Memorial Day

Charles Loxton was a small man, no taller than 5’6”, and was born in 1899.  This means that when he fought in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War, he was no older than 17 years old — Delville Wood, where he was wounded, took place in July 1916.

Seventeen years old.  That means he would have been a little over sixteen when he enlisted. In other words, Charles must have lied about his age to join the army — many did, in those days, and recruiting officers winked at the lies.  After all, the meat grinder of the Western Front needed constant replenishment, and whether you died at 17, 18 or 19 made little difference.

Why did he do it?  At the time, propaganda told of how the evil Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to conquer the world, and how evil Huns had raped Belgian nurses after executing whole villages.  Where Charles lived as a young boy, however, the Kaiser was no danger to him, and no German Uhlans were going to set fire to his house, ever.

But Charles lied about his age and joined up because he felt that he was doing the right thing.  That if good men did nothing, evil would most certainly win.

It’s not as though he didn’t know what was coming:  every day, the newspapers would print whole pages of casualty lists, the black borders telling the world that France meant almost certain death.  The verification could be found in all the houses’ windows which had black-crepe-lined photos of young men, killed on the Somme, in Flanders, in Ypres, and at Mons.

He would have seen with his own eyes the men who returned from France, with their missing limbs, shattered faces and shaky voices.  He would have heard stories from other boys about their relatives coming back from France to other towns — either in spirit having died, or else with wounds so terrible that the imagination quailed at their description.

He would have seen the mothers of his friends weeping at the loss of a beloved husband.  Perhaps it had been this man and not his father who had taught him how to fish, or how to shoot, or how to cut (from the branches of a peach tree) a “mik” (the “Y”) for his catapult.

But Charles, a 16-year-old boy, walked out of his home one day and went down to the recruiting center of the small mining town, and joined the Army.

When years later I asked him why he’d done it, he would just shrug, get a faraway look in his blue eyes, and change the subject.  Words like duty, honor, country, I suspect, just embarrassed him. But that didn’t mean he was unaware of them.

So Charles joined the Army, was trained to fight, and went off to France.  He was there for only four months before he was wounded.  During the attack on the German trenches at Delville Wood, he was shot in the shoulder, and as he lay there in the mud, a German soldier speared him in the knee with his bayonet, before himself being shot and killed by another man in Charles’ squad.  At least, I think that’s what happened — I only managed to get the story in bits and pieces over several years.  But the scars on his body were eloquent witnesses to the horror: the ugly cicatrix on his leg, two actually (where the bayonet went in above the knee and out below it), and the star-shaped indentation in his shoulder.

The wounds were serious enough to require over a year’s worth of extensive rehabilitation, and they never really healed properly.  But Charles was eventually passed as fit enough to fight, and back to the trenches he went.  By now it was early 1918 — the Americans were in the war, and tiny, limping Private Charles Loxton was given the job as an officer’s batman: the man who polished the captain’s boots, cleaned his uniform, and heated up the water for his morning shave every day.  It was a menial, and in today’s terms, demeaning job, and Charles fought against it with all his might.  Eventually, the officer relented and released him for further line service, and back to the line he went.

Two months later came the Armistice, and Charles left France for home, by now a grizzled veteran of 19.  Because he had been cleared for trench duty, he was no longer considered to be disabled, and so he did not qualify for a disabled veteran’s pension.

When he got back home, there were no jobs except for one, so he took it.  Charles became, unbelievably, a miner.  His crippled knee still troubled him, but he went to work every day, because he had to earn money to support his mother, by now widowed, and his younger brother John.  The work was dangerous, and every month there’d be some disaster, some catastrophe which would claim the lives of miners.  But Charles and his friends shrugged off the danger, because after the slaughter of the trenches, where life expectancy was measured in days or even hours, a whole month between deaths was a relief.

But he had done his duty, for God, King and country, and he never regretted it.  Not once did he ever say things like “If I’d known what I was getting into, I’d never have done it.”  As far as he was concerned, he’d had no choice — and that instinct to do good, to do the right thing, governed his entire life.

At age 32, Charles married a local beauty half his age.  Elizabeth, or “Betty” as everyone called her, was his pride and joy, and he worshipped her his whole life.  They had five children.

Every morning before going to work, Charles would get up before dawn and make a cup of coffee for Betty and each of the children, putting the coffee on the tables next to their beds.  Then he’d kiss them, and leave for the rock face.  Betty would die from multiple sclerosis, at age 43.

As a young boy, I first remembered Charles as an elderly man, although he was then in his late fifties, by today’s standards only middle-aged.  His war wounds had made him old, and he had difficulty climbing stairs his whole life.  But he was always immaculately dressed, always wore a tie and a hat, and his shoes were polished with such a gloss that you could tell the time in them if you held your watch close.

Charles taught me how to fish, how to cut a good “mik” for my catapult, and watched approvingly as I showed him what a good shot I was with my pellet gun.  No matter how busy he was, he would drop whatever he was doing to help me — he was, without question, the kindest man I’ve ever known.

In 1964, Charles Loxton, my grandfather, died of phthisis, the “miner’s disease” caused by years of accumulated dust in the lungs.  Even on his deathbed in the hospital, I never heard him complain — in fact, I never once heard him complain about anything, ever.  From his hospital bed, all he wanted to hear about was what I had done that day, or how I was doing at school.

When he died, late one night, there was no fuss, no emergency, no noise; he just took one breath, and then no more.  He died as he had lived, quietly and without complaint.

From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”

Charles Loxton thought only about other people his entire life.

In Memoriam

Tandem

Two articles have surfaced, and I believe they should be read one after the other.

The first is by Victor Davis Hanson, and of course is therefore worth reading all by itself:

[U]ntil recently there were still a few institutions we considered sacrosanct, incorruptible, and invincible amid faith-based assertions, toxic woke fads, civil dissension, and hatred of the past. One certainly was the military. Another was “science,” or rather the scientists, researchers, and investigators who devoted themselves to disinterested empiricism. And, a third, was the sacred idea of the “law,” or the idea that Americans respect our statutes because they were crafted by ourselves and applicable to all, equally, and without exception.
All three have lost their luster. Americans do not trust them, at least not in the old way. Perhaps it was the 2020 perfect storm of plague, quarantine, recession, riot, a contentious election, and red/blue antipathies that ripped off the scab and exposed beneath something far different than what the public had assumed.

Read it all, then follow up with this one:

It isn’t just BLM against bikers, or school systems against parents, or black against white, or Hispanic against Asian, or young against old, or left against right, or gay against straight, or vaxers against anti-vaxers, or mask wearers against mask refusers; it is the intent of government officials to inflame these conflicts to the point of violence that is the concern. His response was a slow shake of the head, a shrug of the shoulders saying what he preferred not to say.
The fact is, there is no D-Day, but rather the slow accumulation of grievances until the load can no longer be carried. His words came back to me over the whole conversation. “We’re not that stupid.” The trouble with combat veterans, like my father (Korea), is they tend to be non-confrontational in such situations, because they can smell an ambush, not because they fear engagement, but half measures won’t suffice and until they are ready to go full-on, all other responses seem tepid, but the rage builds.
This climate is being manufactured. Those who are sure they will win are goading on the conflict. Those who are not sure they will win, refuse to fight at half measure, harming only their families and friends, enraging a brutal enemy without the resolve to complete the mission. What the enemies of the people should be afraid of, if they had any sense, is a fighting force having put it off until there was nothing left to lose, but coming out dedicated to the eradication of their enemies as the only possible solution.
Caught in the middle of this brewing conflict is law enforcement. This is something they should recognize, but they have not thus far. They seem willing to be the fodder; the useful idiots of the tyrannical regimes. If they could only look into the face of what confronts them, they might choose differently, but I doubt they would. Most of them agree to impose tyranny as a means of securing their pensions, as if they can suspend their duty as American citizens while in uniform and pick it back up when they shed it. Consciously or sub-consciously they are making a decision to violate their oaths in order to receive their shekels from tyrants.

This situation, by the way, seldom turns out well for the camp followers.  At best, they’re treated as collaborators and shunned, or else they lose everything — rank, prestige and respect — and at worst they’re killed, either by the resistance in situ  or by the regime that follows.  “Just obeying orders” has held no water ever since 1945.

Both the above are bleak theses;  but these are bleak times we live in.

Darkening Skies

Saw this over at Kenny’s place, and it resonated with me:

While marooned in Siberia a hotel room over the past four months, I watched probably more “regular” TV shows than I’ve watched in more than twenty years past.  And over time, I suddenly realized that the above meme is quite correct:  there aren’t any.

I mean, yes there are a few White people around, but you have to really look out for them.   And if not solo acts, they’re as often as not part of a mixed-race couple, or a figure of fun and ridicule.

“Oh Kim,” I hear the progressive wokists gloat, “now you know how the POC  [persons of color — I know]  felt all these years, when ad agencies never cast Black or Brown people in ads except as part of a stereotype-filler.”

And if these oh-so smart, hip creative types (mostly, it should be said, based in New York, L.A. and Chicago) want to redress a long-ago grievance, that’s fine.  But it cuts several ways.

Do you think a Chinese consumer is going to respond well to a commercial featuring Black actors?  Or an Indian consumer to an ad featuring a mixed-race couple and their coffee-colored babies?  Or, for that matter, a White consumer — oh wait;  that’s because all Whites are raaaaaayyyciss and POCs can’t be.

Uh huh.

Having been in this game myself, I also know that the reason behind casting Whites was that that particular demographic group was where the market (i.e. the money) was.  And if I can be honest:  in time, I (and many, many others of my ilk) may come to treat advertising precisely the same way that Blacks and such used to treat all-White TV commercials:  as something to be ignored.

Ignore that message at your peril, Madison Avenue.

Getting To Know You

So here I sit with my newly-acquired S&W Mod 65:

…and because I’ve not owned a .357 Mag revolver for lo these many years, of course I had to check out the ammo on hand.  (Yeah I know, I had ammo for a gun I didn’t have — like that’s never happened to any of you, don’t get me started.)

Actually not too bad, considering.  About 100 rounds of “self-defense” (i.e. hollowpoint 158gr killer-diller stuff) the shortage of which I shall address when time and wallet allow, but I can get by with that, certainly. As for practice .357 ammo?  About 500 rounds of the Winchester White Box 110gr.  Little light, there.

So off I went to look for said White Box practice ammo via Ammoseek… and holy shit!  Are you kidding me?  $2.40 per round??????  Two dollars and forty cents every time I pull the trigger????  Looks like the lightweight 110gr stuff may become my backup “self-defense” load — and yeah I know, the little 110gr pill doesn’t do well in ballistic gelatin etc. etc. yadda yadda yadda because even though it absolutely screams out of the barrel, there’s not enough mass to penetrate deeply enough to satisfy the Death Brigade Cognoscenti.

Anyway (after I’d got my heart working again), after browsing Ye Olde Internette a little further I found an old friend:

Still spendy, but in the current climate, not excessively so.  [20,000-word rant deleted]

“Okay, Kim:  why the lightweight stuff (125gr) instead of the proven (and cheaper) 158gr?”

Because if I know anything about the K-frame S&W revolvers like the 65, it’s that you can beat them up badly shooting lots of heavy .357 mag ammo through them.  And I plan to shoot lots because I’m out of practice shooting a meaty revolver cartridge.

Yeah, I know:  I can practice with .38 Special (no need to buy more of that, no sir), but I follow the old adage:  practice with what you’ll shoot.  And while the 125gr bullets aren’t the same as 158gr bullets in terms of recoil and such, they still have that little .357 snap!, more so than an ordinary .38 Spec, even the 158gr ones.

Comments in the usual place, please.  I welcome them all, because it’s been a long time since I shot the .357 Mag, out of any gun.

Oh, and for the many (!!) kind people who have written to me with offers of gifts of components, I really have no plans for getting into reloading, but thankee most kindly for the offers all the same.