Coyote n. A small wolf (Canis latrans) native to western North America.



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

Mild-mannered archaeologist by day..

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Saturday, April 30, 2005- - -  
Social Insecurity
We were munching some Thai chicken nachos at the local brew pub yesterday while CNN interviewed Chuck Shumer about the Prez' latest on social security. Of course, Chuckie maintains that social security will be solvent until 2042, or thereabouts, a date that assumes calling in all the SocSec trust fund debt. (This whole exchange was made infinitely more entertaining by the closed captioning: "If this is the best the pheasant can do, the democrats have a good chance of recapturing the saint in 2006!")

Having taken a keen interest in the doings of our ruling elite down in DC these many years, I don't count on receiving a nickel from social security, and Chuck Shumer only confirms my worst fears. For anyone who has any doubts about the economics of SocSec, take a look at Mindles H. Dreck's analysis of the 'trust fund'. I have a profound mistrust of politicians. He has charts and graphs — and a better sense of humor for this situation than I'm able to muster.

@7:57 PM

Hot lead and cool babes
Well okay, there aren't any cool babes in this story, but the lead is real hot. We drove home to Worland Monday to pick up the mail, pay the bills, and see if the house was still standing. It is. Among the piles of junk mail and bills I was excited to see a small package from Veral Smith with two new bullet molds, one for my .38's and .357's and another for the .45-70. I immediately started a pot of MidwayUSA's hardball alloy heating, and by the time I was half-way into my second beer I had about 300 bullets cast for the wee pea shooters. I haven't cast any .45-70 bullets as yet.

The mold I ordered for the .38's and .357's is a two-cavity mold to drop a 0.358" LBTFNgc (flat nose gas check) weighing 160 gr., a middle-of-the road bullet weight for plinking and small game (I see no point in heavier bullets in this caliber, if I want to hunt big game I'll use a bigger gun). After degreasing the mold and adding a pair of RCBS handles, I gave the mold a touch of LBT mold lube and started in casting. It took about a dozen pair of bullets to get the mold up to temperature and get the bullets to stop wrinkling, and I found that I needed to turn up the Lee Precision Melter a half notch from the setting I'd been using to cast .44 slugs before bullets started coming out round and shiny. It's not surprising that the lead needed to be a bit hotter, as the smaller bullets have less total heat to transfer to the mold. I judge temperature by the time it takes for the sprue to solidify — 5 seconds is about right, then give the slug another 10 seconds to be sure it's solid before cutting the sprue and opening the mold — and once I found the correct temperature the mold started dropping perfect bullets. And I do mean dropping. Most of the time the bullets drop from the mold as soon as it is opened, without any need even to give it a shake. This alone makes LBT molds worth their price — no more cussing and pounding.

I sized a pair of slugs to 0.357" and another pair 0.358", skipping the lube but simultaneously seating a gas check on each, then seated one of each diameter in empty, unprimed Remington .357 magnum brass. These give me a set to use as gauges to insure that loaded rounds will chamber in my various handguns, and a pair of slugs to use to measure cylinder throat diameter. At least in theory, the most accurate bullet will be one that just slips into the cylinder throat. Too loose and the bullet might not start down the barrel straight, too tight and it might not chamber, particularly with these weigh-forward LBT designs that are full diameter for a tenth inch or so north of the crimp.

Using the slugs I prepared I found that both of my .357 magnums, a Colt Python and an old Ruger 3-screw, have cylinder throats that will just accept a 0.358" bullet, while two S&W .38 specials, an M36 Chief's Special and my dad's old M15 Combat Masterpiece, have considerably tighter throats. The little Chief will not accept a 0.357" slug, although it's close, while my dad's old service revolver will take the 0.357" slug just barely. Out of curiosity I tried several commercial cast bullets that I've been loading in .38 specials for years and found that they all mic 0.358", pretty much the standard diameter for cast bullets in this caliber. I'll be interested to see how these LBT bullets will shoot in the .38s, sized a bit closer to the cylinder throat diameter.

Starting with new unprimed Remington .357 brass, I partially sized 25 cases, running them into a Hornady titanium carbide die only far enough to size that portion of the case that grips the bullet. Then I lightly chamfered the case mouths, ran them into the expanding die just far enough to flair the mouths a bit, primed with CCI #500 small pistol caps, loaded 11.0 gr. of Alliant 2400, hoping for a velocity around 1000 fps, and seated 25 shiny new gas-checked slugs lubed with LBT blue soft.

Then it was time to head for the range. I was a bit pressed for time, so only took the 3-screw Ruger .357, as I still wanted to chronograph my .44 LBTLFNgc load in my old S&W M29-2 to see how that load would do in a 6½" barrel. By the time I got out to the range and set up the chronograph the wind had decided to blow, so it was just as well I didn't want to do a bunch of accuracy testing, but I did run half a dozen of the new .357 loads over the screens, for an instrumental velocity (at 15 feet) of 1089 fps with a spread of 55 fps. I fired six shots rather than the standard five because the second shot I fired gave a velocity of 954 fps, much lower than the other five, which gave velocities between 1058 and 1113 fps. The shot felt normal — but you can believe I checked the barrel for an obstruction before firing any more shots! — and all I can conclude is that the chronograph glitched.

Then I fired another half a dozen shots from my old M29, getting an average velocity of 1127 fps with an extreme spread of 87 fps. Oddly enough, the velocity of this load increases pretty evenly with increases in barrel length, at least in my guns. Of course that's what should happen in theory, but I'd expected that variations in the barrels of the guns would make the velocity gain with barrel length less clear cut. The last time I'd chronographed this load, my 4" Mountain Gun gave an average velocity of 1028 fps with a spread of 47 fps, while a 5" Model 29 Classic yielded an average velocity of 1087 fps with a spread of 51 fps. From the 20" barrel of a Browning M92 the load gave a surprising 1513 fps average velocity with an extreme spread of 36 fps. Sometimes the magic works…

Then again, sometimes it doesn't. By the time I'd run a dozen rounds over the chronograph screens the wind was blowing so hard it blew my target stand over. Accuracy testing was out of the question and I was beginning to fear that the chronograph was going to topple, so I called it a day.

I can't wait to try the new .45-70 mold, a 0.458" 400 gr. LFNgc specifically designed for the Marlin M95. So far, I'm absolutely sold on LBT molds. They drop a very uniform bullet, with all that I've weighed varying less than one grain. Running them through the Lee sizer leaves a very uniform impression, indicating that the bullets are very round and straight. I'll need to do quite a bit more load work and testing to get a feel for their accuracy, but so far I'm very impressed.

@12:53 PM

Friday, April 29, 2005- - -  
Sometime when you're reeeaaally bored…
Check this out: The White Mountain library here in Rock Springs has ant cam! Yep, it's an ant farm with a web cam. We were in the library today and noticed the display next to the checkout desk. And you thought Corn Cam was exciting! (No, we don't know what that yellow thing is…)

Ps. Hmmm… It appears that ant cam has a few bugs. It's been down all weekend depriving me of much needed diversion.

@4:21 PM

It's a winter wonderland!

We're back in winter mode, with about 6 inches on the ground here in Rock Springs. We had to run home for a couple of days to pick up the mail, pay the bills, and make sure the house was still standing. We couldn't have picked a worse time to do it, as we had nasty roads coming back. Now it's icy and looks like it dropped another couple inches of cold wet stuff last night after I went to bed. We're supposed to go to a meeting in Rawlins today, but there's no way I'm getting on the interstate in this weather. Too many knuckleheads who've never seen ice and snow, and won't slow down until they crash. Ah well, a good day to have lunch at the brew pub after it warms up enough to take the ice off the roads!

@7:11 AM

A much needed product…
Last fall, our friends Lee and Jerry Kennedy, proprietors of Worland's Ace Hardware, published an eye-catching Thank You note in the fall "Barley Growers" special edition of the Northern Wyoming Daily News. I found it amusing enough to save the clipping:

"We salute your hard work and want you to know we appreciate your business. Our local barley growers provide economic stability to the Big Horn Basin as well as a much needed product. Your commitment to hard work makes the Barley Industry a vital part of our community."

Okaaay.. this is malting barley we're talking about. The ultimate product is beer.

@7:00 AM

Monday, April 25, 2005- - -  
Paul Krugman is certainly a fascinating fellow. Take his OPEd for today: Here's an economist, writing about the US economy. Given his training you would expect facts and figures, but he relies almost entirely on opinion polls. One suspects that he would not rely on polls if the economic facts were on his side. Being a trained economist he must know what those facts are. You may draw your own conclusions from this.

@7:06 AM

Sunday, April 24, 2005- - -  
Dangerously close to science
Yes indeed, I've finally leapt into the 20th century. I've added a Shooting Chrony Beta Master chronograph to my bag of tricks. As I mentioned earlier, now I really wonder why I didn't buy one before. This is particularly odd in my case, as I'm a gadgeteer of the first order.

I actually bought the thing back last fall, but never had the time to use it until this spring. Finally, finally the day came when the weather cooperated and I didn't have a dozen other things to do. So I packed up a pile of gear and headed for my favorite shooting spot. I started by mounting the Chrony on a camera tripod (a $25 cheapie I picked up at WallyWorld just for this occasion) and measuring out a spot 15 feet from my muzzle. Because I wanted to try several different handguns and a couple of rifles, I didn't bother trying to set up the chronograph so that I could shoot groups and chronograph my loads at the same time, figuring that would be more fiddling around than I had time for. Rather, I just set the chronograph out aimed toward a safe backstop and set high enough that I could shoot offhand through the screens with rifle or pistol.

To begin, I tested the chronograph by shooting a couple of five-shot strings across the screens with my Marlin Mountie .22 rifle. I figured I had a pretty good idea what velocity to expect from the .22 long rifle and this would confirm that the Chrony was functioning properly without wasting a bunch of expensive ammo only to find that I had a problem. It was just as well that I did, because the first few shots didn't register. Scratching my head and reading the instructions, I decided that I might not have enough light for the electric eyes of the chronograph to 'see' the bullets, as I was set up in the long shadow of a high butte. So… pick everything up and move out into the sunshine and voila! It works! Five rounds of Winchester Wildcats went over the screens at an average velocity of 1230 fps, with an extreme spread of 15 fps. Not bad, not bad at all. Just for fun I followed this with five rounds of Federal's American Eagle .22 hollowpoints, my favorite hunting load. These gave an average velocity of 1224 fps, but a surprisingly large spread of 44 fps, considering that the Federals are considerably more accurate in the Marlin than the Wildcats. Something to ponder.

Having convinced myself that the magic was working, I unlimbered with a battery of .44 magnums, all firing the 250 gr. LBTLFNgc sized 0.429" and seated over 18.0 gr. Of Alliant 2400, as I described a couple of days ago. I chose the bullet and load in hopes that it would give something on the order of 1000 fps with my Mountain Gun and also be effective in the 20" barrel of my Browning M92 without smearing the barrels full of leading.

Five rounds from the Mountain Gun gave an average velocity of 1028 fps with a spread of 47 fps and left the barrel looking almost shiny. Five more rounds went into 1.85" at 25 yards, resting my wrists over the edge of my pickup box (not as steady, but more likely to be handy in the field than a bench and sandbags). After these five the barrel was looking as if it had been polished — no trace of leading whatsoever — although the Alliant 2400 left a herd of burned powder dust bunnies. Alliant advertises it's Unique as 'New! Cleaner!" and it does seem cleaner than the old stuff, but if they've made any improvement to 2400 I couldn't see it. (This would be an interesting experiment. I've got a couple of cans of the old Hercules 2400 and Unique. It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison…)

Just for fun I put five more rounds over the screens with a 5" Model 29 Classic, yielding an average velocity of 1087 fps with a spread of 51 fps. As with the Mountain Gun, the velocity spread was a bit more than I might have hoped for, but we'll work on that with a bit more careful case preparation. At that point the wind was starting to kick up, so I decided to skip shooting a group with the M29 and go straight to the M92.

Five rounds from the 20" barrel of the little Browning gave a surprising 1513 fps average velocity, almost 500 fps faster than the 4" Mountain Gun. The extreme spread was 36 fps, a bit better than the velocity spread of either handgun, perhaps suggesting that a step up to 18.5 gr. of 2400 — the usually recommended starting load — might give better ignition and more consistent velocities. A glance down the barrel was less encouraging. After five rounds there was light but noticeable leading beginning about two-thirds way up the barrel and continuing to the muzzle, a condition that's usually interpreted as the result of lubricant failure. I'd hoped the gas checks would eliminate leading entirely, but at least it didn't look too bad.

Five rounds over the pickup box at 50 yards yielded a 2.81" group, with the best four going into1.51", not bad for a receiver sight, although I found that I had trouble getting a consistent sight picture with the black rhombus I was using for an aiming point. Better yet, a check of the barrel showed that I now had leading only in the last couple of inches of barrel at the muzzle and the rest of the barrel was starting to take on the polished look I'd seen in the barrel of the Mountain Gun. Perhaps I was on to something here.

While I'd judged that 18.0 gr. of 2400 would give the desired 1000 fps with the Mountain Gun, I'd also brought some loads with 19.0 and 20.0 gr. of 2400 under the same bullet. 19.0 gr. Of 2400 gave 1121 fps from the Mountain Gun with an extreme spread of 33 fps. A five shot group with this load wasn't so great though, going into 2.81 inches. With the barrel still looking shiny, I stoked it with five more rounds, this time with 20.0 gr. of 2400. These gave an average velocity of 1179 fps with an extreme spread of 53 fps (so much for my theory that a hotter load would be more consistent). The group was positively dismal though, with four going into 2.46" and a pulled 5th expanding that to 4.90". Clearly, a single five round group with each of these loads isn't enough to judge them, and I'll repeat this series of loads a couple of times to get a better feel for their accuracy potential.

Moving on to the carbine, 19.0 gr. Of 2400 gave 1591 fps with a spread of 26 fps. Five more rounds gave a dismal "group" of 4.38" at 50 yards, with one very high and one very low round. The best three gave a much more interesting spread of 0.97". Switching to a round black bull was beginning to look like a great idea. Finally, 20.0 gr. of 2400 gave 1641 fps with a spread of 32 fps. Again, I experienced a good deal of vertical stringing in my subsequent group, with five rounds going into 2.54". Here though the best three gave a very intriguing 0.57" cloverleaf, well worth giving this load another try. Best of all, by this time the barrel of the carbine was completely free of leading and looking shiny as the seat of a banker's pants.

Finally, I tried a load of 9.5 gr. of Alliant Unique under the 250 gr. LBTLFNgc, although I didn't expect the faster burning Unique to perform as well as 2400 in the longer barrel of the carbine. Five rounds from the Mountain Gun gave 1057 fps with a 41 fps spread, and another five went into 2.31" at 25 yards. Another five from the carbine gave 1311 fps with a 20 fps spread, only about 250 fps better than the 4" handgun, but nicely consistent. I finally wised up and posted a round bull, putting my last five rounds into a 1.75" cluster with the best four in 1.10" at 50 yards.

Oddly enough, the barrels of both the Mountain Gun and the carbine picked up a slight amount of leading with these last loads of Unique. I was careful not to shoot so fast that barrel heating was a factor, so I'm not really sure why this happened. Perhaps 9.5 gr. of Unique, being pretty much a maximum load for that powder, was giving higher peak pressures? Who knows. I am beginning to suspect that ol' Veral Smith knows what he's talking about when he discusses bullet lubes and barrel leading though. After watching the initial leading slowly go away, to be replaced with a bore that looked mirror bright, I could be convinced not to clean the bores of my .44s. Starting with a clean bore, it took about 15-20 rounds for the barrel of the carbine to become 'seasoned', after which, no more leading was observed with moderate loads of 2400. I wonder whether accuracy might improve a bit as well once the last leading is gone. All of these questions can only be answered with a bunch more shooting (I hate that!).

Best, after all the shooting was done, I went down to the sand bank behind my 50 yard target and dug out a handful of spent slugs, all of them planted there at carbine velocities. Pounding normal jacketed bullets into this soft sand will turn them inside-out and vaporize the lead core, but these were still in one piece, although their noses were rounded off and they now weigh around 150 gr. I'll grant you this is a very crude test of a bullet's toughness, but it will have to do until I can get a deer in my sights.

@7:22 PM

Now what?
I've been trying to access the old General Land Office plat maps for Wyoming, which are available on the Bureau of Land Management's web site. But… their site has been down for "unscheduled maintenance" since at least April 11th.

@4:46 PM

The branch doesn't fall far from the tree…
A note from my dad: "When life hands you lemons, ask for tequila and salt."

@6:35 AM

Saturday, April 23, 2005- - -  
"Never Gray!"
I doubt I'm the only one who suspects that the USAToday's recent ad campaign is a not so subtle dig at the old Gray Lady. When other newspapers are saying they're not like the NYTimes, I've got to figure the Times is in deep trouble. So what was my first clue, right? But still, they were the paper to emulate, now they're brutally mocked. Sad, really.

@4:08 PM

A giant land yacht just pulled in across from us with a Jeep in tow, and mounted on a carrier behind the Jeep … a Segway! I've never seen one before.

@3:54 PM

Hot pickin'
I often miss the campus life. There's certainly something to be said for access to a decent library, and campus events often expose you to new and different performers. I particularly envy the InstaPundit and I hope he attends the 3rd Annual Volapaloosa down there at the U of Tennessee. The featured artists are Robert Randolph and the Family Band, whom I've just discovered on Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival dvd. Randolph plays a 13-string peddle steel like I've never seen it done before. Of course, you might expect that of someone invited to a guitar festival by Eric Clapton. I highly recommend the dvd and only wish it were four disks instead of just two.

Ps. It is a bit ironic that the dvd of a music festival to benefit the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a substance abuse treatment center that Clapton credits with getting him off booze (no word whether they had anything to do with treating his heroin habit), starts out with Cocaine.

@8:42 AM

By whose measure?
The Casper Star Tribune, aka "The Red Star Tribune" and "Pravda on the Platte", is trying to create a new image for themselves. They're under new editorial management and they've lately been running an ad that says "Some people say the glass is half empty. Some people say the glass is half full. We say it's 4 ounces of water in an 8 ounce glass. That's fair. That's accurate. That's unbiased. That's our commitment to you."

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Especially because these ads started out taking up a bit less than a ¼-page and they've now grown to full page ads. That's a lot of ink and perhaps at least a tacit admission that they deserved the unflattering comparisons to the mouthpieces of the former Soviet Union. They do seem to be cleaning up their act, or at least being a bit more subtle about their biases, although I always want to respond to their ad with 'Who measured the glass and its contents? What was his agenda, just testing the measuring cup? Did you verify that independently?' Their problem was seldom being totally dishonest. More often, they simply weren't very critical in publishing anything they were told, as long as it conformed to their own biases.

Of course, it takes work to verify your info and check the biases of your informants. One hopes that these huge new ads aren't substituting spin for sweat. We shall see.

Ps. The Casper Star's new editor, Clark Walworth has something to say on this topic today. Seems he's been getting heat for the paper's 'sharp right turn'. This is his regular Sunday column, telling us what a great job the Casper Star is doing now that he's in charge. Why, they're so balanced that they run Molly Ivans and Ann Coulter side by side on Thursday's OpEd page. I've noted their tendency to run a left wing kook and a right wing kook and call it balance. Perhaps the underlying problem is an inability to recognize nuttiness when they read it?

By the way, here's Walworth's column from last week, where he has more to say about the perils of trying to please everyone. It's fascinating, if a bit condescending.

@7:32 AM

Shootin' up the town
For another perspective on Rock Springs, here's retired Wyoming State Trooper Jim Geeting. I know the area he's talking about and we're just a short way down the street, but I didn't hear any shooting, nor have I read about it in the paper. There's bound to be a few lunatics in every town, I suppose.

@7:29 AM

From the 'even a stopped clock' department:
My horoscope for the day says "Your gift for storytelling is featured and you blur the line between entertainment and, well, just plain lying. Some people want to be fooled, and it's hard not to give them what they want … but you must try!"

Okaaaay … For those who want to be fooled, may I suggest a visit to these guys. I certainly do enjoy storytelling, but I try to be scrupulously truthful. Really. I do.

@7:22 AM

The wild life on campus
Half-eaten pigeons and miscellaneous bunny parts? Must be that wild new freshman

The Casper Star desperately needs photos on-line for occasions line this. The print edition has a great shot of said 'freshman'.

@7:13 AM

Gettin' your RDA of lead
Somewhere back in my archives I wrote about a bullet failure I experienced shooting a factory 240 gr. jacketed soft point in my Browning M92 .44 magnum carbine. At the time I theorized that the bullet blew up because it was being driven much faster from the 20" carbine barrel than it would have been from the handgun that the bullet's designers envisioned. The various loading manuals indicated that the velocity gain from the 20" barrel could be as much as 400 fps, but not having a chronograph, I couldn't say what my actual velocities were.

I pondered the problem for years and concluded that the solution might be to use a hard cast lead bullet, but these posed problems as well. All of the factory cast bullets I tried leaded the barrels of my handguns, and leaded the barrel of the little carbine even worse. Accuracy was a sometimes thing, rapidly deteriorating if many shots were fired between cleanings. And cleaning the lead deposits out of the barrels was a job requiring tenacity and elbow grease — a genuine pain in the behind.

Given the problems I'd had with factory cast bullets, I didn't have much enthusiasm for casting my own. I'd cast round balls and bullets for muzzleloaders, but my sole foray into casting for cartridge arms had been a dismal failure, which I now realize was caused by a combination of too soft alloy, improper sizing [none], inadequate lubrication, and too high a velocity in the old thuty-thuty. I fired a very few of those totally misbegotten loads through my mom's old Winchester, got miserable accuracy, and filled the bore with so much lead that I was cleaning it for a week. That pretty well cured me of shooting cast bullets in long guns.

Still, when I acquired a .44 Mountain Gun last year, I was determined to use the proper Keith-style bullets, which would supposedly stabilize, and give good accuracy and penetration with the 1000 fps loads that would tame the little gun. I started with some Mt. Baldy bullets and got relatively good accuracy, although I still experienced considerable leading. The results were encouraging enough that I ordered up a Lyman two-cavity mold for the 250 gr. Keith bullet and cast a few hundred of them of wheel weights and Midway's hardball alloy, lubing with Veral Smith's blue soft lube in hopes of controlling the leading problem. These also gave acceptable accuracy, but leading continued to be an annoyance. All of these bullets posed the additional problem of being too long to function through the action of the little Browning, which won't accept a bullet with a nose length over 0.35". Progress was being made, but I was far from satisfied.

Finally, I concluded that a gas checked bullet might be the solution, but I couldn't find any commercial cast 240 gr. bullet with a gas check and, while molds are available to cast a gas checked 240 grainer, I wasn't too happy with the effort required to cast bullets from the Lyman mold I'd purchased. Dropping the cast bullets from the mold required a considerable amount of beating and cussing. All this led me to Veral Smith's little book and catalog. I'd read many good things about his products and designs, reports so glowing that I wondered how much of it could be true. But it ain't hype if you can produce, and I've quickly learned that LBT's molds and lubes produce.

I ordered a two-cavity mold to drop a gas checked 250 gr. long flat nose (that's an "LBTLFNgc" in gun speak) sized .430". Although this is billed as a 'long flat nose' I requested mine with a 0.35" nose to avoid digestive problems in the little Browning carbine. I winced at the price, $125, more than twice what the discount catalogs want for a mass-produced mold, but now I understand and will gladly pay Veral's price. The mold is a gem that looks more like a machining you might find in a rocket engine than something that rattles around on the loading bench. Bullets drop from the mold with only a slight shake of the wrist, and they shoot.

I cast up a bunch out of Midway hardball alloy, smeared a little LBT blue soft into the seemingly entirely inadequate little lube groove (being sure I got the groove full per Veral's book), and seated a gas check and sized them with a 0.429" Lee push through sizer (one of the more incredible bargains in reloading). These I loaded into new Winchester cases primed with a CCI #300 large pistol cap and topped up with 18.0 gr of Alliant 2400, sealing the deal with a heavy roll crimp.

Then it was off to the range!

(to be continued)

@4:59 AM

Friday, April 22, 2005- - -  
Still in Rocket City
We’re berthed in slip 35 at the Rock Springs Yacht Club [land yachts that is, it’s a KOA], where it’s likely we’ll be until at least August. And Rock Springs is booming Big Time. $2.30/gallon gas has the oil field hopping and the demand for natural gas doesn’t hurt either — actually, there’s more natural gas development here than oil. Wyoming’s oil is pretty sorry, thick stuff as a rule, but we’ve been called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, and that’s just me after a breakfast burrito.

Back when we left Rock Springs in 1987 to attend college in Laramie, there were tumbleweeds blowing down the main drag in Rocket and people were sporting bumper stickers that said “Please God, let there be another oil boom and I promise not to piss it all away this time.” It appears that the powers that be in Rock Springs, and in Wyoming in general, are determined to keep that promise. New businesses are going up everywhere we look here and, by all accounts, the state is socking away their new-found mineral royalty wealth in a variety of long-term investments. No state income tax for us kiddies for the foreseeable future. Of course, it’s not all fiscal responsibility, Rock Springs has the biggest Harley store I’ve ever seen. Not surprising when you’ve got hundreds of young guys making an average of about 50 grand a year out in the oil patch.

After last year I was tempted to buy one of those big shiny hogs myself, but the spousal unit thought it might be wiser to pay off the house. An odd feeling to own one’s own domicile outright. The oil bidness been bery, bery good to us. I did buy a couple of new toys: a chronograph, and a shiny new LBT mold from Veral Smith. I haven't had time to play with them much — if I had the time I wouldn't have the money — but I really wonder now why it took me so long to get around to buying a chronograph, and after a few hundred rounds with the LBT mold I've sent off for two more. There will be more, much more, on my limited but very entertaining play time...

@7:09 PM

I’m Back!!
With the aid of a brand new Verizon air card ‘he’s got rings on his fingers and bells on his toes, and internet wherever he goes’ … or something like that. Posting will be limited as I’m still doing 12-hour days, but at least I don’t have to go to the local library and wait in line with all the kids playing games to get on a computer for half an hour. With time so limited it quickly became obvious that I’d only have time to check the email and take care of the most pressing business.

The best part of a year-long layoff: I’ve saved up a lot of great stories and even a few tall tales. We’ve seen mountain lion kittens, black antelope [how curious], attended the rock shows in Quartzite and Tucson, AZ, and had many other exciting adventures, not the least of which was trying to get the air card to work — the first two were defective and it’s taken 6 weeks to lay my hands on one that actually works (do you suppose that having them made in China isn’t the best of ideas?). But it finally does work and the folks at the Verizon help center were very patient and thorough. We spent hours troubleshooting each of the defective cards and they finally pulled one out and tested it before overnight expressing it to me a couple of days ago.

So, here we go!

@6:32 PM

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