Friday, August 28, 2009

Thank you!

It happened sometime yesterday, and unfortunately I don't have any way to discover the party responsible for it or I'd thank them specifically - this little blog of mine passed the 2,000 hits mark! In the grand scheme of things that's a tiny little number, especially compared to many other blogs that are out there. But I'm pretty chuffed about it.
I'd like to thank everyone who reads this. There are only three actual followers, and only one of them is unrelated to me. The other two are my ex wife and my lovely significant other. But there are obviously a lot more people looking, reading, and possibly even enjoying the blog. My sincere thanks to all of you!
The blog has gone through a bit of a metamorphosis over time. It started out solely as a showcase for the custom arrows I make. Then came some posts about things I do or small trips we take. The gourd work got added in and I've had a lot of fun with that. The most recent addition has been two short works of fiction that I really enjoyed writing. Throught it all people have been very supportive of everything and I have enjoyed communicating with those who have left comments in various areas.
Going forward we'll have more of the same: arrows, gourds, trip accounts, and maybe some additional writing when I get some done.
Just so you know, if you've been thinking of getting a set of custom arrows, this is a good time for me to do some. My daytime job ended about a month ago and, unfortunately, I have some time on my hands. This is a good time to order arrows!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We Happy Few - a work of fiction

We Happy Few…

Henry V, by William Shakespeare; Act 4, Scene 3
A portion of Henry's Eve of St. Crispin's Day speech:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Years have passed since that famous speech:

We saw the smoke when the sun came up.

Most of us had been up and working for some time already. Fields need sun light to be worked, cows can be milked by lamplight.

We could tell from the smoke that the village in the next valley would have precious little to eat this winter… if there was anyone left to do the eating.

We’d been expecting this for a while. But just as with mortal man knowing that death would someday come, we had hoped it would somehow pass us by. That hope was lost when we saw the smoke and soon thereafter saw Geoff come charging up the road. He flung himself off his horse in the square of our small village. The horse was lathered, gasping, and barely able to stand; Geoff was little better, “They’re here.”

We sent the women and children into the hills where we had prepared a place for them. As many of the animals as possible went, too. The marks of their passage could not be hidden. But if it wasn’t us coming to get them the women had already made it clear that their lives would come neither cheap nor easy.

We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen. Each man went to his home to prepare for what lay ahead. Dusty sheaths were brought from under beds but there was nothing dusty about the honed and oiled steel within them. Longbows were brought down from rafters where they had lain idle, but not forgotten. Sheafs of arrows with clean gray fletching and bright steel piles were pulled from chests. Brown chain mail sighed softly as it was pulled over heads, as if it knew what lay ahead. What passersby had thought an odd assortment of low rock walls outside the village became bulwarks to blunt charges. What our old men had been whittling in the evenings as they told stories to the children became caltrops spread in the long grass before our walls. We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen.

Their scouts hung back to await the main body when they saw us. They weren’t sure what to do when they came upon a village that seemed to be protected by something other than farmers with pitchforks. Still, they were proud and fierce men who had not known defeat. Not since they left the steppes of their people.

What I remember most is the smell. A smell that I never have forgotten since I first laid sense to it so many years ago. A smell of bright blood and dark bowels loosened by steel or death. A smell of sweat and fear. There is noise in a battle, screams of horse and man as well as the clash of steel and the thud of blows. But ears become deafened to the din and ring for days afterwards. The nose never forgets the smell of battle. It lingers for days afterwards and richens as the sun rises and wild animals glean the fields of dead.

I finally became aware that it was over when no foe stood before me. Perhaps we had resisted unexpectedly. Perhaps they had decided it was not our day to die. Not a one of us had escaped wounds of some kind. Here and there were wounds that would overwhelm their bearer in the hours and days to come. Some wounds would bring limps or shortened limbs to remind us of the day. Some of us lay in quiet heaps in the torn and bloody grass, never to rise again. But more of us stood than lay in the grass, and more of them lay in the grass than rode away.

Perhaps we won because of our resistance; perhaps we won because it was not our day to die. But perhaps we won for the day, St. Crispian’s day. It was a day that marked another day, before we settled here in our retirement. Another Crispian’s day, when we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, had stood against another foe, and carried the day there, too.
We few, we happy few… We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pirate's Lament

It’s a sad thing, it is.
Sad to be a pirate on the beach.
With no ship to call home, no berth of me own.
No horizon to beckon the eyes.
I sailed with the best:
Stede Bonnet, John Rackham, and the worst of all, Edward Teach, known to you as Blackbeard.
My luck ran out. When I lost a leg I took the King’s Pardon.
Better to be a crippled former pirate remembering the days that were than a one-legged corpse floating on the tide.
Now I sit in the sand and drink to stay drunk.
When I’m drunk I remember the glory. I remember the thrill of the chase, the blue sea and the blue sky. I remember the willing wenches in the taverns of Port Royal, and the gold… I remember the gold.
When I’m sober I see only the one shoe before me in the sand.
So I sip grog from this gourd to stay on that smooth edge of drunk. The smooth edge where the one lonely shoe fades into the blue sea and the glitter of gold coins.

The gourd is about 8 1/4” high, 6 ½” wide, and holds ½ gallon.
Due to the weight of ½ gallon of liquid, this would best serve as a tabletop drink server.
The inside of the gourd is finished with brewer’s pitch, a waterproofing and sealing agent in use for a very long time in drinking and storage vessels of various materials.
The pyrographed design on the gourd shows the flags of the pirates Bonney, Rackham, and Teach outlined with anchor chain and rope borders. The lanyard is 7-strand French sennit held under a 5-strand, 3-pass Turk’s head. The lanyard is tight, but don’t be swinging this gourd about your head to repel borders, the lanyard could pull loose if abused.
This is a one-of-a-kind design. Hand wash only, this piece is not dishwasher safe.
Buy this piece of unique art for $60 and bring the romance of the pirates to your feast table. I’ll pay shipping to the lower 48.

Update: In response to a question from Garith, here is a link to see brewer's pitch on the Jas Townsend & Son web pages.