A Science for Everyone, Community

The Spin on Rifling

I watched a video of a 9mm being fired into a pond’s ice surface, and the bullet spinning like a top.  It’s an experiment that I don’t plan to duplicate, since my feet have enough problems without doing something dumb – but the video does lead in to an explanation of rifling.  The gun handling is not exemplary – but the results are worth watching.

I am not an expert on firearms – but during the middle of the 1980’s, I was tasked with developing a class that brought gunsmithing students toward computer literacy.  It was a time when personal computers and I were young – and the work assignment gave me a great learning opportunity, as well as teaching.

It’s common knowledge that rifling – the twisting grooves inside the barrel – cause the bullet to spin, and that spinning the bullet increases accuracy.  If you take that knowledge, and go to the tables that show rate of twist for rifling in specific calibers, and couple that with the tables on muzzle velocity, you can come up with some absolutely fascinating numbers.  Rifling Twist Rate is a good article by Chuck Hawks on the topic.

One of the problems I shared with my students was determining how many revolutions per minute the bullet from my 1903A3 Springfield was making, when I fired a 30/06 accelerator.  This required the students to find the muzzle velocity of the cartridge (listed at 4,000 feet per second, and the rate of twist in the Springfield (1 turn in 10 inches – and not ideal for match use).

If you’re willing to look at RPM at the muzzle, the math is straightforward – one turn in ten inches is 1.2 turn in a foot – so, as the bullet leaves the muzzle, it’s spinning 4800 revolutions per second.  Multiply that by 60 seconds in a minute and you’re left with a 55 grain bullet spinning at 288,000 RPM. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that something spinning that fast really wants to come apart.  It’s part of the reason ammunition manufacturers make different types of bullets – not everything is expansion.  During the War Between The States, the rate of twist for rifled muskets was somewhere between one turn in 48 inches and one turn in 72 inches – which provided pretty good accuracy for those 58 caliber beasts.  Muzzle velocity was around 900 feet per second – which, with a 72 inch twist gives 150 turns per second, or 9,000 RPM.  The spin was slow enough that a lead bullet could hold together easily.

Years ago, I spoke with a gun expert who had a 17 Remington – she didn’t like recoil and explained that her rifle substituted speed for bullet weight.   It’s another 4000 ft per second rifle – and the twist is 1 turn for 9 inches – 300,000 RPM in a 25 grain hollow point projectile.  Since I could do math, and she was certain of her expertise, there was no point in further discussion.   If she’s happy, she has a better deer rifle than I (or you, for that matter).

The empirical equation for rifling is (from Hawk):

While we don’t have exact numbers for the bullet in the video, 9mm barrels range between 10” twist and 18 and a fraction.  Since I’m ballparking, let’s assume 12” twist and a muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second.  The bullet would have hit the ice spinning at 60,000 rpm.  Small wonder that it spun like a top – but I won’t duplicate the experiment, and I recommend no one else does either.

Community

Trego School -Why have a building reserve fund?

As we wrote about earlier this year, the school board had decided to use a permissive levy to establish a building reserve fund. One of the requirements of the permissive levy is that “The projects must be listed and the priority for projects are listed on the Facility Condition Report under their deficiency categories. Those need addressed first.”

Not a fan of permissive levies? The school board election is coming up in May.

To find out what that means, we have to go to the Facility Condition Report. Back in 2008 the state of Montana arranged for every k12 building in the state to be inspected and its condition reported on. While these reports are theoretically public information, and publicly available, chasing down anything the government did over a decade ago is a bit of a challenge. A few government agencies and several emails later, I obtained copies of the original reports.

Looking at the 2008 report makes the need for a building reserve fund obvious. The school building proper has a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. The statewide report considered buildings with deficiency ratios greater than 20% to be in poor condition, and those greater than 50% to be in such bad shape that replacement might actually be preferable to repair.

The classrooms on the right side of the school entrance were originally portable classrooms and rest atop a “walkout” basement.

While some of the items in the report are minor- things that need paint or other simple repairs, not everything is that straight forward. The report describes the stair treads/risers as 100% deficient, stating that “Stair flight is settling or the under-structure physically failing”. On the same page, another description remarked that “Floor strength integrity of portable structures is questionable”. Trego School was constructed in response to the large flood of people associated with the tunnel, and included several portable classrooms, two of which remain in use today.

The roof system also included a 100% deficiency rating; “Condition observed: History of leaks; seams separating, punctured, or lifting at edges”. The estimated cost to repair, back in 2008? $29,365.

The school board will be meeting Wednesday, March 10th, at 4PM. The meeting can be attended long-distance. The Agenda (available in the post office) includes the building reserve. Those interested in attending can do so via the Gotomeeting App.

Want to see the school facilities condition inventory for yourself? I’d be happy to share what I received from the state- otherwise, Richard Knatterud (rknatterud@mt.gov) of the department of commerce was the person who provided me with copies.

Community, Patches' Pieces

Off with the Old, on with the New Quilt

Every Friday, spread out among two quilt frames for social distancing, the quilters bring needle and thread to fabric to raise funds for the Tobacco Valley Historical Village. The quilters have been meeting and quilting in the old school house for five decades. Current hours are Fridays, 10:00 am to 2:30 pm until mid May. Visitors with masks are welcome.

hand quilting for decades

The quilters are available to add that special hand quilted touch to your treasured quilts tops for a fee. Bring in your quilt top to be placed on the quilt schedule.  Available for sale at the village are recently added curated fabric bundles priced at $1, $3, and $5. Added to the online store inventory are 2 new flannel quilts. Selling almost as fast as they are added to the inventory are pine needle baskets. As always there is a good selection of cozy baby quilts for that special arrival. -Patches

A striking depression era print quilt top

Recently the quilters finished hand quilting/tying a “Covid” themed related quilt (off with the old). Replacing the Covid quilt is feminine lavender quilt top with embroidered blocks of young ladies reminiscent of a bygone era. The quilt has been marked and the quilting begun. The second frame holds a quilt top with a striking pattern of depression era prints. A traditional cable is being stitched in the solid areas.

curated fabric bundles for sale

Community, Plants

Getting Ready to Plant

Yesterday, I took the snowblower from the back of the Kubota, and took the snowplow from the front.  Today, I mounted the rototiller on the Kubota – I’m getting ready to plant alfalfa in the fields again.  There isn’t much left, and I think the last planting was when I was in high school.  It was harder then, using Dad’s old Oliver tractor, pulling a modified horse disc that still had the seat on it.  We did a couple years of barley then, to make sure the soil was adequately tilled.

Forty years ago, I would have argued against the traditional 9-19 blend or vernal that was often the Trego norm, and gone with Ladak 65.  Still, old decisions affect today’s decisions.  The field was created a century ago, with dynamite used to blast a drainage ditch, drain the lake, and leave a hay field – back in the days when horse logging and river transportation was the way things were done.

This time, I’ll be trying a different variety of alfalfa – salt tolerant, branching roots as well as tap roots, and more tolerant of wet soils.  My soil is glacial silt and glacial clay, and long on calcium salts.  Draining the lake a century ago still left groundwater – but there has been a lot of research and development on alfalfa since I was young.  It’s a bit more expensive – but if it works, it’s worth it.

So I will start working the soil again with the tractor and the tiller – and each pass with the tillage instrument brings back comments from Jack Price, who brought the first tiller to his fields below the hill in the seventies.  Jack explained that the problem with using a plow in wet areas is that it wants to get the tractor stuck, while the rototiller wants to push the tractor ahead.  As I’ve encountered challenges in using the tiller, Jack’s comments about his learning to use a tiller keep coming back when I need them.  It takes a talent for teaching to deliver a lesson that returns over 40 years later.  Jack’s ability to teach was greater than I realized at the time.

I recall hand-seeding the field with a whirlygig seeder, crossing the field with my previous footprints as a guide, then brushing a little cover over the seeds with a drag made of aspen, pulled by a draft horse that knew more about farming than I did.  I’m hoping this experiment with alfalfa works out.  I’m not sure I enjoy haying – but I do enjoy watching a healthy field of alfalfa grow.

A Science for Everyone, Meteorology

Snow Pack on March 1

The long-term average for snow surveys were dated for the first of the month when I started measuring snow 45 years ago.  The old guys did it the hard way – up Burma Road early, skis or snowshoes to the Weasel Cabin, build a fire, sample the snow course, then overnight.  The next day they would head down the creek, then climb Stahl, build a fire, sample the snow course, then hike out the next morning, sample the course at Grave Creek, hike the rest of the way out and finish the job driving the pickup out.  As a modern, I drove a snowmobile and did 3 snow courses in a day.  Now I click a link on the home computer, and can look at the whole basin’s information in minutes.

The numbers from March 1 were kind of sacred – there had been enough winter that Jay Penney felt safe projecting the data – enough was in that he would comment that the snowpack was light, normal or heavy.

These are some of the snow courses I measured in those middle days, when we thought a snowmobile was absolutely modern, and were experimenting with measuring snow water at Noisy Basin with a radioactive source and receiver.  We were state of the art back then.     

ElevationWater EquivalentPercent of Average
Banfield Mountain5600 feet13.1 inches88%
Hawkins Lake6450 feet18.9 inches94%
Garver Creek4250 feet8.4 inches101%
Stahl Peak6030 feet24.4 inches86%
Grave Creek4300 feet13.1 inches87%
Poorman Creek5100 feet29.4 inches95%
Bear Mountain5400 feet45.6 inches87%
Hand Creek5035 feet9.2 inches102%
Noisy Basin6040 feet31.5 inches106%
To get to the data – and the map – you just click https://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/snow/ . Making the data so available makes hydrology a science for everyone.
Community

Remembering Hunter Safety

I was one of the lucky ones – we had a pair of instructors for Hunter Safety.  Danny On taught the sections on wildlife, and Ed Ruhl taught guns.  Danny On was a forester with a camera. For folks who lacked the privilege of knowing him, there is a page describing his life at Asian Pacific American Employees Association.  Books with his photographs are still in print and available. A trail on Big Mountain bears his name.  Ed Ruhl was a Marine. Chief Warrant Officer Edgar Ruhl, USMC (retired) – and he brought his own examples of every weapon he had used or encountered between Haiti and Korea.  Not “Gunny” you understand, but Mr. Ruhl, or “Gunner.”

“Dis is a spring-gun.” he explained as he showed a nice looking air rifle.  “I got it on Okinawa.  Da little bastid dat was using it didn’ have any more use for it after I ran my baynit troo him.”  I suspect the little bastid actually shared Ed’s rations after he swapped the spring-gun away from him. It was similar to this photo:

I learned that the world’s finest handgun was the Model 1911A1 – “Except you want the old 1911 mainspring for women, ‘cause dey have smaller hands.  It doesn’t kick – my wife uses dis one.”   My first 1911A1 didn’t shoot so well – but I learned what a match bushing and a slightly longer link could do.  By the time I was 35, I had learned that the old Colt 45 automatic could match all of Ed Ruhl’s praise.

The finest hunting rifle was, of course, the Springfield model 1903A3 – “Used to think the 1903 was the best, but the A3 is parkerized and has a peep sight.  Much better.”  In the sixties, there were a lot of them available – and I looked for Ed’s preferred Remington, and replaced the cut-down military stock with an inexpensive, drop-in stock from a magazine ad.   A lot of them made it back to the land of the big PX, and became hunting rifles for two generations of hunters.  It was there when I discovered high power competition.

And I learned that my single-shot 22 just didn’t make the grade: “Dis is a Reising model 65.  Used it on Guadalcanal to take dare snipers out of da trees.  Didn’t like the model 50, but Reising did a good job with the 22.” 

It took me almost half a century to find a Reising.  A previous owner (probably named Bubba) had removed the original front sight and replaced it with a pricey target sight that guaranteed the rifle couldn’t hit anything – it was a half-inch too tall.  It did bring the price down, and when I removed it, I found that most of the threads underneath were intact, and I could buy a brand new, 70-year old front sight for $4.95 plus shipping from West Hurley, New York.  It shared the front sight with the model 50 that Ed despised – and with the sights returned to normal, I managed to set it up the way those WWII Marines used it.  There are enough elevation clicks in the rear sight to make it a 200 yard 22.  I realized as I brought it back into condition that a light trigger pull was not required for the old breed.

As I look back, Hunter Safety from Ed Ruhl was formative.  It took me a while to learn that the FBI wasn’t connected to the justice department – it was an informal group of elderly female residents of Fortine who relentlessly found the basis and actual story behind any and every half told piece of gossip in their community.  He installed respect for the relentless women of the Fortine Bureau of Investigation.  I don’t know how many people are still around who learned weapon voodoo from pre-war Marines who had served in Haiti – hand signals designed to make the real voodoo practitioners wake up in a cold sweat.  I signaled a Haitian grad student with one, and over 40 years after Ed had taught the voo, I got confirmation the hand signals were recognized.  “You don’t want to mess with those powers!  Where did you learn that?”  Jean-Michel still knew of the Marines who brought their version of peace to Haiti.

Ed’s life exemplified responsibility.  As his wife’s health failed, he moved to Great Falls to be near a military hospital.  I recall his story describing how Alzheimer’s had taken her memory, as she explained, “You’re a nice old man.  My husband would like you.”  While Danny On has public memorials, Ed’s memorial has been, and remains, intensely private – shared now with my son-in-law as he learns to use the 1911a1, and next summer when we move onto the Reising.

Demography

Where Covid Fits in the Demographic Transition Model

The first stage of the demographic transition model includes high birth rates and high death rates – and infectious diseases dominate – for example, the black death was a highly infectious disease that killed millions in Europe – if memory serves, 60% of Venice died, and about a third of Italy’s population.  The 90% fatalities in Constantinople suggests that it was worse in cities.  A time of a life expectancy of around 30 years, because so many died young.  I’m not certain how effective the masks of the time were in combating the disease transmission.

The second stage includes infectious diseases – such as cholera – that could be controlled by sanitation.  Models don’t always fit as well as we would like – at the same time that public health and improved sanitation was getting a handle on cholera, smallpox vaccination was becoming a norm.   It was 1832 when Congress passed the Indian Vaccination Act, ordering the army to vaccinate the Indians.  Typhoid Mary remains in our vocabulary, a woman who showed no outward sign of infection, but spread typhoid wherever she cooked.  In her case, she was basically incarcerated because of her infection (and she kept escaping).  Stage 2 of the demographic transition is characterized by fewer pandemics, and life expectancy may rise as high as 50 years.  Our masking, quarantines and isolation are public health techniques developed in the second stage of demographic transition.  John Snow’s removal of the Broad Street pump handle was very effective at reducing the waterborne cholera transmission.

The third Stage is the stage of degenerative and man-made diseases – picture how cigarettes fit in with lung cancer and heart disease.  Just living longer increases your chances of dying from a degenerative disease.  Infant mortality drops, and life expectancy is pretty much in the mid-fifties.  The public health approach here is to change unhealthy behaviors like smoking while relying on medical research to counteract degenerative diseases.   The term “safe sex” comes from a public health program to reduce AIDS (HIV).  When it works, and it has, we move into the fourth stage of demographic transition.

Stage 4 – where we are in the US today – shows an increase in degenerative diseases, better medical care, and a life expectancy that exceeds 70 years. 

It is no wonder that Covid took everyone by surprise – in Stage 4, we’re used to having pandemics under some form of control – our top 3 causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents.  The Corona virus came in with an approach that complemented our stage in the demographic transition model – a pandemic that killed in a relationship to the age of the infected.  Probably the first clue was the word “comorbidity” becoming so much of the vocabulary.  This time we hit a pandemic that worked in combination with the degenerative diseases.  A disease that matches an aging population.  A disease that needed a stage 4 response.  Lacking that stage 4 response, we’ve spent the year responding as we did to diseases during the second stage of demographic transition.

Another Stage 4 pandemic will develop – after all, we have a stage 4 population as an incubator.  We may even develop new strategies for dealing with it.

Community

Taxes at Trego School

School taxation is not a simple subject.  Part of the school taxes go to Helena, and are returned, not dollar for dollar, but apportioned according to school enrollment.  Another part of taxes are assessed and go from the county revenues into the school accounts.  Each portion has minimum and maximum levels.  It isn’t hard math, but it is a challenge to keep things straight. 

At Trego, the board needs to begin funding a building reserve fund.  That means adding a permissive levy to raise $5,232.32 – about 2.71 mills.  The state allows us a “District Major Maintenance Amount” with a maximum of $16,500 – and to get to that maximum, we have to levy $5,232.32 – 2.71 mills.  The school was built over 50 years ago, and more maintenance planning and effort is becoming necessary.  Folks give some simple explanations – “that will be about three dollars on a 100,000 assessment” which are simplified, easy to understand, and wrong.

Where to find information:

  • MT Revenue instructs us on how to calculate taxes from mills – not a particularly challenging math exercise, but worth using so you can understand how each additional levy affects your tax bill.  As we look at the numbers, we’ll see that, in Trego, where nearly half the taxable value is “Centrally Assessed” we need a bit more understanding.
  • MT Office of Public Instruction provides spreadsheets of the budget files for each school district in the state.  They’re in pdf format, but provide a lot of information – and are only slightly confusing.
  • State Information Technologies Services Division provides information that shows how each district is valued – for example, as you look at the tables below, you will notice that Market Value and Taxable value vary significantly. 

If you contrast Trego, District 53, with Fortine, District 14, you will note that Fortine shows a market value of  $119,644,515 while Trego shows $114,462,957.  Still, the taxable value leans in the opposite direction: Fortine 1,5436,104 vs Trego at 1,931,429.  The difference is in the category shown as “Centrally Assessed.”  Taxable value of Centrally Assessed” property is about 3% of market value, while taxable value of “Real Property” is slightly over 1% of market value. 

Since centrally assessed property in the Trego School District will primarily be railroad property, and since it represents a significant proportion of the total taxable value ($932,774/$1,931,429 = 48.3%) taxpayers in Trego School District can thank the railroad for taking a significant portion of the tax burden.

Lincoln County

Property TypeMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$1,312,670$19,573
Manufactured Homes$19,167,600$227,521
Personal Property$14,516,888$205,961
Real Property$2,492,594,586$30,032,762
Centrally Assessed$215,533,424$7,005,541
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$2,741,812,498$37,491,358
Newly TaxableNA$1,091,497
TIF IncrementNA$172,806

Fortine Elementary District 14

Property ValueMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$0$0
Manufactured Homes$754,480$8,520
Personal Property$159,180$2,388
Real Property$112,774,816$1,355,638
Centrally Assessed$5,956,039$179,558
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$119,644,515$1,546,104
Newly TaxableNA$45,931
TIF IncrementNA$0

Eureka Elementary, District 13

Property TypeMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$8,349$180
Manufactured Homes$6,301,850$80,096
Personal Property$3,794,072$60,203
Real Property$890,148,736$11,267,169
Centrally Assessed $66,745,926$2,156,949
Net & Gross ProceedsNA$0
Total$966,990,584$13,564,597
Newly TaxableNA$374,513
TIF IncrementNA$172,806

Trego Elementary School District 53

Property ValueMarket ValueTaxable Value
Special Mobile$0$0
Manufactured Homes$965,850$12,244
Personal Property$424,664$6,371
Real Property$83,469,474$980,040
Centrally Assessed$29,602,969$932,774
Net & Gross ProceedsNa$0
Total$114,462,957$1,931,429
Newly TaxableNA$159,108
TIF IncrementNA$0
Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Game Camera: They are Back!

The Not So Perfect Game Camera: They’re Back!

Returning to the game camera line up for your viewing pleasure are striped kitties, otherwise know as skunks. Skunks have been absent for several months but have returned. Along with skunks featured this with week are feral cats and deer. -Patches

Community, County Ordinances, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Litter vs Artifacts?

If you leave trash sitting around long enough (about 50 years), something mysterious happens and it stops being litter (punishable by a $200 fine) and becomes an archaeological resource which if you remove from federal land could lead to a $500 fine and six moths in jail.

What’s the difference?

Litter is, according to the Lincoln County Ordinance:

“Litter” means any quantity of uncontained or openly stored materials which may be classified as trash, debris, rubbish, refuse, garbage or junk, including but not limited to:
a) any worn out or discarded material that is ready for destruction or has been collected or stored for recycling or salvage;
b) old or scrap metals, wire, rope, batteries, paper, tires, cardboard, plastic, cans, wood, concrete, glass, crockery, or rubber;
c) dead domestic animals;
d) animal and vegetable wastes from the handling, preparation, cooking, and the consumption of food that is not incorporated into a properly maintained compost system;
e) discarded, broken, or unusable furniture, fencing, or building materials,
f) discarded, broken, or non-functioning appliances, campers, mobile homes, junk vehicles, machinery, fixtures, or any component parts thereof, that are serving no apparent purpose, or will not be made to function within a reasonable time;”

Ordinance 2018-02 – Litter Control

It’s probably worth noting that Lincoln County’s litter ordinance doesn’t just apply to roadsides: “It is unlawful for an owner, lessee, or occupant of private property to allow litter to accumulate on his or her property.” As with the community decay ordinance, there appears to be some potential for overlap between “yard art” and “illegal”.

Archaeological resources are broadly defined by federal law, and include trash over 50 years in age (though only if it is of archaeological interest– that is, “capable of providing scientific or humanistic understanding of past human behavior, cultural adaptation, and related topics…”) Archaeological resources are covered by 36 CFR 261.9 (theft of government property, penalty of up to 500$ and/or up to 6 months imprisonment), which means that they are illegal to remove from federal lands.

So, 50+ year old trash? If it’s on federal ground, leaving it is the safer bet. On private property, while explaining it was an artifact rather than litter might make for an interesting argument, that $200 (each day) fine might also prove persuasive.

Litter, to be removed? Or an artifact to remain? Sometimes labels provided clues, allowing the item to be dated, and making the determination easier.