The Braden Files
Curiosities of mathematics, history, parachuting, etc……

Thoughts, While in Search of Antlered Quadrupedic Ruminants

“We’re foot – slog – slog – slog – sloggin’ over Africa
Foot – foot – foot – foot sloggin’ over Africa
Boots – boots – boots – boots – movin’ up and down again!”

Well, not Africa, exactly. More like the North Woods, where Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine lie snuggled up together under the broad underbelly of Quebec. Once again I’m out to prove I am no match for the canny deer of the great North Woods. Hours on old logging trails; nothing. Nada. Rien. El zilcho. The season is ten days old and all the deer left alive have gone to Miami, or at least somewhere else which is not here.

Silence. Hours and hours of walking yesterday and today; not another human being anywhere within my ken. Navigating by compass and wristwatch alone, just like learning to fly in Saskatchewan when I was a kid. Taking joy at hitting checkpoints on time. Anger at self when my mental arithmetic lets me down.

Boots.

One canteen. …but when it comes to slaughter, you’ll do your work on water, and lick to bloomin’ boots of them thats got it…

Couple of energy bars.

My ’03-A3 Springfield. Dad loved the Springfield.

The ’03 Springfield is nothing but a German ’98 Mauser with better sights. The Mauser in the hands of the Spanish at San Juan Hill so totally outclassed our Krags that we copied it immediately. And paid Mauserwerk handsomely for that plagerism too, after the Great War. Born too late for the Boxer Rebellion, it did yeoman’s service killing Philippine Moros, a strange people who thought that their country should not be colonized by the likes of us. Enemies of Arthur MacArthur in 1905. Friends of his son Douglas in 1945. Enemies of George Bush in 2002. Thus the way of the world. The Springfield really cut its teeth on the Somme and at Vimy Ridge and Belleau Wood. In the twenties, it fought in Nicaraugua and Guatemala and Hondouras and Panama. At Vera Cruz, too, and anywhere else the Marines sought to enforce the Doctrine of Mr. Monroe. Every year I walk across the Plaza at Vera Cruz and put my fingers in the scars left in the wall by our Springfields. And salute the memorial to the Mexican Naval Cadets, children really, from aristocratic families in Ciudad Mexico, Monterrey, Guadalajara. Whose lot it was to die confronting United States Marines…tough Irish, Italians, Jews, Germans, Swedes and Poles from the wrong side of the tracks in places like Boston and Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

The ’03 fought at Kasserine Pass, Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, Iwo, Guadalcanal and a hundred other places, now faded from the memories of all but those who fought there. Gradually phased out in the late thirties by the more “modern” M-1 Garand, the ’03 still had a role in the hands of snipers. Dad disliked the Garand. Wanted to parachute into Normandy with his ’03. Permission refused. Was he mad when he met General Maxwell Taylor beneath a hedgerow and found out that Taylor had jumped in with his ’03. Rank Has Its Privileges.

The Springfield still had one more war to go, fighting all the way up to the Resevoir, and then back down again. Landing with MacArthur at Inchon. The Springfield Rifle, 1903-1953. R.I.P. (It managed to live on, semi-unofficially in the inventory, as a sniper rifle into the early years of Vietnam.) Wouldn’t take a thousand dollars for mine. Its battle sights set for 545 yards, which makes it print about two inches low at a hundred yards, right on at two hundred and a tad high at three hundred. Who am I kidding…in New England you can’t even see at a hundred yards because of the forest growth.

This is my rifle
There are many like it but
This rifle is mine.

Cpl Bobby Shaftoe, USMC
Shanghai, China
December 1940
Cryptonomicon

Never seen a deer yet that could outrun a 200 grain boattail bullet travelling at 2500 feet per second. How much energy is that? Let’s see…two hundred grains is a two hundred seven-thousandths of a pound. Seven thousand grains of wheat to the pound…Edward II decreed it thus. Divide by thirty two to get the mass. Forget it. Start over. The last deer I killed was with a ’82 Dodge station wagon, going 60 miles per hour. How much more energy was that than in a .30-’06 bullet? Say the car weighed 3000 pounds, fully loaded. So that’s 3000 times 7000 grains divided by 200 grains. Fifteen times seven thousand is …seventy thousand plus half of itself, or thirty five thousand, which would be one hundred and five thousand. The car is about a hundred thousand times as heavy as a bullet. OK. Sixty mph is 88 feet per second. Say I was going 100 feet per second. Or 1/25th the speed of a bullet. The ratio of the square of the speeds is 1/625. How many times does six hundred and twenty-five go into a hundred thousand? Twenty five goes into each of them 25 and 4000 times, resp. Say 4000/25 or 16000/100, or about 160 times. The station wagon had only one hundred and sixty times the energy of a single little rifle bullet.

Stop. Look. Listen. Drat. A truck has pulled into the forest; it wasn’t here an hour ago. A US Marine, from the decal on his windshield. Wearing L L Bean boots, too, about size eleven. With a friend. (I feel very Sherlockian in deducing this.) Nothing moves. Total stillness. It is getting dark. Clear as a bell and getting colder by the minute. I roust a moose. It’s too stupid to be scared. Shooting a moose is about as challenging as shooting a cow, and I don’t have a tag for one anyhow. Not like harvesting kangaroos south of Perth. We didn’t hunt the unwiley ‘roo, we just went out and killed them all night for a dogfood company.

Orion, the celestial hunter, looks down upon my feeble efforts… with disdain, no doubt. Betelgeuse, a giant star a thousand times the size of our sun, winks its red eye at me from Orion’s armpit. One day our modest sun, with its hydrogen fuel exhausted, will collapse upon its helium core. Not massive enough to squeeze down to a neutron star, it will swell up, enveloping Mercury, Venus and our earth, and become like Betelgeuse. Faithful Rigel, Orion’s leg, will suffer an entirely different fate. Taurus is still there, threatening the Pleides, just as David saw when he looked into the winter heavens, tending his sheep. Orion’s sword is evident…not just a few stars, but clusters of galaxies billions of light years from here. I’m looking at the birthplace of hundreds of millions of stars, some of which died as supernovas thousands of years ago, tens of thousands of years ago, hundreds and even thousands of thousands of years ago. Died when the dinosaurs reigned. But the news has yet to reach us. Electromagnetic radiation travels so slowly when compared with the vast reaches of the heavens.

Cold. Tonight it will snow. Good for me; bad for the deer. Ahead lies the companionship of my two friends back at the cabin across the Maine border, just ten miles from Canada. Good Canadian whiskey, thick steaks grilled on the wood stove, Mozart.

Voi che sapete, che cosa è amor, donne vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor…

The beauty of such arias literally brings tears to my eyes. A full-bodied cabernet. Cabernet. And Mozart. And my ’03. Good things. Comforting things. Tomorrow will be another day.

http://www.iclassics.com/iclassics/album.jsp?selectionId=7873 Scroll down to Disc 1, Track 4

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