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August 06, 2008

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Bourjaily: A Story from Fred

Fred, who finished second in the “Name Phil’s Dog” contest, sent me a nice note that included this story. It’s closer to Reader’s Digest’s “Humor in Uniform” than it is to hardcore “Gun Nut” material, but I liked it a lot and Fred agreed to let me post it:

I was a Wing Weather Officer in the midst of my 1st Inspector General visit: a team of inspectors who could make or break your career with a single mark on their checklist, spending 5 days microscopically examining everything you've done and everything you can do, upon command.

We had actually aced every part of the examination and were down to the last hour of the last day, and I was anxiously awaiting the windup when I heard the words, "Well, I think we're done here." My shoulders slumped and I let out a long breath of relief...just a little too soon.

The major in charge said, "Wait, we need to have someone demonstrate how to use the Mariner's Guide to Celestial Navigation."

Just so you have some idea of what the major was talking about, this "Guide" was a hardcover book of roughly 600 pages filled with arcane charts, diagrams, formulas and instructions written in English but surely composed by a devotee of the Marquis de Sade. Knowing your current latitude and longitude, you theoretically could, with the assistance of this book, find the minute-by-minute, past, present or future position in the sky of any known heavenly object: sun, moon, planets, constellations, etc.

The problem was that neither I, my colleagues, the unit commander nor anyone I knew could make heads nor tales of the unbelievably complex instructions it offered.

Hearing the major's declaration and knowing I was the senior forecaster present (and thus ultimately responsible for this part of the inspection), I snapped to attention and said, "Yes sir, would you like me to do that, sir?"

The major gave me the fish eye (obviously suspecting a ringer), looked slowly around the room and said, "No, I think I'll have the lieutenant take care of this. Lieutenant, tell me what time the moon will rise tonight."

2nd Lieutenant William Roeder, 3 weeks out of school and to my knowledge never having seen this book before,  snatched it out of the major's hands and started flipping through the pages with a frightening speed, running through the charts, making calculations in his head and mumbling to himself the entire time. Pausing only to check with me concerning our exact latitude and longitude, he eventually snapped the book shut with a flourish and exclaimed, "The moon will rise at 7:32 pm tonight!"

The major, obviously surprised, raised his eyebrows, looked down at his checklist and made a tiny mark next to the last item. "We're done here", he proclaimed, then turned and walked out of the room.

Everyone followed, with only the 2nd lieutenant and myself remaining. I shut the door, came face to face with him and demanded, "How did you do that? No one knows how to use that book! I've studied it for weeks and I couldn't figure out how to use that book!"

He smiled, shrugged, and said, "Well, the moon came up last night at 7:32 pm. I didn't think it would be much different tonight."

Sometimes just a little bit of practicality wins the war.


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OrangeNeckInNY (Formerly RedneckInNY)

So did they pass or fail? The Major put a mark on the checklist, and from what was written in the first paragraph, that mark "...could make or break your career with a single mark on their checklist..." So did the mark make it or break it? The ending was ambiguous, but from the tone of the story, I would guess they all made it.

Jackson Landers

So I am guessing that the Major actually had no idea what time the moon would rise and simply accepted the confident answer given by the Lt.?


I belive Jackson Landers was correct. The Lt. was lucky as the moon rises and sets a little less than an hour later each day. As we all know the moon phases run through the full cycle every 28 days.

Jim in Mo.

I believe the major just wanted an honest answer that nobody really new how to read the book. I was in a headquarters co. and we'd get assinine questions just to watch us squirm.

Dan R.

Great story! Guys - don't nit-pick it too much, you destroy the humor that way!


When planning hunts, I always check moon phases. Although I never did before our good freinds at the U. S. Naval Observatory put all of the information on the web. Good story.

Thos. B. Fowler

Sometimes, it just becomes expedient to become theological. A Lt. from Missisippi might just say, "The Moon will come up when the Good Lord wants it to, Suh. Not a second before."

and then, peel potatoes for a week.

Tom Fowler

Rod Dropping

Sometimes it is better to "Baffle them with B - S than to dazzle them with brilliance".


That IG Major likely didn't know how to prove or disprove the LT was correct, and didn't want to push the matter into an offical issue.

...Good move on both officers' part.

Also nice learning some things haven't changed over the last 25-years in the military. :-)

WA Mtnhunter

Anyone capable of finding the answer in that publication would be a genius. Sort of like finding internal ballistics data in Field and Stream.....

Try the Nautical Almanac for that data.


That Fred fellow, is he trying to take our job?


To answer your questions, yes we did pass the inspection. I remember it so well because as a young 20-something officer, I ended up facing a doctor who said "You're fast developing an ulcer. You have two choices: either check into the hospital or stop worrying about whatever you're worrying about."

The IG's departure did wonders for my digestion.

And yes, the moon does rise at a significantly different time each night. At our location at the time it occurred, it was about a half hour different each night. But as one poster commented, for the Major to prove us wrong, he would have to do it himself, and there was virtually no chance of that ever happening. Especially after listening to the Lt's mumbling incantations, he was probably afraid we were putting a spell on him or something.

To johnnydwson: take your job? Is it available? I'm currently an underappreciated government servant (is there any other kind?)and would love to consider something else!

Scott in Ohio

Fred. Very amusing story.

Jim in Mo.

What did you get for 2nd place? Don't lie, especially since Phil got a good blog out of this. Remember, your one of us and your on your honor. ??????

Phil Bourjaily

Jim in Mo. -- Second prize was a new folding knife from Gerber. Given the response to the dog naming contest (442 responses) I should probably give something else away. Maybe I should have a contest to see what the next contest should be?

Del in KS


How about a contest to name your favorite gun. Lots of old timers named them after their sweetheart. Thats why mine is called old "hellraiser". Just kidding. I submitted "Skeeter" which came in 4th or 5th on your list. Just my luck always close but no knife. Did win a thermos bottle at the Rod and Gun club in Hawaii back in '76. The durn thing leaked all over my seats and would't keep anything hot for 10 minutes.


anyone who ever did time in the military can appreciate Freds' story. brought a smile to my crusty mug!

Dr. Ralph

Speaking of the name the dog contest I just got home and my wife had a little suprise for me... an 11 week old Yellow lab. As some of you may recall my last dog Midnight a Black Lab died last summer at the ripe old age of sixteen. I'm in love and need a name. I like "Yeller" but my wife has some sort of emotional woman thing going on about the movie in which they shot the rapid dog and so I am at a loss for names. Any suggestions would help, pictures will be posted soon but I am off to East Tennessee to visit Sportsman's Warehouse and buy the only Remington R-15 I have ever seen if it is still there. $899. .223! My first not so black rifle!

Jim in Mo.

Phil & Del in KS,
Instead of a contest I'd like to know if any other hunters gave names to property, or the terrain of property they hunt as we did. For example, I've previously mentioned one productive but hellish place to hunt as 'billy goat hill', and thats just what it was. There's other names I could talk about but I'm wondering if others do it also.

Del in KS


As mentioned above I Suggested Skeeter. Well, a few days after making the suggestion I saw an article and photo in the KC Star. It seems that Tom Grizzard of Leesburg, Fla won the annual Pappa Hemingway look alike contest in Key West. Talk about a small world. When I was a kid growing up in Central FL in the late 1960's I spent my High School summers mowing Real Estate for Tom's father Beverly (now deceased). Back then I also knew Tom and his wife "SKEETER". And that my friend is where I got the name. It's been many years since I last saw them.

Dr. Ralph,

Let me be the first to suggest Goldie. When I was young we had a Palimino filly we called Goldie. Also Cricket, Amber, and Honey come to mind. My wife has a cream colored toy Poodle named Honey. BTW I have a drawer full of knives. How about a prize that shoots this time!


Jim in Mo.

Last year, a friend let me hunt a piece of property he had leased for his cattle. He and I called it "...where my cows are." for the longest.
Leaving after an unsuccessful/frustrating (I missed! Twice!) bow hunt one morning, I noticed what looked like a 1 1/2" pipe union buried in the dried mud at the gate. Going back to close the gates after pulling through, I kicked the union loose, only to discover it was a cylinder from what appeared to be either a RG or some other cheaply made .32 caliber. From then on, it was "Six-shooter" and we both knew exactly which place was which!


Jim in Mo.

Damn you Del I was going to suggest Honey as a name, but then I got to thinking, Rx R's dogs' probably a male and I grew up next to that rich duck club and my friends had a good tempered lab named Moe. I liked him and his name.
Moe it is!

Dr. Ralph

It's a girl and "Blondie" has already become the official name. My wife mentioned it along with a bunch of sissy names and I immediately thought of the Clint Eastwood movie where the guy that played "the ugly" called Clint Blondie... now I've got the dog coming when I whistle that theme song.

Bad news on the R-15... gone but there's one in Memphis. Won't even order me one or send that one to me or another store. Remington get those damn guns in the stores!!! R-25 in 7-08 would be even nicer but the stores haven't even heard of it.... plenty of those crappy mauser/rems around already though.

Lone Star 45

He smiled, shrugged, and said, "Well, the moon came up last night at 7:32 pm. I didn't think it would be much different tonight."

I call this situational awareness!
I remember my Grandfathers farmer’s almanac calendar on the kitchen wall and all that information on it.

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