30 December, 2007



On Thursday morning, 20 December, Deborah and I packed up Caleb, our 1996 Dodge Intrepid, with provisions for a Christmas trip to Tucson/Green Valley, Arizona. We pulled onto I-25 heading South about 09:30. Once outside the Front Range megalopolis, Caleb, the name given to the Dodge by my sister Carrie, settled into a comfortable pace, humming along between 75 and 80 mph. We sailed comfortably over the long, rolling waves of the high plains; moving inexorably towards the great break between Colorado and New Mexico, Raton Pass.

Jesus Silva and "Uncle Dick" Wooten

"Raton Pass: Richens Lacy “Uncle Dick” Wooten saw an opportunity to help the travelers on their journey and make a profit as well. He built a passable road, cutting down trees, blasting and clearing rocks, and building bridges. Those who wished to use his road paid $1.50 per wagon and $.05 per head of livestock. Native Americans could use the road for free. Traders continued to use the Santa Fe Trail until 1880 when the railroad extended to Santa Fe. Today, the well-worn trail appears as a ribbon of green grass on the prairie."

The original Native trail over Raton Pass.

Some four hours later we stopped for lunch on the New Mexican high plateau south of Raton. The sky was brilliant, endless blue and the wind cold, dry and clean.

Looking North and West across the high plains.
Next stop, Las Vegas, New Mexico.

I-25 takes a dog leg turn heading west just outside of Santa Fe. We hit early rush hour traffic around 15:30 hours. It took us almost a full two and one half hours to traverse the stretch between Santa Fe and the southern end of Albuquerque. It was a nasty, normal, big city congested traverse, adding a full hour extra to our schedule.

We pulled into Soccorro around 18:00 hours, grabbed a quick meal at the Sonic Drive-in, bought a bottle of Ibuprofen for Deb's throbbing cranial cavity and my burning sciatic nerve and headed south to Truth or Consequenses, our motel room and sleep.

Once there, Caleb had carried us nearly 600 miles.

Inside the motel lobby, behind the check-in counter, amoungst the detrious of Christmas and legal mumbo-jumbo licensure hung a huge stuffed Striper Bass. I had to take a photo for all of the KisPers over at http://www.sondrak.com/, where the saltwater cousin of the striper is an iconic image.

A huge Striper, caught nearby in Elephant Butte Reservoir.

"Elephant Butte Reservoir, created by a dam constructed in 1916 across the Rio Grande, is 40 miles long with more than 200 miles of shoreline. Although constructed to provide for irrigation and flood control, the lake is New Mexico’s premier water recreation facility."

At sunrise the next morning, we rose, brewed some motel coffee, microwaved homemade breakfast burritos and discussed the run to Tucson/ Green Valley. Outside, the behemoth OTR 18 wheel diesels roared to life, ready to carry the lifeblood of commerce down the interstate.

Truth or Consequenses on a winter morning, looking North.

The road south took us along the Rio Grande Valley, following the old Cimmaron/Santa Fe trails. At Hatch, famous for its huge chile pepper crop, we took our leave of I-25, heading South-west on State Highway 26 towards Deming.

The Chile Fanatic: Jesus and Andrea Soto; proprietors
520 W. Hall Street, Hatch, NM 87937


Geology Bites:

Down on the valley floor, heading southwest on the two lane, Cookes Peak dominated the horizon. Its 8,300 ft. high, cockscomb crest has been a landmark since time immemorial. The Apache and Mimbres Indian's folklore both mention this unique geological feature. The valley floor's highly saline soil is poor at best, yet dairy and meat ranchers do well in the temperate high desert climate.

Cooke's Peak in the Cooke Range to the north of highway 26.

The whole of this country is uplifted mountain ranges strewn across the remains of old sea beds, seemingly in a helter-skelter fashion. Not all of them are constructed from the same bedrock.

The Florida Range, south of highway 26.

The last of the Burro Range, near Lordsburg, NM.

Most of the uplifts are different ages and types of granite and schist with intrusions of volcanic cuts and quartz. They create a crazy quilt of ranges mostly running north to south, the last of the Southern Rocky Mountain chain in the United States.

Interstate 10 heading west towards Wilcox, the Dragoon
Mountains and Benson.

The unique decomposed granite of Texas Canyon in the
Dragoon Mountains of Arizona.

Looking north towards the Galiuros and Sierra Mountains,
north of Tucson in the soft, Sonoran Desert.

Dropping down from Benson on Interstate 10, we entered the Sonoran desert and headed for Tucson. We had passed through a quick desert rainstorm near Benson and there were storm clouds caught on the peaks north of Tucson.


Storms over the Sonoran Desert:

It was blustery and grey when we turned off of I-10 onto I-19 south towards
Green Valley/Tubac/Nogales. The clouds swirled, rain sqawls spit here and there. The weather churned up errant, gusting winds.

Storm clouds gathering to the north of Green Valley.

We pulled into Green Valley about 15:00 hours on Friday, 21 December. Caleb had carried us some 940 miles in two days without so much a hiccup. I figured that we had averaged between 70/75 mph on the interstate, with the exception of the constrictive rush hour between Santa Fe and southern Albuquerque. The milage averaged 27 mpg...not bad for the mountainous climbs, wicked winds and high average speed.

Caleb, the prairie ghost, resting in front of Mom's
townhome in Green Valley.

Deborah and I greeted Mom, her Westphelian terrier, Michalene and shook off the buttsprung road zombies in our bodies. After we unloaded Caleb, the clouds closed in and we had a delightful rain shower.

Mom Anthony, Michalene and her ever-present cigarette.

The Sonoran desert has a unique climate among all the deserts of the Western Hemisphere. It experiences two distinct monsoon seasons, one in early winter and one in mid to late summer. The amount of moisture that actually falls in the form of measurable precipitation is tenuous at best. Total rainfall ranges between 3 inches to 16 inches in a year.

The Northeastern quadrant, best expressed in the environment from Tucson south to Nogales, is respelendent with lowland desert plants, both browse and trees, and montane flora similar to all of the Rocky Mountain chain.

The rich plant life indigenous to the Sonoran Desert.


Last Days in Advent:
My brother John arrived and we all began holiday preparations, decorating the house, recalling past Christmases and enjoying one another's company and great food, which required long walks to burn some of the extra calories.

The following are photos taken around Mom's townhouse during the two days prededing Christmas:

Dry wash (Arroyo seco) scoured by flash floods during the
Summer Monsoons.

Palo Verde tree (upper left), Cholla (upper right) and
various sub-species of prickly-pear.

More indigenous plants in the park just west of Mom's
house. Palo Verde, Palo Duro, Desert Ponderosa and
Mesquite trees; Saguaro, Cholla, Barrel and the ubiquitous,
omnipresent Prickly pear cacti.

The lightly lavendar colored varient of Prickly Pear.

Introduced flora in the well groomed and
maintained landscape of Green Valley.
In the backround,Mt. Lemmon rises
to 9,000+ feet in altitude.

Sunset, Christmas Eve, 2007. The photo barely captures
the intense colors.


Christmas Celebrations:

We awoke to a chilly Christmas morning, barely above the magic 32 degrees Farenheit.

Christmas morn, before the day began.

Deb and John teasing Mom...who is complaining about
the cold and remains chilled all winter.
She despises the cold, a true desert rat.

The requisite family portrait at Christmas.
Early Christmas evening, our long time friends the Kelly/Madrazo family joined us in a wonderful buffet of smoked meats, scalloped potatoes and fresh fruit and veges salads.
The Kelly/Madrazo family has an interesting history. Carmen Madrazo is a native of Guatemala. Her family owns multiple farms, raising coffee and vegetables. She married early, had four children by her first husband, then divorced him for reasons which are not mine to share.
Joseph Kelly was a Catholic priest of the Maryknoll order. While serving in Mission work in Guatemala, he met Carmen (Chiqui). They fell in love, Joe retired from the priesthood and married Chiqui, adopting her four children. He and Chiqui have one daughter from their marriage.
(left to right) John Anthony, Lorena (Lori) Madrazo, Carmen
(Chiqui) Kelly, Joseph Kelly, Jorge (George) Madrazo and
Mom Anthony.
Another shot of the festivities.
One more shot of the feast.

15 December, 2007


Photo courtesy of Oleg Volk Studios - (http://olegvolk.livejournal.com/)

The Cost of Freedom

When I watch closely and listen with an open heart to the parents and siblings and children and friends of those serving overseas, I hear echoes of those who have gone before.

I see a lone candle and a flag bordered in red, a white field with a blue star hanging in a frosted window. Hope resides in voices and eyes. Voices that sometimes crack with uncertainty, yet valiant, stive on. Eyes sometimes shadowed dark from sleepless nights in prayer and battling demons who whisper to an empty bed, alone and cold.

Will the next phone call tell the final tale?

They who sit and wait also serve and deserve our prayers, our support and gratitude just as much as they who walk the front lines...boots on the ground or in support, munitions, maintenance, clerical.

There are ways to show them our support. Lets do it.

08 December, 2007


Cheyenne Wells, 1 December 2007

~ Plains Deer Hunt ~

We awoke Saturday morning to wind and heavy, cold fog. Rolling fog, with poor visibility between 50 and 100 yards led us to Nan's Cafe on the Western edge of Cheyenne Wells. Mark and I ordered coffee and big country breakfasts, and watched and waited while the local worthies stopped in to discuss weather and crops.

At 07:00 we headed out into a thick grey morning with bitter wind and fog showing no signs of ending.

An hour later, the fog began to lift. The sky remained overcast, bitter and unfriendly.

Cloudy skies and heavy weed cover in an abandoned home site.

The wind remained low, damp and strong out of the South till about 09:00. It turned quickly out of the West. Within fifteen minutes, the clouds lifted their damp skirts and danced off into Kansas and Oklahoma, a dark shadow on the eastern horizon.

The last of the clouds moving east by south-east.

Mark and I turned North and drove to a favored ravine, running under the highway, West to East. We parked under the overpass. I loaded the .270, slung it on my shoulder and zipped up my coat. Mark pulled out his shotgun, just in case. We both packed water bottles and headed West into the ravine's deep twists and turns.

Where the deer bed down and rest, the "honey-hole".
The carcass lies at rear of the truck.

Some five hundred yards in from the highway, the ravine opens up into shelf-like steps where the deer settle in the deep grass after feeding. They bed down out of the wind, relax, ruminate and keep a watchful ear and eye out for predators during the greater part of the day.

We moved up from the ravine floor, quietly and slowly moving along one of the shelves, watching for movement in the tall grass. Mark was 5 yards behind me, about 5 0'clock. I heard him hiss, then a urgent whisper: "Steve, on your right!"

I turned to see a big doe rising out of the tall grass. She bounded to the top of the ravine in two jumps and stopped, turning to look back at us. I slowly dropped to one knee, slipped off the safety and drew the crosshairs right behind her shoulder. She moved more broadside and I adjusted, not thinking of distance. I held center right behind her shoulder and squeezed off a shot.

The big doe dropped like a sack into the grass as three younger does, startled by the shot bounded out their beds and took off at a full run into the West.

Hunter and harvest, wild meat for the winter.

Mark and I scrambled down into the ravine and headed across and up the South facing slope. At the top of the slope lay the deer, stone dead. Because I had not thought to compensate for distance, my shot had hit high, breeching the top of both lungs and traumatizing her spinal column. Luckily, I held the sights low and dead on.

When I sight in the rifle, I set it almost two inches high at 100 yards because of the "normal" long shots we take out in the wide open prairie.

One more pic of man and tool and harvest.

23 November, 2007




Since the beginning of this tradition, back in the dark ages of the early 1980's, the Wennberg family has been hosting Thanksgiving for all the Swedish side of the family. This year is the first without the Patriarch, Wallace Carl Lundquist.

However, I noticed that we had a plethora of tall people!

Heather (Polumbus) Wennberg and her college roomate, Anne.
Alumna of U.C. Irvine, tennis players and tall people. Heather is at least 6'2" in her bare feet. Anne must be close to 5'8".

Jeff Wennberg, Heather's husband, is 6'10", a high school coach and software engineer.

Craig Wennberg (6'9") and his gorgeous, tall wife, Tijon.

The now "official old guys", myself and Jerry Wennberg.
He stands about 6'4". I am close to 5'10".

My cousin/sister-in-law: Sonia Brostrom/Lundquist.
The shortest of the lot at 5'6"

The matriarch, Theta Anne (Weller) Lundquist and her daughter Teryl (5'9").

Gary Lundquist (6'3") is Teryl's full brother and my step-brother.

Another short person, in comparison. My cousin Kathleen Schliech, 5'7".
She is not happy, having just dumped a full tablespoon of ground cinammon
on the sweet potato caserole.

Carving the bird. 16 lbs of fragrant turkeyness.

The younger generation at the feast.
Did I mention that along with being tall, Heather is drop-dead beautiful?

Dear Than, married for over fifty years to Dad Lundquist. Her steadfast faith and love of this family is a testament to a life redeemed and lived out in Christ.

With a humble and grateful heart, I give thanks for this family, this land and the great God who is the author and founder of it all.

17 November, 2007



Ms. D and I are in sitting here on this late November evening, watching Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, and Michael Jeter in "Open Range".

IMHO, one of the best Post-Modern Western genre films made, so far. The scenery alone is worth the price of admission

This brought to mind the historical fact that many cow hands, ranch hands carried only two firearms, a side arm and a saddle carbine, both of which were chambered for the same round.

'Tis nothing new.

I do the same with the following :

"Cap'n' Ka-Runtch", Ruger Super Blackhawk Hogleg (7 3/4 inch) in .44 Magnum.


My incomparable Marlin eight shot, lever action saddle carbine;
the sweet shooting, dead on, iron sighted brush gun. Its great for deer and pig up to about 50 yards. At home, its an easily handled goblin killer and low-life snake shooter also chambered in .44 Magnum.


Pardon me?

OK, what is that "knife" below?

That is a hand forged, English Sheffield steel knife. The cutting edge is 6.375 inches in length, shaped in the traditional long drop point Bowie shape, sharpened along both edges, solid brass guard and hafted in cocobolo wood.

31 October, 2007


The .270 Winchester

(All photos can be enlarged by clickiing on the
image with the cursor.)

Woodbine turning Autumn colors in the garden.

Late summer turns her weary head, early Autumn arrives and the sportsman's thoughts and eyes turn to the sky, the prairies and the woods. When the constellation of Orion, the hunter rises in the evening starscape and wanderlust grows strong in limb and heart, the preparations begin.

Deborah, Nate and Sprocket outside, next to the smoker.

Outside in the BBQ/smoking/gardening/flyfishing/reloading shed, a transition begins. Garden tools and flyfishing gear are put to the side and hunting tools come out. I take an inventory of reloading supplies and equipment for rifles, pistols and handguns. This year I find that I am low on rifle ammunition for the venerable .270 Win. and out come the scales, powder measure, press and dies, along with the powder, primers, bullets, sized and polished brass casings.

The workbench, set up for rifle/pistol reloading.

When I bought my Smith and Wesson Model "1500" some twenty years ago, it was almost new, neglected, had no scope or recoil pad and a tough, factory trigger. I had the stock cut to match my arm length with an attached recoil pad and mounted a good scope. I purchased different makes and weights of factory ammo and began testing to find what the firearm shot best.

It shot better groups with 150 grain bullets than with 130 grain and it seemed to like the Federal Premium Safari loads over all others... very expensive loads.

After a long discussion with a knowledgable gunsmith friend, I bought a set of dies and an assortment of different styles and weights of bullets. I began experimenting. Long story short, the following is the recipe that has proven itself to be the best, most accurate in this particular long gun:

Case: Winchester

Primer: Remington #9 1/2 magnum rifle

Powder: IMR 4831, 54 grains

Bullet: 150 grain Speer Grand Slam

Winchester cases, Speer 150 grain Grand Slam bullets.

When well practiced, I consistently shoot 2 to 3 inch groups at 200 yards from a bench. Although I have not chronographed this load, it supposedly leaves the barrel traveling at nearly 2,900 fps and carries enough energy to knock down a deer or antelope at over 3oo yards.

I had the stock cut and a Decelerator recoil pad installed bringing the LOP to 14 5/8 inches.

The original trigger was sticky and required about 6/7 pounds of pressure to touch off a round.

My Lakewood LEO gunsmith friend removed the trigger group and performed some of his magic. The trigger now breaks crisply at about 3 pounds of pull.

The bipod is invaluable as a shooting platform for hunting out in the empty prairie. The scope is a variable 3/9 power Weaver set at one inch high at one hundred yards, at 6X power, effectively making zero at 200 yards.

The .270 Winchester was developed in the early 1920's and came into production in 1925 by Winchester Repeating Arms Company. It was the first of many "wildcat" cartridges based upon the venerable .30-'06 Springfield cartridge and still well liked by American hunters. It's populariuty is eclipsed only by its parent cartridge, the .30-'06.