Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms

Category: Fun

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 Sixgunner.com 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”

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.

Life Will Kill You

Below is something I posted years ago, and it popped up in my “Memories” on farcebook. I post it here as a reminder – life is dangerous, you won’t get out alive. How you live and learning to live to the fullest is the important thing.

The thoughts below were provoked by an accident in farming country. A well meaning friend responded to news of the accident in a “I’d NEVER let MY kid do that” way. He was raised in San Francisco, far from rural America. And has absorbed much of the overprotection culture inherent in that bed of socialistic “We’ll save you from life” society.

Life will kill you. That is something that a farmer tends to know as they are surrounded by raw reality. It is common for folks raised in the city to not understand the realities of life on the farm. Me? I’ve seen both. Give me a farm kid any day over a coddled, over protected, sheltered from life city kid.

Although we were raised in a small town and not on the farm, we had the run of the woods. We carried machetes and knives and guns and fishing line and hooks and slingshots and other ways to get ourselves into (and out) of trouble. We got stung, cut, bit, banged up and bruised – and learned that stupid hurts. We also learned that life is full of opportunities and risks – which essentially are the same thing. We saw life begin. We saw life end. We were not sheltered from the realities of life and I believe we are better for it.

The city has its own risks. They tend to mangle kids in different ways – often worse than getting run over by a tractor. After all, there are things worse than living free and dying young. Daily we deal with folks who have been harmed by well meaning parents who set them in front of a TV and let the idiot tube “educate” them. And yet folks still do the same thing – letting strangers program and teach their kids things which will harm them over the long haul. Instant gratification, borrow to the hilt, fast food nutrition and 30 minute (counting commercials) dramas in which everything gets wrapped up nice and neat in time for the next bit of fluff to air are the order of the day. At no time are they taught that one must plan for the long term, putting in daily effort so that the harvest will be sufficient to see them through the rest of the year.

Living on a farm one learns responsibility and sometimes one learns the hard way that mistakes are costly. The number of people injured by machinery or livestock is amazing. Folks in the city often don’t realize the amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into raising that Porterhouse steak or Idaho potato or Cesar salad.

I don’t mean this as a flame at you, my friend – not by a long shot. I do intend it as bit of parenting advice. Don’t let your kids grow up so sheltered from risk that they never learn to really live.

The moment that stands out in my mind most of all was the time just “the guys” went to the river. A swift, piranha filled Amazon basin river running over jagged rocks. The “old men” stayed in camp mostly while us kids ran up and down the river, shooting game, catching fish, doing somersaults off of cliffs into the water below, floating tubes down the rapids and generally putting ourselves at risk of life and limb. No mom’s around to scream “Be CAREFUL!” – just the freedom to run and explore and enjoy the sheer exhilaration of being in the beautiful outdoors. A few short years later a couple of young men were lost down stream from there in the Tocantins river – their canoe overturned and they didn’t make it to shore. It could have been us.

Life will kill you. It’s a matter of time. How we live life determines who we are and what we become, in this world and the next. On the farm you learn to get up, dust yourself off and get back on that horse. May the Lord grant peace to the family who’s suffering sparked this little essay. as they deal with the results of this accident. My prayer is that the costs of medical treatment will not drive them to bankruptcy. Most family farmers can not afford medical insurance. I know the community is behind them as well. Because that’s how it is in farming country. Folks know their neighbors and often share the burdens brought on by life. Thank God for farmers and their families who are unfortunately a rapidly shrinking part of our society.

Jailbait for sure

The hoplophobes on duty at the book of face continue on their path of idiocy. Singling out those who disagree with their world view, they don’t even give an option to contest their arbitrary affirmation that their”community standards” have been violated. I’ve read their drivel and this image and the caption it contains does NOT violate their stated standards.  Their only true apparent “standards” are to harass God-fearing men of european descent. The only result of such persecution is disdain, ridicule and defiance. They can block me from their site, but their idiocy and hypocrisy are evident to all who care to think things through…

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