Learning to Fire a Swivel Gun

No doubt your first question, as was mine, is what the heck is a swivel gun?

swivel gun usually refers to a small cannon, mounted on a swiveling stand or fork which allows a very wide arc of movement. Swivel guns are among the smallest types of cannon, typically measuring less than 1 m (3 ft) in length and with a bore diameter of up to 3.5 cm (1¼ in). Swivel guns were used principally aboard sailing ships, serving as short-range anti-personnel ordnance. They were not ship-sinking weapons, due to their small caliber and short range, but could do considerable damage to anyone caught in their line of fire.

swivel gun Moore's Creek Battlefield

My encounter with a swivel gun took place at Moore’s Creek National Battlefield when I reported for

Selfie de jour

Selfie de jour

duty on Saturday, January 31, 2015. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but was quickly escorted to the trailer filled with period clothing…suit up was the command.  Let me just say, putting on clothes worn by God only knows who to do God only know what, is well, disconcerting! Especially, for this OCD chick….but I found pants, and a tunic. I was fortunate my feet are big (and wide) and the shoes provided wouldn’t fit on my feet….so I kept my own socks and shoes – whew! When I left home I swore I wouldn’t don a ‘silly’ tri-cornered hat….but I ended up in this three cornered job (I’ve been told it’s not a tricorne). The other options were tam-like or when we in the south call toboggans (for you yanks that’s a knit monstrosity).

There was a lot to learn:

  • about the gun.
  • Procedure.
  • Black Powder.
  • and working as a team (we all trained on all positions).

My plan had been to leave at lunch. There were other things I needed (and wanted) to do that day. But I was having fun. The weather was enjoyable. I had settled into the strange clothing (mostly) and most important, we were not firing the gun until after lunch!

Once the three man team takes command of the piece, the first thing done is to search the piece (ie to be sure there is no debris from previous firings). This is accomplished by using a worm ( a corkscrew type tool) down the muzzle of the gun and twisting.

Swivel Gun-worm

 Once the piece has been searched, a sponge is rammed down the muzzle to ensure any possible embers are extinguished.  This is done while the person on the right of the gun is ‘tending the vent’ which means holding his/her thumb over the vent hole to ensure no oxygen can remain in the muzzle.

Once the muzzle is clear, then a charge (pr cartridge) is placed in the muzzle and rammed to the back of the muzzle (pictured)

Swivel Gun-field command firing ramming

Once the charge is in place the command to prime is given. This means to pierce the charge by placing a pick through the vent hold. Then a quill is placed into the powder via the vent hole as well.  The quill is a small amount of black powder rolled in some flammable material (like paper).

At this point the piece is ready to fire and the command to aim is given. Those manning the gun are told to make ready (pictured) and a lintstock (smoldering rope) is touched to the quill.

Swivel Gun field command firing 2

Swivel Gun-fire

Swivel Gun-fire 2
The sound is loud. However, everyone is wearing ear protection… so it is almost impossible to know real how loud. The neatest part to me was to be able to see the fire shoot from the muzzle! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Swivel Gun-field command firing

Swivel Gun-swivel gun training crew

I had a great time and met some really nice people! I can’t wait for my next training….perhaps a cannon or muskets!

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The 150th Anniversary of the Battle for Fort Fisher

In January I had the opportunity to attend the sesquicentennial events for the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Since a rainy Saturday in 2008 – I have attended the events surrounding the Second Battle of Fort Fisher . The weather isn’t always pleasant but the richness of the history flowing around the events are always worthy. After all, who doesn’t love firing of heavy artillery, people in period dress, and lectures of days long past? This year, as a part of the 150th there was a reenactment….on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, as beautiful a January day as you could wish for, I stood on the South side of the mound to watch the battle. On Sunday I watched from the north side.  As you can see from the sketch below much of the original fort has been reclaimed by the ocean; and I have no doubt the small scale of the reenactment did not come close to showing reality. However, the estimate I have heard of almost 900 reenactors and over 28, 000 spectators enjoyed a good show.

This hand-drawn overlay found at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offices, near the site of the fort's telegraph station, shows both its massive scale and how much has been lost to erosion or demolition.  Fort Fisher's palisade, a 9-foot-high fence constructed of sharpened pine tree trunks (as opposed to the recreated cedar version that girds Federal Point today) spanned the Land Face from Shepherd's Battery to the Atlantic shoreline.  It would have extended beyond the lower right-hand corner of the photograph.  Dams constructed in the late-1800s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, spanning where blockade runners once rounded Federal Point (then Confederate Point) just southwest of the fort at New Inlet, as well as road construction during the 20th Century, altered the peninsula's shoreline.

This hand-drawn overlay found at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offices, near the site of the fort’s telegraph station, shows both its massive scale and how much has been lost to erosion or demolition. Fort Fisher’s palisade, a 9-foot-high fence constructed of sharpened pine tree trunks (as opposed to the recreated cedar version that girds Federal Point today) spanned the Land Face from Shepherd’s Battery to the Atlantic shoreline. It would have extended beyond the lower right-hand corner of the photograph. Dams constructed in the late-1800s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, spanning where blockade runners once rounded Federal Point (then Confederate Point) just southwest of the fort at New Inlet, as well as road construction during the 20th Century, altered the peninsula’s shoreline.

Over the course of the two days I took over 500 photographs (I’m only sharing a few). I hope you will enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

as the day began the rebel forces are seen raising the flag on the fort

as the day began the rebel forces are seen raising the flag on the fort

There were plenty of sights to see before the battle like this blacksmith showing his trade.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 blacksmith

And this photographer taking old photographs.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 photographer

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 rebel cannon


As well as all the battle encampments around the area. Although I regret leaving my visit to the Union Camp until Sunday. It rained Saturday night and Sunday morning and the weather caused those guys to breakdown early. It was gone by the time I attempted to visit (I heard it was impressive though)

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 camp

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 camp 2

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 confederate flag

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces flag

It was really neat to watch the battle develop. I took a lot of photos during the battle, both days, but this is my favorite. The fife and drum coming along behind.

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces fife and drum

  I just can’t help but love the firing of the cannons!

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon 2Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 firing the cannon 1

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 federal forces 2

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 battle 2

These are a couple of photos I manipulated a bit.



On Saturday night we took the lantern tour. Ours was the 5:45 tour….just at dusk! It was beautiful and educational as we were able to ‘visit’ with five of the personalities associated with fort Fisher.Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 lantern tour guide

Fort Fisher Reinactment 2015 lantern tour

All in all it was a great weekend. I can’t recommend enough attending living history events, if possible.

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You Can’t Write on the Back of a Digital Picture

I love photographs – Especially old photographs. They tell a unique and special story.  My house is decorated with photos – Some old, some new, some from adventures, or from trips, or from boring everyday life; they run the gamut of subject matter from people to landscapes, from pets to wildlife.

A few weeks ago while I visited my mother for Mother’s Day, I unearthed a paper grocery bag of old photographs. I proudly carried the bag into the common area and announced “I’ve found something fun for us to do”.

It was something fun to do.

We’d take a photo from the bag. Look at it then flip it over to see what was written on the back.

Often there was a date, a place, and maybe, if we were lucky, a list of the people in the photo. Sometimes it was my mother’s handwriting. Sometimes the handwriting was of my late grandmother. Sometimes the handwriting was from my great-grandmother. Occasionally it was unknown handwriting. You could almost hear the audible disappointment when there was no handwriting on the back.

 The handwriting gave time, place and purpose to the old photos.

Handwriting is personal. I can see my father’s handwriting in my own. I can see my mother’s handwriting in my own. The handwriting on the photographs gave a connection to the person who wrote on the photo. It is a kind of legacy.

 december 28 1964

This is one of my favorite photos of me. I’ve always thought it was cute. However, recently when I removed it from its frame to scan it so that I could share on social media sites for ‘throwback Thursdays” #TBT; it was only then that I saw my mother’s handwriting:


Dec 28, 1964 15 days before 2nd birthday.

Suddenly the photo had a context. Suddenly the photo had a story. It took on a greater meaning just because of the words transcribed by my mother on the back.

I take a lot of pictures. Some have meaning. Some are silly. Some are just to post/share via twitter or Facebook or instagram. Rarely do I ever make hard copies of photos any more. It’s all digital.

Photos are about to change for me!

I need some hard copies. I need to scatter the memories around my house. I NEED to write on the back of photographs. I’ll still take lots of snapshots. I’ll still digitally share them. But some, a selection, will become hard copies, because you can’t write on the back of a digital picture. And some day, somewhere, someone may flip over one of my pictures and say, “Hey, Gayle wrote on this”.

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I am from Red Dirt

Last evening I was introduced to a poem – “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. We were offered a template and encouraged to write and share our own version.

I wrote a few things last night but the thoughts have lingered on into today. So, I took some time to rewrite – to add – to polish – to reminisce. It’s funny how emotional it feels…how personal. I added pictures, because they made me smile…because they also represent where I am from.

Last night I so appreciated how well I felt I got to know those who shared. It gave a new appreciation for people and their past. For what makes them the unique person they are today. I hope this affords you an opportunity to get to know me better.

Here’s my version:

I am from Red Dirt and mud between your toes;
From Avon and Coal Mines.

I am from the home above the store,
And the rolling pastures of the dairy farm.

Tabor Homestead

I am from the lilac, the crocus and the dogwood;
From Bluestone and the dam.

I am from laughter around the table;
From determination and drive.

I am from strength and independence.
I am from Emily McKenzie.

gayle & grandma

I am from tradition and innovation;
From October Beans and Snoopy Christmas paper.

I am from summer Church Camp
And Church anytime the doors open.

I am from a field of corn, beans, taters, maters and more.
I am from do it yourself and fix it- don’t throw it away.

I am 6th generation from Scotland.
I am from gravy and biscuits, sweet tea and chocolate pound cake.

I am from adventure, faith and stability.
I am from Don and Libby.


I am from red bellied tractors and summers of canning.
I’m from do you need it or just want it?

I am from the shadow of the Church;
I am from trains and pick-up trucks.

I am from stories of thrown biscuits, fall fishin’ trips;
And stories of Uncle Arthur’s ultimate sacrifice in WWII.

Wright Mountain, Rock, WV

Wright Mountain, Rock, WV

I am from Rock and beans strung under the cedar.
I am from lemonade on the fourth of July;

I am from singing hymns on road trips;
And carnations on Mother’s Day.

I am from the treehouse in the backyard.
I am from Moredock, Margaret and Elizabeth.

I am hunting dogs ‘ruined’ into great pets.
I am a Camel, Viking and a Buffalo.

I am endless games of baseball, army and tag.
I am loggerheads and Legos.

I am Dianna, Swit and Aunt Gayle.
I am the past. I am the future.

I am just me!

This exercise was made even more poignant because I had just returned from a weekend trip where I visited many of the places and people I am from.

I believe it’s true the quote by Wendell Berry “If you don’t know where you’re from, you’ll have a hard time saying where you’re going.” This exercise was a great way to touch base with your past and perhaps cause you think on your future.

I’d love to hear your versions of Where You’re From….feel free to share them in the comments.

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What to do when you are ‘Cleared for ALL Activity’

Life comes with defining moments. I experienced a defining moment in December when after surgery my blood pressure bottomed out and I required blood transfusions. As I was spending time convalescing, I was inspired by the Maxwell the pig in the Geico commercials to begin my ‘I’m all better ZipQuest’. Little did I know when I began my ZipQuest that one of the top 10 zip-lines was 2 hours from my house and it was named ZIPQUEST!

My destiny was set; when I was fully recovered I would ride a zip-line and yell WEEEEEEE WE WE WEEEEE as I flew through the air!

I began inviting everyone I knew to ‘zip with me’. Some said yes immediately. Some said no immediately. Most said, let me know the details. But my friend Mary Martha was excited for the adventure! It became a regular topic of conversation at our weekly dinners.

In the first part of March, I was ‘cleared for all activity’ including the zip-line by Dr Deese (my awesome doc) and soon thereafter we set the ZipQuest date – April 1st (April Fools Day). For my friends who said yes, the time had come to ‘put up or shut up’. Sadly, most shut up!

As the time drew near, the anticipation grew!

Full of Anticipation

Full of Anticipation

Yesterday we began our adventure. The zipping time was 1:30 and our crew assembled at ZipQuest around 1:00. There were eight of us….Me, Jenn (scared to death), Mary Martha, Susan, Vibeke , Jamie, Chad and Jamy (I hope I spelled everyone’s name correctly – if not, drop me a note and I’ll update).

Suited up and ready to Zip

Suited up and ready to Zip

First they get everyone in the harness (we took time for a group photo op). Our guides were CT and Patrick. We could not have asked for better guides! Both are college students. CT is studying forensic pathology and Patrick (former Army) is studying to become a Chaplain and return to the Army.

Then we proceeded to “Ground School”. It’s a zipline 6 feet off the ground that allows you to learn how to start; sit in the harness; how to stop; how to put on your parking brake; and how to ‘self rescue’. Once we had all practiced at ground school we proceeded up the stairs to our first zip of the day!

Gayle Tabor's ZipQuest

Me Zipping

Naturally, when they asked ‘who wants to go first’ I jumped at the chance! The feeling was exhilarating! And I couldn’t believe how much my heart was pounding when I landed on the next platform! The excitement was almost overwhelming.

I won’t pontificate about each zip or each platform or bridge.

Here are the observations of the day:

1 – Sometimes you need to just take the first step even though it scares you (Thanks to Jenn for this observation);

2 – Sharing an adventure with others makes it more fun;

3 – Anticipating an adventure and talking about it after is almost as much fun as the adventure;

4 – No one remembers the day they sat home on the couch and did nothing special, making memories takes effort;

5 – Do things to celebrate your health and well-being! It won’t last forever.

If you’d like to see more photos of this adventure you can see them all by clicking here or the videos by clicking here.

Lastly, I want to say that yesterday’s adventure lead me to Commandment number four in my Pursuit of the Theory of Happiness.

Commandment 4 is Play Intentionally (more on that later).


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One of the nice things about spring is that everything wakes up! Trees begin to bud, flowers spring out of the ground and it seems as if everything comes to life. This weekend we have the opportunity to enjoy a brush with nature up close and personal. We are vendors for the Herb and Garden Fair at Poplar Grove.
















On Saturday, I took some time to enjoy the beautiful flowers. Purchase a few herbs and enjoy the day. I hope you’ll enjoy my pictures!








The Poplar grove Herb and Garden Fair holds a VERY special place in my heart (Jenn’s too). What follows it the ‘story’ as it appeared in the Glynne’s Soaps Newsletter: In 1999, we attended the Herb and Garden Fair and purchased some air plants, small plants that can grow without soil.  We wanted some Spanish moss to place around the plants to help hold in moisture and act as a base.  As we were driving home, discussing where to get some Spanish moss, we stopped at Pottery Plus (knowing full well they would not have what we needed).  However, what they did have was someone set up in the parking lot with Dalmatian puppies.  And we, not being as rescue aware as we are now, brought home a little girl with one blue eye and one brown eye and named her Dodie Glynne.  She wasn’t with us long, as she died of Addison’s disease not long after her second birthday, but every time we see the Herb and Garden Fair we think of Dodie.  It’s fitting that we will be there now with Glynne’s Soaps.

Beautiful colors

The Herb and Garden Fair continues again today until 4:00. Come see the beautiful flowers, watch the demonstrations (the kids were getting to try throwing some pottery), and enjoy a beautiful Spring day (of course you can also see me at the Glynne’s Soaps booth).



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