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A nod to a real artist

Geoffroy Gournet is a pilgrim among pagans.

A real Frenchman living among the natives here in Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have him.

How such a refined and accomplished artist landed in our midst one can only guess. I think I asked him, but somehow he shrugged it off. Something about enjoying watching his dogs work, the close proximity of good bird hunting, the ease of getting to New Jersey and New York, and then getting right back out again.

Whatever his response, I forgot it. But I do not forget how fortunate East Coast  sportsmen are to have this artist so close to our guns, knives, and other objects we want engraved with the talismans of our times afield. He lives right in Easton, Pennsylvania, in a beautiful historic neighborhood on the banks of the Delaware River.

Geoffroy’s website is www.gournetusa.com. If you decide to have the engraving of a lifetime put on a favorite gun, or even just on a pocket knife, get in touch with Geoffroy.  You will be happy you did.

One may tend to think of French artists as hoity-toity, aloof, nearly effervescent, but Geoffroy is a very kindly, friendly, and manly man. It is true he has a thing for fancy French bicycles, but then again he is French. We accept these things.

His engraving is second-to-none, and he has greatly improved our own family’s enjoyment in the smallest ways.

Thank you, Geoffroy.

 

Josh’s Veteran’s Day presentation in Catawissa

Hello. My name is Josh First.

I am a political activist and small business owner from Harrisburg, and a dad and husband.

What an honor it is for me to stand with you today, recognizing our past and present military Veterans.

Thank you for your service!

Thank you to Jared Valeski and the other volunteers for all of your hard work on the field gun dedication, and for the invitation to be here with you today.

If you go to Ironmen Arms here in town, Jared and Tom might sell you a French army gun from World War One. It is in great shape, because it has never been fired and was only dropped once.

Hey, don’t forget the French army knife, either.

We all know what a Swiss Army knife looks like, right?

Lots and lots of tools in it, lots of uses.

You can fix your car with a Swiss Army Knife.

Well, maybe you’ve seen the French Army knife.

It has just two tools: A corkscrew, and a little white flag that flips up.

Hey, we can pick on the French a little bit, because American military veterans have been saving their behinds time after time, right?

Lots of ultimate sacrifice by our boys for the French, and for the other Europeans, to be free.

American military veterans are beacons of freedom and hope, each and every one of you, and the world knows it.

Who does the world call when freedom is on the line?

You. Each one of you.

We are going to talk about one of your fellow military veterans today, a young man named Herb McCarty, who defended the French from being turned into Germans back in World War One.

The question is: Will America be able to produce in the future more patriots like you, more heroes like McCarty?

A big thank you to Steve Campbell of the Catawissa Valley Historical Study Group.

Steve did the historical research on Herb McCarty, a real local American hero, and one of America’s best known combat veterans.

History is critical to civilization’s success, because without understanding history, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes.

Civilization only progresses if people learn from their successes and mistakes.

McCarty was a farm boy born here in Catawissa, in 1893, and like many Americans who loved liberty, he dutifully, almost happily went off to fight the Kaiser’s army in Europe in World War One, which threatened the cradle of Western civilization, that being France and western Europe.

During 1918, the end of World War One and also the year when most Americans fought and died then, McCarty covered a lot of territory over there, notably at the Argonne Forest front, where over 26,000 American patriots died for freedom in a matter of just days.

The Western Front there has been memorialized in many films, because the fighting was especially fierce, the weather was especially cold, the conditions were awful, and many wonderful young men did not come home to their families.

McCarty’s heroism there included leading men in an up-the-middle charge into entrenched German positions, after their captain fell, right into the teeth of thick furious fire, deadly combat, and

–carrying his wounded comrades off the field of battle while under intense fire, and

–being shot multiple times from a strafing German airplane, and

–then blown up by an artillery round, and

–then being merely wounded badly by another shell, and

–then he was left for dead on the zero-degree ground for 46 hours, before he was carried off.

All of this just three days before Germany surrendered and the armistice was signed.

But McCarty’s will to live was powerful, and while recuperating in Europe and during the following four years back home, he underwent just shy of fifty, yes fifty surgeries, 16 of which were done without any anesthesia at all, none, but involved young Herb simply lying there and screaming into a clenched wooden dowel while the surgeons sliced away at his wounds to heal his body for hours at a time.

In just one surgery, four bullets were removed from various parts of his body. Two bullets eventually became attached to his jugular vein with scar tissue, and McCarty took them to his grave.

Shrapnel was constantly being found throughout his body, and removed.

Some wounds just would not heal, and required frequent invasive attention, and that is what eventually killed him, four years after the war ended.

This is why McCarty is known as “America’s Most Wounded Veteran.”

92 years ago, at McCarty’s July 1st, 1922 funeral here in Catawissa, the Reverend Doctor Ulysses Myers said “This army never had a better or a braver man…We give thanks to God for him and feel that now he has been promoted.”

Reverend Lau said “For McCarty to live was God, country, and justice to all, and it was for this cause that he finally gave his life.”

McCarty’s incredible strength of will to survive, his powerful character, his grace and ability to bear such tremendous pain, are representative of Central Pennsylvania’s good people, long ago and still today.

And McCarty was motivated by much bigger ideas than just himself. He wanted everyone to be free.

I was thinking, if Catawissa meant “pure waters” in either Shawnee or Delaware Indian back in the early 1700s, then to its native boys in 1918, it must have meant “pure spirit,” because that is what McCarty represented to the world, pure American spirit.

For his many acts of heroism on the field of battle McCarty was awarded many medals, most notably the American Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the Croix d’Guerre (that’s the War Cross in English) by the French government.

You know, it’s amazing the French didn’t make McCarty their prime minister!

Take note that Columbia County also produced other World War One combat heroes, two of whom were also Distinguished Service Cross recipients: a young Mister Monahan, and Michael Chyko, who fought in McCarty’s unit and who was one of his pall bearers.

For those who may be wondering, the Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.

Only the Medal of Honor outranks it.

You know, if the first European settlers of the Catawissa Valley were English Quakers, opposed to warfare, then I am here today, as a former Quaker myself, to say that in these modern times we still need the Private Herb McCarty’s.

We need them in our own generation.

We need to absorb McCarty’s strong character, his gallantry, his willingness to take the ultimate risk, and apply it here, at home. His quintessential American spirit.

Without that attitude, America fails.

There are some who claim the American spirit is bad, that we are a bad nation. They claim that we are too war-like.

Of course, they say nothing of the people who started wars with us in the first place, so you have to wonder whose side they are really on, and what they are doing here in America…

But we are gathered here today to honor long-dead heroes like Herb McCarty because they still inspire us so many years later, and we want them to inspire future generations, too.

As we are not presently at war abroad, we must ask, To what present purpose are we inspired by heroes like McCarty and their patriotic sacrifice?

More succinctly, what relevance do Herb McCarty’s actions from 1918 through 1922 have for our own actions today, 92 years later, or even as recently as this past Election Day?

We have been hovering about this question and it is time we took a shot at answering it.

Although there is certainly a serious conflict looming ahead of us between Islam and Western civilization, our biggest war right now is at home, here in America, not abroad, and we must recognize that we are fighting on our own home front.

This is a war not of bullets and bombs, but of ballots, hearts, and minds.

To that end, we must draw inspiration from Herb McCarty’s dedication to the American principles he passionately believed in, the American flag, our Constitution, and each of us must become a warrior-in-spirit for our nation on the home front, wielding a pen, a vote, not a sword….yet.

A majority of Americans and certainly most Veterans are awakening to the reality that our own federal government is presently at war with the very citizens who lend the central government its legitimacy.

Using federal agencies like the IRS, ICE, Homeland Security, NSA and others, our individual liberties, our free speech rights, our Second Amendment rights, our rights of assembly and petitioning our government, our privacy rights, our voting rights, our religious rights have all been “transformed” for the past six years in an unprecedented assault on the core of American democracy.

There is today in Washington a man who believes he is a “government of one,” a man who believes that Congress either rubber stamps his policies and his anti-America nominees, or it gets the hell out of his way so he can do whatever he wants.

There is a man in Washington whose tyrannical actions are greater in number, scope, and gravity than those in our Declaration of Independence’s list of grievances against King George in 1776.

No, his behavior is not democratic, and Yes, that man was soundly and absolutely repudiated by the American people last week at the voting booth.

That still feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

The citizens of our Constitutional Republic spoke out against his usurpation of power.

He has been repudiated in historic terms.

But the problem we face in recapturing the America of liberty, equality, and opportunity as it was founded, is that our votes only matter to those who believe in the American system.

We can vote, win at the ballot box, and go home feeling like we succeeded.

But we may still be defeated in the long run, if we forget to recapture our traditional culture and values, the qualities that made us Americans to begin with, the values that motivated Herb McCarty.

We risk becoming slaves to an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-doing central government.

And the problem with that is, The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.

In America, we are all about the citizen, not the government.

This is the real battle, the real war: To maintain our freedom at home, not on European battlefields.

This is a culture war, a contest either for an America as it was founded, or an America that looks like the old Soviet State, with no liberty, our Constitution rendered meaningless.

Like McCarty’s long battle to stay alive, this is not going to be settled with a single decisive battle.

Rather, it is a long-running war from which there is no retreat and no easy resolution.

It is not just about that one man in Washington.

It is about the anti-America movement that put him in Washington.

Our politically correct opponents’ tentacles have penetrated every fiber of our nation, every major institution, including churches, academia, charitable foundations, the Boy Scouts, the military, the media…you name it.

Sorry. Digression here, I just need to ask a simple question – with all due respect to the professional journalists with us today, may we ask if you are truly an objective, dispassionate arbiter of facts and accuracy, or are you an agenda-driven political activist hiding behind a false mask of fairness, like so many journalists appear to be?

Back to today. Today we face politically correct opponents not on an active combat battlefield like those on which Herb McCarty fought.

Rather, we are battling with ideas, information, and taxpayer-funded giveaways of great wealth.

Our opponents are not necessarily swayed by elections, nor dissuaded by individual electoral defeats.

They view these as merely temporary set-backs, individual lost battles while the bigger war continues behind the scenes, where McCarty’s strength of character and a sense of duty – YOUR strength of character and sense of duty — can be quietly erased from entire generations of Americans through control of groups like the Boy Scouts and educational institutions.

The very next day after an electoral defeat, our opponents return to the same battlefield with wing-nut activist Federal judges whose hatred for a Constitutional America is exceeded only by their pursuit of Socialism and big government micromanagement of We, the Peons.

They have Dumb and Dumber educational programs like Common Core.

Our opponents want to take America, the world’s most vibrant economy, and turn it into another French socialist democracy, at the least.

And that is why France has not fared so well in my presentation.

Because let’s be honest: France stinks. It is a mess in every way.

France hasn’t produced any Herb McCartys in a long time, and if America becomes like France, then we won’t produce many more quintessential American heroes, either.

The result of France’s socialism is that everyone with money and potential is fleeing the country.

Demographically, culturally, France will never be the same as it was 92 years ago.

But that’s where the politically correct Left wants to take us, despite history telling us that experiments in socialism and multiculturalism always fail.

And mind you, the France that Herb McCarty fought for had a military that invented Poudre B, or Powder B, the precursor to modern smokeless gunpowder used by all modern militaries.

That was a different France then.

But now, in France and their allies here in America, advocates of Big Government have spawned the rise of the entrenched, unelected, unaccountable, demanding Big Government bureaucrat.

The bureaucrat and his enormous pension have deeply eroded our individual freedoms.

The bureaucrat is a huge threat to liberty not anticipated by our otherwise brilliant Founding Fathers, who envisioned a limited government, not a big government.

But the bureaucrat outlives all elections. His ever-bigger government makes citizens ever smaller.

He is not balanced by the other branches of government.

We must elect politicians who are brave and strong enough to tackle this tough challenge.

So, if we are to follow in the footsteps of Herb McCarty, and if we are to translate his actions into actions today, and similarly serve our nation personally 92 years later, without necessarily fighting abroad or at home in a military combat unit, and if we are to be inspired to live for America the way Herb did, then here are four specific suggestions for winning the political fight for our traditional liberties and values here at home:

1) Be as politically active as possible. Go door-to-door, make phone calls, etc. for causes and candidates.

Support and work for good political candidates every year, in primaries and general elections.

America runs on political activity like a heart needs blood. Without you, the process is run by people who do not have your interests at heart.

2) Elect only those public servants who will voluntarily term-limit out, who do not seek a career in elected office, and who rely first and foremost on the Federal and State Constitutions for limited government.

Tell candidates that you will only vote for them if they pledge to voluntarily term-limit out.

And for state house and senate seats, elect people who will stick to the Pennsylvania Constitution and take only a salary and mileage as compensation.

That is what Article 2, Section 8 says is allowed, not the laundry list of taxpayer-funded benefits, like a pension, health care, car and per-diem costs.

Elected officials who term limit themselves are more able and willing to take risks and make sacrifices than those career politicians who will sell their soul just to stay in office.

Representative government, politics, should be about service, not self-enrichment.

And if there is a theme today, if Herb McCarty means anything today, it is about taking risks and making sacrifices in the service of our fellow citizens.

3) Bypass the political parties, and donate directly to political candidates and organizations like Gun Owners of America, Firearms Owners Against Crime, the NRA, and others.

Recognize that political parties are self-interested. Individual citizens do not interest them.

The political parties are full of bureaucrats and self-important functionaries who are modeled on government bureaucrats and functionaries.

Political parties were supposed to be vehicles for ideas, but nationally and especially in states like Pennsylvania, they are privately run business enterprises, whose goal is self-perpetuation.

They rarely serve the forgotten taxpayer, citizen, and voter. Rather, they simply re-divide the political spoils between each other every two to four years.

And do not fool yourself that “your” political party is better than the other.

I am a Republican because I am a conservative, traditional American, but believe me, the Republican Party establishment fights activists like me harder than they fight the Democrats.

Why? Because establishment Republicans know how to deal with the liberal Democrats: They each get a slice of the taxpayer pie; sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more, but they always get a slice.

Both parties agree on that, even though how big their slice of pie is may change year to year.

But good government activists can’t be bought, we stand on principle, and we want the taxpayers to eat their own pie, not politicians, and not the bureaucrats.

So we pose a greater threat to the bipartisan exploitation of government than if the parties merely temporarily lose to one another.

Our good government movement needs your support. Look for our candidates, like Scott Wagner in York County, who became a state senator on a write-in vote against his own party this year.

And finally, number 4) Reassemble the militias, out of love for our nation, Constitution, and our individual liberties, not out of hate for anyone.

Organized militias with muster rolls meet the “well regulated” clause in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Militias formed the basis of our nation, the basis of our military, and they are as American as apple pie, so long as they are focused on protecting communities and the Constitution.

And yes, that can include protecting American citizens from their own federal government, which is not some kooky idea from out of the blue, but in fact was a long discussion among our Founding Fathers and is the basis of the Second Amendment.

Even the French once knew the danger of big government, except they didn’t have the militia.

Instead, they used mobs and the guillotine.

Americans are just a wee bit more civilized than that, right?

It’s like Europe was the imperfect prototype, and America is the finely finished product.

It’s like Europe was the cradle of democracy, and America is the kid that got up out of the cradle and walked away, and grew up into an independent, strong young man.

That’s why young men like Herb McCarty have had to return several times to save the Europeans from themselves, and demonstrate each time how great we Americans are, at great cost.

Americans are exceptional, we have always been exceptional, not because we simply think we are better than everyone else.

It is because we humbly demonstrate our greatness time after time.

We get the toughest jobs done, because we are asked to.

High-falutin’ Europeans pretend they are exceptional by living hedonistic lifestyles and tossing their traditional values out the window.

Let’s not follow Europe’s lead, and let’s not allow young Herb McCarty and the many other vets buried here to have died in vain.

Let us learn from history, and let’s not make mistakes we know can end our civilization.

Last week’s election results were a small step in the right direction, and the real work is just beginning to re-create a traditional American culture.

Please be part of that movement.

In conclusion, thank you very much for having me here with you today, and…

Again, a big Thank You to our military Veterans here: Each and every one of you sacrificed and contributed toward my own personal liberties, like my ability to speak honestly with you here.

I would like to thank our audience for listening so patiently.

In Herb McCarty’s memory, I want to thank God the All-Mighty for having founded America on the Bible, the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, so that law, justice, fortitude, service, mercy, charity, liberty and love forever inspire and bind us together in American brotherhood.

Thank you!

Time for a Muslim Peace Movement, Now

Muslims are not victims*.

However, the victims of Islam are many, and continuing, and today yet another was unveiled.

British peace activist David Haines was beheaded by a Muslim activist on video, which I watched both in horror and in solidarity with him.  David Haines knew what was happening, was absolutely composed, cocked his eyebrow and muttered some inaudible phrase to himself as his chin was lifted and the knife sliced into his neck.

David Haines died on his knees, his hands cuffed behind him, utterly vulnerable, not a threat to anyone.  This is pure sadism.

Whether Muslims will admit it, or not, this sadistic evil violence has become the face of Islam to Westerners.

In the absence of massive Muslim marches supporting Western civilization and individual liberties, one can only conclude that Muslims everywhere agree with this Koranic behavior.

Oh sure, there are some bland Takiya (religiously permitted deception) statements by Muslim infiltrators, but there are zero public demonstrations by reformers who wish to indicate their break with the parts of the Koran that proscribe this exact form of murder and mayhem for non-Muslims.

It is time for a Muslim Peace Movement.  A movement that supports Western civilization, that supports the rights of minorities such as Christians, Yazidis, and Jews, that will re-write the Koran to represent a Western mindset.

It is time.

* The Koran forbids any criticism of Islam or its founder, Muhammad, and yet the Koran is full of hate and vilification of every other religion around the Arabian Peninsula in the year 670 CE. Christians, Jews, and Hindus are specifically called cows, monkeys, pigs, and so on.  If this is not “hate speech,” I don’t know what is. This double standard must end.  You are not a victim if you are victimizing everyone else and they are calling you out on it.

Like James Foley, I am an Islamophobe

Muslim terrorists beheading people with kitchen knives don’t survive in a vacuum. They don’t spontaneously appear from thin air.

They come from Muslim communities, Middle Eastern and Western. They have tremendous support across great swathes of a 1.2 billion person population. They are, in fact, executing and implementing Islam exactly as the Koran demands.

That’s why there is no Muslim peace movement.  It’s why there is no Muslim demonstration for Israel, Christians, or Yazidis. There are no Muslim-on-Muslim rumbles over jihad.

Instead, there are quiet supporters, indifferent bystanders, and active participants.

Reporter James Foley traveled to Syria to talk about the civilians there. Their challenges. Their aspirations. He was inclined to report on the daily atrocities by Assad’s forces and he was inclined to overlook the revolutionaries’ own barbarity.

Nonetheless, Foley was representative of Western civilization, so the Islamic activists took him prisoner, beat him, mistreated him, and finally cut off his head on video.

I watched his video. Foley was brave, even as his murderer lifted his chin and began sawing away with a knife. He tried to yell as the knife sliced deeply through his neck, it seems as a last act of defiance, because he still did not struggle. The video ends with James’ bloody head placed on his back besides his cuffed hands.

If you’re not phobic about this behavior, then there’s something wrong with you. Being phobic about Islam is a natural reaction among those who love life, justice, fairness, kindness, gentleness, mercy, and brotherhood.

Being called an “Islamophobe” is no bad thing.  It means you’re a sane person of good values. You stand for goodness above evil. Any normal American would be an Islamophobe; there’s zero in common between Islam and America. Nothing. Zilch.

I am an “Islamophobe,” like James Foley, God rest him, a brave American.

 

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight; bring goats

It is a fact that forest owners and land managers are increasingly engaged in a gunfight of sorts with noxious invasive weeds.  Ailanthus, mile-a-minute, multiflora rose, barberry, Japanese honeysuckle, Russian olive, Asian bittersweet, Angelica, and new non-native invasives are in many ways taking over and altering Pennsylvania’s native forest.

If you think this sounds like a bunch of environmental hooey, then stop using paper goods right now.  No more toilet paper for you!

Paper is a product of pulp trees like black birch and red maple.  Once upon a time, these two aforementioned tree species were the scourge of well managed forests.  With little seed to feed wildlife, and little valuable wood to make furniture or flooring, these trees displaced the oaks, hickories, hard maples, poplars and cherries landowners have historically relied on to pay for their land and which consumers have relied upon for everything wooden they take for granted.

Now, the formerly “junk” trees we waged war against seem positively benign when compared to the newcomers.  Foreign invasive weeds and trees not only bring nothing of nutritional value, nor anything of economic value, they rapidly displace those native trees we rely upon to feed deer, turkeys, bears, and on which America depends for furniture.

Herbicides like Glyphosate 41 have worked for me for many years.  But I am now finding myself running around playing catch up with these pesty plants in too many places, more than anyone can keep up with.  Like many others in my role, I feel like I am losing the battle.  When I see yet another thicket of ailanthus and mile-a-minute, I feel like the guy who showed up at the gunfight with a knife – outgunned, helpless.

It is time to trot out the goats.

Goats eat pretty much everything, including the invasive plants we abhor, with relish.  Goats are not cheap initially, but a $100 goat can earn its keep in displaced herbicide expenses in about three or four days.

Goats take more time to maintain than a spray pack and wand.  At night they must be penned up, or they will be eaten by a bear or coyotes.  They must be tethered in one place and then moved every few hours, or they can quickly damage the native trees and shrubs we want.

The big benefit of goats is that they can be eaten at the end of the project.

I will report back to you on the success of the goats at the gunfight.

The word “tactical” – overused, kind of

By Josh First

Have you seen the word “tactical” used lately?

The word appears everywhere, and is growing in prominence across the retail world.

Although “tactical” is a word that denotes, or really connotes military tactics, and was once reserved to the sole use of the United States Military combat units or the dangerously armed forces they faced, this word now imputes some special meaning, martial ability, and toughness to anything that wears it on the label.

There are tactical knives, vests, rifles, pistols, and the many accoutrements that go with these items.  There seem to be tactical diapers, tactical coffee mugs, and tactical pens.  OK, there are to my knowledge no tactical diapers or coffee mugs, but it is true that someone will or already is onto these items.  Actually, there are tactical pens meant for self defense, but whether or not they have actual value for military tactics is a questionable claim.

For another true example of the oddly named, there are tactical shirts.  No lie, there are “tactical shirts” dedicated to more easily accessing one’s concealed pistol.

Is it really so difficult to just wear a regular old LL Bean button down short sleeve Pima cotton Oxford?  Is a shirt with confusing numbers of magnum zipper pulls in sensitive places really, truly a better shirt than the LL Bean?  Does it really make you a tougher guy or gal?  Do our combat forces wear these shirts? No?

As if it isn’t odd enough to call a shirt or a vest “tactical,” we now have tactical airguns, I kid you not.  The Crosman TR77 looks like a Star Trek photon shooter that makes bad guys vaporize painlessly, but it is claimed by its maker to have some sort of tactical application.

As if!

Air guns pack all the wallop of a good slap to the head, albeit with more concentrated force.  Certainly some shoot pellets that can penetrate your flesh, and perhaps even your temple.  But if I were a law enforcement officer engaged in a really deadly standoff with a violent, dangerous bad guy, a freakin airgun is the last thing I’d want in my hands.  My tactic in that situation would be to run away, fast.

So obviously the word “tactical” is being, ummm, stretched in meaning a bit these days.

But for whatever reason, this word increasingly resonates with the American public, and it may be a result of the hyper-militarization of our local police forces.  Plenty has been written in recent months about how the legendary bumbling Officer Barney Fife became the sinister looking, crewcut-and-armor-wearing badass kicking down grandma’s door in East Succotash, America. SWAT teams in East Succotash, America, are not necessary, and it is a serious issue, because Americans have a natural aversion to government force applied to them.

No doubt about it, America’s local police are in an arms race with…hmmmm… either themselves, far-off international military forces, or possibly, probably, you.

That’s right, there is plenty of evidence indicating that the massive investment in military grade hardware and hard attitude at the local police level is translating into a natural citizen reaction, apparently in preparation for inevitable urban combat with the very people once sworn to protect us.  And so we have an increasing “if-they-have-it, we-need-it, too,” civilian reach for all things tactical.  Tactical now seems to mean “I am ready for combat,” an American attitude that is both refreshing and alarming.

Alarming indeed.  Why are we afraid of our own local police forces?  When did that happen? And, come to think of it, why did the local Harrisburg cop try to stare me down last year, on my own street, when I cheerfully said hello to him while walking on our sidewalk with my small son in hand?  Was he employing some anti-citizen ‘tactic’?  Sure felt that way to me, the law-abiding taxpayer underwriting that guy’s paycheck and tough guy attitude.

However, instead of meeting fire with fire, and buying a black bulletproof vest with webbing and the ubiquitous variation of a skull-and-crossbones trademark label, I think I will for now reach for my ‘tactical pen’ and write about my uncomfortable encounter, thereby defeating that officer’s ungainly attempt to bring implied force into what should have been a friendly exchange between equals.

Some observations on knives sold at the Great American Outdoor Show

Knife production is reaching an apex, it appears. Never before in one place have I seen so many higher quality production knives as I have seen at the Great American Outdoor Show. Many booths selling hundreds and hundreds of better quality folding knives, with some custom and semi-custom knife sellers sprinkled around.

Oddly, you can’t find a sharpening stone in the entire Farm Show complex to save your blade’s life. No one is selling sharpening stones. Blades out the wazoo, yes. Ways to keep them functioning, no. Whether it is a sign of the throw-away society meeting Pleistocene Man, or too much optimism about modern steels’ edge retention capability, it is an odd sign indeed.

Once the purview of expensive custom knives, Damascus blades are now ubiquitous, although most are probably made in Pakistan and India, so their quality cannot be real high, and you’ve got no idea of their cadmium, arsenic, or lead content, either, although I am willing to bet these blades are positively toxic to human health. They do look nice, though.

[Damascus steel is a mix of different types of metals that when folded over and over and then hammered out reveal an appealing variety of patterns. Because metal types used in Damascus steel vary widely, quality varies widely. I use only Alabama Damascus in my knives]

Clearly, there is a bleeding over from the custom knife market into the high production market, where quality used to suffer badly. Knife buying Americans evidently have improved tastes and higher expectations for their over-the-counter knives. That’s a good thing. But do they have to be made in those rainbow colors? They hurt my eyes. Camo handles are humorous – drop your knife, never find your knife, lose your knife. Maybe those rainbow colored handles work, after all.

One other observation is the high number of bug-out bags being made. Man, Americans seem ready for the apocalypse. After seeing so many of these grab-and-run packs, I now realize that I need one, too. No, my oh-so-1970s Kelty backpacks do not seem up to snuff, even though they have served me well on rugged wilderness trips for many years. Nope, camo is de rigeur here, too.

Come on by the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs booth and buy a raffle ticket for our Bushmaster AR-15 M4. Just ten bucks gets you a lot closer to having your bug-out bag fully equipped with a state-of-the-art rifle.

Good show! JRJ Knives sells out at Great American Outdoor Show

Want the sign of a good show?  Watch the vendors sell out of their items only a couple of days in.

JRJ knives of New Buffalo is my go-to source for top of the line custom knives. John uses ATS-34 steel and stock removal (with a little welding and hammering now and then) to make any knife you want or need. He and I have several knife projects under way, mostly using Alabama Damascus steel and hippo tooth, and although the wait can be longer than you’d like, the results are always better than you could have imagined. JRJ makes high quality knives.

Well, last Sunday I stopped in at the JRJ Knives booth at the Great American Outdoor Show, and John was nowhere to be seen. He was back at the shop, his wife Jodi said, because they had sold out of nearly all their knives.  That is, they had sold more knives in the first 24 hours of the show than they expected to sell during the entire week.

Today I was shopping around for old fashioned whet stones.  You know, the old fine-grained novaculite Arkansas sharpening stones that were once a staple in every American kitchen.  You’d expect to find lots of them for sale at the Great American Outdoors Show, especially given how many knife vendors there are.  Nary a one, oddly.  Either modern newfangled steels have become self-sharpening, or even rugged outdoorsmen no longer sharpen their own knives.  Something odd is afoot. One knife vendor said that he had sold out of all of his premium knives, and had to order more; he hoped they would arrive by tomorrow.

But back to the main point here: All this selling out of items in a day or two is a good show.  So far, it is a big success.  If you haven’t yet visited, you should.  It has a whole new look, feel, and energy.  And yes, there are AR15s on display everywhere.