with a big umbrella would get the job done.

Finally, the other idea I've been entertaining is another one I saw in the LA TIMES (where I spotted the Rimrock Ranch feature a few years ago). An above ground swimming pool made from a large metal cattle tank. About 4 foot deep, maybe 5 foot. You have a conventional pool pump and all that, but instead of paying $30k to have some guy dig a hole in your yard and drop a preformed pool in said hole, you spend much less for an arguably cool pool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I  was gonna title this post more on the Mosin Nagant rifle/pistol conversion but did as I did because an anonymous commenter on the thread I wrote on this weapon back in *a shortened and converted Mosin Nagant rifle and the history thereof* , well, that Anonymous commentator pointed out that I made an erroneous catagorization of what would be (as modified) a short barreled rifle vs. a rifle converted to a pistol. The result in terms of what the firearm actually is  remains the same, but I suppose I miscatagorized "legally speaking" what the weapon would be called.

But I will persist in calling the converted Obrez, as it was called in the old country, a pistol. Although legally speaking, it is a short barreled rifle if made or possessed in this country and if converted into what the Russians called "a pistol", back in the day.

So all of that got me to thinking about the extra cool and ultra affordable real pistols made from rifle receivers that were manufactured legally as pistols because the receiver has never been part of a rifle, it's a "virgin" receiver.

Of course, there's the Henry Mare's Leg pistol (it is legally a pistol since the receiver had never been attached to a rifle) and Taurus/Rossi Ranch Hand series (which are also legally pistols too, and it says so right on the box).

Then there are the eastern bloc pistols derived from and modified from "new" AK-47 rifle receivers called the Draco and the Draco Mini. There may be others who make these types of pistols. Again, virgin receivers attached to pistol length barrels and a pistol grip instead of a shoulder stock of any kind and BAM, you have a pistol.

Then there are the multitude of AR-15 derivative pistols on the market, and Smith and Wesson was making a dandy .22 assault rifle receiver pistol, as is Sig with their 522 pistol.

I don't know what the Obrez would weigh, but most of the other guns I've mentioned weigh in at from 4 to 5 pounds, plus accessories, unloaded.

So a modern day Steve McQueen wanting to rig up with a powerful rifle cartridge in a big pistol could put the modern twist on it with a Draco or an AR-15 pistol.  A quality red dot or holographic scope,  green laser and flashlight would turn it into an unbeatable defense weapon. A big rig to be sure, but a holster of stiff cordura or leather could be made for it. Or a shoulder rig not unlike the Feds use for submachineguns.  It would be fun to go trapsing through the woods with a Draco or M&P 15-22 pistol in a quasi-bounty hunter rig, with some extra mags instead of bullet loops.

I'd like to have one of the Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22 pistols. I think it would be a hoot to have that in a homemade bounty hunter rig. And cheap to shoot.

But back to the Obrez. What a cool weapon. Big. Unweildy. Undoubtedly loud. A handful recoil wise. Cheap to shoot.  A nice holographic sight up top with a green co-trained laser would make this a formitable weapon for hogs. And you could have bullet loops on your Obrez gunbelt.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I love that song, the theme song to the first Smokey and the Bandit movie, when things in my life were still hot rods and high school. Jerry Reed did a man right on that song, as he did singing and playing on many country hits of the sixties and seventies, many his own.