Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Scientists" Fail Me Again

Once again I had to park in the west side car park at Wyandanch.

Once again I arrived home to discover my car so covered with bird droppings I couldn't tell what colour it was.

It was everywhere. Even in the door handles, a trick that must've involved the bird flying towards the vehicle and evacuating its bowels at just the right moment. From several directions.

Once again I find myself needing an AI-controlled laser death ray for frying these freeloading feathered fbleepers out of the sky before they can foul my vehicle with their disgusting crap. I wouldn't mind so much but the gulls go first to the garbage dump to dine on half-rotted rubbish, then fly over my car just as the inevitable burst of killer diarrhea hits them.

I would love to see their worthless carcasses bursting into flame as they attempted their perfidy. It would be worth cleaning a couple of exploded gulls off my car if the rest learned to keep their fbleeping distance. In my mind I'm filled with a savage glee as whole flights of the greasy avian rats explode, the laser tracking and firing before the birds can figure out where the danger is coming from.

The only thought that provides me with more happiness is the image of a flock of the bastards shredded on the wing by a blast from a punt gun. A friend of a friend had one of these.

The device was essentially a cannon-calibre blunderbuss, which is in turn a type of shotgun designed to fire improvised munitions - rusty nails, gravel, doorknobs1 and so forth, and was designed primarily to hunt ducks en masse. It was mounted in a punt, a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat propelled usually by means of poling rather than rowing. The gun was arranged to fire over the bows of the vessel, and was slightly elevated so as to fire in a shallow rising trajectory.

In operation it was elegantly simple. One charged the gun with copious quantities of black powder (it was a flintlock device apparently), loaded a few fistfuls of lead shot into it and primed the pan. One then poled the punt into the reeds along the body of water one had elected to hunt ducks in, just before dawn, and positioned oneself ahead of the predicted flight path of the awakening ducks2. One then cocked the hammer and took a firm grasp of the firing lanyard.

As dawn broke, the flight of ducks would take to the air in a solid flying carpet of culinary delight. The hunter would pull on the lanyard, the gun would discharge and then the hunter could simply pick the ducks out of the water. What could go wrong?

Now the punt gun possessed no sophisticated aiming mechanism. The friend of a friend didn't have a scissors periscope or radar or any one of a hundred other aids to mass duckicide that I've no doubt can be bought over the counter today. He had to just point it and hope. The technical term for this is "firing over open sights". Well, when the friend of the friend pulled the string on his first attempt he was standing behind the breech of the gun in order to judge the proper time to fire. He had never fired a gun of any type before and was not familiar with the phenomenon of recoil, so he was completely surprised when upon pulling the duck-death string, the punt shot backwards, catapulting him over the red-hot barrel of the gun and into the water. Part of the problem was that the would-be hunter was concerned about the possibility of damaging his hearing due to extreme proximity to about a pound of exploding black powder, and he was attempting to pull the string while plugging his left ear with his finger and his right one with his right elbow. We've all been there. The distraction this caused meant that by the time he had assessed the problem brought on by Newton's third law he was already somersaulting into the river.

Undaunted, the vessel was salvaged, the weapon cleaned out and a second attempt made the next day. This time the hunter positioned himself in the extreme rear of the vessel, technically called "the stern", adopted a seated posture, put on his laboratory ear defenders3 and awaited the repast on the wing.

Dawn Broke. As the ducks rose into the sky, quacking evilly in their twisted, debased dialect, our hero gritted his teeth and pulled the string. Once again the punt surged backwards due to the recoil. This time the hunter was properly braced.

Unfortunately he was also right at the back of the boat, which caused the stern to dig into the water and made the punt emulate a WWII U-Boat crash-diving to escape the vengeful RAF. Sad to say, the punt was ill-equipped for this role, and it sank with all hands.

A lesser man might have given up there and then. After all, two separate attempts to use the thing had resulted in two separate dunkings in the freezing river, one impromptu riverbed salvage operation of a cannon-equipped punt, two drives home while dripping wet and two calls to the local police by angry local residents woken by the stentorian blast of the gun heralding daybreak. Our hero was made of sterner, if wetter, stuff.

After allowing a week or two to go by so that police activity would die down4 he tried a third time, this time seating himself amidships and anchoring the punt securely against the recoil, which was throwing the aim off as well as everything else.

Dawn broke.

Ducks awoke and took wing.

The mighty punt gun roared out its message of duck death and neighbour disturbance.

This time no-one ended up in the river and the boat was still afloat, so the hunter was able to pole his vessel across the water to where the bounty lay. This is when another snag with the punt gun became evident.

The hunter had fired directly into the flight of ducks on the advice of a local poacher, bribed to tell some of his secrets the week before by means of several pints of scrumpy5. The hunter estimated that about 50 ducks had been in the flight, and that the middle 35 or so had simply vapourised in the hail of near-molten lead he had dispatched their way at just under the speed of sound. Of the 15 left bobbing relatively intact on the river, 10 were so badly shredded they were unsalvageable for anything more ambitious than beak soup. He retrieved the remaining five and took them home for "cleaning". They proved on cooking to have so much lead per bite content that the hunter swore off the punt gun for life once the dental work was complete.

That's the sort of Nagasaki I want to hand out to these bloody gulls6, but I can't help but think the punt gun method is too fraught with downsides to be of real application here.

Of course, if scientists would just get their bloody fingers out and build a decent death ray instead of standing around arguing about whether Pluto is a planet or not and whether Lake Huron should really be "Bulge Huron" the point would be moot.

  1. As depicted many times in The Beano strip The Three Bears
  2. I forget which way that was now, but it was probably with the sun at one's back
  3. sort of like big headphones with no walkman attached
  4. The hunter was aware that the authorities would view his titanic struggle against technology and ducks in a World Gone Mad as common-or-garden poaching
  5. Lethally strong cider
  6. Nagasaki: damage done to something of such quantity and quality as to take the breath away

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