Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms

Category: Culture Page 1 of 4

Further Developments In Photographic Expression

Building on experiments here on my blog dealing with photographic expression, I decided to simply dedicate a domain to that endeavor, so was obtained, hosted next to our mission blog and my personal (this) blog. My hope is that this will help me to 1) keep my photographic learning and sharing organized into its own space; 2) help me focus on choosing which of the many pictures I take to share with others; and 3) help me track improvement in my photographic learning trajectory as well as 4) give me a simple URL to share with folks who might be interested in what I have to share there.

It’s not much to look at yet, but I have hopes of sharing some of the beauty that I see around us, even in an urban environment such as where my wife and I live. Even in an urban area of over a half million people one can see God’s handiwork – if one will look. Botanical Beauty – Looking Out My Front Door, for example, takes a look at what is there to see, if one will, just stepping out our front door.

I’m hoping to bring back some vintage lenses to experiment with as well when I return from an upcoming trip north. Photography as an art form is one means of helping people to see God’s handiwork and His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made – as stated in Romans 1:20.

Thoughts on Upgrading Photographic Essentials

Recently I started a new page on this blog, “This Is My Father’s World“. There I hope to share pictures of nature that I take with my trusty old Canon DSLR’s. As mentioned in a post by the same name, I’m doing my best to get into shooting “off auto”, using manual settings and learning how to get the shot I want and the look I want.

Over the past few weeks where I’ve been working on this off and on, it has become obvious that my efforts would be improved by improved gear. This lead me to check out various channels on YouTube and to join a couple of groups on FaceBook about photography with Canon cameras. And I keep seeing the same questions over and over again – mostly along the lines of “Which camera should I buy?” or “Would this upgraded camera be worth it?” and so on and so forth. Now, I’m by no means a professional photographer, but both of my current cameras are capable of pretty decent pictures under the right conditions. I’ll confess to looking longingly at this or that camera body that some “internet expert” touts as “the ultimate!” or “the absolute best!!!”, but the truth of the matter is – lenses count more than camera bodies.

The fact is – whatever you’ve got between your subject and the sensor is going to affect the image more than anything. Lower quality lenses will not give you the sharpness you’re looking for. “Slower” lenses are going to cause you to crank up the ISO and crank down the shutter speed, resulting in noisy or blurred images. A mediocre camear with top of the line glass will probably give you better results than the latest, greatest camera model that is currently being hyped on the ‘net – if it’s wearing mediocre lenses.

Kit lenses ARE capable of turning out some decent quality images – if the conditions are right. But they limit you in certain ways. For example, the 18-55mm lens typically sold with the Rebel series of Canon cameras has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, but as soon as you start zooming in it reduces quickly to a maximum of f/5.6 at 55mm focal length. This is fine if you’ve enough light to be using a smaller aperture anyway, such as an f/8. But when the light starts to fail in the evening or if the light is still dim in the morning or if you’re in a shady area or it’s a very cloudy day, this lens will simply not give you enough light for certain pictures.

When it comes to the camera body, one must ask: “Do I have good enough glass to take advantage of the capabilities of this new camera?” Also: “What will this camera body improve over the one I’m currently using?” In my own case, I’ve got three EF-S lenses, two 18-55’s and a 55-250mm. These are not the greatest lenses, but they’ve given me some really decent pictures, under the right conditions. I also currently have an EF 75-300, but it is also limited by the f3.5-5.6 aperture range. It really cramps the ability to take hand held shots in low light, such as this picture of El Nevado De Ruiz that I took recently as the light was fading fast.

Unfortunately, I did not grab my tripod when my wife called to say, “Get your camera. There’s something I want you to see!” She was coming home and had seen that the nevado was clear after a long period of hiding behind the clouds. If you click on the picture it’lll show you exactly how grainy and noisy it is – because the camera simply wasn’t able to receive enough light through that f/5.6, 1/100 shutter at 300mm zoom, and 6400 ISO. I’m sure the little Rebel T3 would have done just fine with a better lens, but my glass held me back, and that’s the best lens in the bag right now. It’s still a lovely enough photo, at low size such as in this thumbnail view above. You can see the pink tint from the sun setting behind me, but blow it up and the noise crops up.

Anyway, those are just some random thoughts I’ve come up with on the matter of upgrading photographic gear. I hope this year to be able to pick up a really decent lens, but don’t know right now which one to go for. Once we have some good glass we’ll start to see what these camera bodies are capable of.

This Is My Father’s World

One of my all time favorite hymns was written in 1901 by Maltbie D. Babcock. It is a call to remember – this world has an Owner and He is in ultimate charge, why should we then worry? Here are the lyrics.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
~ Maltbie D. Babcock

As we come up to the 30th anniversary of my earthly father’s passing from this life, I’ve been quite pensive. Looking back at what I learned from him all those years ago reminds me of God’s love and mercy as well as the positive aspects of my father’s life and teaching. He taught me many things over the years and although he was no perfect father (who is, other than God Himself?) he left a legacy in his children of a love of God and God’s word and a willingness to try to do things ones’ self rather than depend on others. Dad was a very creative person and had amazing skill in many areas, and he passed some of this on to each of his kids.

One of those areas that I learned a little bit of is in the area of photography. Dad loved to take pictures and I can only imagine how much he would have enjoyed the new technologies available via digital photography and digital processing of images. Dad had a Konica Autoreflex TC and upon leaving home I managed to acquire one of my own. I didn’t know too much about photography, but did know that setting that lens on AE would allow me to control the shutter speed and focus and turn out some decent images.

Recently I looked around, trying to remember what camera it was, and eventually found an image and the name and a few details came surging back.

That old camera went with me on many adventures and recorded precious memories, but the cost of film and processing and the delays involved never allowed me to learn too much about the mechanics of decent photography.

And then came a Sony Mavica with its 640X480 jpgs, followed by a 3 megapixel camera that I can’t recall the manufacturer of and then a number of different cell phones, all allowing one to snap a quick digital image and share it online with others. But again, not much about photography was learned other than “let the camera do it all”, which sometimes is enough, but often falls far short of what one is seeking to portray.

And then we stopped at a Walmart for a bathroom break while up in the US and on their clearance rack was a Canon Rebel XT at a very attractive price. Once more I had in my hands a Single Lens Reflex camera – but with the added attraction of digital imaging. Unfortunately, however, it seemed easier to continue to slough off and let the camera do it all.

A few years later and we were in California and stopped in a pawn shop where they had a Canon Rebel T1i at a very attractive price, due to the fact that the battery was flat and no charger available. So I took the risk, ordered a new battery and charger off of Amazon and it was promptly delivered, allowing me to test and find that the camera was in very good shape and fully functional. And the original battery took and held a charge (and several years later it still does).

But again, let the camera do it all was the modus operandi. But this simply isn’t enough when you want to do a good job of portraying images of the world around. So recently I started delving into the mysteries of ISO, Shutter Speed and F/Stops. And started taking pictures of the world around me to share with others, using my own judgment as to settings and ending up with some decent pictures in the process.

So, in the spirit of “This Is My Father’s World” I intend to share pictures here on my blog, pictures shot with intentionality and and not just happenstance. I’ve already run into some of the limitations that come from the relatively slow “kit lenses” that my cameras came with, so the hunt is on for other options. One aspect of modernity that intrigues me is the opportunity to mate the technology of yesterday with that of today. The hunt is on for one of the Konica lenses from yesteryear and an adapter ring to allow me to use it on my “modern” DSLR. This should give me the chance to finally use such a lens to its potential instead of just running it on AE as before. In fact, mating it to a modern Canon would REQUIRE manual use of settings and focus instead of point and shoot and “let the camera do it all”.

I look forward to developing this idea further.

Ripping Out Tares – Or Producing Wheat?

Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people dedicating time to “ripping out tares”, grousing, complaining and worrying about denouncing “false doctrine!” And it’s not just from one theological perspective either! I’ve seen a messianic Jew, a lot of “conservative Christians” and even more “liberal Christians” denouncing what they perceive to be “a threat to us all”. The whole “Asbury ‘Revival'” thing has stirred a lot of folks up, but it’s not the only area I’m talking about.

It is all so easy to see when someone else messes up and “does things wrong”. But why are we worried? Jesus told us that the enemy would sow tares among the wheat. And He also told us to “let it grow until the harvest”. So, what should we do? I suggest we produce wheat, do the things that Jesus the Christ told us to do, and let Him sort things out upon His return.

Rather than criticizing others, let’s turn our eyes back to the labor to which we have been called. Let Him find us faithful to His message when He comes.

Count Your Blessings

On my 10th birthday my parents gave me some very special gifts. I wanted a 1 litre Coca-Cola TM and they bought me one to drink by myself, a life goal I’d had since I saw the highschoolers wasting them in soda pop fights when I was in first and second grade. BUT, they also gave me two pullets. One was a beautiful golden color and the other a lovely black feathered one that proved to be of Araucana heritage and laid blue eggs. I promptly named them “Goldie” and “Blackie”,turned them into the chicken pen with the rest of our family’s fowl and did my best to take care of them and win their confidence.

I do not recall how they ended up, my small chicken flock increased and decreased, provided eggs and meat for the family and many hours of enjoyment as I learned to “speak” with them by imitating the sounds they made. We moved from that place to another and then another and finally Dad was able to get a place of our own and we put up a chicken wire pen for our small flock of egg layers and chick brooders.

Since we lived on the outskirts of town our small brood was exposed to the typical predators of the area. Opossums, tegu lizards (locally called tiú) and iguanas (called camaleão by the locals) all did their best to include our feathered fowls in their diet. Dad kept the Glenfield Model 25 in the laundry room, which overlooked the portion of our property where the chicken pen was, and when the chickens sounded the alarm I’d go back there, take the rifle and “take care of business”.

But then I moved off to college, Dad and Mom and the youngest siblings moved to another state and probably ate the last of the chickens and poultry was one of the last things on my mind. Eventually I got married and we moved back to the Amazon Basin, only much further east, into the transitional area between the Atlantic and the Amazon forests. There my wife and I set up a chicken pen on our property and once more the sound of the chickens crooning and clucking and crowing was a part of our life, as well as the supply of eggs and fresh chicken for the pot.

Once again life stepped in and we moved to another country, from semi rural to urban life and no place for a chicken pen. Odd to say, but the “hassle” of raising and taking care of a flock of poultry has never seemed too bad, and the lack of such activity just reemphasizes to me that this country boy is “marooned” in a desolate urban wasteland. Instead of the clucking, crooning, crowing and scuffle of the flock and their pecking order we hear cars, motorcycles, trucks, busses, salesmen and other urban auditory pollution. To say I miss the old chicken pens is an understatement.

And then, an unexpected blessing, an indication of The Creator’s love and mercy. Recently we hung a flower basket outside of our bedroom window and planted a couple of decorative “weeds” (as I like to call them) in it. A couple of canaries investigated the contraption, but it was too open for them and they moved on, searching for a more appropriate abode for their brood. Then the other day I looked out and imagine my surprise to see…

Yep, it looks for all the world like a miniature chicken egg! I’d not really noticed the extra “filling” in the basket when I watered the “weeds” last, but it’s hard to miss a beautiful white egg when it’s right under your nose, so to speak. But “who” did the deed? I was pretty sure it was a bird of the dove type, but we have a couple or more different species in the area. She was a bit skittish and would take off in a panic at first, but I managed to sneak this shot.

She didn’t care for the camera or for me and took off, but landed on the roof between us and the neighbor’s place.

I’m pretty sure she is of the “Common Ground Dove” species. They are similar to the more northern mourning dove, but the mourning dove doesn’t range this far south, at least from the maps I’ve looked at. At any rate, I take this little bit of “nature doing its thing” as a reminder – God cares for even the common little birds, and He cares for you and for me as well. I miss having a small flock of chickens, so He sent me this little bird to remind me – He knows, He cares, He provides in many ways.

25 Random Things About Me – past and present

A blast from the past. Does anyone else remember when FB had a “Notes” section in their FB page? They shut it down a few years ago, but the notes are still there and show up in “Memories”. This is one I hadn’t thought about in ages, but it gives a chance to reflect on life and how things have changed over the past 14 years. So, here’s the “note” and I’ll follow the original with updates as appropriate.

25 Random Things About Me
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app, then click publish.) – note that “Notes” were eliminated from FB several years ago, so those instructions are no longer valid.

  1. My deepest desire is to live in a way pleasing to my creator.
  2. My second deepest desire is to help others learn to live in a way pleasing to their creator.
  3. My greatest disappointment is that I don’t always fulfill my greatest desire.
  4. My greatest joy is that He extends grace and mercy to me when I fail.
  5. My best friend sleeps in the same bed with me and I’m madly in love with her.
  6. We have two sons and two grandchildren.
  7. Our dog, Burka, was adopted from the animal shelter in Dos Quebradas. She’s about the smartest dog we’ve ever had (with the possible exception of Babe Ruth who died at 4 months old)
  8. I’ve ridden my Suzuki GN-125 H to Cali, Bogotá, Villavicencio and Guatapé – a larger bike would be nice, but this one gets the job done – eventually.
  9. The old 1975 Ford built Jeep we had in Brazil still retains a fond spot in my heart – even though it tried to kill me.
  10. I’m a carnivore and proud of it. Hunting is part of my heritage and I’ve no patience for the ignorant Disneyfied bunny huggers who don’t understand the animals they claim to love.
  11. Blood is NOT on the menu. My respect for the animal is shown by obeying God’s ancient law. That some people don’t understand how I can both respect and kill and eat an animal is a source of amusement.
  12. No, I’m not very “sensitive”.
  13. When we were kids we built things and did things that would probably get us locked up today – and I do not believe society is better for having changed in this manner.
  14. “Safety” is an excuse people use to control the lives of others. Living is not safe. Dying is not bad – as long as your sins have been taken care of by the Christ’s sacrifice.
  15. Sometime in the middle of 2009 we should finally personally meet our grandchildren.
  16. Of the computers I’ve owned over the years I’ve built or custom ordered most of them. Only the TRS80 and the Toshiba Satellites have come from the factory as is.
  17. I do not miss the tape drive on the old TRS80.
  18. My cell phone can do far more than the TRS80 ever could.
  19. We have Vonage for a US phone line. EPM for a local landline. Comcel for cell phone service. Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype and Google Talk accounts for chatting. Our own domain name for the mission work and e-mail use. And yet many folks don’t know how to contact us.
  20. My e-mail address hasn’t changed in 10 years.
  21. First place trophies for various shooting competitions sit on my shelf, speaking to the smallness of the pond in which this small frog lives.
  22. I can only take so much urban life before my head threatens to explode.
  23. Hank Williams Junior’s song “A Country Boy Can Survive” and Robin Mark’s “Ancient Words” speak about and to different parts of my being.
  24. My sons were rocked to sleep in a hammock to the sound of their dad singing “How Firm A Foundation” – all six verses I managed to locate over the years.
  25. Besides my Lord and Savior, I am thankful for my best friend, lover and wife – without Him and her I do not know what I would have become.
  26. I selected more than 25 people and now am writing more than 25 things – will I be struck by lightning? Have my facebook account closed???

Updated List

  1. My deepest desire is to live in a way pleasing to my creator.
  2. My second deepest desire is to help others learn to live in a way pleasing to their creator.
  3. My greatest disappointment is that I don’t always fulfill my greatest desire.
  4. My greatest joy is that He extends grace and mercy to me when I fail and that He has been helping me to be transformed through the renewing of my mind.
  5. My best friend sleeps in the same bed with me and I’m madly in love with her.
  6. We have two sons and six grandchildren.
  7. Our dog, Burka, was adopted from the animal shelter in Dos Quebradas. She was about the smartest dog we’d ever had (with the possible exception of Babe Ruth who died at 4 months old) We had to put her down in 2014 and we now have two other dogs, Biscuit and Blackie, who have their own Facebook Page and Instagram page as well.
  8. I rode my Suzuki GN-125 H to Cali, Bogotá, Villavicencio and Guatapé as well as to many other destinations. It was replaced by a Honda XL200 and then by a Royal Enfield Rumbler 500. Indeed the larger bike makes for a better travel experience!
  9. The old 1975 Ford built Jeep we had in Brazil still retains a fond spot in my heart – even though it tried to kill me. My wife thinks I’m nuts that I still cast a longing eye at the old Jeeps around this part of the world.
  10. I’m a carnivore and proud of it. Hunting is part of my heritage and I’ve no patience for the ignorant Disneyfied bunny huggers who don’t understand the animals they claim to love.
  11. Blood is NOT on the menu. My respect for the animal is shown by obeying God’s ancient law. That some people don’t understand how I can both respect and kill and eat an animal is a source of amusement.
  12. No, I’m not very “sensitive”.
  13. When we were kids we built things and did things that would probably get us locked up today – and I do not believe society is better for having changed in this manner. And the world is becoming more and more asinine in its frantic search for “safety”.
  14. “Safety” is an excuse people use to control the lives of others. Living is not safe. Dying is not bad – as long as your sins have been taken care of by the Christ’s sacrifice.
  15. We met our first grandchildren in 2009 and each of the others that came along we met as soon as possible. Living a couple of continents away from the kids and grandkids is one of the more difficult parts of our life and ministry.
  16. Of the computers I’ve owned over the years I’ve built or custom ordered most of them. Only the TRS80 and the Toshiba Satellites have come from the factory as is. In the past 14 years we’ve had a few more, to include a couple of laptops and a tiny form factor “desktop” unit. Unfortunately I’ve had little time to keep up to date with the “latest and greatest” and have resorted to purchasing with a view towards obtaining a useful tool that will serve for several years down the road.
  17. I do not miss the tape drive on the old TRS80. One of my builds included 5.25″ and 3.5″ diskette drives, a tape drive backup unit, a zip drive, a CD and a DVD drive/burner and a 3.5″ hard drive. It was a hoot to have such a wide variety of storage media “on tap”.
  18. My cell phone can do far more than the TRS80 ever could and has enough storage to contain the information for over 180,000 3.5″ diskettes.
  19. We have Vonage for a US phone line. Claro for a local landline cell phone service. Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype, Google Talk, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp accounts for chatting. We have our own domain name for the mission work and e-mail use. And yet many folks don’t know how to contact us even now – despite the fact that these methods of communication have been available for years.
  20. My main e-mail address hasn’t changed in about 25 years.
  21. First place trophies for various shooting competitions sit on my shelf, speaking to the smallness of the pond in which this small frog lives. I’ve got a few more in different disciplines now, most reflecting on the same small frog/tiny pond phenomenon.
  22. I can only take so much urban life before my head threatens to explode. Thankfully we have access to a place where I can get out and barely hear trucks on the road, but no urban roar.
  23. Hank Williams Junior’s song “A Country Boy Can Survive” and Robin Mark’s “Ancient Words” speak about and to different parts of my being. Don Williams’ “Good Ole Boys Like Me” and Vincent and Daley’s “By The Mark” are a couple of other songs that dance through my mind and memory at times.
  24. My sons were rocked to sleep in a hammock to the sound of their dad singing “How Firm A Foundation” – all six verses I managed to locate over the years.
  25. Besides my Lord and Savior, I am thankful for my best friend, lover and wife – without Him and her I do not know what I would have become.
  26. No one has been selected in some FB chainletter type of operation, but I AM writing more than 25 things – will I be struck by lightning? Have my facebook account closed??? – FB has indeed censored my account a couple of times. Their “community standards” do not include inclusiveness towards a conservative and truth oriented world view. I refer them to Romans chapter 1 which they will deny the validity of until such time as they are called to account, each for his/her own decisions and actions. But yours truly will continue to do his best to speak the truth in love.
  27. And since we’re expanding on the former list a bit, there are those who use the same logic as stating that a dog has five legs since you can count its tail as a leg. To those I will continue to point out that you can call something what it is not, but that does not change the essence of what it is. From the beginning marriage has been between a man and a woman. Folks call other arrangements “marriage”, but that’s like calling a dog’s tail a leg. Just because you say so does not make it so.

Memories From The Sertão

The following is something I typed up back in the late 20th or early 21st Century. It was originally published on the old website. Jim Taylor recently reminded me of it so here it is with a few corrections/clarifications/revisions for any who might find it interesting. That was indeed a different time and place.

The sun was still high as I climbed into my hammock. It was near four o’clock in the afternoon and I’d slung my hammock about three meters in the air in the branches of a berry tree. It was hot and still with only an occasional breath of air moving the dusty foliage. It was early August. The dry season had begun two months before and now the animal denizens of the sertão were feeding on blossoms and berries under the great trees at night. This was to be my first attempt at the espera, that most typical of hunting styles in Brazil’s great northeast.

I hauled my pack up by parachute cord and got ready for the long night. I placed my spare shells in the loops of my vest and checked the old H&R singleshot 28 guage shotgun before slipping the full brass black powder shell with a load of 3T shot into the handcut chamber of the old, rebuilt, basket case shotgun. The Ruger MKII with the long tapered barrel was examined, loaded and slipped back into its place. The quarry sought was deer and I didn’t trust my aim enough with the Ruger to risk using it. It would be called on for small game only, smaller even than the tiny deer typical of this region.

With a flapping and squawking the tree filled with pemba. The gamecock size birds went about their business of feeding, paying no attention to the motionless figure in the cloth sling. They eventually moved on to roost and calm returned to the berry tree.

Darkness came, and with it came countless unnamed noises in the dark. The scurrying and rustling of tiny feet was easily heard as the rats, possums and other small creatures went about enjoying the succulent repast of fermented fruit under the tree. Occasionally a louder noise would provoke a blinding flash from my flashlight and the activities below would barely slow as I sought the source of what surely would prove to be at least a cutía or paca, if not a deer. Time after time I was greeted with the sight of some little rodent under a great pile of leaves, busily seeking out some morsel.

The night grew colder and the blanket was drawn tight. A breeze moved the branches and wafted my scent through the trees, this was not good for not only did the breeze seem to penetrate to my bones, it had the effect of sending a warning to my quarry.

The cold grew unbearable and then came the faint tinge of light in the east, announcing the coming heat. As the light grew more perceptible the pemba returned, squawking and flapping, to fill their crops with the morning meal. The Ruger spoke twice before the pemba moved on to find a quieter place to dine, leaving two of their number to provide my own meal. As I climbed down from my perch to await my companions I reflected on the passing of this way of life. The sertanejo’s life has never been easy. Now, with the vast acreages of virgin jungle being cleared to make way for far-flung plantations of rice, corn and soy, the game was disappearing and their simple way of life was threatened.

Those were simple days. Simple times. The simple people once met in the vast southern regions in the state of Maranhão are sorely missed. There is nothing that compares to their simple cuisine and carefree lives. They are poor, most only having one set of clothes and only the bare necessities of life. When they pack up to move on, their earthly possessions will usually only occupy the back of a donkey, perhaps two. But they are very hospitable and friendly, freely sharing what little they have. Their diet usually consists of short grain rice, farinha (ground up manioc root which has been roasted until dry) and beans. It is a diet short on vitamins, proteins and fats. A typical breakfast consists of strong, sweet coffee and “cuis cuis”, a steamed loaf of ground rice or corn, and if the hunters have been successful a bit of fried meat to go with it. Meat and fat is craved by all and fruits as well. When the oranges are in season they barely have a chance to turn slightly yellow before getting knocked down and eaten. When piquí fruit comes into season people will travel for miles to gather it for use in cooking (to me it always smelled like week old road kill) and to dry and store up for making soap with later in the year.

That is why the people hunt as they do. There is no talk of sport, they hunt for lunch or supper and returning home empty handed means white rice again with nothing to fill in the nutritional imbalance. So they take to the trees at night with flashlights and carefully hoarded batteries to await what ever chance may bring their way.

Most houses have at least one firearm of some kind. The “por fora” is very frequently found, being seen in various persuasions. This is the commonplace Brazilian muzzle loader. A typical one will have a paper thin barrel made even thinner by mistaken neglect. The people believe that a muzzleloader or shotgun becomes deadlier as it builds up “veneno” (poison) in its barrel over time. What actually occurs is that the barrel grows thinner and thinner and eventually will burst where the rust hast eaten away at the already thin walls. A “por fora” will have a smooth bore barrel made of some kind of iron curtain rod like material around .40 caliber. The breach area will be wound with a layer or two of iron wire brazed in place by way of reinforcement. The nipple will be set in a bolster welded to the side of the barrel and the lock will not have a functional half cock. A variation on the theme is the “rabo de macaco” or “Monkey’s Tail” muzzle loader. In this variation the nipple is of the “inline” persuasion and the striker is directly behind the barrel. The typical load is a .38 spl case full of FFFg powder, or possibly only a .32 SWL case full. A wad of jute or other fiber is pounded into place over the powder using a steel ram rod made of thin rebar, and a few pieces of 3T or smaller shot will be loaded on top, followed by another wad of fiber to hold it all in place. When things work as they should, the por fora can be deadly out to 20 yards or so. After that it scatters too badly to be effective.

It is not uncommon to find a variety of shotguns scattered among the homes in the area. The .410 and the .28 gauge are probably the most common, but one can find all the usual (and some unusual) gauges if time is given to search and to talk with folks. The 9.1 mm, 36 (known as the .410 in the US), . 32, 28, 24, 20, 16 and 12 gauges can all be found. Brazilian law forbids (at the time this article is contemplating) anything in a “magnum” gauge or caliber but I’ve seen 12 gauge 3″ magnums in the hands of some of the more well to do. (as well as many forbidden calibers and firearms – many with “legal” documents obtained through political connections) Full length brass shells with Berdan primers and black powder in FFFg were by far the most common fodder for the shotgun in northern Brazil. Some of the smokeless powders were beginning to take root and find a following. Tupán is one of the early powders that began replacing black powder. It got a bad rap among many because it split shells and had to be packed tight. It there wasn’t enough compression it would not burn properly. I learned to load with this powder. It was in a 32 gauge Boito that belonged to an american rancher we knew. He’d leave it with me while he was in the US earning money to keep the ranch going. I’d use a mallet and a dowel to pack the wad over the powder, keeping the primer from contacting anything by holding it in a special base. The split shell problem was only in older guns. I’ve seen a sertanejo shooting a shotgun that headspaced on string wrapped around the base of the shell. This was because the chamber had eroded away from years of neglect. It did OK with black powder, but the newfangled powders built up too much pressure for such chambers and split the shells, or worse.

The 22 LR was the most common chambering in the rifles one found in the sertão. It was used to hunt everything on the South American continent. They would use it for everything from doves to cougar and jaguars. The CBC singleshot was fairly common as were the CBC bolt actions. I’ve even seen Belgian “half automatic” rifles and many others brought in from the US and Europe. Some of the finest were brought in by priests or protestant missionaries. The 22 LR was well regarded and often misused. Some of the hunters would shoot a deer from over 100 yards away and then have to track it with hounds.

There was also a good quantity of model ’73 and ’92 Winchesters, mostly in 44-40. These were left over from the rubber trade days. The rubber workers demanded the best weapons available for protection from (and aggression against) the Indians. I saw one 38-40 cartridge and 32-20 ammo was available, but the 44-40 was king of the centerfire rifles.

A good revolver was sought by many and the S&W was king. The old Military and Police was very common and many an old timer refused to give up his “smeetchy”. Almost invariably the S&W was in 38 SPL and while Colts were not unheard of, they were known as the “cavalinho” or “little horse” revolver, I never personally handled one while living there. Most folks carried a handgun for protection against two legged varmints or because they WERE two legged varmints, few people used them for hunting. I was regarded as a rich man because I used my Rossi .38 so much. With shells costing US$2 a piece in the stores at the time, no wonder folks didn’t shoot them much. I’d carried loading supplies in and so could shoot my 38 cheaper than a shooting a 22. I paid for my loading setup by selling shells to folks. I’d take six empty cartridges in exchange for one loaded round, not a bad profit margin, or sell ammo for half the store price if they supplied the brass. Any Berdan primers would have the anvil drilled out, the primer removed replaced with a boxer primer then loaded with a light load of powder. Some of the brass I came across was of the old balloon head type which also received light loads. My ammo was more accurate than that sold by CBC and once I even sold 400 rounds to the police. Once I learned more about Brazil’s laws I ceased selling reloaded ammo and only used it for my own shooting. They finally allowed reloading, but not the sale of reloaded ammo. I even replaced my supply of primers via mail order. The powder I used most was “Especial de Caça“, a smokeless shotgun powder similar in burn rate to Bullseye. This I’d load under a hard cast WC or SWC HP. The hollow points were cast from Lee’s 150 grain HP mold, the wadcutters were from a Lyman mold a friend swapped to me. Projectiles were pan lubed with a concoction made up of stingless bees’ wax and paraffin from melted candles.

I learned to make do with about anything. A friend showed up with a Broomhandled Mauser and some dud shells. I pulled the bullets, replaced the Berdan primers with boxer type, dumped in a load of Bullseye and pushed the bullets back in. After firing twice the cases were too loose to hold the bullets, but making do allowed the old gun to speak once more after a half century of silence. It had the original wood shoulder stock/holster and was in fairly good condition, but I never could convince them to let me have it.

One of my favorite places to hang out was at an old black smith’s place. I’d sit in his shop and talk all day with him about guns. He was self taught and could build about anything you needed to repair a gun, from scratch. His drill was homemade as were many of his tools. Welding was done in the forge. 22 shells served to braze with and if he didn’t like you he wouldn’t do the job. If he DID like you it still might take six months or longer because he couldn’t talk and work at the same time. What a character! He learned not to double charge 22 shells. Once he’d taken a dud shell apart and dumped the powder into another, unfired, shell and pushed the bullet back in place. He then proceeded to fire it in a Belgian half automatic rifle he owned. The bolt cracked in two, the head blew off the cartridge case which left the case in the chamber and the bullet buried itself so deep in a mango tree that he never was able to dig it out. That was when he learned a) not to double charge 22 shells and b) how to weld a bolt back together again. He later traded that rifle off. I saw one like it, chambered originally for the .22 short. It would eject the case when you fired it and keep the bolt open so you could load another round. It was a singleshot. For some reason you could load it with .22 LR shells and it worked fine.

The sertanejo is typically a fine person. Their ways are different from ours and I learned a lot from them. They are very pragmatic when it comes to hunting, sport has nothing to do with it. What ever it takes to get the dinner pot filled is fine with them. Unfortunately the habitat is shrinking and the hunting pressure is to heavy for the declining population of game animals. I gave up hunting because I didn’t need to hunt to survive. We lived on goats which took care of our protein needs and I even helped others get into raising goats as well. But I regret that I never did get one of the elusive deer while hunting from a hammock.

Precious Memories

Looking back at memories on a certain social media site, I came across this tidbit from years past. So on a whim I’m updating it and expanding it and posting it here “just because”.

Things you have done during your lifetime:

(X) Married your best friend

() Gone on a blind date

() Skipped school

(X) Watched someone die

(X) Watched someone be born

(X) Watched a spiritual new birth

(X) Watched a pet die.

(X) Put down a pet

(X) Been to Canada

(X) Been to Mexico

(X) Been to Florida

(X) Jumped off a cliff

() Bungee jump

() Parasailed

() Been to Hawaii

(X) Been on a plane

(X) Flown a plane

() Been on a helicopter

() Been lost

(X) Been temporarily misplaced

(X) Gone to Washington, DC

(X) Gone to Washington state

(X) Visited the capitols of more than three countries

(X) Swam in the ocean

(X) Swam in more than one ocean

(X) Cried yourself to sleep

(X) Loaned a shoulder to cry on

(X) Played cops and robbers

() Recently colored with crayons

(X) Sang Karaoke

(X) Sung a capella

(X) Paid for a meal with coins only

(X) Been to the top of the St. Louis Arch

() Been to New York City at Xmas time

(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t

() Made prank phone calls

() Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans

(X) Been to Ver o Peso in Belém do Pará

(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere

(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue

() Danced in the rain

() Written a letter to Santa Claus

() Been kissed under the mistletoe

(X) Watched the sunrise with someone

(X) Watched the sunset with someone

(X) Blown bubbles

() Gone ice-skating

(X) Gone to the movies

(X) Been deep sea fishing

(X) Fished in a cow pond

(X) Fished in a mountain stream

(X) Driven across the United States

(X) Driven from ocean to ocean in one day

(X) Visited Glacier National Park

(X) Visited Yosemite National Park

(X) Driven across South America

(X) Driven truck or combine in the harvest

(X) Been in a hot air balloon

() Been sky diving

() Gone snowmobiling

(X) Lived in more than one country

(X) Learned more than one language fluently

(X) Lay down outside at night and admired the stars

(X) Walked by the light of the full moon

(X) Walked by the light of the stars

() Seen a falling star and made a wish

(X) Watched a satellite sail across the night sky

(X) Enjoyed the beauty of Old Faithful Geyser

(X) Marveled at the giant sequoias

(X) Seen a tree thicker than a giant sequoia

() Been on a cruise

() Traveled by train

(X) Traveled by motorcycle

(X) Traveled by bicycle

(X) Been horse back riding

(X) Been mule back riding

(X) Been donkey back riding

() Been camel back riding

() Ridden on a San Francisco CABLE CAR

(X) Been to Disney World or Disneyland

(X) Truly believe in the power of prayer

(X) Been in a rain forest

(X) Been in more than one rain forest

(X) Walked barefoot through a rain forest

(X) Seen whales in the ocean

(X) Seen porpoises in a river

(X) Been to Niagara Falls

(X) Been to Igaçú Falls

() Been to Victoria Falls

() Ridden on an elephant

(X) Ridden a mule or donkey

() Swam with dolphins

(X) Heard a rhea roar

(X) Seen a bear in the wild

() Seen a wolf in the wild

() Seen a cougar in the wild

() Been to a World Cup Soccer game

() Been to the Olympics

() Walked on the Great Wall of China

() Walked the Via Dolorosa

(X) Eaten a macaw or parrot

(X) Found half a worm in a piece of fruit you were eating

(X) Eaten a reptile

(X) Saw and heard a glacier crack

() Been spinnaker flying

(X) Been water-skiing

(X) Been snow-skiing

(X) Been canoeing

() Been to Westminster Abbey

() Been to the Louvre

() Been to the Sistine Chapel

(X) Been to the Museo de Oro in Bogotá

(X) Been to Brasilia – the most “modern” capital in the world

() Swam in the Mediterranean

(X) Swam in the Caribbean

() Been to a Major League Baseball game

(X) Been to a National Football League game

(X) Ever been skinny-dipping

(X) Laughed so hard you cried

() Follow a map for treasure

() Driven a dune buggy

(X) Driven a tractor

(X) Driven a manual transmission vehicle

(X) Driven a dual transmission vehicle

() Got lost in East L.A. after dark

(X) Walked the mean streets of Bogotá

(X) Swam in the Amazon

(X) Hunted on more than one continent

(X) Shot a 50 BMG rifle

(X) Shot the 1,025 Meter buffalo at the Whittington Center

(X) Participated in a national level shooting competition

(X) Placed in the top 10 in a national level shooting competition

(X) Taken first place in a national level shooting competition

(X) Fished in the Rockies

(X) Fished in the Andes

(X) Visited over 40 of the United States

() Visited ALL 50 United States

(X) Eaten food from a street stand in S. America

(X) Drunk fresh roasted and ground coffee prepared over a charcoal fire

(X) Eaten game you’ve killed and cooked yourself

(X) Eaten Rocky mountain oysters

(X) Eaten aligator

(X) Eaten piranha

(X) Eaten anaconda

() Eaten rattlesnake

() Crossed the Rocky mountains on motorcycle

(X) Crossed the Andes mountains on motorcycle

(X) Stood on the banks of the Amazon

(X) Stood on the banks of the Mississippi

(X) Stood on the banks of the Magdalena

() Stood on the banks of the Orinoco

() Stood on the banks of the Nile

() Stood on the banks of the Thames

() Stood on the banks of the Danube

() Stood on the banks of the Volga

() Stood on the banks of the Congo

(X) Read the Bible cover to cover

(X) Encouraged others to read the Bible

(X) Baptized a person into Christ.

(X) Taken a picture of a cloud

(X) Preached at a loved one’s funeral

(X) Marveled at a baby’s beauty

(X) Loaded your own ammunition

(X) Loaded ammunition with bullets you’ve made yourself

(X) Taken game with ammunition you’ve loaded yourself

(X) Built a firearm from scratch

(X) Marveled at the stupidity of those who ban things instead of teaching people proper behavior

(X) Helped a stranger along the road

(X) Been helped by a stranger along the road

(X) Allowed Christ to forgive your sins

(X) Adapted a Facebook “notes list”

“…resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.”

Here’s another from the archives. It never ceases to amaze me how our nation went from men such as John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson to the soft, effeminate type that seems to be dominating our nation today.

“With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.” –John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, 1775

The period leading up to the American Revolution was a turbulent time. Men had been giving much thought to the issue of what it meant to be subjects of a power that was interested only in maintaining itself and not with their well being. Slowly, but surely, the movement to break ties with “Mother England” took shape and gained ground until there came a point of no return. But once that point was reached freedom was not yet ensured. First there was a long period of harsh battles, of labor, sweat, tears, danger and the terrible possibility of being once more forced to bow to a foreign power.

Our Christian life is much the same. We must carefully consider (count the cost, the Savior said) that which has claimed our life and forced us into subservience and obedience to a power that has not our best interests in mind. And once we break the bonds that bind us we are often STILL subject to a long and drawn out battle. Too many people downplay this and lead others into a false sense of security, assuring them that “Jesus won the war so you’ll have no problem at all.” They forget that we are in a life or death struggle against forces that would destroy us. Not flesh and blood but rather spiritual forces that for millennia have been fighting against God’s Kingdom of Light. The war was won at Calvary when satan’s head was crushed under the heel of God’s Son. But many battles are still being waged until Christ’s return. The serpent was killed but yet he wields a tremendous venom that can still bring lives to an end.

Consider carefully the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12) These words were written TO THE CHURCH. They were written to people who had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and whose names were written in the Book of Life. Yes, the war has been won – but many battles are yet to be fought.

Peter also warned us of possible dangers: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9) Again, these words were written to those who had been redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice.

Yes, as Christians we have written our Declaration of Independence from satan’s evil schemes. We have also founded our lives on a new Constitution – the Word of God. BUT we must also be constantly alert and ready to fight against our enemy’s schemes to drag us back into slavery. Truly the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Let us keep a jealous eye on our Christian freedom and be ready to repel satan’s attempts to drag us back into the slavery of sin. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) These words were written as an admonishment to not be dragged back to living under the Mosaic law – but they ring true in regards to sin as well.

I Played With Matches

Another from the archives…

Yep, when I was a kid I wasn’t “Smokey’s Friend” – I played with matches. Never did we burn down a forest nor even a house or anything we shouldn’t. But we played with matches. And gun powder, fireworks, power tools, firearms, airguns, slingshots, bicycles, machetes, axes, lead based paint – etc.

And yet, we grew up. All our appendages were intact (in spite of that one incident where we re-enacted a knife fight from a Louis L’Amour novel and someone got their fingers cut) and our hearing wasn’t too badly damaged (I’m only deaf in one ear but can still sometimes hear out of the other – don’t tell my wife) and the only damage to our eye sight was genetic. We rode bicycles without helmets. We played soccer without pads. We played volleyball in the street. We paddled canoes without lifejackets. We climbed trees and chopped them down. OK – THEY climbed the tree and I chopped it down). Skinnydipping, fishing, bee hunting, wasp nest capturing, campfire building, lead smelting, gun building – all these and more were part of our lives. And we lived and grew up and became reasonably stable, sane, productive citizens.

We can kill our own dinner, as well as skin it and cook it. We can change a tire – or an engine. We can wire a house, run the plumbing, dig a well, build a wall. We can plant a garden, cook a meal, change a diaper, discipline a child, educate a child, train a dog, butcher a goat. We can find an egg, set a hen, castrate livestock, build a fence, change the oil, lube a bike, repair an innertube, load a cartridge. And all these things we learned as kids.

We also learned to say “Yes, ma’am.” “Yes, sir.” and call adults “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Uncle” or “Aunt”. We played “Kick the can” and “Hide and Seek” and “Red Rover, Red Rover” and “Barrage” (our own variation of “dodge ball”) Chores were done. School work also. God’s word was memorized and passed on to younger kids.

We sharpened knives. Killed, skinned and roasted birds (over the campfire). We chased bats, caught, cleaned and ate piranhas. Swam with piranhas. Played with snakes and tarantulas. Slingshot, knife and a sack of smooth pebbles were our daily companions. We wrestled. We fought. We stood up for each other. We competed with each other.

We lived free – safe in the guidelines set by our parents. No, it wasn’t a matter of “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” It was a matter of “Remember who’s son you are.” and the knowledge that we should never cause harm to another nor another’s property. We were taught honor, love for God and respect for our fellow man. We were taught right from wrong. We were taught to think.

And I feel sorry for today’s children. Raised with a long list of “safety” equipment and “things not to do” because “someone might get hurt”. The scars on my body give testimony to “Stupid should hurt” and also to “bodies heal”. Our modern society tries to shield us from life. Why? I believe it’s because they believe that this life is all there is. They don’t believe in One Who is greater than us and One Who is preparing a place for those who love Him and obey His commandments. And thus they are bound by fear, tied down with chains of terror – terror of losing that which we all must lose someday. Our bodies WILL die. Life WILL kill you – sooner or later – it’s inevitable. HOW you live your life says a lot about who you are. Are you living life suffocated by fear? Or do you live life in the knowledge that if we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness that He will provide for us and protect us along the way?

Love of God and His ways gives us freedom. Fear not those or that which can kill only your body. Fear Him Who has power over physical death and Who will either welcome us to a beautiful new home or Who will send us away from His Presence forever. That fear is healthy. It’s just like that admonishment of old – “Remember who’s son you are.” That sentence alone was enough to keep me on the right path, not from a morbid fear of some punishment but rather the fear of letting down my father.

Who’s child are you? Don’t forget. And it’s OK to play with matches – but use your head and play carefully.

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