I'm not sure why I'm starting a journal... I doubt I'll have enough time to contribute to it often.  However, I am trying to get in the habit of writing again, and maybe this is the key.  It's not going to turn into a novel, and it takes very little creative skills, but it's something.  It's enough of something to create that long lost routine where I sit and write every day, even if I can't think of what to say.

But if we're going to look at my advancement as a blacksmith, I'd have to bring up the events that led down this road.

10 years old, I was a boy like every other boy, and seeing my older brother with his cool Cub Scouts pocket knife (which he paid for himself using money earned from mowing lawns in the neighborhood) made be burn with envy.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a lawnmower, or clients, or the ability to mow.  So I did the one thing every ten-year-old would do.  I stole my brother's.

The problem with stealing something as cool as a pocket knife is that you can't have your cake and eat it too.  Yes, I was now in possession of a knife.  But what good was it?  I couldn't use it in front of anyone, and I couldn't show it off.  All I could do is HAVE it.  Even carrying it in my pocket was out of the question, because someone might see the shape of it in my jeans and call me on it.

So I conveniently 'found' it under the couch, and returned it to the rightful owner.

Then I went to my dad, hoping he would spring for one.

Not a chance.  It wasn't anywhere near Christmas or my birthday, and without a real excuse, my father simply would NOT spend money.  Not on something 'useless' like a kid's pocket knife, anyway.

But two days after asking for one, he brought home a surprise.  A big, black hunk of metal, which he called a "forge."  That night, he and I (along with a couple more brothers) made a wood fire in it, started up the blower, and put some steel rods he'd had laying around in the flame. 

My dad is a jack of all trades, and master of very few.  Blacksmithing was NOT one he'd mastered.  He showed me how to heat the metal and then pound on it with a regular claw hammer, using an old I-beam as an anvil.  It wasn't pretty, but by 2 o'clock in the morning (our neighbors were pretty irate) I had me a knife.

I hammered out a few more knives that summer, but grew tired of it by winter and forgot about it by the next year.  Two years ago, something reminded me of it all, and I decided to buy me a gas forge.

And now, here I am.  What I'm making now isn't a whole lot better than what I made as a kid... but it is a little better.  And each piece I make is a little better.  So I'll keep on the discipline, and post my results, and hopefully will one day have something worth bragging about.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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I bought the forge because I wanted to make knives.  Specifically, kitchen knives.  I wanted to make a really good set... a set to use more than anything else.  And then, I thought, I'd make knives as gifts, because I never have any money when it comes time to buy Christmas and Bday presents.  And of course, I wanted to add yet another hobby to the number of things I can do well.  I start a lot of new hobbies. Maybe one every two years.  Someday, I'm going to actually make a physical list of all the things I've learned to do.

Anyway, I live close to some railroad tracks, and I walked along them for a hundred yards, picking up railroad spikes to make knives.  The train rattles the spikes loose and they just fall to the side.  If you look around, you can find dozens on the ground within a half hour.  I also found a few pieces of track laying there, which I took home to use as anvils.  I'm still trying to get a real anvil, but I don't have the money to spend on one.

I used my tax return to buy the actual forge.  It took me a good four months leading up to tax seasons to convince my wife to allow it.  It's not like we didn't have a thousand other things we needed to buy.  But she did consent, and I'll always be grateful for that.

We live on rental property.  It's actually a trailer park, but on the very edge of it is a pretty large house and an enormous brick garage.  Perfect for a forge.  The only problem is, there's no way to lock it right now.  This cause a little bit of a problem.

One of the trailers behind me used to house a few smack heads.  I'm pretty sure it was they who stole a few of my tools.  They didn't take much... just the newer ones I had bought.  But I had bought the absolute cheapest ones I could find, so they really didn't get much.  And they didn't get the forge.  Actually, I don't thing they could figure out how to unhook it.  They're junkies.

After that, I started bringing the forge in at nights.

Then, finally, the junkies were evicted, and the threat is gone... so I thought, anyway.

Now there's another oddball living close by.  He's not in the old junkies' trailer, he's in one that is adjacent to my yard.  I caught him walking around in circles a few days ago, talking and muttering to himself.  I went out there to find out what he was doing, and he said there was someone in my garage.

I looked in the garage, but there wasn't anyone there.  He said they must have climbed out the window.  But there are no windows big enough for someone to climb through.

I got the distinct impression that he was either crazy or high as a kite.  Or both maybe.  I'm not sure what to do about him.

Back to blacksmithing:  I used the railroad spikes and made my first knife.  It wasn't anything to shout about, but I liked it.  Here's a pic:

Well my brother in law had watched a video and had seen how someone made a tomahawk from a railroad spike.  He told me about it several times, so I got the feeling he wanted me to make him a tomahawk.  I made one, and wasn't real impressed with it... until I swung it a few times and saw how well it cut.

That's when I decided I would make tomahawks my specialty instead of knives.

I think this is one of the first ones I made, after the one I'd made for my brother in law:


Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Try to pick up the spikes that are on the curves, marked HC. They are not really high carbon but they are better than the one used on the straight lines.
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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Marc wrote:
Try to pick up the spikes that are on the curves, marked HC. They are not really high carbon but they are better than the one used on the straight lines.

Yeah, I saw that.  I've been using the HC ones.  It doesn't seem like a whole lot of difference, but if you heat up the HC ones and quench them in cold water, they do harden up a little bit.  And they don't crack... probably because the steel is softer than actual high-carbon steel.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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So last night, my crazy neighbor showed up again.  I was asleep, but my wife works a late shift, so she wasn't gonna go to bed until 4 AM.  She was still awake.  He was wondering around the yard, and he must have stepped on a twig because the dog went ballistic.  My wife woke me up saying, "There's someone outside in the yard."

I jumped up out of bed and grabbed the gun out of my sock drawer.  I was checking the safety on it as I was putting on my pants, and I realized I shouldn't be trying to accomplish anything with a handgun while being distracted with a zipper.  I'm the kind of guy who accidentally grabs a hot iron from the fire with my bare hand because I'm so absentminded.  Let me rephrase that--I'm the guy who has grabbed a hot iron out of the fire with my bare hand because I'm so absentminded.  So I put the gun down, finished zipping, and started to pick it up again.  That's when I thought, "What the hell do I need a gun for?  I have a Great Dane?"

Side Note: I actually hate the dog.  She has a personal vendetta against me.  She has pooped directly in my shoe, directly on my pants (the ones I had laid out because I was going to wear them to an important meeting the next day, and directly on my formerly favorite coffee mug (a kid had knocked it off the table and left it on the floor).  Until she was trained, every time she had an accident, she did it directly on MY stuff.  I hate that dog.

Anyway, the dog is about 2/3 grown--plenty big enough to do some damage, and certainly big enough to scare someone off.  So I put the gun back in my sock drawer and ran out there with a flashlight, telling my wife to hold on to the dog and let her go if she hear's me yelling.  And there was the crazy old man, standing next to my garage.  I had a little talk with him, and told him he's not allowed to be in my yard anymore.  (My yard is a common neighborhood shortcut, and I understand the convenience, but I've gotta put my foot down somewhere.)  I made him repeat what I had said, so that I knew he understood.  I told him that first off, the dog almost killed him, and that secondly, I had nearly loaded up my gun.  I told him I didn't want him to get mauled or shot, and for that reason, he wasn't allowed to come on the property anymore.

He said ok.  He said he was just looking for Jeff.  I don't really know if Jeff exists or not.  I should probably see if he's living with someone over there... someone who more or less takes care of him.  I keep calling him an 'old man' but I don't think he's a whole lot older than 55.  That's only ten years older than I am.

So enough about that: I made my first sale yesterday.  It came in late from  A customized tomahawk, which will take about a week to finish, although I advertise 2 weeks.  I'm pretty nervous.  I've got this sick feeling in my gut... one that I'm afraid won't go away until I've delivered the product and the customer has given me a review.  I guess the worst case scenario is that the customer hates it, in which case I will give him a refund.  That's not the end of the world... but it'll probably feel like it.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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I've got 3 tomahawks that I'm working on right now.  One for my brother, one for the customer mentioned above, and one for myself.  I stained the handles last night and left them out to dry.  The dog got a hold of one of them and chewed it up.  Guess which one?  The one with my name on it.  I hate that dog.

My son wanted to start using the forge.  I showed him what to do, and we took turns at the anvil.  As I watched him clumsily pound at the metal, it occurred to me that I've come a long way... because not to long ago my technique looked exactly like his.  When you spend time at the forge, you don't really see your improvement.  But it's happening.  A little at a time, you get better without knowing it.

The crazy old man was back in my yard again.  I didn't actually talk to him this time.  He ran off before I got out there.  One of the neighbors had more or less scared him away.  I went out and talked to this neighbor for a few minutes.  I can't remember his name, or maybe I never bothered to ask.  Anyway, I'll call him Joe.  Joe said the old man's name was either Elroy or Leroy... I can't remember.  Joe said he was an old meth head and that he was high as a kite.  He said he would steal anything that wasn't nailed down to hock for his drugs.  This is believable, but then again... I've caught him out there several times, and I know he's been out there when I didn't catch him.  Nothing's missing, and I've never caught him actually taking anything.  I kind of don't think he's there to steal stuff.  I think he's just crazy.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Went to Red River Gorge (Daniel Boone National Forrest) this weekend.  What a place.  I took one of the tomahawks I'd made and put it to the test.  For a rail road spike, it really chops well, and doesn't dull the way I'd expected it to.  I'm having problems when I attach it to the handle... the handles split or else they don't hold the blade well.  I haven't turned the forge on for a while, because I need to straighten out this problem before moving on to anything else.

The crazy old man turned up while I was gone.  The dog had been out going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and she chased him into the garage.  When I got home, I went over to talk to him to see if he's got someone there who is more or less taking care of him.  He has a wife and a 17 year old son.  The son never looked up from his video game.  The wife talked to me for a few minutes, and I got the feeling she was semi-retarded... or maybe she was just shy and scared.  Anyway, she's not delusional, and she understands that the old man is delusional.  I told her I really needed her to keep him away, because I didn't want the dog to attack him.  I told him this as well.  They both agreed, but we'll see what happens.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Did you happen to check out any of the old Iron Furnaces in Northern Kentucky. They are part of the Hanging Rock Iron region that comes down through South Eastern Ohio. Clear Creek Furnace is in Boone Forrest.
I haven't been to this one but have been to several other Iron Furnaces.
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No I haven't.  I know there are some in the middle of Ohio, by Hocking Hills, but In didn't know there were any in Daniel Boone.  I go there once a year with my buddies, focusing on the hikes and some VERY light climbing.  We also camped in a tar kiln site, where they used these rock lines pits to make tar.  I'll have to check into that and maybe bring it up for next year's trip.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Hank Rearden
We have a  few right here in Central PA. I can think or 3 within a 20 minutes drive from my home. One was a major production facility. mostly all that remains is the stone foundation like that in your photo.
code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
2020 ABANA Conference in Sarasota New York. June 3rd. through June 6th. Plan now!
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Good stuff Hank.

I've been busy as all get out with work... haven't had time to forge at all--let alone write about forging.

But one cool thing did happen.  I went out to do some woodwork, and my son asked if I would teach him to use the forge.  After writing that, you'd think THAT was the 'cool' thing.  And it was, but that's not what I'm writing about.  He wanted to make a simple RR spike knife, and I was showing what to do.  Even after my direction, I watched him pound the metal, pushing it this way and back again, with very little progress.  It made me think... that's what I was doing half a year ago when I first fired it up.  I feel like I'm not making any progress as I work, but when I see someone new, and know they're struggling the same way I did, I know that I'm developing.

It's not a big deal, but at least it lets me know that the whole endeavor isn't hopeless.

Guess who was back the other night?  I found him wondering around in the yard, talking to himself.  I asked him what he was doing, and reminded him that he'd promised not to come over here anymore.  He said he wasn't gonna come over, but the cop had told him to do it.  I asked what cop, and he pointed up into a tree and said, "That one.  The one with white shoes."

I got rid of him, but it left me thinking.  What else might a cop in white shoes ask him to do... and would he do it?

I wish I could get the hell out of this neighborhood.  I'll bet in better neighborhoods, crazy old men aren't often found in people's yards.  If it does happen, it's probably a real event... talked about by the neighbors as they all make their assessments of what happened and why it happened and whose fault it is.

During the weekend, while I had the kids with me to visit their Grandma, my wife heard a woman yelling for help.  Then she heard a few gun shots.  She ran to the privacy fence and looked over to see what had happened.  Turned out, two dogs had been fighting and when the lady's husband had tried to break them up, one had bitten him.  The gun shots was him putting an end to it.

Thing is... only one other neighbor came out to see what was going on.  And no one called the cops.  That's where I live.  Where no one calls the cops when they hear someone call for help followed by gun shots.

But then, you learn things being in a place like this.  Different things than you might learn in other places.  Things you wouldn't need to know in other places, but things that are very practical in places like this.  For instance, you learn that the quickest way to end a domestic dispute (one where you're worried a worked up husband might mortally injure a suspicious wife) is to ask an unrelated question.  It catches people off guard.  Often, just long enough to get them calmed down.  The conversation might go like this:

Husband (holding baseball bat): I'll teach you to...
Wife: F%%K you, you stupid drunken $%^&$.
Me: Hey Hank... what's going on?
Husband (raising bat): Stay out of this Eric!
Wife: Oh, you a big man now?  You gonna fight the neighbors too?
Me: Hank, where'd you get that bat?
Husband (looking slightly confused): What?
Me: The bat... did you get that from Joe?  Because Joe was telling me just yesterday that he'd lost a wooden baseball bat, and I'd swear it looks just like the one you're holding.
Husband (lowering bat and looking at it): No way!  I got this thing from Walmart two years ago.  I've had it in my house since last season...
and so on

See, you wouldn't know how to do that anywhere else.  Or maybe you would.  Maybe it's just my way of making the best of my situation.  But I bet here's something most people don't know.  I bet most people don't know that there's a way to continue to use electricity, without sending the energy company a single penny, for almost an entire year, before they come to shut you off.  Although... I guess that's not something most people need to know.  In fact, I'd say, people are better off not knowing that.

Hmm... maybe most of my knowledge is pretty useless.

But it's all there, stored in my own brain.  Some day I'll write it all down and make a book.  It'll be titled:


It'll be known as HTSCIARDDITP for short.  That way, people can refer to it in forums, and it'll irritate older folks who haven't yet read it and don't know what it stands for.

I think that was a pretty witty joke.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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In my hood, I am the crazy guy...  and old to boot !

Your neighborhood sounds interesting, no dull moments !

Around here I sit out on the front porch and maybe see two vehicle go by all night, then there are other nights I see three or four, 
regular traffic jam ! LoL !

If I were you someone would be fending someone in real fast !

Good go on your son wanting to try Blacksmithing, my daughter doesn't want to get dirty so I can't do much there and my oldest grand-daugther is only four, so we have time yet for her.  I get her on the Tractor, she loves steering it, and the rough ride.  We started break out a new section of land and my granddaughter love breaking through the brush with the front bucket, she has the best laugh, right from her belly.  

Sorry got carried away AGAIN !   

Two more things, first waiting to read the book, lol, and two, I posted this before and it appears to have disappeared, nt sure why, I will forward a message to Hank !   Maybe it was in another thread... lol... could be !
Do It Right The First Time !
Location: SoCal, USA
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Hi Engel, one suggestion ... Why don't you take up writing?

You are clearly a keen observer and know your fellow man. Think of a story you want to tell, make up a character and a title to your story and off you go. Short stories are easier to start with,then yor short stories start to become chapters in a book.

Your style reminds me of a fellow who wrote in a boating magazine I get, called "Afloat", the writer calls himself Captain Chaos and his stories are around the lives of his post war generation in the water front suburbs of Sydney in the sixties and seventies. Funny as. He even produces cooking recipes in a time when men did not cook or did not admit to, not like now that TV has made it a must. Seen his stories up until today but I don't know if he is still around, think he has since passed but his chaotic stories full of humanity and history keep on appearing from time to time.
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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Grandkids, huh?  I honestly can't wait for them.  My oldest is 20, and she's holding hands with a pretty good kid.  They're both in college though.  I don't want to push them before they're ready.  But I really can't wait.  Nephews and nieces are fine and dandy, but you just can't be as intimately fun as you can with your own kids.  You do that, and you get a bad reputation for being a weird uncle who likes to wrestle too much.  So as my youngest turns 13 and no longer enjoys games like riding Dad's back like a horsey, I have to just wait for my offspring to have their own offspring.  I'm told it's even funner, because you can wind them up as much as you want without having to worry about winding them down.  

After you said that, I had to go look him up.  He's good.  Maybe I'll put some time into that when it gets too cold outside to mess around with the forge.

We finally called the police last night.  More than anything else, we just thought the old man might be in some kind of trouble.  He might be a danger to himself as well as others.  Plus, he kind of creeps out the girls, and there are times during the day that both myself and my wife have to be gone.  It's comforting having the dog there, but what if he tries to start a fire or something.  So we called them and told them the situation, and asked if there was any way they could look into it and see if this guy should possibly be in a better place where someone could take care of him.

They went over and talked to him and his wife.  Apparently, the wife was just as worried as anyone else, but didn't know what to do about him.  He'd been seeing people who weren't there for the past few months.  They didn't see any real evidence of drugs being involved... that was always my belief as well, but other neighbors disagreed.  So the cop (a county sheriff--we don't actually have a city police department) said that since there was a complaint, and since there was evidence that he might be a danger to himself, that a trip to the hospital was necessary, to evaluate his mental state.  They told her they could take him to UC (University of Cincinnati is the public hospital in Cincinnati) right now, or she could do it tomorrow if she thought she could get him to go.  They left it up to her, and she promised to get him down there herself... she didn't want them to take him because he would think he's being arrested and might freak out.  They said that was fine, but that they would be back in a day or two to check up on him and make sure it happened.  I haven't seen the old man since then.

I kind of miss him now.

Work's been crazy busy and I haven't had time to pound the steel, but I hope to do something later today.  The only reason I'm not out there right now is because I have to have my morning routine.  Sitting at the computer with coffee and cigarettes.  It gets the mail moving.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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For what it is worth I agree with what you did on the premiss that he might get into trouble and there will be no one to stop him from getting hurt !

Hopefully he will get the care that is needed !

Grand Kids are fun, I get my three year old granddaughter cranked up then send her home, my daughter calls me on it all the time but I just explain that, that is what grandparents are for.

Good Luck with work, sounds crazy, I haven't worked in years, keep busy with so many other things I don't remember where I found time to work.

Enjoy life...  Ltr !
Do It Right The First Time !
Location: SoCal, USA
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Here's the thing about work: I like what I do... and I'm extremely lucky.

I don't know a whole lot of men who actually enjoy what they do.  Like, they wouldn't do it if they didn't have to.  I know a few guys who work at UPS, and their entire lives revolve around weekends and off-days.  Many years ago, when they had first gotten hired, they had encouraged me to go there.  It was at a time when the market for my profession wasn't doing too well.  I was unemployed.  I was perfectly willing to work a crap job until things got better... but UPS isn't an 'inbetween job.'  UPS has stability, decent pay, great benefits, and it's almost impossible to get fired.  That sounds great, but once you're there, you're stuck... because you can never justify leaving the benefits if you find something more suited to your specific talents and skills.

Take my friend Lucky Joe (everyone I want to write about but don't want to use their names are called Joe in this thread).  He was hired at UPS, even though he was, by trade, a roofer.  I know roofing isn't one of those careers that are going to make anyone rich... but it's a job.  It's a job he enjoyed, and it's one he was very good at doing.  But it's seasonal, it doesn't pay well (unless you run your own business), and it's easy to get hurt.  But again... he absolutely loved it.  And when he lost his job, instead of finding a new company to work for (or better yet, starting his own company), he went to UPS because he had married and needed the insurance for his family.  He ended up finding something else, but it didn't have as good insurance.  So he stayed at UPS.

Then his daughter was diagnosed with cancer.  She's the sweetest little girl you ever saw, but there it is.  He can never leave UPS now, despite the fact that he hates it there.  They've got him for life.

Anyway, despite the fact that I had no job, I refused to get hooked into a position where 'going postal' was the only way out.  Instead, I went to an Amazon warehouse, where I worked twice as hard for half the pay & benefits.  Meanwhile, I kept at running my own business--repairing printers and office equipment.  Hating Amazon as much as I did kept me motivated enough to working my way towards quitting.  My business grew to the point where I could quit.  And now, here I am.

I work with a lot of different equipment (not all office equipment).  I still repair stuff, but I also set up new production equipment like envelope inserters and inkjet printheads in manufacturing facilities.  I'm pretty good at what I do, and I enjoy what I do.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I think I'd continue to work.  In fact, I'd just use the money to hire someone so that I could take on more business.

Not a whole lot of people have that.  Most guys find a way to accept their jobs, and make it likable as much as possible... the way I had done while working at Amazon.  But I don't have to make my job acceptable.  It's what I do and I like what I do.

Now take forging.  It's a hobby.

As I got into it, I saw an opportunity... a tight little market niche.  I have some experience in marketing, and I knew I could exploit the market enough to start getting sales.  But last week I started rethinking everything.  I'm not unhappy with my job right now--why would I start a second one.  What's more, if I did, I would turn my hobby into something it isn't.  Instead of making things because I enjoy making them, I would be making them to fill orders... which is not what I want to do.

I do this all the time.  Every time I start a new hobby, I immediately try to think of ways to turn it into work.  I remember when I started tie-dying shirts.  Within 3 months I was looking for ways to mass produce and mass sell them.  I started getting requests (and offers to pay) from friends and family.  So I had made a rule for myself--I won't ever accept a penny for making a shirt.  If someone wants one, they can give me the white shirt and I'll dye it for them.  That way, I'll keep it a hobby.

I think that's what I'm going to do with forging.  I've put a lot of time and effort into creating a product I could sell and creating a place for me to sell it.  Meanwhile, I've done very little forging.  In fact, I don't think I've turned it on in over a week.  Where's the fun in that?

Starting today, I forge for myself.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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It's 4:30.  Halloween night.  The kids are bugging me to go, but I'm trying to put it off for as long as I can.

It's odd to me that I hate these sort of things.  I like having a big family.  I like spending time with my kids (I have 6).  But I HATE holidays and ceremonies.  I hate graduations.  I hate carving pumpkins.  I hate taking the kids out to trick-or-treat.  I hate Christmas morning.  I'm a devout Catholic, but I hate 1st communions, Confirmations, and even weddings.  I don't mind going to parties, or even throwing parties, but the second it becomes a 'birthday party', I get sick at my stomach.

Anyway, every year, I take the kids to my mom & dad's neighborhood to trick-or-treat.  A long time ago, it was because we didn't really live in a place where kids did that sort of thing.  Now that we live in a trailer park (or rather, we live next to a trailer park) I assume they could go here.  But they like going and meeting up with their cousins (my brothers and sisters all had a lot of kids too.)  So we're keeping with the tradition until they're old enough to stop going out.

I actually thought that would be this year.  My youngest two are 12 & 13.  My thirteen-year-old is just about taller than I am and doubles my weight.  I told them I thought they were too big to be trick-or-treating, and that I'd even buy them a bunch of candy if they agreed not to go.  But they want to go anyway.  And I still have to buy the candy, because it's not right to go to another neighborhood if I'm not going to pass out candy as well.

Hopefully, this is my last year.

I'm going to polish some metal while I'm there.  My brother has some air tools I want to use.  I'm going to polish a tomahawk to mirror smoothness, and then see how well it cuts compared to my regular work.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Is the tomahawk to take to trick-o-treat? [cool]
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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Ha Ha – The tomahawk was used to scare off TP’ers.

Guess who I saw the other day? Yep, he’s back. Only his little ‘episode’ is over. He’s actually a pretty nice guy. His name is Daryl, BTW. I’m not sure where I got those other names.

I went out to do some forge work, and he came out to talk to me… just to more or less apologize for the problems we’d had, and to explain what was going on.

I’m going to relate what he’d said. Not that it has anything to do with blacksmithing, but because I think it’s interesting, and this is my journal. So as you see the stuff in quote blocks, understand that this is a long story, told by Daryl, and has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘subject’ of this journal. In fact, it’ll probably take more than one entry to tell it all.

The reason I’m able to accurately relate this conversation, is because I was recording my forging technique with my iphone as I pounded out a tomahawk. The video I got wasn’t worth crap, but the conversation that ended up being recorded was pretty interesting.

Another thing—I thought this guy was in his fifties. He was unhealthy for a 50-year-old. Weak, gray, and used up. But Daryl is 72 years old. One tough old man. I hope I can look like him when I’m 70.

Turns out, he’s a Vietam veteran. He has flashbacks every now and again… worse in the last few years as he’s getting older. And now, it’s coupled with delusions, which he discussed with me openly, now that he’s on his meds again.

Anyway, last month’s breakdown started when he saw something in the abandoned bowling alley down the street. But before that event makes sense, you have to know what happened to him in ‘Nam.


I was in my 20’s at the time. I don’t remember exactly how old, but I know I was young and I was at that age when you feel like nothin’ in the world can bring you down. Well—that’s how I felt at first, when I just got there and no one told me nothin’ yet. I hadn’t gone on my first patrol even, and I thought I was gonna show these guys a thing or two. You know what I mean? I was planning on being like John Wayne… not scared of anything and always charging the enemy. I thought the movies was real life.

But then I went on my first walk. Me and Jake Fon… Fon… I don’t remember his last name. Usually people go by last names in the Army, but everyone called him Jake The Snake… or just plain Snake. It was because he was scared of snakes. That’s what they told me anyway. I never seen him scared of no snake. Hell, I seen him grab snakes with his bare hands and pull their heads off faster than you can blink. A lot of times, he was point man, cause he was good at spottin’ them, and if he was leading then no one behind him had to worry about getting bit. Maybe that’s why he was good at seein’ them in the wild… because he was scared of them.

Anyway, Me and him were up front. They said it was because I was new, and Snake would be able to show me a lot of things. Since the patrol was expected to be relatively peaceful, and we didn’t expect to see any VC or NVA.

I asked him what NVA meant. I knew that VC was Viet Cong.

That’s Vietnam People’s Army, or something like that. But it’s the people from up north, who came to invade, as opposed to the Viet Cong, which was people from the south who wanted to join the commies. You know what I mean?

Anyway, we were supposed to go from the landing zone to a little village south from that, and just make a quick inspection. We didn’t think there were any commies there, but we had to show our faces once a month, just so the Gooks …

Sorry to those who feel offended—I’m just telling it the way he did.

… knew we had our eye on them. Plus, it was kind of a relations type of thing. Like, if we could solve problems for them we would. At least, that’s what our orders were. We didn’t help them a whole lot, but sometimes we’d do stuff for them.

“Like PR,” I said, and asked him to hold the railroad spike steady while I pounded a hole in it. He did that, and continued talking while I worked, shouting a lot of the time so I could hear him.

Yeah, PR. I remember one lady led me to her pet goat or sheep or whatever the hell it was. The thing had a broken leg, just above the hoof. At first I thought she wanted me to shoot it. That didn’t make no sense to me, cause I figured she could do that herself. Well, she could slit it’s throat or something. But that’s not what she wanted. She wanted me to cut the leg off, and I guess burn the wound so it would live. You know what I mean? At least, that’s what I could gather from the way she was trying to talk and show me signs and stuff with her hands.

I was new, and I thought, “what the hell.” So I got my knife out and was ready to go at it, but she stopped me. She knew I wasn’t the corpsman. She wanted our doc to do it. And she didn’t bother asking him because he hated the Gooks and they all knew it in the village. He hated all of them. Which is kind of weird, because usually doctors just want to save everyone, but not him. He had it bad for those people. Anyway, maybe she thought I’d be able to convince him. Maybe it was because I was the only one not giving them the stinky eye… me bein’ so green. She thought she could get me to feel sorry for her, and I’d talk the doc into fixin’ up her goat.

So I went over to the Drakowski, and I says, “Hey, that lady wants you to amputate her goat’s leg.”

He walked right up to the goat, pulled out his 45, and shot it right between the eyes. Then he looked at the old lady. Just stood there, staring at her. She never said a word. She just started walking away, back to one of the huts.

I can’t even describe how I felt right then. I mean, it wasn’t my fault, but it felt like my fault. I wanted to do something for her, but I didn’t know what. There wasn’t nothin’ I COULD do. The next time we went there, I brought a bunch of extra food with me… but I never saw the woman again. You know what I mean?

He stood there for a minute or so, not saying anything. I kept on with my work, not saying anything either. Finally, he snapped out of it and started back on his story.

Anyway, it was on my way back to the LZ that I really got my first taste of Vietnam. That’s when I discovered I wasn’t John Wayne, and I sure as hell wasn’t bullet proof. I gotta say, it’s probably the scaredest I even been in my life.

I didn’t realize how late it is right now. I have to go to bed. I’ll finish this up maybe tomorrow.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Yes ... flash back are a pita. You stop and think in all those details that don't want to go away. 
It's projects and doing things that keep them at bay. 
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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Flashbacks or whatever you want to call them are good !
I haven't talked to anyone about my time in Nam, neither Wife or Friends !

The VC were my heart ache...  worked with them during the day and fought with them at night, or at least the VC were the once setting the Auto missile attacks on our base, using our own batteries we threw out.

Anyway that enough from me...  !

Do It Right The First Time !
Location: SoCal, USA
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Wow, I’ve been busy.  Not only busy, but when I’m not busy, one of the kids has the computer.  I have 5 still at home.  They all have their own laptops, but the main computer is at a nice desk and is pretty powerful… so when they want to play games, they go for this one.  And I can’t stand using laptops to type.

I still want to go through the rest of that conversation.  It’s pretty interesting.  But before I do, I have to talk about my wife blowing a tire yesterday.  She had just made it to work and had gotten into the parking garage.  So my job was to get there any time and change the tire before she got off for the day.  Problem is, it’s actually my son’s car… an Isuzu Rodeo, which he had bought off a friend.  But the spare tire is mounted up beneath the rear, and requires a special tool to get loose.  And guess what he DOESN’T have?

I was told it’s just a long rod with a 3/8 socket extension on the end.  Long, as in two feet long… much longer than any extension I could fit together.  But guess what: I have a forge!  So I take a piece of rebar, pound the end of it into a 3/8 square, and presto.

I don’t know why, but that one usage of the forge is more important than all the other stuff I’ve done with it.  In fact, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to—using the forge to make or fix something practical that absolutely had to be done.  It just gives you a good feeling… I can’t explain why.

So anyway, back to Daryl.  I’ll pick up where I left off:

On the way out there, Snake didn’t say a whole lot.  He was supposed to be showing me things, but he didn’t show me squat.  On the way back, he was talking up an earful.  Showed me how to spot cross trails. Showed me how to look for booby traps.  Showed me how to look for any signs of Charlie.  And he showed me how to keep down the signs I was LEAVING Charlie… I mean how to walk through without letting the enemy know I’d been there, you know what I mean?  Most of the time, that wasn’t what you did.  That jungle was so thick, you couldn’t get through without a machete, so you left all kinds of signs.  But in certain spots, you wanted to be careful, because you knew they would be crossing your path and you didn’t want them to pick up on your scent and follow you.  That’s another thing he showed me—how to tell if you’re being followed.  As he was talking, I just kind of kept my mouth shut.  I was listening, but at the same time, I’m still feeling like I don’t need to know all this stuff.

He was in the middle of a sentence, when he held up his hand, and everyone just stopped.  He leaned down and looked at something on the ground… to this day, I don’t know what it was.  As he was looking at it, that’s when the bullets started flying.  We could tell they were pretty far off, ‘cause you couldn’t hear the actual gunshots, but you could hear the bullets whizzing right by your face.  One of them hit me in the arm.

He took his jacket off and pulled up his tshirt sleeve.  Just below the shoulder, there was a small, pink scar.

It just grazed me.  I didn’t even know I’d been hit at first.  It wasn’t till it was all over that I saw I was bleeding.  What really scared me was seeing the bullets hit trees right next to me, and hearing them.  It just kind clicked in my head right then and there—I wasn’t half as tough as I thought I was, you know what I mean?

Once we figured what direction it was coming from, we started shooting back.  It went on for a while.  They were so far away, we really don’t know if we were hitting anyone, you know what I mean?  It stopped all at once, and we never did find out if it was because they were dead or because they ran out of ammo.  Snake said it was likely the ammo.  But we weren’t real far from the landing zone and one of our guys was hit pretty bad.  That’s around the time I realized I was hit, but I never mentioned it, ‘cause one of the other guys was bleeding pretty bad.  I don’t know what his name was… I was still new, you know what I mean?

Snake picked him up because he was the biggest, and Drakowski took point, with me following him, but he told me to just do what he did and stay quiet.

When a veteran is telling a story like this, I make it a point to shut up and listen.  Out of respect and out of awe, but mostly because I can tell he’s deep inside his own memories, and I don’t want to pull him out of it... I want to hear the rest of the story.  He just sat there for a little over 3 minutes (according to the cam) not saying anything.  Finally, he started up again.

That’s all s##t you see in every war movie.  But this next part—it's just hard for me to explain.

We was getting pretty close to the LZ, and Drakowski held up his hand for everyone to stop.  He's looking into the jungle for awhile--looking away from the LZ.  I had no idea what he was looking for, and I started to say something but he just gave me a real mean look.  It was the kind of look that you don't usually get.  I mean people can look at you angry, and they can look threatening and all, but how serious do you take it, you know what I mean?  But every once in a while, someone gives you a look and you just know they mean business.  That's how he looked at me.  I shut up real quick.

Finally, Drakowski shouts something in Vietnamese.  And then a few seconds later, we see someone stand up.  He was pretty far away.  A little guy, not much more than four and a half feet tall.  Drakowski yelled something else, and the little guy starts walking toward us real slow.  He told me to go see what the guy was doing.  Being the new guy, I figured he chose me because it was dangerous.  But the other guys told me there wasn't nothing to worry about.

So when I get over there, I see that he has a really young girl tied up to a tree.  She sees me and she starts crying and saying something… none of the guys knew more than a few phrases, so we don't know what she's saying.  But when I was cutting her ropes off, I could see that there was burn marks all over her.  Judging from the cigar butts all over, he'd been at her for a while.

We didn't really try to interrogate the man.  Jake just shot him in the head, and the girl ran off.

What I'll never forget was the look in her eyes.  The look she gave me when I was cutting her loose.  You can't really explain it--how thankful she was.  All the other crap I did there--all the things I have to feel guilty about--I always come back to the look in her eyes, and I tell myself at least I did some good.

But the reason this all got back in my head was because of what I saw down at the bowling alley.

I know the bowling alley he was talking about.  It's just an abandoned building.  I think in the 70's it was a rocking place, but now it's all boarded up.  It used to sit at the edge of a field.  It's been abandoned so long that the weeds in the field have grown to the point that they are now shrubs and small trees.  Lot's of honey suckle, but some larger, more substantial, growth as well.  It's pretty hard to get to.  If you can imaging walking through some relatively dense woods, and out of nowhere finding a bowling alley, that's about how it is.  Oh--and there's also the nettle.  I guess the drainage around the land that surrounds it has stopped working, because on a wet day, it practically becomes a swamp.  With all that water, as well as the shade, you get some very thick patches of stinging nettle.  I'd hate to try to walk through there with shorts.

Now, it's just a place for the local hoods and druggies to hang out.  If any cop wants to get there, he'll have to go on foot.

I went down there 'cause I heard you could get some meth for pretty cheap.  I been clean for over two years, but… I don't know.  I was pretty depressed and I just wanted to see how much I'd have to pay.  I don't think I even had any money with me.  I guess I was just kind tempting myself.

Anyway, as I'm walking there, it just kind of reminded me of 'Nam.  The thick grass and all.  And the smell.  It smells so wet.  I don't know if you ever been down there but…

I nodded.  Yes, I'd been there.  I had been there while looking for one of my kids.  I thanks God I hadn't found him there.

Anyway, I was thinking about the war when I got there, and I walked in on the Miller boys unexpected.

The Miller boys are a few brothers who, from what I can tell, are the heroin dealers for the other side of the road.  The trailer park is set up so that a main road runs right through the middle of it.  On my side, there are trailers, but there are a few houses as well (which is what I rent), and the class of people living here is just a tad higher than the folks across the road.  The trailers on the other side are really worn down… most of them should be trashed, but my landlord keeps renting them out for cheap, cheap, cheap.

I've had a run-in with the Miller boys when I found my son hanging out with them in the park.  I didn't say a whole lot.  I told my son to go home.  As soon as he was out of sight, I said something like:

"I'll tell you what.  Every time I see my son hanging out with you guys, I'm gonna call the Sheriff and tell them that I saw you boys smoking dope.  I'm gonna tell them I saw you putting your junk in your pocket.  I doesn't matter if you did anything or not--the cops are gonna come, and they're gonna search you, because my word is enough to give them probable cause.  And I don't think they'll mind doing it, even if they do it over and over again, because they don't like you any more than I do.  And eventually, they're gonna find something on you.  And even if they don't they're gonna harass the he11 out of you.  So the next time my son wants to play in the park, you might keep that in mind."

The older two was holding onto that bug-eyed kid that always rides around on that scooter.  They were holding him down, and the youngest one--I think is name is Jack--was holding a cigarette, and he was putting it real close to the boy's ear.  The boy screamed right as I was popping out of the woods.  And let me tell you, he looked every bit as thankful as that little girl did in Vietnam.

The Millers ran off pretty quick when they saw me.  The boy ran over to me and said thank you.  I asked him what they was doing, but he wouldn't tell me.  He just said that he owed them some money.

I guess if I hadn't been looking for some kind of dope, I wouldn't have gone there and saved that kid.  But then, if I hadn't have found that kid, I probably would have found some dope eventually.  You know what I mean… seeing that kind of shocked me to my senses.

But it brought back some bad memories.  Some really bad ones.  I don't know why, but I couldn't stop thinking about them, and then I went off my meds for a while.  And that's why I was acting so weird for that last few weeks.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Thanksgiving is just a couple days away.  You know, in the past, I've always seen the holiday as just another reason to eat.  I'm looking at it a little differently this year.  Around the time I bought my forge, I had started reading a book about the frontiersmen who first lived in my area.  I found out an awful lot about the Shawnee Indians and some of the first white men that used to live here... about Tecumseh, Simon Kenton, and the original pioneers... including Daniel Boone.  I also looked into the history of Thanksgiving Day, and found the story told by William Bradford at Plymouth.

I can't help feeling frustrated by the fact that I never had much appreciation for the holiday in the past... more out of ignorance than anything else.  Why didn't they teach us the real history of our country back in grade school?  Every American kid out there should have a good grasp on just how we got to where we are today.  I understand the need to highlight some of the injustices of the past--to call out the darker blotches in our historical success.  But for heaven's sake, I think enough time has passed that it's ok to look beyond the politics and just tell the story as it really happened.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of free market, American ingenuity, and cooperation with indigenous people... but more than anything, it's an commemoration of American determination.

Anyway, I'll get off my soap box.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I've talked to Daryl a few more times.  I'm starting to like the guy.  He's thinking he might like to take up forging, and so we might work out a schedule where we can work together once or twice a week.  I don't know how hard it is to have two guys working off the same fire.  I think we'll try it for a while, and if it doesn't work out, we'll arrange to take different days.  He's willing to pay for some gas and chip in on tools, so I say, "Why not?"

But aside from talking IRON, we talked a little about the neighborhood.  About what he saw the Miller boys doing, and how bad it is here.  Both of us rent, and it's hard to be passionate about a neighborhood you don't own.  I think that's why most poor areas tend to get worse (in terms of crime rates, etc.,) instead of better.  Why should I care about property values, living conditions, or aesthetic qualities, when all I'm really concerned with is getting OUT.  And even if I wasn't trying to get away, I certainly don't think of this place as any sort of permanent arrangement.  It's a stopping place for me.  At least, that's what I've been telling myself for the past 7 years. 

Actually, there are only a few property owners here... maybe about ten.  Everyone else rents.  So maybe ten people in all care about making the neighborhood better.  The rest are a mix bag of folks.  Some are like me, hoping to get 'back on their feet' again, so they can either rent somewhere better, or finally buy something permanent.  Some are junkies... who are part of the problem.  Some are old and are just waiting for life to end, not really caring how or why, but at least hoping they can finish it in some degree of comfort.  And of course, there are drifters, who never stay anywhere for more than a year or two.

Anyway, we talked about the fact that this actually wouldn't be such a bad place if it could be cleaned up.  We're not in the city.  I had mentioned before that I often hear gunshots... that makes it sound as though there are gang wars all around me.  But really, it's because shooting a fire arm from one's front porch is perfectly legal here.  If someone DID call the police for gunshots, the police couldn't really do much about it.  The trailer park is bordered by a cornfield to the west, a landfill to the east, wild forest to the north, and the Whitewater River (and a huge chunk of land owned by the Hamilton County Parks District) to the south.  That's an ideal place to live, if you don't care for city life.

At the same time, we're not exactly country.  It's only about five miles to the closest grocery store (a ten minute drive, tops).  And there's a convenient store within walking distance.  There's enough people living here to constitute a neighborhood.  There aren't enough residents to get our own post office, but there was at one time... back when the aforementioned bowling alley was around.  A long time ago, we even had a school.  The school burnt down, and now the kids are bussed out, but it was there at one time.

Why not just treat it as our permanent home, and fight off the things that are tearing the neighborhood down?  Why not take action against junkies and dealers--make them go somewhere else.  Why should they pollute our little haven here?  It's not something one or two people could do alone, but I'd bet my right arm we're not the only ones who feel this way.

But again, it's hard to feel passionate when you rent.  It's even harder to get other people to feel passionate.

I think I'll talk to a few other neighbors about it, and see if anyone's willing to put in any work.  I'm not sure what we CAN do against druggies.  Heck, small communities all around the country are dealing with the same problem.  But I go back to my thoughts on Thanksgiving.  The frontiersmen faced enormous odds and overcame the difficulties they faced.  A lot of them lost their lives doing so.  But they did it.  They laid the groundwork for the next generation.  They tackled the frontier, readying it for civilization.  This isn't the same... we're more or less trying to reclaim the land from a hostile people.

The only thing is, what happens if we were to succeed?  The druggies gone, the neighborhood in peace, and you no longer have to lock your doors when you go to bed.  Guess what happens to the property value?  And so the landlords are able to tweak up the rent.  You see?  If we make the neighborhood better, we can no longer afford to live here.  The house I rent, with it's size and the 4 car garage, could easily draw twice the monthly rent I pay if it were practically anywhere else.

That's a conundrum.  I'll have to think about it for a while.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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I heard the captain say,
I heard the captain say,
Activate your force fields, and just keep movin’

That’s all we can do right?  Just keep moving.

There was a time in my life when I moved forward for the hope of a better future.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a pessimist or if it’s a normal thing that everyone experiences, but the older I got, the less I was convinced that any sort of better future was in store for me or anyone else.  Someone would have to make a really good case to convince me that things get better.  Although—I guess they could always be worse.

I have a good friend (let’s call him Lucky Joe).  No matter how disappointed I am with my life, I can always look at Lucky Joe… then I immediately feel petty and childish.  Cause heck—I don’t have it nearly as bad as Lucky Joe.

But still, I have lost hope that things will get better.  So why keep moving?

For me, it’s because I have to.  That’s what having kids does to you.  It gives you a reason to keep moving.  Without them, I’d have been at the end of a noose a long time ago.  But that’s just not an option when you have kids.  No matter how old they are, you gotta keep going for their sakes.

Such is the situation with the neighborhood that I had posted about earlier.  It’s pretty easy to just throw up your hands, and say, “Who cares?  It’s not worth the effort.”  But when you have kids in the neighborhood… well, then you have to care.  You’re forced into it.  And since moving is not an option (not until I take care of a few credit problems) I guess I’m gonna work with a few of my neighbors and try to clean this place up.

My garage is the designated meeting spot for our little action group.  It’s a place we can talk without being bothered.  But I’ll have to find a way to heat it, because winter is fast approaching.  I guess I can close the doors and fire up a few propane heaters.  That, along with the forge, should do the job.

We’re thinking of calling ourselves THE SMITHIES, because so far the ‘meetings’ have revolved around my forge.

We’re trying to decide on how to approach the dealers.  Do we set up sting operations, so that we can give the cops a convictable criminal?  If so, do we work WITH the police, asking them what they’ll need in order to put these guys away?  Or do we just harass them until they leave.  And throughout all that time, how do we protect ourselves, our families, and our property?

There’s a lot of discussion happening.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if that’s all it will amount to: five old farts sitting around with big mouths and little hineys.

I guess we’ll see.

I’m helping Daryl make a flint striker.  I’ll post pics when it’s done.  He did it once, but it cracked in half when he stuck it in water.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Daryl and I have teamed up with George Roth, a divorcee down the street.  I guess he’s alright, but he likes cats.  He keeps giant bowls of cat food on his porch, but he doesn’t actually ‘keep’ any cats.  In other words, he attracts dozens of strays, keeps them alive and breathing, and doesn’t ever bother to keep them from breeding.  In fact, I’ve found two litters in my garage in the past year--all of which ended up at the local shelter.  This isn’t a shelter that guarantees a good home, if you know what I mean.

You know, if I had to choose one neighbor to get rid of, besides the people we’re trying to force out, it would be George Roth.  He just rubs me the wrong way.  It’s not just the cats—it’s his narcissistic attitude in everything he does.  The cats are just one manifestation of it.  Ok, he likes cats; but he disregards everyone else’s sentiments.  He ignores the fact that these animals (more than half of which are feral) cause problems for the rest of us.  He doesn’t seem to care about the infestation of fleas they are causing.  None of our pets are free from the little buggars, and up until last year, my home was actually over-run with them.  Not to mention the headache we all go through EVERY garbage night.

But this guy caught wind of what we’re about, and he wants to be a SMITHY.

Eventually, we’re gonna have it out.  I can feel it.  Sooner or later, it’s gonna happen.  I’m the sort of guy who comes out and says things.  Even if I make the decision to keep a civil tongue, I would let something slip on accident.  Not to hurt the man, but to simply state the truth.  I have a very bad habit of doing that sort of thing.

For example, there’s this weirdo who visits my dad every now and then.  Did you ever notice that most circles of friends contain one misfit—one guy who, not only doesn’t fit in the circle, but doesn’t fit in anywhere else either.  A guy who has absolutely ZERO social skills and can only make the claim that he has any friends at all because of plain, simple charity.  A guy who, at first, was tolerated, but eventually, despite all his idiosyncrasies, comes to be loved.  A guy who is just plain WEIRD.  Well, that guy, in my circle of friends and family, is Weirdo Joe.

Weirdo Joe has a bit of a hygiene problem.  Not to the point of smelling bad, but you can tell he doesn’t shower nearly as often as he should.  He also doesn’t shave, and his beard is just nasty.  I don’t even like to eat with him around.

One day, drops by my dad's house on his way to court (something about driving without insurance), and he was all cleaned up.  He had shaved, put on clean, pressed clothes, combed his hair, and everything.  The right thing to say would have been, “Hey, Weirdo Joe, you look nice.”  Or even, “You clean up good.”  But I didn’t say that.  It’s what I thought, but what came out was, “Hey, what happened to you?  You don’t look as dirty as you normally do.”

I swear to heaven, I did not mean to insult the man.  I really did intend for my words to be complimentary.  But they weren’t… they were insulting.  And while this is an example that I’m a bit ashamed of, it’s a very typical example of my blunders.

Maybe I’m the guy in the circle who doesn’t fit… I never thought of that.

Anyway, I’m bound to say or do something that will express my feelings (as well as the feelings of everyone else) to George Roth.  Not that I haven’t said my bit to him already.  We’ve had words before.  But we’re supposed to work together on this, and I’ll no doubt make it awkward.

Until then, I guess, it’s better if I just try to stay focused on our objective when I’m talking to him.  Usually when we’re planning, the conversation turns to religion or politics or the like.  Or sometimes we just sit and BS for a while.  But when Roth is present, it’s gonna be all business.  It has to be that way, because I don’t think I can be friends with this joker.

I talked about this fact to Daryl and Hank Tiller (Hank was the third member of our group).  They had a similar feelings about the man.  But again, we can’t be choosy about getting help.  Anyone who is in should be accepted, because without unity we won’t get very far.

Or it could be that Roth just wants to use my forge.  That’s always a possibility.  It’s not like he cares all that much about the wellbeing of the neighborhood.  If he did, he wouldn’t keep all those stupid cats.

Okay, enough about George Roth.

We’ve decided we’re going to start by talking to a few of the sheriffs.  We could set up a sting, where we buy from someone, and then call the cops, but that’s not really a good long-term plan.  I mean, word would get around pretty fast that we’re trying to bust people, and after one or two times, they just wouldn’t sell to us.  So we’re going to find out what it would take, what we would need evidence for, etc.,.

Every now and then, a couple of the sheriffs sit in an old parking lot down the street from me.  It was, at one time, a gas station.  Now it’s just a slab of concrete.  I think they sit there on their lunch hours.  I’m going to approach them the next time I see them and then discuss it with the other SMITHIES.

Then we'll form our game plan.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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