Saturday, October 9, 2010

Yo-Yo's for Troops: The Big Give Away!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.


After weeks of diligent work, almost daily rocket attacks, and assorted and sundry trials and tribulations, we are excited and ready to give some of your Yo-Yo's away to the Troops!

The USO on Kandahar Airfield has kindly allowed us to take our not insubstantial number of yo-yo's and distribute them to the hard fighting fellows taking a well deserved break there. We have scheduled two Sundays, a month apart, as I still receive at least a box a week with Yo-Yos and assorted sundries for the troops.

It's not commonly known, but many commanders (McChrystal ahem...) feel that 2 or 3 days in Bagram Airfield or Kandahar Airfield is a wonderful and sufficient respite from being shot at, rocketed, or blown up, out in the field. Of course they (McCrystal...Ahem!) closed many of the overpriced emporiums on the bases that the soldiers flocked to. The commanders (McCrystal...Ahem!) felt that the soldiers would get soft from two or three days of living the high life in the cosmopolitan and notoriously decadent Airfields.

Imagine the merriment when the USO finally opened up on KAF almost three weeks ago! (After what... almost nine years? I mean seriously, we slammed the Taliban here on Dec 7 2001...)

But I digress. The USO is a beautifully executed space, built inside of a huge clamshell tent. They spared no expense in making it comfortable and useful to the troops. Phone banks, reading areas, video gaming area, cushions, chairs, couches, you name it! Even a coffee room where you can brew your own.

As you already know, Uncle Roy (He is real!) of Uncle Roy's Toys has donated 200 hundred hand crafted hardwood yo-yo's for us to distribute. And dozens of people have sent yo-yo's that bring the total to over three hundred! That's a lot of Yo-Yo's for Troops!

One of the NCOs that I work with has graciously volunteered to assist with the distribution.

I have secured some help with the photos we will be taking, and I hope to have them up and on line within a couple of days of giving them out.

Again, I want to thank everyone that has been able to donate Yo-Yo's and other stuff for the troops. Wait until you see the pictures, and then you'll get an idea of how important this is to the fellows!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sporting Classics Presents: First Light

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, in association with Bernard and Associates and High Adventure Company, proudly presents Sporting Classics. Widely recognized as the premier outdoor magazine, with award-winning graphics and the country's top writers, Sporting Classics focuses on the best hunting and fishing throughout the world and finest outdoor fiction. Whether it is wingshooting grouse on the Scottish Highlands, stopping Cape Buffalo on the plains of Tanzania, or landing delicate Rainbow Trout on a 2 weight bamboo fly rod, Sporting Classics and its stable of renowned authors covers it with class and finesse.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles has been chosen as one of the few Outdoor Bloggers to share content from the most respected and best known magazine in the outdoor community!

Please enjoy the following advance publication. I would like to thank the Bernard and Associates team, High Adventure Company, and Sporting Classics for choosing The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles  as a partner in their endeavours!
*** ** ***
I don't usually comment on any of the stories presented here, but in this case I'll make an exception.

I'm getting close to that mid century mark, and this beautiful story hits home in its honest appraisal of what life is, or better said, isn't. My time here in Afghanistan has really pressed home the need for love and sincerity in one's life, the terrible randomness with which lives, guilty or innocent, are extinguished, and the importance of enjoying fully each and every thing, small or large, that brings you joy. So the next time you see a baby smiling, a young man excitedly reeling in a fish, or a bee landing on a flower, savor that moment as if it was the last time you will ever have that opportunity.

Your friend,
Albert A Rasch

*** ** ***

First Light

“One minute we smile. In another, we cry. We live our lives between a laugh and a tear.”
By Mike Gaddis

A man can’t afford to live but so long. The price gets too heavy.

I suppose it’s the toll we pay for the gift . . . and the curse . . . of conscience. The ability to perceive tomorrow, and to remember yesterday. The perception of present and past. The cognizance of joy and melancholy. The fragility of life, and the certainty of death. The velocity of time and the weight of eternity.

Being human may not be all the blessing we’re born believing it to be. Along with the intellect comes a fearful load. It grows with the years and can never be unshouldered.

A man can escape a lot of things, but never himself.

Truth is, in the ecological world at large, a man can pretend arrogance only with his own kind. Nobody else cares. Sooner or later, a man is left to find he must suffer on his own. Unless he is totally insensitive to life and living, the cost of love and loss carries ultimately beyond his pretenses and layers heavily upon his heart.

The older I get, and the more time I’ve spent wild, the more I’m brought to believe that maybe it’s the rest of the creatures in the kingdom that God loved best. So that He didn’t saddle them with too much memory, or curse them more than temporarily with the sense of loss, or see fit to constantly remind them with a chronograph or a calendar on the wall, of how much of life they have left to live.

Rather, He left them to fare within the moment, to worry only of the perils of the present, to accept and appreciate living as a spontaneity of unordained incidents. The sun rises and the sun sets, slumber is unblemished by nightmares, and tomorrow, and the tomorrow after, is unburdened by anything beyond what’s ultimately important . . . the necessity of survival.

Ironically, within an existence of such unencumbered simplicity, the “lower” species have come to epitomize almost every value we hold of greatest esteem: heart, courage, resourcefulness, tenacity, fearlessness, devotion, fidelity.

Yes, their lives are often abbreviated, and they spend their entire existence in the tiny corner of the world they were born in. But the life they live is free of sorrow, and without the baggage of tortured emotion.
Would I trade? Give up the joys of anticipation, sacrifice all the beautiful memories, all the pictures of the past a happy heart takes? Would I barter away the adventures of imagination, bargain away the ability to conjure a dream?

Comes square down to it, I guess not. But I’m not so damn cocksure and proud about it as maybe once I was.

The one thing I do know is that I don’t want to live forever. There’s not enough of me, I’ll be just about spent. Ready to go.

With everything and everybody I’ve lost, I’ve buried a bit of me. Each time, I’m a little less than I started with. There’s another increment of sorrow to laden any given moment of joy.

Old folks, on the days they were down, not long before they would go, back when I was young and careless and would ask them why . . . would look off across the green meadows for a time and say, “I’m old, Boy, old and tired.”

I always thought physically, cause they were stooped and wrinkled. Couldn’t do the things once they could. But that wasn’t the most of it. Now that I’m old, and a mite wrinkly too, I know better.

I’ve been a spite out of sorts with myself lately, and I’ve tried hard to figure out just why. Cause all my life I’ve been a more-than-willing man.

It’s just that, more now, some days aren’t as happy as others. It’s taken me 67 years, but now I think I’ve come to a thing I wish I hadn’t.

Happiness is of the moment, and sadness accrues. Sadness is like the moss that grows on the north side of an evergreen. It thickens through the years, latches on and grows, until one day the tree isn’t so green anymore.

If that looms the secret of life, I’m almighty glad I didn’t discover it any sooner.

The bouts of sadness stage closer now it seems.

Too many folks, too many dogs, too many things that are the same as heart and home, are gone. Each layered another little chasm of loneliness, that nothing or nobody else can fill. Each kept a part of me I can never have back again.

I look down the narrowing road, and can see too many more to come.

In the greening beauty of each new spring I can find again an Old Granpa Graybeard in a white ash tree, but I can’t have back the softness of my mother’s eyes, when I was seven years old, and first she gave him to me. I have a Christmas tree each December, but I can’t have back my father’s pride, the year I found the Winchester 20 gauge under the one Mama decorated, when I was 13 and Daddy let me know I was coming a man.

I’ve killed a book whitetail, and I’ve killed a brown bear, a Cape buffalo and a kudu, but I can’t recover the exact same feeling I had with the Old Man who took me under wing when I was 16, showed me how, and stood silently beside me as I beamed over my first forkhorn. Or the completion we shared when he stood again in the shadow of an oak tree, when of my own, I weighed in my first ten-pound largemouth on the old Chantilly cradle scales behind the boathouse of City Lake #4.

I’ve had dogs since, and I’ll have dogs more, and it’s all been good . . . and if I was a-mind to, I could whelp another litter of pups in a lot better digs than once we did. But I can never have again the absolute joy and exhilaration of that first litter of setters we whelped, Loretta and I, in that two-by-twice, little, two-bitty shed in the backyard 40 years ago. Nor can I ever rein up my horse again at the gap of the finish at Rappahannock, no matter how many dogs I field, and feel the same exultation I did as I watched one of those same pups, in her prime – the greatest field trial dog of my life – top the far distant hill, two valleys over, carrying on and away.

She’s pointed Up There, somewhere. I know. Waiting for me to come move her birds. I want someday sooner, now, to do so.

I’ve still got a few good friends, Thank God, but I can’t have back again the ones I shared many a rod or gun with, whose handshake would turn into an embrace come end of the day . . . who as Stonewall Jackson said, “have crossed the river, to rest in the shade of the trees on the other side.”

I try to be a boy again. Go squirrel hunting with the same little rifle I grew up on. But I can’t have back the man who helped steady it against my shoulder when I was six, the same one who told me in his 70s, while he was dying of Parkinson’s disease and a host of other ills, just before he willed his way on to join my Aunt . . . not a thing on God’s earth I could do to stop it . . . “Bout everything I had is gone, Jughead, and I ain’t never gonna have enough else. I’ve fished my last creek and treed my last squirrel.”

The bill of burden weighs on. Sum of it is, I can’t have back the lot of myself that was me. I can’t have back all the full-of-myself days when I was younger, and stronger, and quicker, and could do the things better that I can’t anymore. I can’t have back yesterday, and there’s a hell less assurance on tomorrow.

As painful as it is to admit it, I’m a lot older, and a little bit tired.

I’m not broke yet. I’ve still got some hope in my poke. And I’ll spend it both foolishly and wisely – like I always have – long as I can go the way.

But the circle goes unbroken. Things keep spinning back. My grandmother, when one day as a little man, I cried, when some small something happened and I tried so hard not too. She pulled me to her side, dabbed away the tears with her apron hem, said,

“One minute we smile. In another, we cry. We live our lives between a laugh and a tear.”

I think, now, it was out of kindness . . . she didn’t tell me, also . . . how small would become the margin that lies between.

*** ** ***

Editor’s Note: Lanford Monroe’s painting is among 130 works in the acclaimed book, Homefields. Sporting Classics still has a few Deluxe edition copies of Homefields, each signed by the author, at the reduced price of $100. Call 800-849-1004.

*** ** ***

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club

The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pictures from the Front: Kandahar Airfield Bread Maker

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Kandahar Airfield

Left to right: Father and baker, middle son: dough flattener/shaper, eldest son: dough kneader. Up front is youngest son: bargainer, money taker, and too cute to not be taken by...

Outside the wire we have a bread making family that has set up shop in a seemingly abandoned (?) shell of a building. The mud hut is right next to the gas station/repair station/ Afgan 7/11/ electronic goods shop where we lease a handful of vehicles from a jolly fat Afghan named Macmoud. He might be cousin to Karzai thrice removed, or maybe not. With Big Mac there's no telling.

The family in the fly ridden, ramshackle hut is poor by the looks of it, but they are better off than many other Afghans.  They have a steady stream of customers that they bake bread for. The local nationals (LNs) come on to Kandahar Airfield on a daily basis to work. We have hundreds of LNs that come in every day to do everything from cleaning to construction, in addition to driving the hundreds of trucks with all our supplies that line up outside the wire, sometimes for days. They have to eat, and the baker supplies the basic building block of the Afghan diet.

They make a pretty good living in my estimation, especially when I stop by.

You see, they charge me $1.00 a flat loaf.

I didn't think it was too bad. But come to find out everybody else - gets 5 loaves for a dollar! I don't mind getting gamed, but that's ridiculous. I think 2 flat loaves for a dollar is fair enough for the rich Americans.

But wait!

Here you can see why we are having such a hard time breaking even against the Taliban.

I mention it to Fat Macmoud in passing. Not complaining, but I said I needed to sharpen up on my bargaining skills. But Macmoud owns the property where the bakers have set up shop. They pay him daily for the use of the three-sided mud walled structure. To him, they have committed some grave affront. (Probably the affront of getting caught!)

Over my protestations,  Machmud the Lard Ass tells me he will take care of me. He's more worried about his business with ISAF and his fancy clean "Man Jammies," (I'll get a picture uploaded...) than he is about the baker's family.

He walks over to the Baker, yells and gesticulates wildly (Pointing at the American the whole time...), grabs a dozen just baked loves with his greasy hands, his fat, ring adorned fingers poking holes in the bread, and walks back to where we are standing!

My jaw is halfway to the ground. All the Afghan baker and his dirty children know is that the American just cost them a butt load of bread!

Big Mac the Unbathed presents me with the stack of bread and tells me, "Do not worry! You will always have bread, whatever you need,  anything, when you come!" If the baker isn't partial to the Taliban, he might be now.

I take my ill gotten stack of warm, hearth baked, bread and put it on the dusty covered front seat.

I wait a while, allowing Macmoud the Vulgar to settle down and attend to other business. Pulling a five dollar bill out of my wallet, and start to make my way discretely over to the Baker's mud hovel. I have a small LED flashlight no bigger than a Palmetto bug that has a flat clip attached to it.

Folding the Fiver into a tight square, I clip the light to it as I walk.

The Baker is sliding bread into his underground oven when I walk up. He looks up at me. I maintain an expressionless face, and flip the small package to him. He deftly reaches out, snatches it, gives it a cursory inspection, and tucks it in his shirt pocket. He looks at me again and smiles. I smile back, and all is well again. Crisis averted, I walk back to my mud encrusted vehicle.

We load back into the SUV, the smell of fresh baked bread a welcome respite from the ever present stench of the famous Kandahar "Poop Pond!"

Someone actually lives in that...

The ride back was uneventful. Dusty with poor visibility, but that's the norm.

Traffic's light today...

Now, if we only had some butter to go with that bread...

But I won't ask Macmoud the Tyrant!
Note: Pictures courtesy of Tara H, who graciously allowed me to use her laptop to upload the pictures I took today. Thanks Kid!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles