Wednesday, November 19, 2014

California parents complain about Islam being taught in school... but is their complaint valid?

I came across this article in Truth Revolt the other day, and it immediately caught my interest, as it involves one of the very subjects and grade levels I am teaching this year.

First, the essence of the article:
The parents of a Manhattan Beach, California middle schooler are upset that their son is being taught the faith of Islam in school, according to a KTLA 5 report. "The audacity of this school to think they can sit these children down and teach them whatever religion they please -- it's preposterous," the unidentified father said. "This is illegal, basically. You can't teach religion in schools anymore, but apparently, in this particular school at least, that's not the case." 
The mother pointed to a section that asked the student to write down Islam's "Declaration of Faith" on the provided lines. She wondered if that would be required if the faith were Christianity. "And if it ended with the declaration of faith, 'Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior,' that's the equivalent," she said. The father added, "Can you imagine the outcry all over this country if children were bringing home paperwork that asked them to write down John 3:16, or asked them to write down The 10 Commandments?" 
The report states that the parents met with the principal, but because nothing has changed, they have pulled their son from the class. KTLA said the school did not respond to a statement request.
So, let's break this all down.

I teach 7th graders at a Sacramento middle school.  Sacramento and Manhattan Beach are both in the late, great state of California.  As such, both schools - and every other middle school in California - follow the very same state content standards.  For 7th graders everywhere in California, one of those standards is the following:
7.2 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages.
  1. Identify the physical features and describe the climate of the Arabian peninsula, its relationship to surrounding bodies of land and water, and nomadic and sedentary ways of life.
  2. Trace the origins of Islam and the life and teachings of Muhammad, including Islamic teachings on the connection with Judaism and Christianity.
  3. Explain the significance of the Qur'an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs, practice, and law, and their influence in Muslims' daily life.
  4. Discuss the expansion of Muslim rule through military conquests and treaties, emphasizing the cultural blending within Muslim civilization and the spread and acceptance of Islam and the Arabic language.
  5. Describe the growth of cities and the establishment of trade routes among Asia, Africa, and Europe, the products and inventions that traveled along these routes (e.g., spices, textiles, paper, steel, new crops), and the role of merchants in Arab society.
  6. Understand the intellectual exchanges among Muslim scholars of Eurasia and Africa and the contributions Muslim scholars made to later civilizations in the areas of science, geography, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, art, and literature.
Again, these standards are taught to 7th graders in every California middle school - not just the "particular school" in questions.  You can pull your son from that particular class all you want; the same standard will be waiting for him in the other 7th grade history teachers' classrooms down the hall.
As for Christianity, it is also taught in California's middle and elementary schools.  It just happens to be in the standards for a different grade level - along with Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Shintoism.  All of the those religions are to be found in the California History Standards for 6th grade.  The standards for Christianity fall under the main standard for the Roman Empire:
6.7 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures during the development of Rome.
6.Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation). 
7.Describe the circumstances that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other Roman territories. 
You will notice that the standard calls for the teacher to teach the students not only about the life of Jesus, but His teachings as well.  The mother mentions in article about how aghast people would be if the Ten Commandments were taught.  Well, check out the 6th grade standard for Judaism:

6.3 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the Ancient Hebrews.
  1. Describe the origins and significance of Judaism as the first monotheistic religion based on the concept of one God who sets down moral laws for humanity.
  2. Identify the sources of the ethical teachings and central beliefs of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible, the Commentaries): belief in God, observance of law, practice of the concepts of righteousness and justice, and importance of study; and describe how the ideas of the Hebrew traditions are reflected in the moral and ethical traditions of Western civilization.
  3. Explain the significance of Abraham, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, David, and Yohanan ben Zaccai in the development of the Jewish religion.
  4. Discuss the locations of the settlements and movements of Hebrew peoples, including the Exodus and their movement to and from Egypt, and outline the significance of the Exodus to the Jewish and other people.
  5. Discuss how Judaism survived and developed despite the continuing dispersion of much of the Jewish population from Jerusalem and the rest of Israel after the destruction of the second Temple in A.D. 70. 
Guess what folks?  You can't teach about the ethical teachings and central beliefs of Judaism, and their belief in God, and observance of law without teaching them the Ten Commandments.

Now here is where I share some concerns with these parents and others like them.  

First, there is a standard dedicated solely to Islam, and it is a lengthy one.  There is no standard exclusively dedicated to Christianity.  Instead, Christianity only gets a couple of sub-standards that are shoehorned into the main standard for the Roman Republic and early Empire.  On the other hand, the 7th grade standard for Medieval Europe mentions Christianity extensively, and there is an entire standard (7.8), dedicated to the Protestant Reformation, where the teachings of the Catholic Church and how they differ from Protestant belief are discussed in extensive detail.

Second, the standard for Islam is usually addressed with the first couple chapters of any 7th grade history textbook, thereby guaranteeing that it will be taught.  Conversely, Christianity is mentioned in regards to the early Roman Empire, which is almost always found at the end of a 6th grade history textbook.  Seriously, how often did you make it to the end of the textbook before the end of the school year when you were a kid?

Third, I am concerned not so much with what is taught about Islam in many California schools, but how it is taught - especially in comparison to Christianity.  If you read what our textbooks say about Islam, you get a sense of tiptoeing and glass and eggshells crunching.  The Islamic invasions of 7th and 8th Century Persia, Byzantine Empire, and Western Europe are mentioned, but the authors of said textbooks are always quick to point out how tolerant Muslim rulers were toward the subjugated people of other faiths, which is a bunch of bullshit.  Also, the word Jihad is always defined as "striving" or a "struggle" to be a good Muslim.  Also bullshit.  Conversely, the same textbooks are only too quick and willing to point out Christian excesses during the Inquisition, and just flat out lie about the motivations of the Christians during the Crusades.  Yes, there were bad things supposedly done in the name of Christianity during the Crusades, but the Crusades were a defensive response to the rising threat of Islam, not an offensive campaign meant to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Some schools and individual teachers have also gone way too far in their efforts to teach their students about Islamic doctrine, such as having students visit a mosque and be shown how to pray toward Mecca (which happened in Massachusetts), or having students do a project where they role play as Muslims engaging in a pilgrimage on the way to Mecca.  I have trouble imagining a teacher having her 6th graders role play Jesus's Disciples on the way to Jerusalem. 

The bottom line is that if parents in California are going to get upset about their 7th grade children learning about Islam, they need to understand that in 6th grade, their children were exposed to crapload of other world religions to include Christianity and Judaism, along with all those eastern religions as well.  They also need to understand that it is perfectly acceptable to learn about religion in history class.  Stop saying, "I thought students couldn't learn religion in school!"  They can.  How in the hell do you properly learn about the history of the world without understanding the motivations for why so many people did what they did?  Religion kind of played a big role in those motivations, dontcha think?  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Generation PC

After a few years of teaching all 8th grade U.S. History, I am teaching all 7th Grade Medieval World History this year.  It's not my first choice, but that's more because of the age and relative lack of maturity of the students than the subject matter.  I actually rather enjoy the 7th Grade History standards, what with the Roman Empire, the birth of Islam (where I inject a few painful truths that inevitably piss off at least one of my Muslim students), Feudal Europe, the Crusades (where, once again I inject a few more painful truths that inevitable piss of at least one my Muslim students!).

Any-hoo, at the beginning of the school year, I conduct a few standard generic lessons that address certain questions and issues that come up during every school year, so several years ago, I just began addressing those questions and issues proactively.

For instance, I present a lesson that answers the question I inevitably receive every year, and that is, "How do we know that all this stuff you are teaching us really happened?"  So I show the students examples of ancient paintings, old journals and letters, artifacts, photos, government documents, newspapers, and even receipts and invoices.

Another lesson I give is on historical fallacies that my students often commit, such as presentism, where my students tend to declare people from the past as evil for doing certain things (like slavery, for example) when those people from the past didn't necessarily consider what they were doing to be bad, even though we know in our own time that it is bad.

Some of the other parts of my Fallacies lesson are more reminders than fallacies, like reminding my students that just because the photo is grainy and in black and white, doesn't mean the world looked that way when the photo was taken.  Then I show them some color photography from World War I era (yes, it does exist), and I have to convince my students that they are looking at actual soldiers from that era, and not actors on a movie set.

The final installment of my Fallacies lesson is a reminder to them that there are certain people from history for which people will have opposing opinions.  A good example is Genghis Khan.  To today's Chinese, he is the devil incarnate for killing 30 million or so Chinese.  But to the modern-day country of Mongolia, that same Genghis Khan is a national hero who is plastered all over their money!

I begin that installment with a couple people from history for whom, unlike Genghis Khan, there is little to no argument about that person's capacity for evil.  I begin by telling my students that I am going to project a photo of someone on the screen, and if you recognize him, yell out his name.  I click a button, and a big photo of Adolf Hitler appears.  Of course, all my students know who he is and there is a resounding yell of "Hitler!"  Because, duh, who doesn't know who that guy is?

I then tell my students to yell out the name of the next person, and I tell them with a wry tone that makes it seem like the next person will be as easy to identify as Hitler was.  I then project up a photo of Josef Stalin.  When that picture appears, instead of a resounding, "Stalin!" from my students, I get mostly quizzical grunts and silence.  I then point out how interesting it is that they wouldn't instantly recognize Stalin (or have even heard of him), seeing as how Stalin was responsible for roughly twice the deaths attributed to Hitler.

I do this lesson every year, but this time, just two months ago, I got a disturbing response from an otherwise very intelligent student in my first period class.  After expressing my indignation to my students that they would all instantly know of Hitler, but not Stalin, my student's response was, "But Hitler was racist!"

"Wait a minute," I told him, "You mean to tell me that its racism that makes Hitler's 20 million dead worse than Stalin's 40 million dead?"

"Yeah, I think so," he said.

Here is where things really got disturbing.

"So let me ask you this," I said to the student, "What is worse?  A racist who has never harmed anyone, or a non-racist who has killed millions of people?"

Guess what folks?  This student couldn't decide.  He began thinking it over, not able to discern which of those is truly worse.  So many of our young 'uns today have been so thoroughly marinated in political correctness that this is the end result.

Don't forget, in just a few years, this kid will vote!

Bruised, battered, and back at blogging

Daniel Miller: Where were you? I'm just curious.
Bob Diamond: I'd tell you, but you wouldn't understand.
Daniel Miller: Don't treat me like a moron. Try me.
Bob Diamond: I was trapped near the inner circle of fault.
Daniel Miller: I don't understand.
Bob Diamond: I told you...

Defending Your Life (1991)


When I think about how to explain my 9-month hiatus from blogging, this dialogue from that very clever movie immediately came to mind.

I have not had the easiest time at work these last two school years.  By January of this year, when I last blogged, the situation was so bad at my school that the teaching staff (including me) was on the brink of mutiny.  Discipline had totally broken down, students were roaming the halls banging on doors and telling teachers to go fuck themselves; our administration was MIA and not doing anything punitive to these miscreants; our principal ended up getting canned; we teachers ended up having a couple venting sessions with the district superintendent himself as he attempted to stop the proverbial bleeding.

Summer 2014 mercifully arrived, and I began to consider blogging again, but I was so emotionally exhausted from the school year just ended, that I couldn't even bring myself to log in.  Not to mention, the family and I hit the Interstate in July for an almost month-long road trip that took us through 20 states on the way to Indiana and back, so opportunities to blog were few and far between anyway.

Once this school year started, I have been underwater from the start.  Discipline-wise, things started out promisingly, but it is all beginning to break down quickly, as our student body has figured out that our new principal is as hesitant to enforce the rules as the previous one.  Not to mention that our new principal and one of our vice principals both have a blatantly low opinion of us teachers, and they are not afraid to show it, which has led to a lot of bad blood and a non-existent feeling of support from the administration.

Add to that the imposition of Common Core and a new academic curriculum at my site for which we are all in constant training, and this school year is looking to be more and more a rerun of last school year.

Nevertheless, with all that going on, more and more lately, I have been reading and experiencing things that caused that little voice in my head to pipe up with, "Ooooh, that would make a great blog post!"

I think its time to make that happen.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Remember Californians, you must follow the laws this ignoramus gets passed

Talk about low hanging fruit.  The other day, California State Senator Kevin DeLeon (a Democrat, rabid gun-hater, and wanna-be citizen controller) thought he would hold a press conference to show off the reason for his latest (ineffective) anti-gun legislation.

The press conference quickly proved to be a tour-de-force of ignorance, as DeLeon got detail after detail horribly incorrect as he tried to explain the weapon he was holding in his hands.

First, the very short video:

The person who posted the You Tube video alluded to De Leon's foolish statements, but allow me to clarify what you saw and heard there.

First of all, what the hell is a "ghost gun"? This is another one of those made-up terms that the media loves to use - right up there with "assault weapon," and "clean CR."  It is supposed to mean it is a firearm that has been constructed by its owner from parts available for purchase, and there is no serial number on any of the parts, making it unaccountable to the all-powerful state.  What is ridiculous is that after De Leon introduces the weapon as a "ghost gun," his following description makes it sound like the reason it can fire all its rounds in half a second is precisely because it is a "ghost gun."  Believe me, the lack of a serial number etched into the weapon does not make it fire any faster.  If that gun he is holding truly could fire 30 rounds in a half second, it would already be illegal under federal law no matter if it had a serial number or not.  That's not to say that I agree it would be illegal under federal (or state) law, but that is another debate for another time.

Next, De Leon explains that the "ghost gun" he's holding uses a "30-caliber clip." Um, the gun doesn't use a clip, it uses a magazine. There is a huge difference. Clips are not designated by caliber. The barrel and chamber of the gun is designated by caliber, which is the diameter of the bullet the gun discharges.

Next, De Leon seemingly tries to correct himself about the "30-caliber clip" business, and instead states that the gun he is holding fires a "30-magazine clip." So the gun fires magazines? Thirty of them? From a clip?

Next, De Leon tries to tell us that his "ghost gun" can shoot the 30 rounds from its .30-caliber magazine clip in just a half second.  If you do the math, that would mean it fires 3600 rounds a minutes, which is what those multi-barrel gatling-type miniguns fire.  Those are the guns that sound like a fart when they fire.

I guess it would have been just too much effort to ask someone for the correct nomenclature, which would have been: 30-round magazine. Hell, there was a uniformed police officer standing right behind De Leon. Perhaps the good senator should have asked the cop. In fact, if you re-watch the video, the look on the cop's face tells you that he is most likely using every bit of strength he has not to burst out laughing or roll his eyes in disgust as De Leon turns his press conference into a fact-challenged clusterfuck. Look again particularly at the cop right after De Leon utters the words, "30-caliber clip." You will see the cop give a long slow blink, and then recover his faculties, knowing full well that the cameras are on him, and not just the senator. He gives one more blink, and then is ready to remain stone-faced when De Leon then utters the words, "30-magazine clip." This is by no means the first anti-self defense, citizen-control law that De Leon has introduced in the hallowed halls of the California Capitol. He has previously called for gun control laws on air rifles/bb guns; he tried last year to outlaw Californians' ability to mail order ammo; he has introduced legislation trying to force Californians to undergo a background check in order to purchase ammo; he has called for laws that would flag ammo sales that exceed 3,000+ rounds in under 5 days.  Suffice to say, if De Leon had the power to make gun ownership absolutely illegal in this state, he would do it with.  I'm pretty sure he would deny it, but I would be hesitant to believe him.

What makes me really shake my head about De Leon's jackassery at his press conference is that this was not exactly his first rodeo.  He has sponsored quite a few anti-self defense bills in which he has attempted to curtail the use and ownership of firearms; therefore, you would think that he would at least study up on that which he wishes to curtail.  Nope.

It seems like the more rabidly anti-gun a legislator is, the more ignorant about firearms that legislator remains. Of course, that's the whole reason they remain so clueless.  I have found that the more someone is around firearms and comes to understand and become proficient with firearms, the more likely they are not to be so rabidly against firearms.  Kevin De Leon is just one of many legislators who suffer from this affliction.  I think of this infamous photo:

Pictured above is rabidly anti-gun, anti-self defense California Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat) breaking at least three gun safety rules as she waves around her AK-47 at a press conference where she is trying to convince people why that gun should be banned.

1. She is not practicing muzzle discipline by pointing the muzzle of the weapon in the direction of people at the press conference.

2. She has not cleared the weapon, as can be seen by the magazine still attached and the bolt closed.

3.  She has her finger on the trigger, which is a huge no-no, as putting your finger on the trigger should not happen until just before you fire your shot.

And yet, this ignorant and dangerous woman wants to make all kinds of laws and has admitted she wants to take guns away from everyone - "Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in" - and yet she obviously doesn't know the first thing about them.

Then there is Carolyn McCarthy (Democrat), a 20-year congressional representative from New York who, thankfully, is soon to be retired, and throughout her entire congressional career, was essentially a one-trick pony.  Her reason for being in Congress was to ban guns.  Her husband was among six people killed on a Long Island commuter train by a deranged, racist Jamaican immigrant named Colin Ferguson.  But rather than working toward passing laws that would have addressed the mentally ill or who we let into our country, she went after the tool that Ferguson used for his massacre.

McCarthy is another example of a legislator who learned absolutely nothing about firearms during her multi-decade career.  Funny how statists like her like to talk about narrow and close-minded conservatives are, yet here she is, along with others like De Leon and Feinstein staying close-minded themselves.  Seven years ago, which would be 14 years into her tenure, McCarthy was interviewed by Tucker Carlson, who asked her about what kind of weapon features would be banned under a bill she was sponsoring, features that included something called a "barrel shroud."  When Carlson pressed McCarthy on what she knew about barrel shrouds, she at first tried to evade the question, and then finally came her answer:

That's right, "It's the shoulder thing that goes up," was her answer. For the record, barrel shrouds are actually a safety feature that keeps the shooter from burning his hands on a hot gun barrel. Why McCarthy would want to see people severely burned from firing a gun, I don't know. Perhaps she hates gun owners that much.

Then there is Colorado congressional representative Diana DeGette.  In April, 2013, DeGette was participating in some sort of gun forum where she was discussing her role in sponsoring a federal bill that would ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  DeGette astonished the audience when she stated her ignorant belief that magazines are disposable.  She thought that once you fire the "bullets" from a "magazine clip," the magazine is then thrown away.  So, she was under the impression that if "high-capacity" magazines were outlawed, then the ones that are already out there would be emptied and disposed of, and then there would be no more "high-capacity" magazines left out there.  Watch:

You might have noticed the agitated chatter of the audience at the end of the video clip as they presumably begin asking each other if they just her say what they think she just said. There are actually plenty of other clips out there of stupid anti-self defense politicians exhibiting their ignorance of firearms, but I only have so much time in a day. Just always keep in mind that it is these ignorant, narrow-minded, hateful people that want to rule your life. God help us.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Freedom died on this day 100 years ago

Today, December 23, 2013, is the 100th anniversary of the passage in Congress of the Federal Reserve Act, which in turn, created the Federal Reserve.  Ever since, our country has traveled down a long path of ruin.  I mean, it tells you something that the Federal Reserve Act was passed just 2 days before Christmas, when the attention of the American people was focused away from Washington D.C. (which was much smaller and more inconsequential then than now anyway) and on the Christmas holidays instead.

As a matter of fact, the whole year of 1913 itself was a horrific year for the continuation of freedom and small government in the United States.  In addition to the creation of the Federal Reserve, 1913 also saw the passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave the American people an Income Tax, and gave our federal government a bottomless piggy bank it could use to grow itself into the grotesque leviathan it has become.  But they weren't done adding freedom-killing constitutional amendments, as 1913 also saw passage of the 17th Amendment, which forever changed the relationship of the federal government and the states.  This amendment changed the way that Senators are elected.  Before, they were appointed by their state's legislature, and answered to that state legislature.  In effect, Senators were representatives of the states, while Representatives were just that: representatives of the People.  Ever since passage of the 17th Amendment, Senators have been elected directly by the people of a state, making Senators nothing but glorified versions of Representatives, and moving our county that much more away from being a republic, and that much closer to being a democracy; a democracy that our Founders intentionally tried to keep our country from becoming.

So 1913 saw the birth of the most evil of triads:

1. Pass an income tax, which gave the government infinitely more power over the American people.

2. Democratize the U.S. Senate, which made it easier for the government to grow, using the powers of the income tax to fund that growth.

3. Create the Federal Reserve, which would now print our money and monetize our debt, making it possible to inflate the nation's money supply, and give the government an endless supply of money to increase the role of government in our lives, but seriously deteriorating the value of our money, and increasing our national debt.

For more on the destructiveness of the Federal Reserve, see this list of 100 reasons the Federal Reserve should be shut down.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The story of a successful hog hunt!

A couple posts ago, I mentioned that my brother-in-law and I took a hunters safety course in order to meet the California state requirements for a hog hunt we planned to attend in mid-November.  It has been a month now since that hunt took place, and I finally have found some time to tell the whole story, as it was quite memorable.  In fact, it will easily go down as one of the most memorable weekends of my 41 years, and for many years to come.

The story actually begins right after my brother-in-law, Alex, and I passed our exam and received our safety certificates. We immediately drove to a local Big 5 Sporting Goods and bought our hunting licenses.  I was particularly antsy, as I did not want to repeat my "30 years in the making" debacle that I explained in my previous post. We bought our licenses for $48, and then also got our pig tags, which were $21 dollars apiece.  That's right - in Texas or any other southern state, they will practically pay you to shoot wild/feral pigs, but here in California, you have to buy a tag for each pig you shoot.  At least, unlike deer, there is no limit to the number of tags you can buy for a season.

A few days after buying the license and tags, and with just a couple days before we left for the hunt, Alex and I decided it would be a good idea if we went to the nearby shooting range to make sure our rifles were sighted in and we were comfortable with them.  This was especially important for Alex, as he only started shooting guns this year, and he has only had a few opportunities to shoot.  Both rifles we were taking were borrowed from my father and brother.  While I own quite a few rifles, none are sufficiently suited for hunting hogs, particularly the larger ones we were hoping we would get a chance to shoot.  So for this hunt, we were borrowing my brother's scoped Remington 700 bolt-action .30-06, and my father's M1903A3 Springfield (Smith-Corona) bolt-action .30-06 with peep sights.  Thinking that a scope would be easier for a neophyte shooter than peep sights, the plan was for Alex to use the Remington, and for me to use the Smith-Corona.  To tell you the truth, I have always been more comfortable with peep sights than with scopes, so I had no problem using the Smith-Corona, and was glad to have Alex used the scoped Remington. For a case in point, here is the damage I did to the paper with the Smith-Corona:

Problem is, we found out at the range that night that try as he might, Alex could just not figure out how to find a sight picture in that scope.  He could, however, find a sight picture in the Smith-Corona, so by the end of the night, we had traded rifles, and he would use the Smith-Corona, and I would use the scoped Remington.

Friday, November 15th arrived, and the hunters began making their way to the hunt.  Alex decided to stay home later in the day so he could attend his daughter's birthday party, so I caught a ride with our other two hunters, Damon and Dave.  Damon is one of my best friends, and had basically put this hunt together, and Dave is a good friend of his who, by association with Damon, has become a good friend of mine as well.  So the three of us made the four-hour drive to King City, California, which is located along Highway 101, about an hour south of Monterey.  In King City live the hunting guides Sam, Colby, and Garrett - who would be taking us out in search of our quarry.

Damon, Dave, and I checked into our motel then hit a local restaurant/bar and met up with our guides for dinner.  During dinner, Alex arrived, and we all ate, drank, and discussed the particulars of the next day's hunt.

The next day started dark and early.  We were up by about 0415 and met our guides in the parking lot of the motel at 0500.  After getting gas, we departed in three vehicles - Sam and Garrett in Sam's truck, Colby in his Jeep, and the four hunters in Alex's SUV.  We drove east into the coastal range that separates California's immense Central Valley from the smaller Salinas Valley in which King City is located.  It is in these low mountains where you will find some of California's best hog hunting opportunities.  During the summer and fall, the coastal range is dominated by short grass that has been tanned by California's ubiquitous sunshine, and is dotted by oak trees that provide the acorns on which the wild/feral pigs fatten themselves.  There are brushier areas of the Coastal Range, and that was our first stop.  After driving for about 45 minutes, we pulled on to a dirt road for another 10 minute drive onto a ranch that was choked with scrubby pines, oak trees, and bushy chaparral.  We unloaded from the vehicles, and began walking into the trees and brush.  Sam and Garrett had several hunting dogs with them.  These dogs all looked like Pit Bulls (but really weren't, I think), and wore kevlar vests that protected their upper torsos and neck.  Those boars have tusks that can lay you, or a dog, open.  As soon as these dogs were released from their pen in the back of the truck, you could instantly tell that they LOVE what they do!  As soon as they were released, they began penetrating the dense brush in an attempt to find any pigs where they nest in the underbrush, or as the guides always call them:  beds.  The idea is for the dogs to flush out the pigs and then subdue the pigs by clamping on a pig's body part - ears are an apparently favorite target.  The dogs enthusiastically went from brush to brush looking for pigs, but as time went on, we all began to notice a common theme:  no pigs.

Try as we might, we could not find a single pig.  By mid-morning we had given up on this first ranch, and went to another that was closer to the Salinas Valley.  This meant that we were leaving the dense chaparral, and would be in open hill country like previously described.  In fact, this will give you a good idea:

The one big drawback to this new location was that the rancher who owned the property didn't allow the use of dogs, so they would have to stay in their pen in the back of the pickup truck.  We pulled off of Highway 25 and followed a very short dirt road to a wide parking area near a barn.  Ahead of us was a ridge of hills several hundred feet high much like what you see behind me in the photo.  As soon as we got out of the vehicles, I heard one of the guides say, "There are some pigs right there!"  Sure enough, at least half a mile away and midway up one of those hills was what essentially looked like a group of thick black dots with legs, but you could tell they were definitely pigs.

We quickly geared up, and then got into two vehicles - Damon went with Colby in his Jeep, and Dave, Alex, and I joined Sam and Garrett in Sam's truck.  We took a dirt access road to the foot of those hills.  As soon as we reached the foot of the hills, we saw the pigs make a break for it and start moving parallel to us.  Using walkie-talkies, Sam and Colby decided to split up.  Colby and Damon split off onto a road that went severely uphill toward where the pigs were; Sam took the rest of us further down the road in the same direction the pigs were going in order to cut them off. We came to a stop in a narrow valley and got out of the truck with our weapons at the ready.  To our right was a ridgeline that separated us from where Colby and Damon had gone.  The plan was that if Damon missed his potential shot, the pigs would move right toward where we were waiting and we could take care of business, especially since we would be shooting in the direction of where Damon and Colby were, but we would have a huge ridge of hills between us.  After we were talking about this and that for a minute or two, we heard the sharp report of a rifle on the other side of the ridge.  A few seconds later, Colby was on the radio letting us know that Damon had shot one of the pigs, but a follow-up shot would be necessary.  A few seconds later, the follow-up shot reverberated through the hills.  We then got back in Sam's truck and traveled up a zig-zag dirt road to the top of the next ridge line.  We parked at a gate with a descending slope to the immediate right, and then Sam sat down at the top of the slope with a pair of binoculars and began systematically examining the opposite slope of a v-shaped ravine.  The slope was dotted with brushy trees that wild pigs favor for bedding down for mid-day naps.  While Sam was doing his inspection, Colby and Damon pulled up in the Jeep.  Colby has a heavy-duty grated platform welded to the front of his Jeep, and loaded onto the platform was Damon's pig:

Damon brought a .308 bolt-action to the hunt, but his scope had been giving him trouble earlier in the day, so he borrowed Colby's bolt-action .25-06.  Damon's shot was from approximately 200 yards away at a pig that was walking at a saunter.  Try as he might to lead his shot to account for the pig's movement, Damon's first shot got the pig in its hind-quarters.  The impact rendered the pig's back legs useless, and it began attempting to continue walking with its front legs.  Damon cautiously approached the pig and considered using his rather large Bowie knife to finish off the pig by slitting its throat.  But as soon as Damon began approaching the pig, even with its hind legs useless, it began growling at Damon and starting gnashing its teeth at him.  Damon reconsidered his idea of knifing the pig, backed away, and put a coup-de-grace rifle shot through the pig's head.  So the first kill of the hunt went to Damon:

All of us spent the next hour or so searching around the area you see behind Damon, checking slopes, empty nesting areas with plenty of evidence of pigs having been there, but no more pigs to be found.  One place Sam and I checked showed particular promise.  It was another v-shaped canyon with us on the one slope looking across at the opposite slope.  It showed all kinds of signs of pigs having been there: chewed up ground underneath the trees where pigs had eaten acorns or bedded down, a trail halfway between the top of the slope and the bottom of the ravine that traversed the length of the slope.  Sam even said, "Damn, I swear we just missed them!"

Becoming a tad frustrated, we decided to shake things up.  Alex got in the Jeep with Colby, and Damon joined Dave and me in Sam's truck, with Garrett in the front passenger seat. While Colby and Alex stayed to check a few more places, the rest of us in Sam's truck left that whole side of the ranch, and went to the portion of the ranch on the other side of Highway 25.  We crossed through the gates and began negotiating the winding dirt roads that took us deep into the tan grasslands of the coastal hills.  As we drove along, Garrett looked to his right across a wide shallow ravine that paralleled the dirt road on which we were traveling.  Garrett suddenly told Sam to stop because he thought he saw something under a tree.  Sam asked him what he saw, and Garrett answered, "I can't tell, but I know it is some sort of animal."  As we were on a cattle ranch, there was no telling what lay under those weeping branches.  Sam pulled to a stop, and he and Garrett got out and began looking closely at a tree with weeping branches that reached almost all the way to the ground.  The tree lay about 250 yards away on the other side of the shallow ravine.  Dave, Damon, and I sat in the back in the pickup truck, waiting for instructions.  What happened next, seems like both a blur, and also one of the most vivid moments of my life.  Sam and Garrett, while never taking their eyes off where they were looking, both made a frantic "get your asses over here now!" motion with their arms.  The three of us piled out of the truck while simultaneously jacking a round into our chambers.  Damon had already bagged his pig, but in case either Dave or I missed, he was not going to let those pigs just walk away.  Dave had a .308 bolt-action rifle that was almost identical to what Damon was carrying.  I had my brother's Remington bolt-action .30-06 with the scope.  Right when the three of us arrived at the location where Sam and Garrett were standing, five or six pigs of varying sizes emerged from under the tree and began sauntering away to our left.  They were about 250 yards away.  Sam and Garrett yelled "Fire!  Fire!"  And we fired.  I heard shots going off before I even put my scope up to my face, the air filling with that distinctive sound a rifle makes when it is fired outdoors:  Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo.  I raised my scope to my eye and put the crosshairs on one of the pigs in the back of the pack.  While I prefer iron peep sights, I do appreciate the front-row view a scope affords you.  When I fired, my view was filled with the sight of a geyser of dust and dirt spray up directly behind the pig I had just shot at.  I instantly realized the rookie move I had just committed:  I didn't account for the forward movement of the pig, so by the time my bullet arrived, the target was no longer where my crosshairs had been.  I jacked in another round, put my crosshairs a little bit in front of that pig and watched another geyser of dust and dirt spray up, this time in front of the pig.  To my horror, I had aimed this second shot of mine too far in front of the pig and had missed for a second time.  Less than a second later, while I was still looking through my scope, I watched the pig that had been running in front of the one I aimed at suddenly buckle at the knees and begin squealing that unmistakable sound of a distressed pig.  A round fired by my buddy Dave had found its target, and I had watched the impact through my scope. Incredibly, this pig then got back up and started limping in an effort to catch up with the rest of the pack. before we could take any more shots, the pack disappeared into a 15-foot deep ravine, which up ahead, made a sharp dog-leg to the right, as did the road we were on that the ravine paralleled.  There was no way we were letting that pack go, so we hurried back into the truck and started driving down this dirt road at what seemed like 60 mph in an effort to cut off those pigs.  Within a few seconds, we spotted the pigs at our 1 o'clock.  They had exited the ravine, had crossed the road ahead of us, and were now running away from us up a hill.  Once they got to the top of that hill, they would disappear over the other side, and we would lose them, especially since Sam and Garrett couldn't release their dogs.  Sam slammed the truck to a stop, and we piled out again.  So this time, instead of the pigs moving across our view in a direction to our left like before, now they were running away from us.  With each passing second, they were getting farther away, but they were essentially a static target.  When we began shooting this second volley, the pigs were about 150 yards away.  I put the scope back up to my face, chose a dark-colored pig, and fired.  I missed again.  I chalk that one up to simple adrenaline which caused me to jerk the trigger, instead of squeeze.  Even as these pigs got farther away and were getting dangerously close to the crest of that hill, I took a second, calmed down, took a full breath, took a second full breath, let half of it out, then placed my crosshairs right between the shoulder blades of that same pig, and squeezed the trigger.  Again, kudos to the scope, which gives you a wonderful view of events.  I watched another geyser of dust, but this time, the dust flew off the back of that pig, and it instantly went down, squealing and kicking up a huge cloud of dust.  I lowered my rifle, and yelled - sorry - "Got you motherfucker!"  Probably not the most eloquent statement I could have made to express my elation, but after three missed shots, my blood was definitely up.  After about 10 seconds or so, my pig stopped squealing, and the dust it had been kicking up began to settle back down to the ground.  The rest of the pigs had disappeared over the crest of the hill, and our gunfire had died away.  At some point, one of our guides had noticed that the pig Dave had shot back at the other location was not among the group that had crested the hill.  Garret and I began walking up the hill to check on my pig, while Sam and Damon accompanied Dave as they walked in the opposite direction to locate Dave's pig.  When I got to within a few yards of my pig, it looked dead to me, but a wounded pig can be a very dangerous pig, so I jacked another round into my rifle, and approached with caution.   I walked up on my pig, and here was the view that greeted me:

It wasn't moving, and didn't look to be breathing, and its eyes were open.  But I have seen photos of what a pig can do to you with its tusks and teeth, so just to make sure, I took the presumably very hot muzzle of my rifle and poked it into one of the pig's open eyes.  If it was truly still alive, that would have gotten a reaction. There was no reaction however, and I then knew that this pig was truly dead, and had died quickly.  Once I saw the wound, I could see why it had died so quickly.  To show you what a .30-06 round will do to you, take a gander at what it did to my pig.  Consider yourself warned:

After we dragged the pig back down to the truck and field dressed it, we discovered that the bullet had entered its back, shattered its spine, and had traveled all the way up its back where it lodged in, and destroyed, its lungs.  Not the prettiest shot, I will admit, but it got the job done, and I now had my pig.  And Dave had his!  They had found the pig where it died about halfway between where Dave shot it and where we had pulled to a stop for our second volley.  It was time for Dave and me to show off our trophies:

Behind my left shoulder, you can see the beginning of the hill up which my pig attempted to escape.

And how about Dave's pig, huh?  Definitely the most interesting looking one that we bagged that weekend.

Here is my personal trophy shot:

Yeah, my pig won't win any prizes for biggest pig ever shot - especially when it is posed next to Dave's - but I couldn't have cared less; I had gotten my pig!

But an unresolved issue remained:  Alex had not gotten his pig.  Unbeknownst to me, Alex and Colby had crossed onto our side of the ranch, and were about 300 yards behind us when the shooting began.  Alex told me that he had watched the entire affair.  He couldn't see us shooting, but he could see the pigs running, and geysers of dust being kicked up by our missed shots.  Alex had missed being able to participate in the big shootout, and with three of us having now gotten our pigs, helping Alex get his became our primary concern. Problem is, by this time, it was after 3pm, and it was mid-November.  Daylight was going fast.  The good news is that sundown is one of the prime times for pigs coming out to feed.  We decided to return to the ranch with all the dense chaparral at which we had struck out that morning.  The guides had gotten big hogs there before, and they were convinced that the dying sunlight would bring them out for Alex to kill.  But it was not to be.  Just like that morning, there was not a pig to be found.  We went back to King City with no pig for Alex, but with a steeled resolve that we would go back out the next morning and rectify this travesty!

Hunting is a physically taxing activity.  After going out for dinner, we went back to the motel, my head hit the pillow, and what seemed like almost immediately, my alarm was going off.

As we headed out of King City and back into the coastal range, Alex and I decided to trade rifles.  He had gotten some tutorial from guys the day before on the intricacies of the using a scope, and he had figured out how to hold a sight picture.  Now that he had rectified this issue, his chances of bagging a pig were much better with a scope than with a peep sight.  So Alex would now have my brother's Remington with the scope, and I would be back in possession of my beloved Smith-Corona with its iron peep sights.  

Our guides decided that the chaparral ranch was a dead-end and we would instead concentrate on the area where Dave and I got our pigs the day before.  We arrived back at the ranch with the moon still illuminating the dark sky, and began negotiating the winding dirt roads that followed the contours of the coastal range hills. As dawn broke, we did see a tight pack of pigs run up a hill and disappear down the other side, but they were too far away to shoot at or to chase down in the trucks.

We came to a stop on the road along the top of a ridge.  This of course means the the ground sloped away downhill on either side of the truck.  And these were severe slopes that descended down to a sharp ravine choked with trees and brush at the bottom, with an equally severe slope facing us on the other side of the ravine.  So, about 200 to 300 yards away from us was an entire slope that dominated our view.  This was one of the primary methods of finding pigs: using binoculars to examine these opposite slopes and the trees and brush that dot them can uncover hiding and sleeping areas, or beds, these pigs frequent.  Just like he did multiple times the day before, Sam sat down at the top of his slope and used his binoculars to look several hundred yards across this V-shaped ravine at the opposing slope.  Sam sat there for at least 10 minutes, meticulously examining every inch of that opposite slope, while we silently watched and spoke to each other in barely-audible whispers.  Damon joined in and looked across ravine with his scope:

While Alex looked across and contemplated his coming task of taking down a pig:

Then, Sam raised his arm to get our attention, and he whispered that he could see a pig.  We all began looking through our rifle scopes or straining our eyes to see what Sam spotted across the ravine. To me, it looked like a white rock sticking out of the ground, but Sam had his binoculars and years of experience. What it turned out to be was a pure white pig that was asleep in one of the many beds that dotted the slope. Alex and Damon accompanied Sam and Colby about 100 yards down the slope toward the bottom of the ravine so they could close some of the distance between them and the pig.  Meanwhile, Garrett took Dave and me about 300 yards further to the left of where the other guys were stationed.  The terrain dictated that if the pig escaped the guns of Alex, Damon, Colby, and Sam, it would have to move away from them to their left, which would bring the pig right into the sights of Garrett, Dave, and me.  The orders were, this pig would not be allowed to leave that ravine alive.

Garrett, Dave and I walked along the ridge road, and then turned to our right and walked down the slope so that we were at about an equal depth to the other guys.  We then checked our weapons, and waited, looking up the ravine at the other guys as we waited for Alex to take his shot.  We waited for what seemed like forever.  The reason for the wait can be explained by that photo of Damon two pictures above.  See that brilliant sunlight?  That was shining right into all of our faces, and it is especially tough to use a scope when facing right into the sun.  Alex and the others were trying all kinds of tricks with their baseball caps in an effort to cut down on the glare coming through the scope so that Alex could even see this pig in order to take his shot.  Finally, the air was filled by that familiar Pit-Shooo sound that is made by a high-powered rifle fired outdoors, and... Alex missed.  Instantly the air was filled with more Pit-Shooo, Pit-Shooo, Pit-Shooo, as Damon, Colby, and Sam joined Alex as they all began shooting at this huge white pig that had been so rudely awakened from his beauty sleep.  As expected, the pig began slowly sauntering to their left, right into the waiting guns of Garrett, Dave, and me.  When the pig got within our field of fire, he was about 300 yards across the ravine from us.  He continued moving to our left as he slowly and diagonally traversed upwards towards the top of the slope.  The four guys down the ravine were still firing and missing as we opened up on this pig and also began missing.  With my peep sights, I no longer had the front-row view like I had the day before with my scope, but I could see Garrett's and Dave's bullets kicking up dust all around this pig, as well as the dust caused by my own missed shots.  Once again, I forced myself to calm down, took careful aim right behind the pig's shoulder, just like a hunter is supposed to, and fired.  Garrett was looking through his scope when my shot impacted.  I was perfectly lined up with the pigs shoulder, but unfortunately, my bullet was about a foot too high, and impacted the slope right above the pig.  One foot lower, and my shot would have sent that pig rolling down the slope to the bottom of the ravine.  Instead, it continued its sauntering diagonal traverse up the slope, and was approaching the crest of the slope and safety.  Garrett then took a shot that actually caused the pig to kick up its hind legs like a bucking bronco!  We were convinced that the pig had been gut shot.  But it kept walking, and just like that, it disappeared over the crest of the slope, and it was gone.  We bunch of Ahabs with deadly-accurate high-powered rifles, and decades of shooting experience among us, had just let the Great White Pig slip through our fingers.  We jumped in the truck and hightailed it back down the road and went to the ridge at the top of the opposing slope where the pig had disappeared, but we found nothing.  No blood trail, no discernible tracks, and certainly no pig.  It was the ghost pig; it was the luckiest damn pig in California!  That bugger had 7 rifles trained on it, and it walked away without a scratch.

I have to admit, we were all rather dejected after "Whitey" - we call him that to this day every time we talk about him - got away from us, because now, it was back to square one in finding a pig for Alex.  We decided to abandon that side of the ranch, and return to the area where Damon had bagged his pig the day before.  We spent the next several hours revisiting places we had gone the day before, and checking a few way out of the way places on that side of the ranch, but we came up empty without seeing anything but a bunch of deer (all females).  It was now Sunday around noon, and we had to start thinking of heading back.  We had a four hour drive ahead of us and had to go to work in the morning.  Time was running out to find Alex a pig, and we had all blown a golden opportunity that had been practically gift-wrapped!  We decided to check one more spot before we finally gave up:  the slope that Sam and I had checked the day before where Sam insisted that we had just missed them.  Why not?  It can't hurt to check, right?

We drove up a steep road and parked in the same spot as the day before.  The parking spot is on the reverse slope near the crest of flat round hilltop over which you must walk to reach the ravine.  Once you crest this hill, the opposite slope of the ravine where the pigs live is then visible.  We got out of the vehicles, readied our weapons, and then began walking over the hilltop toward the ravine.  Sam was about 20 yards ahead of the rest of us, so he was in a position to see the ravine before any of us could.  As Sam crested the low hilltop, he suddenly dropped to one knee and silently but vigorously motioned back at us to get down as well.  He then gave us a vigorous "GET OVER HERE NOW!" motion with his arm, and we quickly and quietly moved up to where Sam had dropped to one knee, staying low as we moved out.  As we crested the low hilltop, we became privy to the sight that had caused Sam to stop dead in his tracks.  Walking slowly along that trail that runs along the middle of the opposite slope was line of between 8 and 10 pigs, walking caravan style, with some bunching up on one another.  They didn't seem to notice us, even as we moved forward to the edge of our slope so that we had an unobstructed view of them from across the ravine.  It is a rather narrow ravine, and there was maybe only about 150 yards between us and the pigs.  The pigs were moving at such a nonchalant pace, that we - all 7 of us - had time to line up abreast of each other; for Sam to put down the X-shaped shooting sticks for Alex to rest my brother's rifle on, and for me to get on my belly, assume a good prone position, and lock the sling on the Smith-Corona around my support arm so that my rifle might as well be resting on a tripod.  We all took aim, because, by God, one of these pigs was going down, but we all knew we needed to wait for Alex to take the first shot.

 I trained my sights on a small group of pigs all bunched together and followed them as they moved along, which was to our right.  Just as I was starting to wonder if Alex was going to shoot, it happened:  Pit-Shoooo.  Alex took his shot.  The noise caused the pig caravan to pick up their pace, but they weren't sprinting.  They acted more confused than anything, and sort of seemed to start bumping into each other, as there wasn't much room to maneuver on this trail that was worn into a severely steep slope.  I thought I heard a squeal, but wasn't sure.  I didn't see any pig fall or begin kicking up dust.  We all couldn't be sure if Alex had hit a pig or not.  So, our guides told us to open fire.  The next few seconds, I could only describe as a rush!  I held off on firing and listened to my six compatriots open up:  Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, and by this time, the pigs were really starting to move out!  Now things get a little muddy here, but I believe a couple things happened within a split-second of each other.  While the firing was commencing, I was setting my peep-sights on a clump of three pigs who were approaching the protective cover of a tree that was growing out of the steep hillside.  I put my front sight post in the middle of that black mass of three pigs and squeezed the trigger.  Instantly at least one of the pigs in that tight little group began a death squeal and started kicking up dust on the little flat area right behind the tree, which was growing at a practically horizontal angle out of the hillside.  To my knowledge, that was the first squeal I had heard at all from those pigs.  However, at the very same time two other pigs began a long death roll down the hillside to the bottom of the ravine.  The best we can think what happened is that Alex did indeed get a pig with his first shot, but there were so many pigs bunched together, we may not have been able to tell, and once we all opened fire, two more pigs were hit at essentially the same time.

The call for cease fire was given, and immediately, Garrett and Damon bounded down the steep slope on our side toward the bottom of the ravine.  I wanted in on this action, so I got up, slung my rifle across my back, and bounded down the horribly steep hillside as well.  As I approached the bottom of the ravine, I couldn't see the bottom because of the thick brush growing in it.  When I was within about 10 yards of the bottom of the ravine, two things happened simultaneously that scared the shit out of me.  First, one of the pigs that had begun a death roll down the hillside, finished its death roll to the bottom of the ravine at the very same moment I was reaching the bottom of the ravine, and second with my view of the bottom of the ravine still obstructed by thick brush, I could hear noises that told me there was a wounded pig down there, and it was PISSED OFF!  I unslung my rifle and felt for my hunting knife attached to my belt, and then jumped into the ravine.  I arrived to the sight of Garrett plunging his hunting knife into the throat of the wounded pig, and then sawing back and forth as he opened up the pigs throat, leaving it quickly bleeding out and gasping for air.  A few feet away stood Damon with a peculiarly stunned look on his face.  He wasn't stunned because Garrett slit the pig's throat; remember, Damon had every intention of slitting his own pig's throat just the day before.  No, what had stunned Damon is that when he and Garrett had arrived at the bottom of the ravine, that wounded pig was on its feet and charged them, gnashing its teeth as it went.  Garrett met the charge and stuck his boot out to kick the pig in the face.  Instead the pig bit down on Garrett's foot.  Garrett got his foot loose, then really did kick the pig in the face, and then essentially tackled it to the ground and trapped it onto the ground by driving his knee into the pig's neck.  Garrett then took out his knife and was just beginning to plunge it in when I arrived.

So, in our efforts to get a pig for Alex, we now had 3 dead pigs instead, and yes, we had extra tags just in case.  Two were in the bottom of the ravine, but one was still on the trail, halfway up an impossibly steep slope.  Nevertheless, I wanted in on whatever action was left, so I followed Garrett up the slope to retrieve that pig.  On the way up, I found a super-cool pig skull, complete with tusks!  I gave it to my son when I got home.  Garrett dragged the pig down the slope to the bottom of the ravine.  There were now 3 pigs to get to the vehicles.  Sam and Colby drove back around and parked their vehicles at the entrance to the ravine, and Garrett and Damon began carrying the two smallest pigs out of the ravine, like this:

Yes, this pig was gut shot.  Those are its intestines hanging down.  We think it might have been hit by a bullet that passed through a pig in front of it.

So the two smaller pigs were carried out in the fashion shown above, but the third pig was going to be more of a challenge, as it was the biggest pig shot during our two-day hunt.  It was a sow that we estimated at about 200 pounds:

She was going to require a carry technique with a little less finesse.  She would have to be dragged to the vehicle, actually;  a job taken on by Alex and Garrett :

Once the pigs were at the vehicles, it was time to take stock of our catch.  The day was such a roller coaster.  It started out slowly, then we missed our golden opportunity, then more hours of coming up empty, and then, with one chance left, with one last area to check before we packed up and went home and had to tell Alex that sorry, we tried, that we couldn't get him that one pig he sought...

He got three!

So in the end, the four of us bagged six wild pigs, and a freezer full of pork for months to come.  It was the adventure of a lifetime that I hope to do again!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Fixing an error that was 31 years in the making.

Back in 1982, when I was ten years old, I took a hunters safety course, as mandated by the state of California if one wants to go hunting.  I actually had no intention at the time of going hunting; my father wisely thought it would be a good idea for my brother and me to just get the course out of the way so if, one day, we decided we did want to go hunting, we could just go hunting and not have to be under the gun (so to speak) and rush through the necessary hoops before one can obtain a hunters license.

As the years went by, I never did get a hunting license.  Don't get me wrong; anyone who knows me or has seen my video blog post on my gun collection is quite aware that I am quite the fan of firearms and shooting them for target and recreational purposes.  However, when it came to hunting, it just never appealed to me, and no, not because I am against killing the cute little forest animals.  I had no problem with that at all.  It was more the thought of having to get up at Oh-Dark-Thirty and then sit for hours on end, freezing my ass off, as I hoped maybe perhaps a game animal of some sort would come my way- a game animal that I would then have to drag out of the woods and pay an arm and a leg to have a butcher turn it into something edible.

So for literally decades, my little certificate of completion sat in our house somewhere as I graduated from high school, went to college, served in the Army, and started a family and a career in Sacramento.  But then, a year or two ago, I became very interested in hunting wild pigs.  As I considered the idea, I began to wonder what happened to that little hunters course card I received so long ago, as I would need it to obtain a hunting license.  Then, a few weeks ago, I was invited by a friend to participate in a guided hog hunt on California's central coast, which is to take place just two weeks from today.  After talking to my parents, it became quickly apparent that as far as my hunters safety course card from 1982, my proof went poof; we couldn't find it.  In the hopes that some record of the completion might be held by the state of California, I did some digging on the appropriate state government websites and found that that kind of information did not start being kept until 1989.  Bottom line:  I would have to take the California Hunters Safety Course all over again!  My brother-in-law was also invited to participate in this hunt, and he had never taken the course at all, so we did it together.  He and I took a very impressive online course that is endorsed by the state of California, and then this morning, we both attended the required follow-up class that was held at a sportsmen's club in Knights Landing, near Woodland, which is about 10 miles north of Sacramento.  After taking a 100-question test (I got a 93%; my brother-in-law got a 95%) we each walked out the door with an official little card that says we had passed the Hunter Safety Course.

Instead of waiting 31 years like last time, I went immediately to a Big 5 Sporting Goods store, where my brother-in-law and I both bought a hunting license, and a tag for a wild pig.  Now that my name is entered in the system as having purchased a hunting license, I will never have to show any further proof to get a hunting license again.

So to sum up: 31 years ago, my Dad showed a wonderful amount of proactive foresight by having me take the Hunters Safety Course so that I wouldn't have to rush to complete the course should I ever go hunting, especially after a short-notice invitation.  So how did that work out for me?  In the end, 31 years later, I had to rush to complete the Hunters Safety Course after receiving a short notice invitation to go hunting!

May someone read this and learn from my error that was 31 years in the making.

Oh, while at Big 5, I also bought a box of 20 rounds of soft point, 165 grain, 30-06 Winchester.  Hopefully, a couple of those rounds will end up in the vital organs of a California wild pig later this month!

What a school year I am having!

Quite frankly, I am experiencing one of the absolute worst school years of my teaching career.  The administration at my site - presumably on the orders of the uppy-ups at the District Office - have instituted a kinder, gentler discipline policy that is tearing my campus apart by putting the inmates in charge of the asylum.  The discipline policy is called "Restorative Justice," and it involves discouraging us teachers from suspending students from class for mere "chronic talking" and other seemingly small disruptions, and if a student is indeed removed from a classroom, that student is to receive a firm talking-to from our vice principal before being returned to the very same class during the very same period from which that student was removed.

I have six teaching periods in all.  Of those, four of them, I have to admit, are pretty darn good to pleasantly tolerable.  Another is barely tolerable to unbearable, depending on what mood they are in.  Then there is 7th period, which is a zoo full of feral animals.  I have never seen anything like it in my decade of teaching.  There are days where I am unable to actually teach anything until we are 20+ minutes into the period, and even then, I get out about 10 seconds of instruction before I have to stop for 20 seconds as the incessant chatter dies down enough for me to get in another 10 seconds of instruction before the chatter shuts me down for another 20 seconds, and on and on and on.

This has been my daily grind since the middle of August, and I don't see it getting any better all the way to May.

Couple that mess with my administration's enthusiastic embrace of the incoming Common Core standards, a squishy teaching philosophy called Equity and Access, and my school's adoption of the Middle Years Program, which is the middle school/early high school version of the International Baccalaureate program, and I don't know which way is up.

I get home from work every day so exhausted, all I want to do after I eat dinner and help my wife put our kids down for bed is go to sleep myself.  Hence the absolute dearth of blogging so far this fall.  I have so many blogging ideas constantly swimming in my head, and I barely have the energy to sit down and write them down.

This is one of those school years where I find myself wondering what else I could do for a living.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

20 Years ago today: The Battle of Mogadishu

Hard as it may seem to believe, the Battle of Mogadishu, A.K.A, the "Blackhawk Down" incident, took place on this day 20 years ago, October 3, 1993.

I will never forget that day, as I had only been in the Army for about 4 months.  I had just completed Basic and AIT at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and had arrived a few days before to Fort Ben Harrison, Indiana to attend Postal School (I know, random).

Watching the bodies of our American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu was my wake-up call that the life choice upon which I had recently embarked was all too real.  Naturally, I looked at that horrific footage and thought to myself that the body being dragged through the street could one day be my own.

I own the movie Blackhawk Down, and it is one of my most cherished DVDs.  I read the book in the summer of 2000, and I had so much trouble putting it down that my wife (my girlfriend at the time) probably had thoughts of breaking up with me.

A couple Sundays ago, my family and I played hooky from our regular church to attend Adventure Christian Church in Rocklin in order to listen to a speech by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin.  Boykin is a soldier's soldier who was an original member of Army Delta, and took part in the failed Iran hostage rescue mission, was badly wounded in Grenada, fought in Panama, and was on the ground at the Battle of Mogadishu.  The day after the battle, Boykin was badly wounded by a Somali mortar shell that killed the soldier standing next to him.  Boykin spoke extensively about his experiences during the Battle of Mogadishu that coming from him, painted a mental picture of that day which was just as vivid as the movie.

God Bless the 19 American soldiers (2 of whom were awarded the first Medals of Honor since the Vietnam War), who were killed that day, along with all the Rangers, Delta, Aviation, and Infantry troops who took part in an operation that happened during a supposedly "peaceful" period in our nation's history.

I am forever astounded by the caliber of men who serve in our Combat Arms.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Flying Pigs Edition: The California State Legislature passes a bill with which I wholeheartedly agree!

Ever heard of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA?  This is federal law signed by President Obama last year in the dead of night that gave him authorization to have any American arrested without cause and held indefinitely.  Quite a violation of several Constitutional Amendments and the writ of Habeas Corpus if ever I saw it.

In response to these clearly unconstitutional provisions in the NDAA, I'll be dipped in sh** if the California State Senate passed by a bi-partisan vote of 37-0, and the California State Assembly passed by a bipartisan vote of 71-1, a bill that tells President Obama and the rest of the federal government that the aforementioned provisions of the NDAA will not be allowed to be enforced or executed in the state of California.

The only question now is if our illustrious Governor, "Moonbeam" Jerry Brown, will sign the bill into law.

OK, also, I would like to know who that one member of the Assembly is that voted No.

Was it something they ate? A description of my class from Hell

I had a such a good school year last year.  The overall behavior of my classes was stellar - my worst behaved class was better than many of what I considered well-behaved classes from years past.  We had not yet been hit by the threat of Common Core standards and our school had not yet plunged into becoming an International Baccalaureate (IB)/Middle Years Program (MYP) candidate school - all of which I disagree with my school taking part.

To top it off, I have the Class from Hell this year.  That would be a group of 33 Eighth Graders who descend upon my classroom like a bunch of Greek Harpies for 7th period, right after lunch.  They are especially hard to take because my classes before lunch are quite mellow and eager to learn, or at least eager to let me teach.  Not so with this 7th period class.  They are the worst behaved class I have had in at least 6 years, and possibly the worst I have ever experienced.

The class periods at my school are a scant 41 minutes long, and a couple times now, it has taken up to 15 minutes of dealing with talking, laughing, blurting, and general noise making (much of it of the anonymous kind) before I could even begin to think about trying to teach the day's lesson.  Since the school year began in mid-August, I have suspended five different students from my classroom, and all five have come from that 7th period class.  I have not suspended one student from any of my other five class periods.

A typical challenging class can seem like it is chock-full of troublemakers, but when you sit down with the seating chart, you usually come to find out that it is only 3 or 4 knuckleheads with whom you are dealing; the rest of the 30-or-so students are behaving themselves.  Not this 7th period class.  The other day, I sat down with my seating chart, and came to the conclusion that I have at least 11 hardcore knuckleheads, with another 5 or so sitting on the fence, ready to misbehave if any of the hardcores feel like giving me a hard time.  That is at least one-third, and up to one-half of the class!

There are several reasons that I can think of for why this has happened - some of it specific to this particular class, and some it systemic to my school.

1.  Any secondary grade teacher will know what I am talking about when I say that sometimes, you just get a bad combination of students who are grouped together in a class period.  A class may be made up of individuals, but collectively, those individual students gel into a certain personality that can be one of positivity and productivity, or one of disruption and disrespect.  This 7th period class is of the latter.

2. This class comes in right after lunch.  God only knows what kind of screwed up food these kids just got done eating:  food full of high fructose corn syrup, excito-toxins like monosodium glutamate (MSG), food coloring, preservatives, caffeine, and whatever else, I can only guess.  They have filled up on the crap that they eat, and then they come to my class hopelessly hyped up.

3.  Many students at my school have figured out that we teachers really can't do all that much to them in the way of consequences.  One of the students from my 7th period class that I kicked out the other day, yelled out twice as he sauntered out my classroom door that he was going to get me fired.  This came a day after he threatened another teacher who kicked him out that the teacher better not call home.  Has anything happened to this student beyond the classroom suspensions meted out to him by the other teacher and me?  Nope.  Our administration does everything it can not to suspend students from school in an effort to keep our suspension stats lower; especially when it comes to our black students, and yes, this student full of threats is black.  And this hesitation to suspend black students is not just conjecture on my part.  At our big staff meeting the day before our first day with students, one of the agenda item over which there was much hand wringing was the disproportionate suspension rate of our black students.

4. Lack of support or outright hostility from the adults at home.  I have called home on every student I have suspended from my classroom, along with a couple other disruptive students who have come thisclose on several occasions to being kicked out.  The grandmother of the student who threatened me acknowledged that she doesn't know what else to do with him, however that didn't stop her from telling me that talking back "runs in the family," and that, "he really is a good boy."  Additionally, the grandma told me that one of our vice principals was "out to get" her grandson near the end of last school year.  Uh, no, actually.  I looked up the referral logs on this kid from last school year, and he was a holy terror last year, too.  But this sense of victimization runs rampant among the parents (or legal guardians) of these students.  Another student who I just suspended from class today, and for a second time overall, has no phone number that works, so I have yet to be able to talk to a parent.

Meanwhile, there are 20 or so well-behaved students in that class who every day sit in silent agony as I am forced to deal with their belligerent classmates who appear to have every intention of disrupting my attempts to teach, and the students' attempts to learn.  It is these poor students for whom my heart breaks.  

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Is it too much to ask to know a country from a continent?

I teach World and U.S. History to 7th and 8th graders.  During the first couple of weeks of school, I hit them pretty hard on reviewing basic geography... for good reason.

It seems that every year, the students I receive - who were in 6th and 7th grade last school year - know less and less of what they should be expected to know by the time they reach these grade levels.

I mean seriously, how difficult is it to memorize the names and locations of 7 continents and 5 oceans?  And yet, by and large, my students haven't.  You can say that they are young yet, and shouldn't be expected to know this, and that is what I am there for... but you would be wrong.  They should know this basic information by the time they have reached middle school - and don't get me wrong; many have learned it.  But not nearly enough.

For example, last Friday, I put a two-part Bellwork question up on the whiteboard for the students to complete upon entering the classroom:

A. What are the three largest countries on earth in land size?
B. What are the three largest countries on earth in population?

I chose students randomly to see what their answers were; I did not choose volunteers with their hands raised.  I only wish I had a dollar for every time a student answered with Africa, Asia, South America, and North America.

As you can see, they don't even know the difference between a country and a continent.  I would even take a timeout and go over with them - multiple times - the names and locations of the continents and discuss the difference between a continent and a country, and when I asked for more answers to the Bellwork question, it was as if they hadn't listened to a word I said, as their guesses were again Africa and North America.

Kids used to just automatically know this stuff, but nowadays, it is almost as if ignorance is not only a sought condition, but an exalted one.

Remember, I am responsible for their state test scores!

By the way, the answer to A. is Russia, Canada, and the United States.  The answer to B. is China, India, and the United States.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

County Sheriffs wrongly criticized for upholding the Constitution

The position of elected county sheriff is probably one of the most powerful government positions about which few people know.  They are the top law enforcement officer in their respective county, and can (and have) tell the federal government and state government to take a hike.

As our country in general, and some states in particular (*cough* California *cough*) have continued to disintegrate socially and economically, many Americans have looked for ways to try to stop the bleeding, especially at the local level.  Using the power of county sheriffs has been one of these major strategies.

One of the ways that Constitution-loving county sheriffs have attempted to pool together their power is through membership in an organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).  The members of this organization know their constitutional role, both at the state and federal level, and do everything they can to stop those governments from exercising more power than the Constitution allows.

Naturally, the statists among us don't like this very much.  This became painfully clear in an editorial appearing in the Sunday, August 25th Sacramento Bee.  The Bee's editorial board calls the CSPOA, "a deeply misguided and ill-informed organization whose reckless rhetoric directly challenges federal and state laws."

The Bee's editorial board especially has their panties in a bunch because the California sheriffs who belong to the CSPOA have announced they do not intend to allow to be enforced in their respective counties any anti-gun laws that they have deemed to be unconstitutional - whether it be the U.S. Constitution or the California Constitution.

According to the Bee's editorial board, doing this is to, "pick and choose which laws to enforce," and that the CSPOA's stated positions about upholding the Constitution and protecting us from government tyranny and abuse are a bunch of "tripe," and "extremist rhetoric."

No, see, the way it works is that if a law is truly constitutional, then the Bee's editorial board might have a point in criticizing county sheriffs for not upholding that law.  But if a law is deemed to be unconstitutional, then a constitutional officer, such as, say, a county sheriff, has every obligation to refuse to enforce that unconstitutional law.  I commend sheriffs such as Dean Wilson of Del Norte County, John D'Agostini of El Dorado County, and Jon Lopey of my childhood home county of Siskiyou and 21 other California sheriffs who are named by the Bee editorial as members of the CSPOA.

How about a little historical challenge to the Bee editorial board's position on this issue?  As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Congress passed, and President Millard Fillmore signed into law a strengthened Fugitive Slave Law that decreed that slaves from the southern slave states that escaped to the non-slave northern states were no longer safe and could be captured and returned to a state of slavery.  Furthermore, any northern state citizen (even one who was totally opposed to slavery) could be deputized on the spot by law enforcement in order to help capture or subdue an escaped slave.  If that deputized citizen refused to help execute the Fugitive Slave Law, that citizen could himself be arrested.

This was a law that was totally unconstitutional, but it was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President.  According to the logic of the Bee editorial board, a county sheriff in one of these non-slave holding states who refused to allow the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act to be enforced in his county would be guilty of "pick[ing] and choos[ing] which laws to enforce."  And if the sheriff publicly made his views against enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law known, he would be uttering so much "tripe" and "extremist rhetoric."

Now, I'm pretty sure I know what the editorial board's rebuttal would be to my argument:  They would insist that the gun laws the California legislature has recently passed or is attempting to pass are all constitutional.  Fine.  But the county sheriffs of the CSPOA can say that these laws are not constitutional and still refuse to enforce them.  The California State Supreme Court and even the U.S. Supreme Court can insist that the laws are constitutional, and the sheriffs can still insist the laws are unconstitutional and refuse to allow them to be enforced in their county.  Ultimately, it is up to the voters of the county to either agree with their sheriff's position by reelecting him or her, or booting that sheriff out of office in the next election, and replacing him or her with someone who will do what they are told by the federal government, the California government, and the Sacramento Bee editorial board.

That is what representative government is all about, right?