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Archive for January, 2013

socks

A couple months back, I reminisced about how the Marine Corps smells. Well, today, I came across something else that I owe to the Corps: My feet still smell like the Philippines.

You see, a long time ago, in the Marine Corps…

Our ship sailed up to this island in the Philippines, called Panay. We got off the ship and started hiking around in the jungle. It was so hot and humid that sweat poured off the rim of my cover (hat) not in drips, but in a steady stream, like the inaudible trickle of water no thicker than a shoelace that comes out of the tap just before you close it off. The sweat soaked my uniform until it felt like I’d just crawled out of a river. The sweat permeated my jungle boots until, when I stepped, moisture pushed through the seams, or the little brass grates on the insole. It even soaked my backpack, and into my poncho liner inside my backpack.

Anyway, we each only had a few pairs of socks. After three days, I had to recycle them. Even though I left them out at night, draped across the tops of my boots, they didn’t get dry. This might have had something to do with the constant rain at night, along with the damp cold, or taking our nature strolls through underbrush still wet from the previous night’s rain, or the fording of rivers while on maneuevers during the day. In case you weren’t aware of this, Marines don’t take off their boots to ford rivers. Or their socks.

You know, when you look at someone, you’re really looking at their hair, eyes, and, most importantly, skin. And, this is particularly hard to believe when your looking at someone attactive, like Gisselle, or Tom Brady, or your one-year-old, but that person’s skin is actually host to millions of bacteria microbes, most of which have been living there for years. Some skin bacteria like to live on your eyelids, or your nose, or your hands. But, most bacteria like to live in moist, dark places, like your mouth, your armpits, your crotch, and your feet. And, the bacteria that give rise to body odor can come from anywhere, and land on a random part of your body. If that part of your body suits them, they will thrive. And smell.

When I say that my feet still smell like the Philippines, I don’t mean that the Philippines is in itself a smelly place. Well, actually, that’s not true. There were parts of Manila that made me want to vomit from smell alone. But, the jungle in Panay smelled like a jungle. Nothing in the jungle itself smelled say, as bad as my feet do today if I wear the same socks for two days. And, my feet don’t actually smell bad at all. As long as I wash them every day, dry them out completely aterward, and never, ever ever, ever – please,never, wear the same socks twice without washing them in between wearings. Because if I do…

In relation to the annals of military history concerning feet, my feet didn’t take any abuse whatsoever during their service in the jungle of Panay. We were only there a week. I didn’t step in a punji trap. I didn’t trip a toe-popper. I didn’t get trench foot, immersion foot – heck, I didn’t even get blisters, or footsore. I didn’t even get athlete’s foot, or plantar’s warts – I got those from the ship’s showers, even though I wore my frigging flip-flops to prevent those things. But still, after our playtime in Panay, my feet were never the same.

After a week in the jungle, I – and my comrades – weren’t even aware of how filthy we were, until we got to the beach, for return to the ship by CH-46 helicopters.We had to wait a long time on the beach for our helicopters, because the CH-46 was an antiquated piece of crap that spent most of its time being repaired. For the first time in a week, we were exposed to the tropical sun, and in stark contrast to the jungle, the beach sands had zero humidity. While we all had three pairs of socks, we had only one pair of cammies. And, our cammies instantly dried out, and the fabric turned white and stiff from grime and body salts. My collar actually cut my neck. Our uniforms made crackling sounds when we moved the fabric. It felt like we were dressed in cardboard.

We recognized how dirty our clothes were, but we didn’t recognize how much we stank, because our stink was the only thing we smelled. But, the sailors who tried to pass us in the ship recoiled away from us. The Marines in berthing who hadn’t gone ashore kindly remarked that we smelled like shit.

I shoved my crusty cammies and my three pairs of socks into a laundry bag, showered (with my flip-flops on), came back, and put on a fresh set of laundered cammies. They were broken in, and felt like clean pajamas. Then, I smelled my laundry bag, hanging from the corner of my rack.

The stench radiated from the nylon mesh bag, knocking me back. I transferred the whole laundry bag to a willy pete bag, which was basically a waterproof rubber sack. I sealed the top, and, forgot about it. Big mistake, because I missed the call for the ship’s laundry. The toxic clothing had to wait until we got to Cebu, where we were given liberty. I took the laundry out to the city, and found a launderer. I think it cost three bucks to do the laundry, but I gave her ten, out of guilt, for putting up with that nightmare.

Regardless, after I got my clothes back from the launderer in Cebu, I still put them through the ship’s wash. Then, a week later, I put on my socks from the jungle. These socks were olive-drab, cushioned on the bottom, and when you got them, they’d have printing on them that said in white ink: “50% cotton, 50% wool.” When new, they’d reach up past your calf and stay there. When broken in, which only took a couple wearings, they’d sag down to the top of your boot. Anyway, I put them on, and we had a hot, sweaty, tiring day in uniform. My feet felt gamey and wet in their socks, and I was glad to kick off my boots at the end of the day.

Then, the smell hit me. It was the same nastiness that came crawling out of that willy pete bag, a mix of old gym socks and fermented zombie puss…

I guess, lying there on the tops of my boots, exposed to the jungle air and all the dust and yeast and bacteria and stuff flying around in it, my socks must have picked up a strain of microbe that, despite flourishing for thousands or millions of years in the jungles of the Pacific islands, never knew that its perfect environment happened to be on the melanin-deprived skin cells of the feet of a human being evolved in the environment of Northern Europe. And, when this microbe found itself in its version of paradise, it could only rejoice by being fruitful, multiplying, and producing what, to its version of a nose, must be a great odor, but to the nose of its host species, was a nightmare.

The socks were ruined. Even laundered three times they still had the odor. I tossed them. But, the damage was already done. My feet were the new home of this smell. I quickly found that any lapse in foot hygiene would not only ruin socks, but sneakers and boots, too. Once those microbes found a new home in the fabric of my footwear, they were there for good. No matter how many times the shoes were washed, bleached, sun-bleached, microwaved, or frozen, they would always come back whenever the temperature and humidity level recreate their utopic environment. It really makes me wonder, What in Heaven’s name landed on my socks in the jungle – a non-virulent form of Anthrax?

I was forced to up my game, and take my foot hygiene, sock wearing, and footwear usage into a pattern that resembles an obsessive-compulsive disorder, all to prevent a recurrence of The Odor.

Flash-forward to today. I can go years without being bothered by it, because I am vigilant. But, then, victory will weaken me. I will do something like I did this morning. It’s cold out, and I only have a few pairs of wool socks that are really primo – nice, new, and thick. And, this one pair, I wore yesterday. But, I was in the office all day, and I don’t sweat much in the winter…

So, I wear them again. But then, by about ten in the morning, as I swing one leg up to rest it over the other, the breeze made by my leg kicks that scent up to my nose. It’s not The Odor, not a stench anyone uninitiated to its legacy would recognize, but for me, it’s a reminder:

Despite 19 years, tens of thousands of washings, daily sock changes, anti-bacterial creams, summers spent only in sandals, wearing different shoes every day, and two decades worth of new socks and footwear…

My feet still smell like the friggin’ Philippines.

###
Kaiheitai’s epic war novel: Mark of the Legion

'Mark of the Legion' - available on Kindle.

‘Mark of the Legion’ – available on Kindle.

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If you recognize that phrase, you’re probably familiar with the consipracies concerning how many shooters were used to take out JFK in Dealey Plaza.

It’s from the court case underpinning the 1992 Oliver Stone movie ‘JFK,’ and it’s referring to the fact that in the Zapruder film that documents the president’s shooting, his body jerks back, and to the left, and this motion supposedly proves that JFK was shot from the front right, since a bullet to the head from that direction would make his body go back, and to the left.

The problem with this assertation is that the same film showing him going back, and to the left, shows the front of his skull opening up at the moment of the strike:

zapruder-313

The front of his head would only open up if struck from behind.

As for the bullet imparting its force on the President’s body, to make it jerk back and to the left, it wouldn’t. The bullet is traveling so fast that its passing through human skull and brain matter is almost inconsequential, it loses almost none of its kinetic energy in this act, but makes a lot of mist.

The reason the President jerked back and to the left was because of the instant seizure caused by massive brain injury.

The shooter was behind the President, and it was Oswald.

##

My first Kindle Novel: Mark of the Legion.

'Mark of the Legion' - available on Kindle.

‘Mark of the Legion’ – available on Kindle.

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snow

Hiss: In a bad Nor’easter, when cold air and warm southern moisture mix above you, sometimes the snow comes down as hard, granular balls, it makes a ceaseless hiss, like pieces of copier paper being rubbed together.

Whisper: If the snow is light and fluffy, like down feathers, you can stand in the woods and listen to the whisper of millions of flakes settling to the ground, a whisper you have to hold your breath to hear.

Salt pour: When the snow stands in drifts of powder, the whipping wind left after the passing of the clouds makes the snow drift. And when the wind blows snow off the peak of a drift, the airborne snow makes a sound like salt pouring around inside a shaker when you tip it.

Kiss: When the snowflakes are fat and heavy – you especially see this in a March storm – they make a wet kiss when they land. When you stand silently in the woods, it sounds almost like it’s raining. And if you turn your fac to the sky, and one of the quarter-size drops hits your face, you’ll hear, and feel, the wet kiss of winter.

Thump: The sound when snow slides off tree branches, and plops to the ground with a hearty thump.

Rumble: When snow slides off a steel roof in one huge avalanche, it hits the ground with a house-shaking rumble.

Rasp: This is the sound of snow falling through dried-out, brown oak leaves still clinging to branches.

Sigh: The sound of a car traveling past your house, the sound of its tires muffled by the snow-packed road.

Plop-Hiss: When a snowball hits the polypropelyne shell of your winter jack, and then slides off.

Slurp: The sound of tires rolling through piles of slushy snow on the road.

Absolute silence: The lack of sound you hear, so profound that you hear your own heartbeat, when you’re deep in a snow cave or snow fort.

The quiet of the Storm: The rare, muffled silence you hear in a thick, heavy snowfall – even in a city – because the swirl of a billion snowflakes drowns the sounds of civilization.

##

My Kindle book, Mark of the Legion:

'Mark of the Legion' - available on Kindle.

‘Mark of the Legion’ – available on Kindle.

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Corporal Rod

corporal chevron

Corporal Rodriguez was a Marine I knew when I lived in the Henderson Hall Barracks, adjacent Arlington National Cemetary.

Every coal-black hair on his head was trimmed in a perfect part, no longer than three inches on the bangs. His face was as hard and evenly balanced as a throwing axe. His black eyes leveled on you like the iron sites of a rifle. His smile was as broad and white as a field of freshly fallen snow. Rod was made of muscle fiber and perfect teeth, like beef jerky and Chicklets.

Corporal Rod slept in his uniform and his shoes – his ‘charlie’ uniform, which in the Marine Corps, is a khaki blouse, olive-drab trousers, and leather (or faux-leather plastic) shoes.

Whenever I went to his room in the early morning to get his roommate, who I was friends with, to go PT, Rod would lying on top of his perfectly-made rack. He slept on his back, supine, arms and legs spread slightly so as not to fold his clothing.

Sleeping was almost the only time I saw Rod. He had to go to sleep prepared to get up immediately, because Rod only slept three hours a night – maximum. The other 21 hours of the day, minus whatever time he spent at the office where he worked, in the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, were spent with, on average, eight to twelve beautiful women, none of whom had any idea any one of the others existed in his life.

He was also a dancer at a male review. My friend, his roommate, went there one night with Rod. He said the sea of females screaming for him and the other dancers was the most frightening thing he’d ever seen.

Corporal Rodriguez was a busy man.

Only once or twice did we see his girlfriends at the barracks. The women he dated were so intensely beautiful that they walked through life with the kind of look on their faces that told you they really couldn’t believe how good they had it. These were girls so frighteningly attractive that they’d knock you speechless. Every single Marine in the barracks would stop and stare at these girls, sometimes with their jaws open. The only person not looking at them would be Rod. But when he did, they’re expressions would gain focus, as if they were grounded more to him than they were the Earth itself.

This was back in the mid-90’s. No one had a cell phone yet. So, whenever I was at my friend’s room, where Rod inevitably wasn’t, the phone would ring, and the answering machine would pick up. Nineteen times out of twenty, it was a call for Rod from a girl, asking where he was, asking why he wasn’t picking up, asking when they would meet…

One day, my friend and I were playing a video game, and the phone was going off non-stop. Then, we heard one message that stood out:

“Rod, if you don’t call me, daddy says he’s not giving you that Viper.”

My friend and I looked at each other. Could she really be talking about a Dodge Viper, a $50,000 sports car?

Not ten minutes later, Rod came in through the door. It was about midnight – he was knocking off early. We immediately asked him what the story was with that call.

He laughed as he sat on his rack and kicked off his shoes. “Oh, that bitch? He dad owns a dealership and wanted to give me a car, or something. But, &%#$ her.”

He fell back on the rack, and fell unconscious.

##

Kaiheitai’s epic war novel: Mark of the Legion

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Indian food at CVS

So while walking through CVS to get medicine the other day, and by medicine I mean some cheap beer, I grabbed a plastic jar of Indian food off the shelf. Heck, it was only a dollar. And, by Indian food, I mean crackers with ranch-style flavoring. Mmmm.

You see, they’re made in India. I didn’t know that until I started eating them, and I thought, “This is the worst imitation of imitation ranch-style flavore dust I’ve ever tasted on a cracker.”

So, I looked at the plastic jar. It was made by someone called ‘Global Brands,’ and beneath that was printed, ‘An Imported Fine Product.’ This name conjured up vague images of the New World Order taking over our food supply, so I looked on the back. “Product of India.” It also said that the contents might have settled while shipping, and that if it doesn’t look full when opened, that’s why.

I went to their website, but it looked like an empty storefront.

Learning that I’d just eaten food manufactured between 17,500 and 21,500 miles from where I was enjoying it, I naturally wondered how long it took to go from production to my mouth. It didn’t say when the crackers were made, but it advised me to enjoy them before 06.27.2014. The fact that they actually wrote out ‘2014’ instead of just ’14’ made me wonder if these things were so well preserved that my great-great-grandchildren, should they somehow come across a jar of this crap, might accidently eat them in the early years of the 22nd Century.

Anyway, I guess I’m really wondering how one turns a profit by putting crackers in a plastic jar and sending them, literally, across the globe, so they can be stocked and sold for $.99. Is this why Hostess went out of business?

I’m not completely against the idea of eating Indian crackers, but if I’m going to eat Indian food, can’t they at least give me nom bread crackers? How about curry crackers? Are people in India looking at the ranch-style flavored dust and thinking, “Wow, we’ve been eating curry our entire lives? Ranch dust, where have you been?

I guess I feel a little guilty, having polished off my Global Brands crackers. Such a concept is anathema to my wife’s outlook of eating locally. And thinking globally. I’m eating globally, and thinking locally about my desire for ranch dust. I like eating locally. I guess. Actually, I don’t care. I’m pretty sure my genetically-modified pig grown in Laconia is going to taste like my genetically-modified pig grown in… Botswana, for example. Yes, I know, I should care. It wastes resources to fly ranch dust and other semi-edible foodstuffs around the world. But, I’m not that good a person. Since my wife does all the shopping, except for my occasional splurge on Indian food, I let her be good for me.

Anyway, if I go into the CVS and can’t find Chinese twinkies next week, I’m going to complain to the head of Global Brands.

 

 

 

 

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Armor my Horse!

Heavily armored knight. Unarmored horse. Guess who gets the short end of the deal in combat?

Heavily armored knight. Unarmored horse. Guess who gets the short end of the deal in combat?

European knights in the Middle Ages were enjoying the benefits of technological advances in personal body armor. The pinnacle of the era’s armor technology, circa 1550, produced suits like this Maximilian piece, which offered full-body protection with steel plate:

Maximilian armour, circa 1550.

Maximilian armour, circa 1550.

(The armor’s curves and polish aren’t just for show – it helped deflect blows and make projectiles ricochet.)

But, the horses that bore their metal-clad masters into battles were naked, except for their fur, which provided no protection against the weapons of the time, such as arrows, quarrels, swords, halberds, pikes, lances, and maces.

The focus of fire and attacks on mounts instead of their armored riders was instrumental to victory in the battles of Legnica, (1291) Bannockburn (1314), and Agincourt (1415).

Knights quickly realized that there was no point in wearing a custom-made suit of armor that cost as much as 1,000 of their serfs could make in a year, if their mighty steed could be brought down by anything from a lice-ridden Frisian peasant with a pitchfork, to a smelly Englishman with a longbow.

So, knights across Europe got sick of having their prized mounts shot and slashed out from beneath them. They went to their armor smiths and commanded: “Armor my horse!”

Thus, barding (horse armor (or, ‘armour,’ if you’re a silly English ka-nig-ette)) took off.

But the truth is, barding has been in use for many thousands of years, since any attempt at up-armoring one’s steed fits the definition. Just as the oldest piece of body armor for humans is the helmet, so it is for horses. Except, for horses it’s called the chamfron, (or champron, or chamfrein – barding terms have never been definite in English).

The chamfron covers the horse’s head, from his ears to his muzzle, and in some cases there’s even a hinged jaw piece, which must make the animal look like Robohorse. It’s important to armor this piece of a horse, since a horse’s head is an obvious target, and a horse’s neck is so strong that merely armoring their head makes it a dangerous melee weapon. (If you’ve ever been struck senseless by a nag’s un-armored, wagging head, you can imagine what they’d do if they were coated in bronze or steel.)

The Ancient Greeks used the chamfron on their cavalry horses. But the most famous ancient chamfron was produced by the ancient Celts, circa 200 BC, before the invasion of the Romans, and it certainly embodies the beauty and mystery of that culture – just look how they armored their horses:

Tors pony cap.

Tors pony cap.

Upon seeing that, the average Roman Legionnaire must have thought he was about to fight people from Mars. (But, I’m sure they were less afraid of them, than they were of their Centurion.)

Textile covers on horses are also called barding, and they’ve been used for many thousands of years, by almost every horse-riding culture.

But, until around the year 1200, barding didn’t advance much as a martial technology, until the armor of knights became so tough that they couldn’t be killed until they were dismounted.

Barding culminated around 1600, but declined rapidly thereafter, just as body armor did, because firearms made armor redundant. There’s not a lot of sense in dressing your army in full armor if a supersonic ball of lead can punch right through it. (Though some steel body armor capable of deflecting shot was used by elites right into World War One, but more on that some other day.)

Examples of barding from its heyday (hay day?) are rare, because barding itself was rare, and because barding, when it wasn’t used, was no doubt quickly reused in a world hungry for processed iron and steel, which was a valuable commodity. The costs of barding were incredibly high. By some estimates, a custom-made suit of Maximilian or Gothic armor worn by a knight, or protecting a member of royalty leading his forces into battle, as well as his horse and its barding, was as costly as a modern-day fighter jet.

For your average European peasant, who would be lucky if he had shoes in the winter, the sight of an armored knight on an armored horse must have been like a modern-day kid seeing an F-22 fighter zoom overhead on full afterburner. Except, the F-22 wouldn’t be piloted by the kid’s fellow citizen, but by his feudal lord and master.

This is all to say, it was expensive to armor a 150-pound man (The ‘high’ average weight of a healthy male in that era!) but armoring a 1,500-pound horse was pricey, indeed. Still, some examples of plate armor barding still exist, and they’re exquisite:

Horse barding and armored rider.

Horse barding and armored rider.

Horse barding and knight armor.

Horse barding and knight armor.

Armor and barding of a Swedish King, circa 1600.

Armor and barding of a Swedish King, circa 1600.

All of these examples are from the 1500’s, up to about 1600. At the peak of the technology, the horse would be covered from muzzle to tail in plate, mail, and leather armor called cuir bouilli, or ‘boiled leather.’

This made the animal and rider combination little more than a biomechanical tank, almost invulnerable to anything except knockout delivered by another mounted warrior via a lance, or close combat. The only other thing that could take down such an armored war machine was simply an overwhelming swarm of infantry bearing pikes. When you read the Tales of King Arthur, the knights were so seriously protected that they usually didn’t die until overcome by fatigue and blood loss, sometimes after fights that lasted days.

King Arthur’s tales didn’t talk about horse armor. Usually, combat in those tales started on the horse, but transitioned to the ground after the riders were dismounted. (For an example of this, and a demonstration on the mastery a rider has over an opponent on foot, watch this clip from the flawed, but amazing movie, Excalibur.) But, I can only imagine full plate barding only extended its protection – or misery of mounted knights.

The armored segments of horse barding, from front to back, were:

Chamfron: As discussed, it covered the head. The champfron often had a decorative dagger on the nose, called a rondel.

Crinette (or, criniere): This is a segmented armor piece that covered the horse’s neck, especially the back of the neck, which is a prime target for the downward swing of a sword.

Peytral: The peytral covered the horse’s chest, and was often the heaviest piece of armor. Just as modern tanks have the majority of their armor on the front, so did horse barding. This is because the rider can point the horse toward the enemy, and the majority of blows will come from that direction – especially if you have to charge into an infantry formation. A horse equipped with a peytral that is entering an infantry formation can act, literally, like a snowplow.

The peytral sometimes extended back to the saddle, and it was connected to the flanchard.

Flanchard: The flanchard was the mid-segment between the peytral and the rear portion, called the croupiere. The flanchard was usually made of boiled leather, or mail. A difficulty in armoring this section of the horse is that a rider’s legs have to bear pressure on the horse for the animal to respond to direction. Sometimes, open segments allowed the rider to press his spurs to the horse’s flanks.

Croupiere (also, crupper, crupiere, or bacul): The croupiere covered the horse’s hindquarters, and extended from the saddle back to the tail.

Caparison: The caparison is a decorative cloth covering that extended from nose to tail, and went all the way down to the horse’s hooves. It’s not known if the caparison served more than decorative purposes, but if it was made of silk, it could, since silk cloth has been used since time immemorial as a means of protection against arrows. Silk fiber is so dense that it’s difficult for a warhead to penetrate it, and if it strikes a body, be it human or horse, the warhead will drag the silk in with it, limiting penetration and infection, and facilitating removal.

Caparison

Caparison

In my epic war fantasy novel, Mark of the Legion, the Cavaliers of the Imperial 1st Heavy Cavalry Division employ full plate horse barding, in the style pictured above. In researching this technology, I discovered that many features of horse barding never acquired common names, but the equipment is nonetheless on display in modern museums, such as the Wallace Collection in London, as well as the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Some of these unnamed items of barding are:

The segmented, or mail, armor for horse reins. A tactic of fighting on mounts was to chop away the rider’s leather reins, which extend from his hands to the horse’s bit, in his mouth. In my book, the cavaliers use reins protected by plate segments.

Stirrup cages. Stirrups are traditionally made from tough leather. And while stirrup straps are protected by the knight’s armored leg, the stirrup itself, which loops around the foot, can be chopped through. Without the stirrup to stand in, a knight would be at a severe disadvantage in combat. So, knights used stirrup cages made of steel rods, like a thick bird cage, to keep those pesky infantry grunts from cutting through the stirrups. I can only imagine they were also handy for kicking grunts in the face.

Hamstring and forelock protection: While the croupiere and peytral provide major coverage for the horse’s body, they leave the legs exposed. A major target on a horse is the rear of his hind legs, attacking the major tendon popularly called the ‘hamstring.’ In fact, the tactic of attacking this area gave rise to the use of the verb, ‘hamstringing.’ I couldn’t find any examples of the hamstrings being protected, but in my novel, the Cavaliers covered their horse’s legs with mail to protect against hamstringing.

Horseshoes: Horseshoes in one form or another have been around since nearly the domestication of the horse, however, by the time that horse barding became popular in Europe, steel horseshoes with nail holes, nearly identical to those used today, were in frequent and widespread use. Any knight who valued his steed enough to armor it would certainly have a ferrier shod his horse’s hooves.

Why do I include this in barding? Because, in combat, horses will rise on their hind legs and box with their front hooves, and when they’re on all fours, they’ll kick with their rear legs. Imagine getting punched in the face by the heavyweight champion of the world, but instead of boxing gloves, he’s wearing brass knuckles. Now, imagine eight heavyweight champions punching you simultaneously, wearing steel knuckles. That’s the amount of force a kick from even a plow horse can deliver – with one rear leg. Even a body blow would simply crush your rib cage, or break your spine. While steel horseshoes aren’t technically barding, they definitely add to the combat effectiveness of a horse.

How much did barding weigh? This varied, quire a bit. But a fully-armored horse would be wearing around three hundred pounds of armor, including sections made of plate, mail, and leather. Saddle and armored rider would be another two-hundred and fifty pounds. The thickness of the plate varied depending on position, but it was built like human armor. The thickness varied from just under a millimeter, to several millimeters. Before you laugh at the thinness of that armor, go out and hit the quarter panel of your car with a sword, and see if it goes through. (It won’t.) The average thickness of a steel body panel on a modern car is .75 millimeters.

Because this is a significant load, the knights only had their battle horses armored just before a fight. Out of battle, they didn’t even ride them. They rode less expensive mounts, and carried the barding on ponies or pack horses, or in a wagon driven by a squire or page.

The types of horses that bore knights into battle, and how animals were trained to wear barding, and fight and maneuver in combat, I’ll cover in another post.

If you like barding, knights, and are interested in how they were used in combat, you might want to check out my epic war novel: Mark of the Legion, for the story of armored Cavaliers. Available on Amazon Kindle.

'Mark of the Legion' - available on Kindle.

‘Mark of the Legion’ – available on Kindle.

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‘Mark of the Legion’ – my first Kindle book

busted knuckle

Lessons 1 – 11 (I’m sure more will come.)

Lesson 1: Working in the auto trades teaches you that in comparison to steel, your flesh is like warm butter, and your bones are like jello.

Lesson 2: It teaches you that no matter how strong steel is, steel is actually less strong than it looks. Steel is not permanent. It turns to rust, which falls away like dirt. In the right shapes, like the flatness of a leaf spring, or the coil of a suspension spring, or even the length of a box-shaped lift arm, spring bends and bounces and sways. Some steel bends. Some steel breaks. Some steel is cheap crap that strips when you look at it.

Lesson 3: No matter how tough it looks, When touched by an oxy-acetalyne flame, steel becomes melted butter. If you hit it hard enough, it folds, sometimes, like cardboard.

What’s harder than steel? Chemistry and physics. Physical laws make steel look like confetti.

Lesson 4: Working in the auto trades teaches you that nothing is more wrong than doing it wrong. You learn that every single muscle in your body is not enough force to force it, and if it is enough force, you’re gonna break it. You learn that if it’s done right with the right tools, it can be done by a ten-year old girl with arms like soda straws. You learn that your biggest tool is your brain, but once you learn how to do it, you barely need your brain. Until you do.

Just as physical law is stronger than steel, knowledge is stronger than muscle.

Lesson 5: It teaches you that there is nothing more immutible than physical law: Friction always makes heat. Rust is always attacking. Vapors will always ignite. Current will always flow to ground.

Lesson 6: Mother Nature hates cars.

Lesson 7: You learn that safety rules are written in blood. You never push a wrench if your knuckles can hit something. You never pull a wrench if your elbow can hit something. Current doesn’t tell you it’s there, until it’s flowing through you. An angle grinder doesn’t care whether it’s removing rust, or your skin. A tire repair punch will happily go through your hand. A vehicle will not tell you if it’s going to come off a lift. Gravity moves faster than you can. An accessory belt will keep moving even if you put your clothing in it. See: Lesson 1.

Lesson 8: You learn that the service manager and the customers will always complain, but listening to them will distract you from the vehicle. The vehicle will never complain, but if you’re distracted, you can break it. So you have to ignore those that complain, and listen to the vehicle that doesn’t.

Lesson 9: Everyone wants it done for free. Everything you do is a ripoff. If anything goes wrong on the car, even if you changed the oil and a year later there’s a flat tire from a nail picked up on the highway, it’s your fault.

Lesson 10: Working in the auto trades teaches you curses and swears you would never utter in a million years of normal company, and you don’t even learn it from other mechanics – the vehicles teach you these things.

Lesson 11: Working in the auto trades teaches you that if it might happen, it’s going to happen, so you can’t let it happen, or it will.

‘Mark of the Legion’ – my first Kindle book

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