Monday, January 25, 2016

MURPHY'S OTHER 15 LAWS

MURPHY'S OTHER 15 LAWS

1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

3. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.


4. A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

5. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

6. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

7. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

8. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

9. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone from
California would be stupid enough to try to pass them.

10. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

11. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.

13. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.

14. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

15. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people, who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Duels In Canada

Duels in Canada – a short and very incomplete history.
A set of dueling pistols made in about 1823

There was a time in Canada when duels were not uncommon. Various military bodies were ordered to the land to establish “sovereignty” – in “New France” and later in “British North America” – and actual or imagined slights could lead to duels with sword or pistol. Members of fur brigades fought duels among themselves or with members of competing brigades using either knife or pistol, again for little reason or for control of a given fur-bearing area.
Sometimes there was something approaching a reason for these duels such as future power or money or continued freedom. On most occasions the “reason” was no more important than the outcome of a grade school soccer match.
Some several months ago I wrote and posted that the last recorded duel held in Canada took place in Ontario in 1833 thirty four years before there was a Canada or a province of Ontario. I have since learned that another instance – of some 300 in a time frame spanning 300 years - holds the distinction of being the last fatal, recorded duel.

The particulars of this second last duel are as follows.

The participants were Robert Lyon and John Wilson accompanied by their respective seconds, Henri Lelievre (probably Lel-ee-vray) and Simon Robertson respectively. The focus of the confrontation was a school teacher Elizabeth Hughes.
Robert Lyon was born in Inverurie, Scotland on December 30, 1812. Along with his family he moved to Canada in 1829.
John Wilson was born February 5, 1807 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and came to “the colonies” with his family in Perth, Upper Canada about 1823. In 1833 he was studying law under James Boulton.
In early June of 1833 Lyon, also a law student, made disparaging remarks about Elizabeth Hughes. John Wilson heard these remarks and, since he had begun a relationship with the young school teacher, demanded that Lyon retract the remarks which at the instant he did.
Most of us are aware how the passage of a few minutes which then become hours can change the view one might have of events. Apparently this happened with Robert Lyon for, at the urging of a “friend” Henri Lelievre, he challenged Wilson. Due to an ordinance which had recently been passed in one county they arranged for the duel to take place across the Tay River in another jurisdiction.
It was June 13, 1833. The two combatants paced off the distance, turned and fired. Both missed.

Everyone is satisfied, right?

No, not for Lelievre. He insisted that satisfaction had not been achieved and demanded a reload; the pistols where recharged and re-primed.
When they where fired this time Lyon fell. He was rowed back across the river to Perth where he died a short time later.
 Wilson and his second, Simon Robertson where arrested by the Sheriff and tried in Brockville for murder … and acquitted.
 Robert Lyon, Dec. 30, 1812  June 13, 1833.
 John Wilson, Feb. 5, 1807  June 3, 1869.

The last duel took place five years later on May 2, 1838 in what was then Lower Canada in Verdun a suburb of Montreal. Again, the attentions toward a woman became the stated reason. Major Henry Warde of the First Regiment of Foot (the “Royals” of the British “regular” army) sent a letter to a female member of the household of lawyer and Canadian militia Colonel Robert Sweeney. We don’t know at this late date, with any assurance at least, who the expectant recipient of the letter was to be but upon interception Sweeney took extreme exception and challenged Warde.
When the black powder smoke cleared Major Warde was down. He was carried to a local tavern but soon died.
During the subsequent inquest and trial it was determined that Warde died due to “a gunshot wound administered by persons unknown”. The shooter was in the court and known to all but no one apparently had witnessed the duel despite the large crowd that had been in attendance. With the identity of the shooter unknown to the court, Sweeney went free.
In 1844 at the insistence of Queen Victoria British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel managed changes to the Articles of War which removed any semblance of support for dueling and initiated penalties not only for dueling but for suborning or acting as second in a duel.

So this, I believe is the last official duel but not the last gun battle. There seems to be one every few months, usually in an urban area between gang members or with one of the police forces involved.
Most of the gun battles within the confines of Canada, at least those recorded in the late 1800s where between groups with several shooters on each side. Some of the confrontations were exaggerated with the telling and some became, "oh, nothing worth talking about."
One that was not exaggerated was the one in the Cypress Hills between wolfers and buffalo hunters opposing a group of M├ętis and Assiniboine. This battle helped to speed up the deployment of the North West Mounted Police in Western Canada. It also served as the climax for a great historical novel (and movie) by Guy Vanderhaeghe, “The Englishman’s Boy.”
By the way, any idea why the British police are referred to as “Bobbies” or “Peelers”?





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tools NOT in my novels!

Tools not mentioned in my novels? Well, there are some tools needed to change the cylinders in some weapons in "Partners" but they are not actually mentioned.
What I'm referring to is two earlier posts where I mention some of the firearms (tools) but I found this, an email that someone sent me some time ago and I found to be quite humorous.
Enjoy!
  
Tools Explained
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh sh--!'
SKIL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

 
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.
HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle... It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.
VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.
OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.
TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes , trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.
BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.
TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.
STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.
PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.
HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit.
UTILITY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.
SON-OF-A-BITCH TOOL: (A personal favorite!) Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling 'SON-OF-A-BITCH!' at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.
Hope you found this informative.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

A snippet from the Battle of Britain

I met him in 1974 and we became good friends. He played guitar and sang in a weekend band I was part of and we spent many Sunday mornings punching holes in pieces of paper from a variety of distances. The following story is one he related but I've changed all the names, including his. He was either 20 or 21 when this happened and older by a year or two than those in his "wing" including the Lieutenant, or as his would have said at that time and place "Leftenant."
He walked away from flying in 1945 but, seeing the new versions of the "Great Lakes" byplane in the 1970s he worked at attaining his licence and took a solo flight in one before he passed away.

Deacon
Before men in planes with black crosses started shooting at him with 7.92 mm bullets Harry Burnside had been a singer. He stood in front of fifteen, twenty and sometimes thirty man orchestras and sang the Dorsey, Kenton, or Ellington songs or whatever else the crowd in front and the band behind wanted to hear. He had worked his magic in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and his home town, Windsor, Ontario. Harry thought it was only right to use his natural talent, his voice to make at least part of his living. It had also been a great way to start a young life and learn the music and entertainment business from professionals. It was only incidental that it was the perfect place for a teenager to learn from the masters how to party.
Sometimes horrendous events are necessary to save a young man from himself. In Harry’s case it was the war in Europe that brought a young man’s party life to a close, at least temporarily. Of course it also accelerated the danger in that life.
Not that Harry rushed to a recruiting station in the autumn of 1939. Some of his young friends and even the older men he worked with certainly did. It was one of the older musicians who convinced him signing up for service was the thing to do.
“Folks ‘r sayin’ this here war is gonna be over in no time,” Marvin, a trumpet player said. “They is sorely mistaken. I bin readin’ up on these here Germans an’ they got ‘em an army. British ain’t got nothin’ an’ they’s gonna get whacked.”
“Are you suggesting we Canadian boys should go over there and get whacked, as you say, right along with them?” Harry asked.
“First off, I ain’t a Canuk, I’m a southern boy,” Marvin said. “Second, when things get tough they’ll be comin’ for us anyway. Might as well sign up for somethin’ you want t’ do instead o’ somethin’ the government thinks you’d be good at.”
“You’re country isn’t in it,” Harry pointed out.
“Not yet,” Marvin responded. “Now, you’ve been workin’ here an’ there along with singin’. I don’t got no income but my trumpet. A man signs up he’ll get three squares a day an’ a cot.”
Harry took a drink of his whiskey and water and cast his gaze around the musicians gathered in the late night or, to those who were not musicians, early morning booze hall.
“You know, Marv, I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plan,” Harry said.
Marvin clapped him on the shoulder. “Now you’re talkin’, boy. Royal Canadian Air Force. What say we go sign up first thing in the mornin’?”
Harry looked at his watch. “Might I suggest early this afternoon? I might be awake by then.”

Somewhere between Windsor, Ontario and Ashford, Kent, Harry lost touch with Marvin, but not with men from the southern States. Almost half the men stationed on the airfield were Americans who had travelled north to Canada and signed on with the RCAF.
Though they wore Canadian uniforms and insignia they were technically in Royal Air Force squadrons. Their squadron commander was a British major, and Harry’s wing commander a Canadian Lieutenant. The other two Canadian pilots presently assigned to their understaffed wing were actually from Arkansas. In the two man barracks enjoyed by RAF pilots one of those southerners, Otis Tyler was Harry’s bunk mate.
“Ah hear we all getting’ new radios next month,” Otis said as the two pilots walked down the hall one early morning in late August.
Harry shrugged with one shoulder as he held the door open with the other hand and let Otis out into the humid dawn. “Be fine if they’re better than the T9. But if they aren’t, well, I’m starting to get used to being up there all by myself.”
“Mighty handy fur tellin’ somebody where you’s ‘bout t’ crash,” Otis noted.
“As long as they work and you’re no more than a mile away” Harry countered. “The T9 is good for about that far. You’re probably better off depending on a farmer seeing you go down.”
Otis chuckled.
As they approached the mess hall their wing leader, Lieutenant Mapes reached the door and opened it for them.
“Good news chaps,” the officer said as the two non-coms passed through the door he held open for them. “Just spoke with the CO. We stand down today.”
“Excellent!” Harry said. “Now I can have some real breakfast and more than one cup of coffee.”
“Yuh all worry too much ‘bout that coffee thing,” Otis said.
“Quite good policy,” the Lieutenant said.
“Nothin’ to it,” Otis responded. “Yuh all just take a cola bottle up with yuh.”
“I say, old boy, a bit hard to pee in a bottle when one is trying to avoid the 109 that is glued to your tail. Not to mention that bottle flying around loose in the cockpit.”
“Yuh all make sure yuh strap it in so it don’ fly ‘round,” Otis said. “As fur takin’ a leak when Gerry’s on muh tail an fillin’ my magic carpet full o’ holes, why ‘bout then I don’ have no trouble passin’ water.”
Lieutenant Mapes laughed. Harry grinned and shook his head in resignation.
“Since we aren’t going up to be shot at, perhaps we could talk about something else?” Harry suggested.
“Our Calm Colonial boy is right once again,” Mapes said. “We have a day to repair gear.”
“And talk about new radios,” Harry suggested.
“There isn’t anything to talk about,” Mapes said. “I’ve heard the same rumours as you men. However, I haven’t heard anything from the Old Man and I haven’t seen any radios. Other than the 9 in my Spit that quit working entirely the last time I was up.”

Later that day, Otis asked Harry to join him and some other airmen to study and review the local ladies and pubs. However, Harry had grown out of the need to wake up with a pounding hangover. He had already had years of partying. Besides, bringing in bullet scarred Spitfires had made the drinking bouts seem very unimportant. His mates, usually a year younger and sometimes more still asked him even though he seldom went with them.
An hour after the other pilots had gone into town Harry walked off the base and caught a ride into Ashford. He walked the streets for awhile admiring the buildings and the history.
Occasionally a Junkers 88 would fly across the English Channel very close to the water, start a steep climb to miss the Cliffs of Dover and release a bomb mounted to its belly at the end of that climb. The speed of the bomber combined with the force of the climb would cast that bomb for a very long way and it would land wherever the laws of physics, geology, and aerodynamics might decide and no man could say. On that beautiful day in late August, 1940 a building Harry had admired moments before and at that moment was no more than a block and a half away, disappeared in a cloud of dust, smoke and noise.
Harry Burnside had been flying over Britain for three months. He had been as far as France on a half dozen occasions. He had no idea how many dog fights he had been in but had shot down three Me 109s and crash landed twice. He had landed successfully in Spitfires that probably should have quit flying several minutes before. He had been scared out of his mind on those occasions but had worked his way through it.
That day, on the streets of Ashford, after the completely random bombing of a very historic building, Harry Burnside could not control the choking fear.
Looking around he saw the sign for a pub, the Anvil and Hammer. He stepped through the door and saw ale glasses stacked on the bar. He turned the pint glass over and said to the barman, “Whiskey.”
The barman could see by the look on Harry’s face that discussion might be dangerous. He poured a shot into the ale glass.
“Fill it,” Harry ordered.
The inn keeper complied.
Harry downed the whiskey and noticed only in passing that it was a smooth, single malt.
          He put the glass back down on the bar and said, “Again.”
          Once it was full, he downed the second glass.
          He remembered opening the door to his barrack, but very little after that.
          Much later Otis Tyler returned to find his bunk mate, the man who usually refused to go drinking with his mates, passed out on the floor.
          “Burnside,” he said, as he picked Harry up and placed him on the bunk, “yuh all just like them travelin’ preachers back t’ home; Preachin’ hell fire an’ brimstone then next thing yuh got some farmer’s daughter out behind the tent.”
          And that is how Sergeant Pilot Harold Burnside became known as “Deacon.”