ED puts me back on the beam
Something was not right. The numbers on the digital screen jumped to 28.4, then dived to 23.2, then stabilized at 24.3.
The electronic scale was measuring charges, in grains, of XMP 5744 powder for a reduced load of .30-06 ammunition that I wanted to shoot for practice rounds with my lightweight mountain rifle. The scale was making a botch of this reloading session. Not good.
(One of the Over the Hill Gang asked me, “What, exactly, are you practicing FOR?” Yes, it’s true my days of rifle hunting in the West are probably over, but I can still daydream while stalking ghost mule deer and elk on the back 40 of my farm, shooting at a paper target in lieu of a 10-point mulie in the Rockies. All my fantasy hunts are one-shot kills, off course, but I may shoot 10 or 15 phantom deer and elk in the course of a morning, and I don’t want the rifle’s recoil ratting my teeth. Hence the less powerful ammo.)
The reduced load recipe I had chosen from the Hornady cartridge reloading manual called for 25.1 grains of 5744 powder. I adjusted the powder measure to dispense that amount with every pull of the handle, but to assure accurate weight I always check each charge on the scale before poring the powder into the cartridge case. All was going according to plan until the numbers on the screen began to oscillate.
“Caught you at it again, ED!” I shouted, waking both dogs and disturbing them so much they had to swap sleeping positions in the couch. Sasha was not surprised by my swearing and spitting. She’s been with me almost 14 years and knows all about my ongoing feud with ED. Abbey was a bit annoyed to hear me swearing, again, at an inanimate machine, but she remembers the day I threw the electronic digital tire pressure gauge into the Elkhorn River and is learning to ignore my temper tantrums.
ED is almost always the instigator of these fits. ED. Electronic Digital. The technology invented by Satan that will surely be the doom of civilization. Until that cataclysmic day arrives (probably in the form of a nuclear holocaust caused by a digital tech glitch), ED is doing his best to torment me with constant petty irritations and occasional threats to my life and wellbeing.
Yesterday, having caught ED mismeasuring the powder charges, I took the standard steps to correct his behavior: changing batteries, cleaning the scale’s surfaces and concealed connections with blasts of compressed air, recalibrating the device. None of those procedures cured ED’s stutters and stammers.
About 400 miles too far from the Elkhorn for a stress-relieving toss of the scale into river’s silt-laden waters, I opted to pack it away in its box and put it on the shelf of “electronic stuff that no longer works” in the workshop. (I’m not sure of the ultimate fate of this faulty equipment of ED’s; it will probably go to a recycling center someday, but I haven’t ruled out a special trip to a certain bridge that spans the Elkhorn.) Then I wiped my hands with an old oily rag and went in search of my RCBS balance beam powder scale that had served me well for more than 20 years before ED came between us, promising me he would be faster, more accurate, and more efficient.
All sweet talk and mostly lies.
The balance beam scale was tucked away in a back corner of a cupboard where I had carefully stored it years ago in a plastic bag, lightly oiled, with a couple packets of gel desiccant. In perfect condition, it went back to work without a word of complaint. I checked the scale’s calibration and found it was spot-on. Concerned that ED may have been playing dirty tricks before I caught him doing his dastardly digital debauchery, I reweighed the charges I had put into the previous dozen cartridges. Only one was incorrect, and that by only four-tenths of a grain, so ED may have done me no grievous harm, but he had certainly done me no good.
Back in its traditional place on the reloading bench, the balance beam scale has reclaimed its rightful role in my riflery hobby, and I have no intention of replacing it with anything that has to do with ED. Part of this is financial prudence – how many more cartridges will I load in my senior years anyway, and what difference does it make if a reloading session requires an extra 30 minutes of my time? (My beautiful blonde wife would contend that the less free-and-unsupervised time I have on my hands, the better.) But the real reason for reinstating the old scale is my distrust of ED in all his wicked configurations.
The clocks in the Clubhouse are analog, as are the engine gauges of my pickup. The doors of our home have key-operated locks (brass keys, not electronic). Phones, garage door openers, gun safe locks, the Chrony screen… all these are digital, but not by choice. The analog read-out versions of these devices are no longer available in a digital century. I dread the day I may have to buy a newer truck; pickups now have all controls and gauges displayed on a computer touch-screen located in the middle of the dashboard, the space formerly occupied by the ashtray, cigar lighter, radio speaker, and the little storage cubby that was exactly the right size for a box of shotshells or two cans of beer.
And they call this progress.
I look forward to the time when I will be in some remote aspen forest with a younger hunter who looks at his GPS unit and goes ashen-faced with panic. “We’re lost!” he will say. “The battery is dead, or we can’t get a signal connection out here. We’ll never find our way back to the truck.”
I will pull out my compass (one of three I always have in various pockets) and tell him. “I took a reading when we started out. The truck is southeast of here. Follow me.”
“You have an old-fashioned compass?”
“Of course. Don’t trust ED. Never trust ED. ED will kill you if you give him half a chance.”
More stories about hunting, bird dogs, bird guns, and life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays and two novels, all available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page