Thursday Doors – Beatrix Potter

For this week’s Thursday Doors I decided to post a picture from our bicycle trip in Scotland from a few years back. This picture was taken in the Beatrix Potter Garden in the village of Birnam in Perthshire. We were riding through Birnam and stopped for a delightful lunch at the Birnam Arts Center next to the Garden and across the street from the Birnam House Hotel.


I believe this is the front doorway to the home of Mr. Tod, the fox. I would guess foxes don’t have doors because they do not have opposable thumbs…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Visit Norm 2.0 for more doors and details!!!

Driving My Life Away…

The Chart-Topping song, “Driving My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbitt (Nov. 27, 1944 – May 7, 1998) popped into my head this past Friday morning as I drove through Nashville, Tennessee headed home – for 2 good reasons. First, Eddie died in Nashville of lung cancer after a successful music career as a songwriter and singer reaching the top of the charts in both country and pop genres. Second, for the second week in a row, I was driving home after being away for a few days, and my homeward bound drive was another daylong event…

This trip was to attend an Advanced Maintenance Class (AMC) at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Custom Shop in Anniston, Alabama. A good overview of the origins of the CMP is found here.  The CMP started offering the AMC three years ago. The focus of the class is to instruct and guide participants in the successful building of a functional M1 Garand rifle from component parts. The majority of the parts are surplussed parts from unserviceable rifles.I left for this class last Monday morning, one day after finally getting over my cold from my previous trip to Virginia the week before!


As an historian, I have included advances in technology in my studying/writing of historical events or periods, and the M1 Garand was a truly significant advancement! When the United States finally entered World War II, most of the US military services were employing the M1 as the standard battle rifle.


A couple significant qualities of the M1 that made it superior to other battle rifles of the era were:

+ It was semi-automatic, while most of the Axis troops were armed with bolt action rifles;

+8-round capacity (en bloc clip fed), vs. 5-round stripper clip fed rifles (Mauser, Mosin-Nagant, Arisaka) or 6-round en bloc (Carcano).

Let me just say, it is one thing to be able to load, fire, and field strip/clean an M1 (I have a lot of respect and admiration for the system of this firearm), but another thing altogether to assemble one of these from scratch and see and understand how it all functions! WOW! Below is the pictorial progress of my M1…

Final stage of the process was taking it to the NEW STATE OF THE ART CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park! WooHoo!

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I went to Virginia, and all I got…

WAS A COLD!  and three medals, and some cool trinkets, and a half bushel of apples.

I left for Ft. Shenandoah, Virginia last Tuesday morning (Oct. 3rd) for the North-South Skirmish Association ( N-SSA )*  134th National Competition Shoot.

*N-SSA promotes the competitive shooting of Civil War firearms and artillery while encouraging the preservation of battlefields, artifacts, clothing and education of the period. (from the N-SSA website).

My plan was to compete in the individual matches with 4 firearms: 1842 Springfield smoothbore (reproduction); 1841 Mississippi rifled musket (original); 1863 Model (Second Model) Maynard breechloading carbine (repro); and 1861 Colt Navy revolver (repro). I planned to shoot 3 team longarm events.

I had intended to shoot the revolver match on Wednesday afternoon after I got to the Fort and setup the pop-up camper, but it was such a warm, sunny, lovely day that I wandered around the grounds of the Fort (there are several hundred acres of land which comprise the Fort today). I also spent some time chatting with the few Sutlers who were already setup and open for business.


Early bird setup, lotsa room to get comfortable… Below is what it was like by Thursday morning!!


When everyone finally showed up, we had 14 members of the 114th Illinois Volunteer Infantry team on the grounds. I shot my individual matches on Thursday in the longarms, but ran out of steam and time to shoot revolver, so never turned in an entry for that.  Results were fair this year, but we did not medal in any team events, even though we fielded 2 teams (A & B teams) for the three longarms events. Smoothbore on Friday, carbine on Saturday, rifled musket on Sunday. Smoothbore, I carried my weight+… Shot all my allotted targets +1. Carbine and musket I sucked.  Individually I got 3 medals.   4th Place – 100 yard musket; 4th place – musket aggregate; 9th place – 50 yard carbine. I should have just gone home after the Individual matches!!


It rained most of Friday night and Saturday day, so the ground at the range got a little, tiny, eensie-weensie damp….

We shot the majority of the carbine match in the rain, and despite wearing rain gear, I was pretty drenched by the end of the day. Except for my feet! My rubber boots did great so I had happy feet!


I opted to stay over Sunday night again, rather than break camp and head home early Sunday afternoon like everyone else. Overnight the temperature got down into 40’s Fahrenheit. And my nose started to run like an old faucet with bad gaskets. And my throat started to hurt. And my head to ache… Whaaaa! I broke camp at daylight Monday morning and headed out of the Fort feeling TERRIBLE! But it was promising to be a clear day! YaaY!


On my way out of the Fort, I passed by a small retail shop where the owners sell all the stuff a black powder shooter could ever imagine needing, and at fair prices. I did not expect they would be open at 6:34 am as I passed by them, but to my happy wonderment, they were! So I was able to check off my shopping list for the year, and as I was about to leave, a young guy working there asked me if I needed any fresh apples for the road. The young man had picked them fresh the day before in the orchard that bordered on the Fort, so of course I bought 1/2 bushel!! They are delicious BTW! (And the pie The Mrs made from some of them yesterday is fantastic!!!!)

The remainder of the day was spent driving and blowing my nose and taking pain killers…I pulled into the driveway at home at 7:16 pm…

Thursday Doors – Shenandoah Valley, VA

Two doors today, taken this past week while I was at Fort Shenandoah, just outside of Winchester, Virginia. This first door is the front door to a fairly large 2-story house, and is located on the grounds of the Fort…


This second door I happened across after leaving the Fort and beginning my journey home. I drove through the little village of Gainsboro, Virginia  , the northernmost community in Virginia, then turned west.


12 1/2 hours later, I was pulling into my driveway back home in Illinois…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Visit Norm 2.0 for more doors and details!!!



Bumbling into Utica

The 19th of September (2016) was the second day of our anniversary week mini-vacation. We had stayed overnight in a rental cabin at Starved Rock State Park. This Monday morning we awoke a bit groggy, having been awake for what seemed to be half the night killing mosquitoes… seems the damper of the wood-burning fireplace was open, and three of the screens had bends in their frames big enough for a Fiat to drive through. I had smashed 4 or 5 midnight marauders in the dark after closing off all the portals of entry, and another 14 in the morning light…

We had coffee, tea, and a light breakfast, and by the crack of 11:00, we were on the trail to St. Louis Canyon for a wake-up hike to see the beautiful 80-foot waterfall there. Leaving from our cabin, it was a short walk on a dirt trail before we got to a wooden walkway…


came to a set of stairs…


and then the canyon…


We took a few photos and enjoyed the quiet, then headed back to the cabin. We had visited  Starved Rock earlier this year, and The Mrs has much more information and several photos of that trip on her blog-site, Graceuncensored. After returning from our hike and having a bite to eat, we decided to do some touristy stuff and go driving to explore the area.  Just about 1 mile north of the park is the little village of North Utica, although, since probably the 1850’s,  it is commonly just called Utica.  Wondering why? Read here !

It took us only a couple of minutes to drive through the heart of the village when we got there, but I saw some interesting doors that I told The Mrs I wanted to photograph for future Thursday Doors postings. I turned down a side street and we parked right near a gorgeous B&B called Landers House.


There is a house two doors away from LH that caught my eye so I walked there and took a picture of that door first…


I had taken this picture of the door at 131 and was walking back towards LH visually framing my next picture in my head, when a white-haired guy about my age who was cleaning screens at LH asked if he could help us. I went into a long, wordy, disjointed soliloquy about visiting Starved Rock, and blogging, and Thursday Doors, and taking pictures, and being an historian, and do you think the owner of 131 would mind if I was taking pictures of his front door….

Turns out, the gentleman I was talking to (John Pappas) WAS the owner of 131. He was the “handi-man” in the hire of Landers House B&B, and had recently bought 131, with maybe the intent to open his own B&B, or maybe he and his wife will open a catering business there. And, “no”, he had no objection whatsoever about me photographing his door. Not only did he like the idea of people taking pictures of doors, he COLLECTS old doors! Actually, it is probably closer to the truth to say he rescues old doors from destruction when old buildings are torn down. What a fascinating person! We chatted for at least 15 minutes, and he gave us a quick tour of the LH grounds. I look forward to a stay at LH sometime in the future (to The Mrs: hint, hint…).

We then wandered through the two block long downtown of Utica, coming across this little pub…


The owner of the pub, Andy Skoog, is of Swedish ancestry, so that must make it a Swedish bar, right? Well, just down the block at the corner is the local Irish pub (Duffy’s Tavern), of course!


When we were chatting with John earlier, he had asked us if we had been to Matthiessen Park . We had seen the signs, but had not been there. He strongly suggested we make a stop and at least visit the waterfall. Soooo, having completed our tour of “the Utica strip”, we climbed back into the van and headed back south to go visit Matthiessen Park. I will discuss that in a future posting…