Death to Trojans

Death to Trojans:

I have just spent the last eight hours un-wrecking my computer from an encounter with a particularly well-designed piece of Trojan malware. I hereby propose a new Constitutional amendment: anyone caught and convicted of writing one of these things shall be first horsewhipped and then hanged, and neither shall be construed as cruel or unusual punishment.

Alternatively, we could change the law so that shooting a Trojan writer resulted in a reward of ten thousand dollars and no criminal charges. While the first option expresses a proper social unity in condeming these people, the second might do something to spur the economy. Either will do.

Tartan Day

Tartan Day:

Welcome to Tartan Day, 2006! We celebrate this annually at Grim's Hall, although I have been too busy to get myself on the Gathering of the Blogs list this year. If you'd like to see what I can muster on a year when I'm not so busy, try the 2004 celebration, or last year's.

This year, we're a bit pressed for time at the Hall. I did mention it to my wife as she sprinted out the door today to get a letter in the mail, still wearing her plaid pajamas. "I'll just tell the neighbors it's Scottish Day!" she said. "As it happens, it is," I remembered aloud. She laughed. "Really?"

Indeed. I'm caught so off guard that I have no Scotch in the house, and no Scottish beer either. However, I do have a can of haggis that I'll take for lunch, with mashed potatoes and such lesser beer that I have to hand.

Good day to you all. By the way, Cassidy has a huge post on the topic at her place, if you'd like. BlackFive, who proves a clansman of mine, also has a series of posts. Enjoy.


V.S. Naipaul:

He is interviewed in Literary Review, hat tip to Arts & Letters Daily. I have a (very) slight connection to the great Indian, in that he once wrote about my home. Indeed, he wrote about the Sheriff of Forsyth County, who ruled over the place the whole time I was a boy.

...not the [jail] of 1912, but still as flat and basic-looking as a sheriff's office in a Western film; assertively labeled (as in a film) FORSYTH COUNTY JAIL... [S]oon I was called into his office, where, on an old-fashioned hat-rack, at the very top, was a black cowboy hat with a sheriff badge....

He was impressive, Sheriff Walraven. He was an elected official, and he saw himself representing the will of the American people -- who had turned their face against violence. And though he wasn't willing to play up this side of things, he was also doing his Christian duty, Christianity being a religion that taught love and peace.... There was to be no violence; it was his duty to see that there was none.

Did he see a situation where that might change?

He thought for a while and said, "If the system falls down." But then almost immediately he added, "The system can't fall down. Individuals might fall down."
He's retired now, Sheriff Walraven. Now and then you'll see him out tending his garden as you drive down the country road. He is still an impressive man, or was the last time I encountered him.

The system can't fall down. It was his duty, and is now ours.


Songs of Freedom:

I was listening to some old songs tonight. Songs like this one:

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With an eye like an eagle
And as tall as a mountain was he!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
He was brave, he was fearless
And as tough as a mighty oak tree!

From the coonskin cap on the top of ol' Dan
To the heel of his rawhide shoe;
The rippin'est, roarin'est, fightin'est man
The frontier ever knew!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
And he fought for America
To make all Americans free!
Here's another, so you can see where I'm going with this:
I'll tell you a story
A real true life story
A tale of the Western frontier

The West it was lawless
But one man was flawless
And his is the story you'll hear.

Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold.
Long live his fame and long live his glory
And long may his story be told.
If you've never heard the above song, you should. It's sung in a form that exists nowhere else, except in a church hymnal.

Just one more, since we were talking about the Alamo:
Fought single handed through the Injun war,
Till the Creeks was whipped and peace was restored.
And while he was handling this risky chore,
Made himself a legend, forevermore.

Davy, Davy Crockett the man who don't know fear.

He went of to Congress and served a spell
Fixin' up the government and laws as well.
Took over Washington, I heard tell,
And patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.
What do these songs have in common? Three things: they treat the American frontier; they portray the lives of their characters in over-the-top idealism; and they do so without a hint of irony.

We usually see this kind of idealism only in children. Watching children play, you'll see that their toy guns never miss -- and the guns of the imagined enemy always do. They're always faster, cleverer, and in the right.

Yet the audience for these songs, and the television shows or movies that went with them, was not children. They were grown men, and not just any men. They were the adult men of the 1950s and 1960s, who had been the young men and older teenagers in the days of World War II. These were, as Reagan said, the boys of Point du Hoc.

So many today look back on the culture of the 1950s with smugness, as if our generations were so much more clever, so much more insightful than they. How blind they were, how childlike their ideas! Yet they had seen terror and fire close at hand.

I submit that -- maybe -- if they believed in these things, it's because these are things worth believing in.


A Great Opening, A Serious Problem:

"Jack Dunphy" has an article today in National Review Online. It begins:

Are you looking for a job with low pay? Does the idea of working miserable hours appeal to you? How about working weekends and holidays? Is the daily risk to life and limb on your checklist of must-haves for your next job? If so, the New York Police Department has a job for you.
The ending is pretty good too, actually.
No one comes into police work for the money. All we ask for is a decent living and to be treated fairly when things get dicey. Sadly, cops and potential cops are discovering this is too much to ask. Can higher crime be far behind?
Now, as someone who has occasionally chided the cops -- for example, the Fairfax SWAT team that shot and killed my eye-doctor -- I recognize that he's got a point. You can look at the Cynthia McKinney case for a clarifying example, if an example is needed. The guy was doing his job, trying to protect her and her colleagues, and look what it got him: punched, shouted at, called a racist, and now she says she'll sue him.

Hopefully the US Attorney will show some of that "fair treatment" Dunphy requests.

Illegals from China

US To Ship Illegal Immigrants Back Home:

To China. Mexican immigrants are still a hot topic, but Chertoff got an agreement to send every single Chinese illegal immigrant right back to the Communists.

"If we start to show progress in the short term, one of the messages that will be sent to those who are thinking of illegally migrating is that when they get caught in the U.S. they will be going back home," said Chertoff. "They will not be getting released into the United States. We can have a huge effect on this by starting to establish deterrents, which we have not been able to do up to now."
There are, of course, three little differences between Chinese illegal immigration and Mexican illegal immigration:

1) The government of Mexico seems to be encouraging illegal immigration. China, on the other hand, regards these people as criminals to be punished on their return.

2) The trip from Mexico is life-threatening; but it's a walk in the park compared to getting here secretly from China. As a result, there's no demographic tipping point to worry about, as there aren't that many Chinese illegals (39,000 is the estimate).

3) We don't share a border with China, and they don't claim any of our land.

What does all that mean? Well, that depends on how you see the issue. If you think that the issue is purely one of law enforcement -- the right of America to make and enforce its own laws -- none of it makes any difference. They broke the law, and the law says to send them home.

If your concern isn't about the rule of law, but the stability of the culture -- this is my concern and position, just to be clear -- the Mexican immigrants represent a serious problem and danger that needs to be managed; whereas the Chinese immigrants, who will never muster the numbers to destabilize a community or lay claim to American land, are not a danger of that type. We might be free to consider other questions, such as what their fate will be if they return.

On the other hand, we have also to consider that an asylum-centric policy would encourage more people to take the risks of the sea and the evils of human smugglers. Surely that is no good thing.

I'm told that this is a simple issue, and indeed it can be. "The law must be enforced" simplifies things greatly.

Yet America has always held that juries were meant to be involved in the enforcement of the law; or, in courts martial, fellow military men. The idea has never been that the law should be applied without consideration of the individual case, including the question of whether -- this time -- we should make an exception.

The police have a simple job: catch the criminals; arrest them; bring them to a magistrate. From there, though, justice has never been simple. Trying to make it so may improve the efficiency of the courts, but I'm not convinced it will improve the quality of justice delivered. I like the idea of having a jury of Americans look over the case, and give a ruling tailored to the individual facts.

In the case of Mexico, stronger measures and greater efficiency may be needed. The crisis is larger, and it is backed by sections of the Mexican government and organized groups in the United States. If the concern is the letter of the law, then it's the same problem, China and Mexico. But if the concern is assimilation and the American mission of freedom, the Chinese situation is notably different from the Mexican one.

Bush Was Right


Any song that sings the praises of Zell Miller is all right with me. I wonder if he ever thought he'd live to be idolized by a rock and roll band?

Cowboy story

A Cowboy Story:

On the way home from the District of Columbia tonight, I ran into a massive thunderstorm out Manassas way. I cut off the highway and stopped in at a "Grill & Bar" for dinner. Since I was alone, I didn't ask for a table, but went in to dine at the bar.

I was wearing my grandfather's Stetson -- the finest thing ever invented for a T-storm is a beaver-felt hat. There was no place to set the hat, so I just left it propped on my head while I climbed on the stool. Although it was early in the evening, three fellows arranged at the end of the bar had obviously gotten there well ahead of me. They were, in a word, drunk.

So I sat down, picked up a copy of the Washington Post, and put in my order. Just a moment later, the drunk in the middle shouted down the bar:

"Hey! That hat needs a bullet hole through it! That'd be great!"

I just ignored him, and kept reading. Another shout:

"Hey, buddy! I said your hat needs a bullet hole through it! Har, har!"

Not the first drunk I ever met, so I kept reading.

"Hey, bartender, gimme yer pistol! I'm gonna shoot a hole in that fella's hat!"

At this point I glanced over to the end of the bar, took the fellow's eye, and said:

"This hat belonged to my grandfather. I'll thank you if you don't shoot at it."
And I went back to my paper. It got a lot quieter at that end of the bar. I heard the fellow mutter something about his grandfather, but I'm not sure what.

A moment later, the closest of the men came down to me.

"Listen, sir," he said, "we're just having some fun with that other guy. He's a Cowboy's fan, and this is Redskins country. He didn't mean any disrespect to the hat."

He honestly said that. I told him it was fine, and he thanked me, and went on back to what they were doing. Fellows seemed to be having a good time, and good for them.

Never had a man apologize to my hat before. They seemed like good guys, though.



There are many good lessons and wise observations in John Wayne’s The Alamo. However, there is one scene in particular that has always resonated with me every time I thought about Saddam Hussein and the arguments surrounding our invasion of Iraq. The scene takes place in a local cantina after Davy Crockett and his Tennesseans has just arrived in Texas. They are discussing whether or not they should stay and fight with the Texans when one member of the group asks,” I own no part of this here Texas and none of these here Texicans are related to me so why should I fight for them?” Immediately afterwards another member states, “Right, it aint our ox getting gored.

Davy Crockett responds with a classic line that many of our more appeasement minded countrymen would do well to reflect on. He responds by stating, “Talking about whose ox gets gored- figure this, fellow gets in the habit of goring oxes, wets his appetite. He may come up north and gore yours.”

Although it has nothing to do with foreign policy, I enjoyed comment from one of the Tennesseans when another member of the group states that he has been concerned about Crockett’s behavior; “Being in Congress has ruined many a good man.”

How true!

GHMC: Alamo

Grim's Hall Movie Club: The Alamo

Since we've all watched it, I won't post a review at length. There are a couple of things I'd like to talk about, though. Any of you with author's accounts are welcome to start a post of your own if different aspects of the movie interest you; or just add to the comments, as you prefer.

I. Honor v. Authority

The movie has three leading roles: Col. Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie. It's hard to manage that coherently, but each of the three walked so largely in life that they cannot be downplayed in the story.

The writers decided to steal adapt a strategy from the poem that lies at the very root of our civilization. Theodore Roosevelt's history of the Alamo begins with a comparison of the Alamo to Thermopylae, but this retelling reaches back father still. It takes the form from the Iliad, and points to the clash between honor and authority. A hero is a tremendous asset to an army; wars cannot be won without them, and men follow them gladly. Yet the hero's own sense of right and wrong, honor and virture, lead them to argue for what they think is right rather than what they are told. Because men follow them gladly, the very act of fighting for what they think is right splits armies and disrupts the chain of command.

The Iliad remains the most important poem in our culture, even as the Bible remains -- in spite of all that has been written -- the most important book. Even today, we find this to be one of the hardest lessons of leadership -- and one of the hardest things to learn when we are called not to lead but to follow and take commands, for a common goal.

(If you have not read the Iliad, or if you were introduced to a bad, boring or incomprehensible version of it, let me offer a suggestion: Do not read it. Rather, listen to it. It was composed to be heard, and it should be. Get a copy of an audiobook of the Fitzgerald translation from a library or a bookstore, which is by far the best in the English language. I cannot recommend this strongly enough -- if you come by Grim's Hall regularly, you will never regret the time you spend with it.)

Just as in the Iliad, the tension between the three characters is between a man who is willing to set aside mens' honor for victory; a hero whose devotion to honor makes him clash with that first man; and a wiser, older hero who has come to understand both authority and honor, and make them work together. In the Iliad, these heroes are Agamemnon, Achillles, and Odysseus. In the Alamo, they are Col. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett.

Travis asserts his authority through military discipline, and right of command. He is willing to speak insultingly to Jim Bowie to shut down challenges to his orders ('You were drunk at the last officer's call, and I do not wish to discuss my plans until the next'). He is willing to publicly slur the credibility of friendly Mexican caballeros who bring him word, because he's afraid the word they bring might panic the men and cause desertions. He is gallant to those who are doing what he wants -- as when he shows honor to the arriving Tenneseans -- but cares nothing for the honor of men who disagree with him. Rather than resolving the clash with Bowie, it makes it worse and worse, until Bowie is ready to take his men and depart.

Bowie and his men (like Achilles' Myrmidons) are volunteers, and can leave when they wish. Travis needs them to hold until aid can arrive. He also needs the help of another body of volunteers who arrive under the command of another hero, Davy Crockett.

Crockett appears less of a hero to Travis than his reputation would suggest. Travis is not happy to find his Crockett and his men brawling and drinking, and he refers to Crockett's usual manner of speech as a 'bumpkin act.' Yet when he hears Crockett's speech about the Republic, he is taken aback. So it was said of Odysseus:

One might have taken him for a mere churl or simpleton; but when he raised his voice, and the words came driving from his deep chest like winter snow before the wind, then there was none to touch him.
Crockett understands the balance between honor and authority: both Travis and Bowie trust him, and he is able to mediate between the two. Yet he has this flaw, as Odysseus had it: he uses that ability to understand both worlds, and gain trust in both, to manipulate. He manipulates Travis by appealing to him calmly and with respectful words, as he does after Travis has already dismissed Bowie following the destruction of the great cannon. He manipulates Bowie by playing on his sense of honor and shame, as he does when he introduces him to the kid, tells the kid to ask him 'about that Sandbar fight,' and then says that Bowie is leaving. Of course, Bowie cannot shame himself by admitting he was planning to leave, and so ends up staying.

Yet at last Crockett's manipulations can't hold the army together. What keeps them there to fight and die is this: the moment when Travis decides to let them go, and speaks glowingly of what they have accomplished so far. When Travis takes up the language of honor, and calls them brave and noble soldiers, neither Bowie nor any other will leave him.

That is the lesson, then: for Travis, to honor his soldiers as heroes, as well as to command them as men; for Bowie, to set aside his pride and follow. So he does, and dies for it, and thereby wins the honor he so craved:
The fort that was a mission
Be an everlasting shrine!
Once they fought to give us freedom,
That is all we need to know
Of the thirteen days of glory
At the siege of Alamo.

II. Santa Anna

Perhaps it is also because they drew so heavily on the Iliad, but the treatment of Santa Anna is remarkable. We are used to seeing him "on a horse that was black as the night," a cruel and vicious killer of brave men. One of the unusual qualities of the Iliad is that it shows sympathy to everyone in it: though it is a poem composed in Greek, by Greeks who saw themselves as descendants of the Greek heroes of the poem, it never treats the Trojans as anything less than their own heroes.

That is almost unheard of in heroic literature, where one may fight greater things -- demons, dragons -- or lesser ones -- witness Conan slaughter endless numbers of nameless, purposeless men! We are so used to seeing enemies demonized that we expect it. Even political campaigns now almost always descend to it.

That makes it all the more astonishing to see what great lengths the film goes to in order to portray Santa Anna as a noble and heroic man. Indeed, he is painted as being better than he really was: no real comment is made on his decision to offer no quarter, and everyone is portrayed as dying in combat rather than in later executions.

Yet it is not just that the film elides over his harsher parts. It actively shows him as good and noble. He offers a chance for the men guarding the Alamo to retreat. After they refuse and he has attacked the mission, he discovers the presence of noncombatants and allows them safe passage. There is no suggestion in the film that he attempted to take the families of the men inside as hostages, or did anything but honor his word that they would be safe. Indeed, there is never a suggestion that the men inside the Alamo ever suspect that he would.

The two high notes of this theme come after the battles. After the first battle, some of the volunteers watch from the walls of the Alamo as families of the slain Mexican soldiers look over the dead in search of their kin. The grief of these family members is shown just as strongly as the grief of the Texans later; and in fact, the Mexican women watching the Texan lady leave the Alamo cross themselves in sympathy with her.

Meanwhile, the volunteers muse about the heroism of the men they have killed. "I was proud of them. Even as I was killing them, I was proud of them," one says. 'It speaks well of a man that so many aren't afraid to die, being sure they are right. It speaks well.' Of course it is military discipline that sent them forward in reality; but in the film, it was love and trust in their commander.

At the last scene in the movie, the lady of Texas is allowed to go free from the Alamo, and given a burro for her child to ride. Santa Anna arranges his army so that she will pass them where they are in full dress uniform. As she passes, he summons the men to present arms in salute. He does not meet her eye, but removes his hat in a display of honor for her.

How odd to see a foe allowed to be so noble! And yet, it makes Jim Bowie, and Crockett and Travis seem all the bolder and better. They lost; but they lost to a noble hero, inheritor of the best traditions of Europe. We know that Houston, inheritor of the best traditions of America, will soon meet him and best him. We finish feeling not simple satisfaction at the end of a villian, but awe and pride that such a man, and such an army, could be overcome by a ragged pack of heroes and volunteers.

The music swells, and invokes the protection of God on the souls who guarded the mission. We are sure that somehow, that is right. Yet the movie does not put Santa Anna on the side of the devils. It is content to view him as another flawed hero, as we all are flawed heroes.

Last Straw

The Last Straw:

I'm a pretty patient and understanding fellow, really. I try to live by the injunction against juding others' sins -- as opposed to their crimes, which I feel entirely competent to judge. I try not to condemn people for doing things I might well do myself, and I try to understand that some others have other moral structures that might -- in some circumstances -- be right even though I don't agree with them.

So we saw all those Mexican flags at the big marches, and it bugs me like it bugs a lot of people. But I think to myself: "Well, and what if it were the Confederate flag? A lot of people don't want to see that anywhere, but it means different things to me than it does to others. Maybe that's what's going on here; and Kaus said it was pleasant and happy, so maybe that's all it is."

Then, we saw the Mexican flag flown OVER the American flag, inverted. I thought: "That's really pushing it, bud -- and I would feel that way even if it were the Confederate flag. On the other hand, we did just have a big thing about the importance of free speech, even offensive free speech, with those Muhammad cartoons. So, if I'm going to be true to the principles at hand, I have to permit this -- even if it is a desecration."

Now, we see the American flag banned at American schools.

I know there's been some chaos, particularly last week's flag burnings, in which Mexican flags were destroyed after they were raised above the US flag. I realize that schools have to maintain discipline.

Nevertheless, we've reached the end of my tolerance.

This is America, and a lot of Americans have fought for that flag. Our kids ought to be able to fly it. The school's place is not to ban the display, but to teach it, and to require the proper forms, as recorded in the United States Marine Corps Flag Manual. When I was a boy, we were taught to raise and lower, and correctly fold, the flag. Particularly good students were honored by being allowed to do it for the school, one week out of their career.

If school discipline is being troubled by the presence of flags, the solution is to enforce those proper forms:

When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. When the President directs that the flag be flown at half-staff at military facilities and naval vessels and stations abroad, it will be so flown whether or not the flag of another nation is flown full-staff alongside the flag of the United States of America. The national flag, if required, will be displayed, on the right (the flag's own right) of all others. The national flags of other nations shall be displayed, right to left, in the alphabetical order of the names of the nations in the English language.
There are several lessons encoded in that paragraph. The American flag has precedence here. The English language has precedence here. The honor of our flag cannot be harmed by being displayed below another flag, provided that it has been properly ordered: for mourning the glorious dead adds to, rather than detracts from, the honor of a man or a nation.

Every American student ought to learn those lessons. They are the forms endorsed by our military, chief defender of our nation's honor and her traditions. These limits are not limits, but liberations: for they establish the forms with which anyone, of any nation, may come here and become fully and completely an American. Do but these little things, and we will embrace you as a brother in a way that no other nation on earth ever will. Do them not, and you will forever remain an alien.


The Winchester:

Kim du Toit has a piece on the closure of the Winchester plant, and the end of an American era. It is an ode to one of the great symbols, a piece of technology that captured something at the heart of the culture: the miracle of technology, coupled with a vision of fearless human freedom.

The funniest thing about the Winchester lever-action rifle is how American it looks. Its directness speaks to the honest greed of westward expansion, its reliability to the honest hunger of its manufacturers for the big houses it bought them, its toughness to the honest brutality by which it was employed in various arroyos and dry gulches. It lacks subterfuge, subtlety, pretension, airs. It’s like the cowboy himself, elegant in its total lack of self-awareness. It’s beyond irony or stylization. It’s cool because it doesn’t care what you or anybody thinks.

Now open it; shove the lever—that oblong loop affixed to the trigger guard—forward. Feel it slide-clack through a four-inch range of motion and watch the drama as the gun undergoes changes: the breech, which contains the firing pin, glides backward, ratcheting the hammer back. At that moment you can tilt it a little and peer into the opened slot in the roof of the receiver.

You see before you the gun’s most private parts: the chamber, the slightly bulged space in the barrel where the cartridge is encapsulated when it fires; the follower, a little spring-powered tray that lifts a cartridge (which has just been popped aboard by the pressure of the magazine tube spring) up to the chamber; the breechface with its tiny hole out of which will pop, whack-a-mole style, the firing pin when the trigger is pulled and the hammer falls.

You see: trays, pins, holes, steel walls. You see a miracle of timing by which all these elements have been choreographed to mesh in a brilliantly syncopated sequence. But you’re also looking back into the 19th century and to what it was that made this country great. For what you’re seeing is a solution—elegant as any poem, efficient as any mousetrap, smooth as any crooner—to a set of problems that might be enumerated as follows: How do you package chemical energy of roughly 3,000 foot-pounds safely in metal that is at the same time light enough to be carried, strong enough to be operated and simple enough to be manufactured?

These things are not going away quickly, not after six million were made. I have one in my closet. The old Winchester will be with us a long time, even if this marks the beginning of the end.

And when those old rifles start to wear out, and only a few remain servicable? Perhaps we will move on to something else. Or perhaps we will see another miracle.

In 1941, Colt ceased production of the Single Action Army revolver, which must be one of the two most famous handguns ever made -- the other also being a Colt. Yet by 1956, they were re-tooled and began producing "Second Generation" Colt revolvers. The culture, you see, had changed: reinvigorated by Westerns on television, Americans had a sharp appetite for single action revolvers. Ruger had been offering one, and Colt found that it wanted back in to the game it had so long led. This second generation became the Third Generation, was licensed out as the Colt Cowboy, and now is back again at Colt as the Western undergoes another rebirth. The Single Action Shooting Society has a deal where members can get custom Colts -- hideously expensive ones, that Colt never imagined making when it thought it was done with the revolver in 1941.

Rebirths are possible, and often it is only when something is gone that you realize how much you needed it. That was the case with the Colt; and it is the case with the Frontier that the Colt and the Winchester symbolize, says Doc Russia.

We see young men behaving in a manner inconsistent with manhood. Men are not, as Jeff Cooper illustrated, learning to ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth. They are instead learning to bum around, play Xbox, and engage in droll sophistry. Look at today's metrosexual. You have a male who primps himself like a girl, and instead of behaving in a manly manner, he uses a woman's charms of emotional embellishment, and "snesitivity," which are attributes not best exemplified by men.

While I believe that part of this is due to enabling by women who want a man that is "non-threatening" and "a good listener," I think that there is a far bleaker emptiness that is at play here in the dearth of manhood.

Where, I ask, are the frontiers?

It was not so long ago in this very country when a young man could go out into the great vastness of America, and carve for himself a future in remote or undeveloped lands where there were no real rules yet. I look at my own childhood, and in retrospect, myself and my friends all had a certain restlessness in our hearts. Some have called it Wanderlust, the desire to go out and wander. Some call it cabin fever. I do not know what to call it, but I know that it is real. Unfortunately, there were no frontiers for us to venture off into at that time. No, we had nowhere to explore, aqnd found ourselves bored very quickly by the terribly humdrum existence that passes for life as a teenager today. So, we did like so many did, and tried to make things "exciting." What followed was a fairly quick series of events and mishaps that made for wonderful stories that I still tell sometimes. Unfortunately, these stories are laced thoroughly with terms like "overdosed on" "drunk and passed out," "cops showed up and cuffed"...

The military offers a road out here for many young men. As we watch the chaos on our borders increase, and the situation in Iran worsen, we may find the Frontier closer than we expect all too soon. Will we be ready? Doc says that the teenagers of America already are, if only they knew it:
[E]very teenager has felt this urge. This urge to just get up, flick the cigarrette away, smash the bottle on the floor, and stride out. Yes, I have many times sat in a party, surrounded by a few friends and a lot of strangers, listening to them all say the same damned thing as everyone else does, and wearing the same damned things like a bunch of cookie cutter angst-riddled teenagers, and felt this great, almost paralyzing fear as a single horrific thought overwhelmed me.

What if this is all there is?

And then the urge would strike, and I would want to get up and leave. No explanations, no diatribes, no monologues. Just get up and leave. Just get out and get away to somewhere that is more real, and more meaningful. Somewhere I am unfettered.

This longing is echoed in the very piece on the Winchester rifle with which we began. It too looks to the Frontier the Winchester symbolized, and mourns:
A famous ad that most boy baby boomers will recall from Boys’ Life, the old scouting magazine of the ‘50s, showed a happy lad, carrot-topped and freckly like any number of Peck’s Bad Boys, his teeth haphazardly arrayed within his wide, gleeful mouth under eyes wide as pie platters as he exclaimed on Christmas morn, "Gee, Dad . . . A Winchester!"

All gone, all gone, all gone. The gun as family totem, the implied trust between generations, the implicit idea that marksmanship followed by hunting were a way of life to be pursued through the decades, the sense of tradition, respect, self-discipline and bright confidence that Winchester and the American kinship group would march forward to a happy tomorrow—gone if not with the wind, then with the tide of inner-city and nutcase killings [.]

The Boy Scouts still exist, and still serve the young man who longs for adventure. They still offer chances to explore. Not just the Frontier, though also that, but other adventures also: so-called "Explorer Scouts" can end up attached to police units, firefighters, and other places where the modern world still needs a man's spirit. We do need that spirit, and we may find soon that we need it as much as we ever did.

Doc Russia says the heart of the young man from whom we will need that spirit longs for it. It looks around and asks, "Is this all there is?" It wants so much for the answer to be, "No -- and we need you for what is to come."

I remember that feeling he describes. All my life, it never seemed to go away. And then one morning, my wife woke me out of slumber and said, "Darling, it's time." We went to a hospital and passed through fire, and on the other side was a new world.

To all you young men out there wondering, I will tell you: you have never known adventure until you've held your living son.

Yesterday my wife and I took my son, almost four, to the gun range for the first time. I bought him ear protection made to fit a little head. He was perfectly behaved. He sat on the bench behind the range and watched with wonder that miracle of timing: the meeting of steel and springs and clay, that sent a whirling orange disk sailing through the air. A man on the range, his father, raises a stick to his shoulder. There is a sound like thunder, and that little disk -- so far away you can barely see it -- breaks apart with a shock.

We had to drag him bodily back to the truck, the boy grinning from earmuff to earmuff. I bought him a water gun on the way home, and this morning we hiked out to a lake nearby. He stood on the shore and shot at the geese paddling by. They would honk gently when he hit them, but did not seem to mind.

In time he'll have a Winchester, mine or one of his own. It may be that they will make them again one day.

I suspect they will, when we are ready for them. When we have restored the trust between generations: when we have taught our youths how to be men, and our men to love their sons. All good things follow from that, rebirth and a greater world.