Monday, July 28, 2014

We're Traveling Men

Derek and I are back from another outdoor adventure.  This time we traveled to Sipapu NM for what was supposed to be a 2-day 3D archery shoot.  We had a rough start, as we were intending to use our Coleman pop-up but only made it as far as the pavement 10 miles from home.  When I stopped to check things, I discovered  a flat tire.  Our spare was flat, too, and Mom had to come to our rescue with a tank of air.  I'd had a premonition of a flat and so this wasn't too surprising, but it did turn our 6 am start into a 9 am start.  Instead of traveling w/out a spare tire, we decided to just sleep out of the truck, so after re-packing, we were finally off.

In case you're not familiar with the genre, a "3D shoot" is where you shoot at foam animal-shaped targets which are set at unknown distances.  This is in contrast to the "field archery" shoots we've been doing all summer at which flat paper targets are set at known distances.  3D archery is a booming thing but, honestly, I prefer field targets.  3D is suppose to sort of, kind of, simulate hunting conditions, but I really don't think it does.  For one thing, most people carry chairs stuffed with cold drinks to sit on while waiting to shoot.  It's common for people to use umbrellas to shade each other and block wind.  I can't remember ever doing that during a hunting.  The distances are unknown and the shots are frequently "challenging" with sharp uphill and downhill angles, often obscured by branches and such.  In a real hunting situation, I'd probably pass on about 1/2 the shots we take in a 3D shoot and I'd be using my rangefinder on the rest.  From 10-30 yards I can use my 20 (or 25 yard) sight pin, but 3D shots are commonly 35-45 yards and I just can't guesstimate that distance accurately, I know that, and thus when hunting, I'll use my rangefinder or pass on the shot.

3D advocates are often critical of field shoots and we actually had some discussion about this in my group, one of the guys being a field shooter like me and the others being 3D-only guys.  The 3D guys said "what's the point of shooting more than one shot?  You only get one one shot when hunting!".  True (usually), but again, while hunting, I know my limits and I'm not going to the take the shot if they exceed my limits.  3D targets score 12-10-8 and then you get 5 for hitting the body.  In my opinion, a 5 ought not to score- that's a "wound"!  In fact, there's a seldom used variation of 3D scoring that scores the "wound" as "-5".  With that scoring, there's some incentive to pass on a shot instead of scoring a "wound".   Another thing about 3D is that you can never be sure just how good you're shooting, since the distance is unknown.  If you miss, did you miss because you blew the shot or because you misjudged the yardage?  At least 1/2 the "game" in 3D is judging the distance in the first place.  In hunting, you often have to make a split-second estimation and shoot, but in 3D, shooters glass the target, stare at it for awhile trying to estimate the distance, glass some more, shrug their shoulders, glass some more, etc.  That's not hunting.

A foam 3D target 

Typical scoring

In spite of my complaining, I like to shoot my bow and 3D is one of the games we do, so we were off to the shoot, our first 3D shoot of the year, and looking forward to it.   We arrived at the Agua Piedra campground, got set up, and then discovered that our neighbors a few campsites away had Screaming Kids On Bicycles and were the kind of campers who feel the need to bring boom boxes and noise with them from the city.  I guess you have to take what you get, so after setting up camp, Derek and I walked down to the stream to do a little fishing. Stream fishing is a lot tougher than the lake thing we usually do, and we ended the day fishless.  We hit the sack tired, wet, and sweaty.  The shoot was to be on a ski slope and during the night I had a dream that I had a heart-attack at the top of the slope and died.  I obviously didn't sleep very well after that, but I took some deep breaths and morning found us at the shoot, ready to go.

First camp at Aqua Piedra campground

A heart attack was certainly a  possibility as we hiked up the slope, down it, up it again, and down it again,  in the breezeless, 90 deg weather but I just took it easy, drank a lot of water, and actually felt fine, except that my feet hurt. We started at 9 am, shot 25 targets (and there's another thing... in a Field round, I'll shoot 28 targets for 4 arrows each = 112 arrows.  Here... just 25 arrows), and finished around 2 pm.  I probably don't like 3D because I stink at range estimation and in my group of 6, I was running dead last.  I made some good shots, but too many bad ones ("5"'s).  Derek shot pretty good from the Cub stakes.  We were both glad when it was over, ate a couple of dramatically over-priced resort burgers, and looked forward to fishing.

Derek giving advice

Derek shooting at turkey

Everyone shot a little low on this one
Back to camp we went and stream fishing we did go.  Derek eventually caught a fish (right... "one fish"!) and I caught- of all things- a water snake.  It reminded me so much of the verse, I just had to laugh:

Luk 11:11 NKJV  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
After releasing the snake, I cooked Derek's fish, took 3 Ibuprofen and hit the sack, tired, sore, sweaty, and sticky.  It rained that night, forcing me to close the truck camper windows and turning my little space into a sauna.  The next morning, Derek and I talked it over and decided to skip the second day of shooting and move camp to Coyote Creek State Park where there was beaver dam fishing and- praise the Lord!!!- showers!  So, move we did, after stopping in Mora for some gas, coffee, and a Allsup's chimichanga.

 Sunday morning in Mora
Coyote Creek was pretty full of campers but many were leaving and we found a great primitive site, set up our simple camp, and went fishing.  It took a little while to find the lay of the land, but once we did, we quickly caught 5 fish.  A storm was moving in and so we took a break from fishing.  I headed straight for the showers, only to find that the park people were just getting ready to clean the bathrooms.  The cleaning lady said "half an hour" and I said "I'll sit right here and wait".  I must've looked pretty beat, 'cause then she, God bless her heart!!!, said "I'll do the ladies' room first and you can use the men's shower while I do that".    It wasn't the best shower I've ever had but it sure might've been one of the most appreciated and I sure felt better afterward.  

Coyote Creek campground

Beaver pond fishing
Storm over Mora Valley:

Then it was back to fishing in between storms and finishing up our limit.  Back at camp, we cooked up 2 fish for supper, cleaned up, and then the real storm started moving in.  I thought, "you know... it's only 6 pm and we're going to spend the rest of the night huddled in the truck or under our tent.  Home is just over 3 h away."   I broached the idea of heading home to Derek, he agreed, and we packed up in lightning speed and hit the road.   We had enough daylight to take the scenic route home thru Black Lake, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, and Cimarron.   The storm sprinkled on us, but visibility and driving were great.  In Cimarron, we stopped at the Cree-Mee Drive In for some killer smmooooothhhh ice cream cones.   The place was packed with Boy Scouts on their way to/from Philmont Scout Ranch.

The end of the rainbow in Eagle Nest

Leaving Cimarron, there was a huge storm front out on the Eastern plains and we finished the drive home in sporadic rain, listening to a mix of Sharon Shannon and Natalie MacMaster.  We pulled in just before 10 pm and the last song to play, as we approached our little house, was "David's Jig".   I liked that.  I'd like to think that David was with us in spirit.  We sure miss him.

Here we are Monday morning. Georgia was off to Amarillo at 5:30 am for her first cancer treatment follow-up so I got up to see her off.   I'm looking at the results of over 1" of rain (and still sprinkling), I've finished my 2nd cup of coffee, and Derek just heated the last of our camping Pop-Tarts for breakfast.   Until our next trip,  it's over and out!

Monday, July 14, 2014

From East to West and back again

Derek and I have just returned from the NM State Championship archery shoot in Farmington, NM.  It's a 400 mi trip there, clear across New Mexico from the far eastern corner where we live to the far western corner.  Fortunately, my mother lives in Santa Fe, a convenient half-way point.  On the way in, we stopped for lunch and finished the drive in the afternoon, but coming back we spent the night and came home Monday morning.

The way the State Championship works is like this: there are 6 shoots during the year- American, Vegas, Indoor, Field, Animal, and Hunter rounds.  You get 10 points for winning, 9 for second, and so on.  You can carry 40 points to the Grand Field.  At the GF, you shoot the Field, Animal, and Hunter rounds again.  The Field and Hunter are 28 targets x 4 arrows each for 112 arrows each round.  The Animal round can score on the 1st arrow and, done right, you'll shoot just 1 arrow for 28.   That's a total of at least 252 arrows, plus any practice shots.  All this is done in the field, up and down hills... quite a bit of walking... in the hot Farmington July sun.  It's a physically tiring round and it's important to pace yourself and stay hydrated.

Over  hill and over dale


Derek has good form

Two sets of 20's

Derek won State Champion last year and, since it was the first year for his class, he set State records for every shoot.  He didn't start shooting until the outdoor rounds, but still won the overall.  This year, he shot the Vegas, Indoor, and all the field rounds and won them all.  Me, I won 4/5 with a 2nd place.  This meant that we both carried the full maximum of 40 points to the Grand Field.  In addition, Derek had a new bow this year- a Diamond Razor Edge- which he shot in all the field shoots.  Immediately after the last one, though, he got another new bow- a Hoyt Ignite- which was going to be a bow to grow into.  However, he shot it so well, that we made the last minute decision to use it for the Grand Field.  I was shooting a new-to-me Hoyt Alpha Elite that I used for the last Field round and I had an also new-to-me Hoyt Vector Turbo that I decided to use during the Animal round to give it some field experience.  The stage was set.

There were some exciting moments.  As I mentioned, we shoot 4 arrows at each target during 2 of the rounds.  All year long, I'd not needed any spare arrows and so I was carrying 5 arrows of the same fletch and 3 spares with slightly different fletch.  No surprise then that one of my shooting group nearly did a Robin Hood on my arrow, breaking it.   No problem... I pulled out my spare.  A few targets later, though, I shot a very tight group and one fletch sliced the fletch off another arrow.  No problem... I pulled out my different fletched spares.  On the first shot with it, the arrow cork-screwed and  hit about 6" low giving me a nasty 3 points instead of 5.  Bad shot, I figured.  On the next target, it did it again. Now we had a problem. Close examination showed that one of the fletches was misaligned- this happens rarely, but it does happen.  Fortunately, my other spares were good and I finished the round out in good shape.  And also fortunately, I'd brought my fletching gear, so I spend that evening stripping off my odd-fletch spares and re-fletching them all to match.

On the next-to-last target, Derek shot and his arrow corkscrewed.  On his next shot, the rest didn't drop like it was supposed to.  Turns out his cable clamp was loose.  There are rules for this, though, and I quickly fixed his mechanical problem, he retrieved his arrows, and shot again, scoring an 18/20, saving the day. Good times.

Derek ended up scoring considerably higher (30-50 points higher) this year than last, thus setting all new records.  I shot better than last year, too, although not so dramatically.  We both won State Champion in our respective classes, which was a fun thing to do.  I feel like I worked hard at my shooting this year and even though there wasn't much competition in my class, I was happy.

State Champ!
State Champ 2!
Coming home, we took a side trip thru the Jemez Mountains.  I'd worked here for 2 summers as a biologist 20 years ago and hadn't really been back, and I wanted to show Derek the country.  We were going to cut in from Cuba, NM but I thought that might be too much "mountain" for car-sick-prone Derek, so instead we hooked up from San Ysidiro to La Cueva, and then across to Los Alamos and down to Santa Fe.  It added about an hour and half to the trip, but it was worth it.

In the woods

At the Valles Caldera

The Jemez was, of course, gorgeous.  The caldera has got to be one of the prettiest places on earth.  There's a popular climbing spot just to the west of the caldera and we stopped to watch some climbers work.  Derek noted a couple of cabins across the road and said that would be a neat place to live; fish in the stream, climb on the rock, and elk hunt in your back yard.  Hard to argue with that.

Heading hom: 62 F, 31 mpg, 8 am

It was a long and tiring, but fruitful, trip.  We saw pretty much most of what New Mexico has to offer, from hot desert country to cool green meadows to wide-open plains.  We saw elk, deer, pronghorns, prairie falcons, violet-green swallows, towhees, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and a goshawk.  It was dry, raining, windy, still, hot, and cool.  We ate green chile, pizza, and steak.

Georgia, unfortunately, had a rougher weekend, coming down with a fever and irritable bowels.  I think she needs a little more rest after her cancer treatment.  And I don't know about Derek, but after driving 800 miles, shooting 300 arrows, and hiking up and down hills in the hot sun, I'm needing a little rest, too!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Mandolin Story

I've never posted this story in my blog and it needs to be here.

Stage 1- the Elkhorn mandolin:

I went to South Plains College with Robb L. Brophy in 1980-82  and we've crossed paths a few times over the years.  I'd heard that he was building mandolins and heard they  were getting a good reputation but had yet to see one.  At my son David's funeral, my friends John, Coy, and Dave, from OKC, showed up and I asked them to play music at the gravesite.  John pulled out an Elkhorn mandolin- the first one I'd seen- but I didn't get to check it out, being somewhat preoccupied that day.

Stage 2- the 1967 D-28:

Customer sent the guitar in May. He has several other vintage Martins, including a '44 D-28 and he wanted me to scallop the '67 to a "deep scallop".  Said the '67 was "sleepy" and didn't sound very good.  I scalloped, did the popsicle brace, and Waverly tuners, all per his request.  Videoed it for his approval.  He said "it's wide awake now!" so I sent it back.  I told him it would take 6-8 months for the scalloping to fully kick in, be patient.  He got it, said he loved it. Case closed.  I packed for Kaufman Kamp.

Stage 3- The Elkhorn crosses my path:

A year after David's funeral, I'm at Kaufman Kamp 2013. I was walking back to my dorm at night when I saw a friend of mine- Rick- alone in his room. Now, understand... it's dark, Rick has the light on and the light is illuminating the sidewalk.  So, I turned and went in to visit with him.  Hanging on the rack is a familiar looking mandolin.  "What's that?", I asked.  He said "That's an Elkhorn mandolin I just got from John."  It was the mandolin John had played at David's funeral. So I played it and liked it a lot. I asked Rick to let me know if he ever wanted to sell it, knowing full well I probably couldn't afford it.

Stage 4- The D-28 comes back, damaged:

A month later, customer doesn't like the D-28 as much as he thought. He'd looked inside and said I didn't "deep scallop" it.  I reminded him that it's gonna take 6-8 months to open up and I scalloped it as much as I'll ever scallop a guitar.  Another couple of months goes by and he wants to send the guitar back for more scalloping.  I said "fine, go ahead"- I'm going to hang it on the wall for 3 months before I even touch it, ya know?  He wants me to send him a "Return" label from my UPS account.  I do.

Guitar arrives and it has a 6" crack in the treble side of the upper bout in probably the best possible place for a top crack.  We communicate and I comment that the guitar was poorly packed- no padding under the headstock, nowhere near close to enough padding in the too-small box, etc.  Basically, NONE of my shipping instructions followed.  He replied and said "it's the same box we used the first time!" and I said "Yeah, well, just because we survived it once doesn't mean we do it again".  He blames me for his packing job!

So, I ask him "What do you want to do?"  He says "I want full replacement value of the guitar"  For a crack?!?  I check with my insurance company and they will NOT cover it because he owns it and I don't.  And unfortunately there's only $500 insurance on that Return because I thought the insurance company covered "Returns".  Well, a "return" is when I own the guitar, ship it out, buyer doesn't want it, and sends it back; I've owned the guitar the whole time.  Not the case here- he owns the guitar, he should've insured it.  So, I explain all this to him and he keeps insisting on full replacement value because now the guitar has a crack and NONE of his guitars have a crack and the guitar is now worthless and then he says "and I want to replace it with something else" (which is what's _really_ going on here, I think).

So, I say "Well, insurance doesn't cover it so I will have to pay for this out of my own pocket".  Having consulted with 2 former customers and 2 other luthiers in the meantime (3 of whom ask "how do you know it wasn't cracked _before_ he shipped it?", there being no damage to the case or the box), I offer some options and he continues on with "full replacement value" and then says "please don't make this into a legal dispute."  At that point, I say "Enough of this" and write him a check for $4600 which _drains_ my account but I'm confident that I can fix the crack, sell the guitar, and recoup my $$$.

I fix the crack (no missing wood, it just snaps back together), spending 2 months on the finish repair to make it look as good as possible.  I play the guitar and think "this thing's pretty nice!!!" and determine not to sell it for anything less than my personal cost in the guitar.  I take it to Winfield and it's the hit of our Camp (in which there are 5 prewar Martins, and a stack of top-drawer small luthier guitars).  Dick loves it, Tommy plays it A/B with his '53 D-18 and says "THIS is a NICE guitar!!!" and then plays it for another hour or so.  And so on- in the end, 3 people came up to me and said "If Dick doesn't want it, let me know".  I come really, really close to saying "The D-28's going home with me!" but Dick comes thru and a _promised_ check later, I've got my money back (well.. check's in the mail!).

Stage 5- Everything comes together:

So, I get back from Winfield and guess what?  There's an e-mail from Rick and he wants to sell the Elkhorn in order to buy ..... drum roll, please..... a late 1960's Martin D-28.   Dick was kind of debating whether to keep the D-28 from me or keep his tried/true '62 D-21, so I suggested that Rick talk to Dick about my D-28 (they know each other).  The D-28 ended up going to Rick, the Elkhorn to me, and everyone was happy. In fact, because Rick was asking less $$$ for the Elkhorn than i was for the D-28, I actually got some $$$ back.

I'd have had trouble coming up with the money for the mandolin, but having _had_ to come up with it for the D-28, swapping was less painful than an outright purchase.  And so here I am with a friend's mandolin that was played by a friend at my son's (another friend!) funeral swapped for with another friend, with yet another friend involved.  In the meantime, the '67 made it to Kaufman Kamp 2014 where it was played by several people.  I asked them how it was and was told "Excellent",  "Sounds GREAT, plays like butter".  I knew it was a good guitar.

Life is very interesting sometimes.

The 1967 D-28 the first time it was at my house:

Here it is again after it was mine:

The Elkhorn mandolin:

A second look at it:

How it compares to other mandolins: