Monday, April 23, 2012

After action report - Wichita, Kansas.

Went to Wichita this past weekend for Civil War Days at Old Cowtown. The setting for the event was unique with the camps being scattered throughout the cattle drive town. Last year we went down for just one day but this year we did the entire weekend.The chance to camp and fight in a mostly period town was too much to pass up.

Arrived on Friday evening with daylight still left. Got situated and everyone set up without trouble. Mrs. Spiff and the young ones were camped only a short distance from the Ninth but with a tall privacy fence between the camps there was a good separation between civilians and military. Our camp was between two houses along a back street in the town. The two other Confederate units were similarly located, one being quite a distance away on a farm on the outskirts of town. The Federal infantry was camped a block or so away from us with another unit near the civilian camp. Nothing in Old Cowtown is very far from anything else.

All through the evening on Friday the men of the Ninth trickled in. While I did not get official numbers I would estimate the unit topping out at between 13 and 15 men counting attached men. Captain Cox and the entire NCO staff were present. After catching up with the boys I decided to hit the sack as it had been a long week.

Saturday morning saw more men arriving. Drill commenced at 0900. After individual company drill we joined the 2nd Kansas (the Vertigree Militia for the weekend) and drilled together for a time. Just over an hour later we were dismissed. Drill went well and the winter rust knocked off quickly for all.

An early lunch was in order as the battle was slated to start at 1300. A short time before, we marched out to the farmstead. Several trenches had been dug in front of the farmhouse. We were initially stationed behind the house as a wagon load of civilians came down the road from town. The wagon was stopped by the militia and, for reasons unknown, the women and children aboard were taken prisoner. This sent a frightened lad scurrying back to town to alert the Yankee troops in the area. Thus the battle was perhaps caused as were many during the war - by chance.

As the Federal troops emerged from town they began to skirmish with some irregulars to our front. We occupied the trenches and waited. Several unsuccessful assaults later we emerged and confronted the Yankees in the open. There were still enough left that we could not drive them though.

Following the battle we cleaned up and visited with the members of the public who passed by and through our camp. Several old Ninth members stopped by and caught up with the current members of the unit. Later I visited Mrs. Spiff in her camp for dinner but did not eat much due to feeling less than stellar.

A company meeting after dinner resulted in a decision to reinstate yearly $20 dues. This money will pay for the Ninth's website as well as any other company expenses. Extra monies will be applied to help supply the men with powder and caps.

Following the meeting I escorted Mrs. Spiff to a dance being held in town. After just three dances I became ill and we had to leave. Spent the rest of the evening in my bedroll feeling the effects of an upset stomach. I was later informed that the rest of the company retired to the saloon to play cards and socialize. At least one enlisted man may have had a bit more refreshment than was wise as he was on sick call the next day.

Awakened Sunday morning feeling much better than the night before but still not completely up to par. Ate a very light breakfast as I did not yet trust my innards. Several of the other men inquired as to my health. As the company was cleaning up after breakfast several shots were fired just outside of camp. 1st Sgt. Downey bellowed a call to arms, the Federals had launched a surprise attack. The battle raged throughout the town and drew in all the Confederate units as well as all but one Federal unit. The end result was a draw I believe but the forces were so intermixed that a final determination of victory may be all but impossible.

At 1300 on Sunday we again tangled with the Federal troops. This time the encounter took place along a street. The result was carnage. Most of the Ninth ended up as casualties before the final gun sounded. The crowd seemed appreciative of the effort but it was noted that several females in the crowd cheered particularly loudly whenever a southerner dropped with a wound.

Following the battle the loading and leaving began. We got loaded smoothly and hit the road for the trip home. Looking back on the event I can say that it was a good one. With the presence of public restrooms no porta-johns were needed. Firewood was provided but did run low at one point. This was remedied however. All in all we were well taken care of by the staff of Old Cowtown. In fact, a member of the staff made a stop by Mrs. Spiff's tent solely to see if she needed anything and thank her for coming. If you missed this event as either a reenactor or as a spectator then you must make a note to correct that error next year.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book review - Perfect.

James Buckley Jr.'s Perfect was re-released in 2005 and covers the then 17 perfect games ever thrown in Major League Baseball. Of course there have been three more such games thrown since then but they occurred in 2009 and 2010 and so are not included in the book.

Mr. Buckley begins his book by discussing the nature and rarity of the perfect game. He rightly points out that, while the pitcher gets credit for the game, the entire team must be perfect as well. Every play, every bounce of the ball, every pitch must be perfect. The odds against such an occurrence are staggering. After reading the introduction I found myself amazed that Mr. Buckley had any subject matter at all.

Chapter one of the book covers Lee Richmond's perfect game from 1880. The phrase perfect game was not then in use but that's what Richmond threw. A brief lead-up to the game covers Richmond's life and career to that point. The game is then recounted. A brief follow-up covers the rest of Richmond's career and life and discusses the impact of the perfect game on him.

Each of the other 16 perfect games covered receives the same treatment as the first in their own chapters. When possible Mr. Buckley includes information from interviews with players or family members of players. The reactions and views on the games are as varied as the players themselves. For some of the pitchers their perfect game was a mile marker in a Hall 0f Fame career. For others it was the shining moment in an otherwise ordinary career. For all it was (and is) something very special.

After the account of Randy Johnson's 2004 perfect game Mr. Buckley spends a chapter on the most heartbreaking aspect of perfect games - those that weren't. The near misses are as varied as the ones that made it. Mr. Buckley does just as well bringing them to life as he does with the 17 perfect games he covers.

Even though Perfect misses the last three perfect games thrown in the Majors it is a must read for any baseball fan. Mr. Buckley writes well and his accounts never drag. His rendition of the players and games makes for a perfect read.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book review - Bringing up Girls.

So, I have three girls. Since at least before the birth of my youngest my wife has been after me to read Bringing up Girls by Dr. James Dobson. I finally got to it and read all 268 pages. Every page was interesting. Much of them were enlightening. Many were personally quite applicable and convicting.

This book can be viewed as either a follow-up to Dr. Dobson's earlier Bringing up Boys or as a stand-alone. Either way it's chock full of much needed information that every parent with a girl needs. Dobson breaks down loads of studies and medical research to explain why girls mature and act the way they do and why they're physically and emotionally different than boys. Of course that information impacts how parents interact with their girls.

After establishing a base of information, the book then moves on to the dangers facing girls in our modern society. These dangers are mental and physical. While some of those risks are applicable to both sexes, most of what is discussed here is of particular danger to girls. Once again, Dobson relies heavily on facts and figures as he outlines the risks girls face and how certain risky behaviors will increase those risks.

The final part of the book covers what parents can do to prepare their girls to face our predatory society. The importance of both a strong mother and father figure in every young lady's life cannot be overstated. The need for protection, guidance, and support are clearly outlined. As before, Dobson's positions are clearly supported by research and hard data.

Overall I found Dr. Dobson's book to be easy to read and easy to understand. I also found it very enlightening and challenging. A warning though, if you believe that there are no differences between boys and girls, this book is not for you. Dr. Dobson pulls no punches in making his case. If that warning does not apply then this book should be a must read for all parents engaged in Bringing up Girls.