Shopping for me

My wife never knows what to get for me, so I was browsing the web this morning with my son, B(ig) W(heel) Stowaway. I came across this crate that I thought would be cool!

All of the survival essentials, packed inside a waterproof, indestructible NATO-spec ammunition can.

Then I read through the description, looked closer at the picture, and realized that I have all of this stuff and it cost me about $20, not $75.

The search continues.

Fully loaded apple pie. 

Ever wanted to drink apple pie? You now can! Some of my buddies at work make this every Christmas, then drink it the next Christmas. You can drink it within a month, but longer is better. I always say the difference between bad preserved food and good preserved food is a few months. This particular batch I just laid down. I’ve got to go to military training until May, so I figured I’d let it stew that long. 

Apple Pie Moonshine

1 gallon cider

1 gallon Apple juice

10-15 cinnamon sticks

1/4 cup vanilla

1 bottle of Everclear

At least 12 pint Mason jars

In a large kettle, pour in the apple juice, apple cider, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks. 

Homemade vanilla. Made with a cheap bourbon and a handful of Madagascar vanilla bean pods. Mrs. Stowaway thinks it is too strong, so I save it for my cooking!

Bring it to a slow boil, then turn off and let cool until room temperature. 

Once it cools, pour in the Everclear. 

Pour the mixture into the jars, putting one or two sticks per jar. 

Make sure you have enough jars ahead of time, or you have to repurpose a few of your wife’s decorative jars and a recently polished-off Apple Crown gallon jug. Don’t judge. 

Like I said, leave it for a month at least, but longer is better. Feel free to decorate, tie ribbons, or do anything else to the jars. Or add your own fancy label like I did. 

Feel free to share, hoard, or barter with it. Hopefully I’ll use mine to toast a new stripe when I get back, wish me luck!


Thoughts on First Firearms

When I was six-years-old, I arrived at my grandmother’s house to celebrate my birthday.  The usual festivities were had, but on my special day, my Uncle Scotty was in town from Massachusetts.  He brought in a long present, barely wrapped and handed it to me.  I opened the package and was confused by what it contained.  It was a Harrington & Richardson Youth Model .410 shotgun.

first rifle for child

There was a lot of talk along with it.  Guns are a right of passage in my family.  My brother didn’t get his first gun until he was nine.  Then again, he was a small nine year old.  At six, I was already as big as he was.  The talk was whether or not that little shotgun was going to drop me on my rear end when I shot it.

My dad promptly put me on the back of his  pickup along with all of my cousins and drove us all to the camp, located on the back part of the farm.  My uncles followed us down and everyone gathered around as my dad and uncle showed me how to break open the chamber and insert the shell.  I put the shotgun up to my shoulder and wobbled endlessly as my dad cocked the hammer for me.  On his command, I pulled the trigger.

The little shotgun exploded into a sound that this six-year-old didn’t expect.  It reached out and kicked me in the shoulder like an insane mule, setting my body back at least one foot.  All of the fun was over when I began crying because my shoulder hurt.  I didn’t shoot the gun again until I was eleven.

Fast forward a few years.  My dad was a fur trapper.  We were in Portage Lake, Maine at the home of Wayne Flint.  Wayne sold Allagash Fur Call (of which I will write more about later) and other trapping scents.  He showed my dad a rifle made of plastic. My dad looked perplexed as he shouldered the plastic stock.  He talked about how light the rifle was and Wayne showed him how to load it through the buttstock of the rifle. It was a Remington Nylon 77.


We were in Wayne’s basement, which like most basements in Maine was loaded with firewood.  Wayne handed the rifle to me and told me to shoot it into the wood pile.  I looked up at my dad for approval and he subtly shook his head no.  I handed the rifle back to Wayne, but not before admiring the fact that it was light and I could easily shoulder it.  Dad got it for me that Christmas.  By the following grouse season in the fall, I was deadly accurate with it.

My children are reaching the age where they are ready to learn how to shoot.  It’s hard to justify to most folks in this day and age that I want my children to know about guns and I certainly don’t want them to be scared of them.  Media poisoning has worked at making people scared of these tools.  I want to pass on the heritage of shooting and hunting and at the same time help them to be responsible and careful while using them.  V.E. Lynch, in his book Trails to Successful Trapping (written in the 1930s), said that any boy over the age of seven should have a trap line and a gun.  I can’t hold up to the trapping part (it is illegal in Colorado), but I did get them a gun.

My brother had a Chipmunk .22 when he was young.  I liked shooting it.  The frame was small and it had a peep sight.  Fast forward thirty years and I found the same set up, but now it’s called a Davey Crickett.  Single shot, bolt action with a synthetic stock.  The bolt feels a lot cheaper than I remember on my brother’s gun, but everything nowadays is outsourced.

I decided to pick up a Davey Crickett .22 for my children.  With a single shot bolt action rifle, it’s easy to control when and how they shoot.  If we’re done shooting, the bolt gets removed and goes into my pocket.  Then, they are able to safely carry the rifle back to camp.  My dad did taught me that and I always thought it was a valuable lesson.


I have them use .22 shorts when they are target practicing.  Why?  Lower velocity.  The rounds they are firing are about 700 feet per second (fps), as opposed to a regular .22 round, which is usually somewhere around 1,200 fps.  In addition, shorts aren’t quite as hard to find as regular .22s right now and…..they’re quiet.  The rapport from .22 shorts at the fps that we are using is very quiet.  That allows me to talk to my kids without raising my voice or risking that they might not hear me.

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So far, so good.  We’re working on the basics.  Tin cans and wooden posts.  Soon, we will move onto targets.  Then, rabbits.

Stay tuned.  I’m planning a post on shooting basics for kids sometime in the future.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

Tin Cup Trust

There was a hermit that lived next to where I grew up. ‘Ol Al Page was his name; he lived in an old shack on a friend’s land. No running water, no electricity, and a woodstove for heat. Once a week, he’d swing by my parent’s to charge the battery for his little TV, but once a day, he’d ride his lawnmower down to the potato house across the road from us. From there, he’d walk across the tracks and disappear into the woods with his bucket. A few minutes later, he’d reappear with a full bucket, and head on home. When us kids were old enough to cross the Rt. 11 by ourselves, we ran across the tracks and down the embankment to see what he was after. Down in the woods was a dirt path; at the end of the path was a board on the ground and a blue enamel tin cup hanging from a tree. Under the board was a clear, cold spring.

The water bubbled up on its own, and it was freezing and fresh, much fresher than the bogan (land-locked dead water with no inlet or outlet) thirty feet away. I once asked Al about the tin cup, and why he left it there. He looked through his coke-bottomed glasses, pursed his lips, and hmm’d in his usual way before he answered. “Dint hang it. Sumnelse did b’fer me.” Sure enough, I noticed that when the train would stop there (it was a junction of road and railroad, and within throwing distance of Squa Pan station), sometimes the brakemen would disappear down into the woods for a quick drink. Al always allowed that after you fished the newts out (and with his legal blindness, I’m sure a few became lunch), that it was the best water to be found anywhere. Even when my parents tried to convince him to come fill up in our kitchen sink, he’d still go get a pail from the spring.

I myself have pulled down the tin cup and had a drink. It was faded blue with black speckles. The handle had been flattened and reshaped, giving it the contours of a boxer’s ear. Someone long ago, before ‘Ol Al, and probably before the potato house, had been so impressed with the water source that they had hung a cup there. Not just for themselves, but for any traveler that walked that way.

The woods and hills where I grew up held many mysteries for a young boy. There are long, straight ruts carved into the woods, with full grown trees growing up between them. In our back field where we drove our go-cart, there were cement pilings peeking from the ground from where an old settlement had stood. There were at least three abandoned old cars in the middle of thick pine forests; so thick that you could barely walk through them, let alone drive a 1939 Mercury out there, roll it over,  and leave it. Once, when I was about fifteen, I was walking out there, I was many miles from my home, and had no clue where I was. I wasn’t worried, because I knew at some point, I’d hit a river, road, or hill tall enough to see where I needed to go. In the middle of nowhere, I came across a bizarre site – a patina-ed tin cup hanging from a tree, about 6 feet up. This one looked almost like a measuring cup, all dull metal with water and sap stains coloring it. I started looking around on the ground, and sure enough – at the base of the tree that the cup was on was a rotten old board. And underneath the board was a spring so cold that your teeth ached after the first sip.

This is not a special case. Ask any oldtimer County resident about it, and they can point you towards a spring somewhere that has a tin cup hanging next to it. No one ever knows where the cup came from, and no one will ever take it home. At the edge of a potato field, not too far from a pull-off of the road, or just a little ways from where the old lumber mill used to be; someone made an investment in the future well-being of others, and left a tin cup. I’m pretty sure it was a per-individual basis – to the best of my knowledge, Northern Maine was never visited by Johnny Tincupseed. It is a thought process that those people never thought about. You know you will want a drink, and why not help out someone else too? Hang a cup. Something that will last, and something that the wife won’t ding you about the old ear hole when she notices it missing.

This is a mentality that I miss. We often lament about how life is nowadays, but for those of us from a more rustic area, it is a glaring change. No one hangs a tin cup. No one helps out their neighbor in an indirect way. In the rare occasions that people do help out a stranger, they hang around and hope to be recognized for it. I miss the days of people doing something because the world will be a better place for it being done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and iPhones and Clash of Clans, so I don’t want to go back, but I’m just saying let’s hang a tin cup. Do something for someone today just because. Leave something nice somewhere to help out someone else. Tuck a dollar into a library book when you return it. Stick a post-it note on a gas pump and say something nice for the next person who fills up. I’m not really sure what an equivalent gesture would be to the tin cup plan. If you think of one, please let me know. I just know that taking that drink connected me to generations of thirsty and respectful men, and I hope that I can do something someday to hang my own tin cup, and inspire anyone who follows after me. I haven’t been home in a few years, but when I do make the trip again, I’m going to take my son back to that same path through the woods, look for the tree, and hope that a tin cup still hangs there. If it doesn’t, I may have one in my pocket to leave.FullSizeRender (1)