Monday, April 6, 2020

Quest:Breathing room

“I might be onto something here, Kelly.” Janelle said.

“What’s that?” he asked.

Kelly now considered Janelle a full equal in his shop. At first, he hadn’t been sure but bit-by-bit, Janelle had earned his respect.

“I set up a test rig and proofed some of this 3-1/2” drill pipe. You know, the stuff with the half-inch walls.” Janelle said.

“Actually 0.45” walls, but close enough” Kelly chided her. Kelly liked to be precise.

“Anyway, I proofed them at 50,000psi and they didn’t yield. We have enough of this stuff, I was thinking that instead of trying to match NATO issued mortars that maybe it was time to upgrade to howitzers.” Janelle said.

“What do you know about howitzers?” Kelly asked. He, himself, did not know a great deal.

“I asked Gimp and he gave me a history starting with the WWI French 75mm, to our WWII 105mm and then NATO and USSR howitzers.” Janelle said, ruefully. “It was really more than I wanted to know.”

“For instance, the WWII 105mm lobbed a 30 pound shell over seven miles. That is twice of what a mortar can do. And because it had a rifled barrel, it is a lot more accurate.” Janelle said.

“So, what are the trade-offs?” Kelly knew that there was no free lunch.

“Well, for one thing, you lose mobility. Another thing you lose is that a 2.6” diameter shell isn’t very big. There just isn’t very much volume.” Janelle said.

“Do you think you can match WWII range?” Kelly asked.

“I bet I can get there with less than 30,000psi.” Janelle said, confidently. “There is no reason to red-line the pressures.”

“Do you think I should check with Spackle or just keep working on the howitzer?” Janelle asked Kelly.

“Keep working on it” Kelly said, confidently. He won’t refuse an accomplished fact but if you give him a concept he might add so many requirements that it can’t get done in time to help anybody.”


Training was a barely controlled chaos inside the buffer strip between Doan Creek and the West Branch.

Quinn had twice-weekly meeting with his staff. He had seen how emasculating three-meetings-a-day had been in Howell. He was not going to repeat Torvaldsen’s errors. Quinn’s mode of operating was to give his men a job and get out of their way. He wanted regular updates but results were more important than reporting.

Quinn was about to hand out assignments.

“One thing that we need to make life sane is to know what is going on in Howell” Quinn said.

“Our training schedules are in shambles because we cannot plan. We cannot plan because we need to be able to drop what we are doing on a moments notice and be ready to pick up our weapons and RUN to our assigned position” Quinn said to the nods from his lieutenants.

“I don’t believe that Howell or Ann Arbor could launch an assault on Lansinging without staging materials” Quinn continued. “If we could make some smart guesses about WHERE they would stage equipment, then we might develop sources of intelligence.”

“If we had that intelligence, we might have two or three days of advance notice and we could discontinue training in an orderly way” Quinn said.

That made sense to the men.

“I am looking at you guys who used to fight for Howell. You have friends in that area. You have family there. I want you to come back before the next meeting with plans to start milking those sources of information. I am especially interested in anybody with sources in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County” Quinn said. “Maybe we can make our job something less than impossible.”


It was an unusual turn of events that Walt Shaw was more talkative than Sally Straeder.

“I don’t get it.” Walt said. “Mr. B had to know that his son Mike was unhappy. Why would he want to put me with somebody who was going to speak so poorly of him?”

“Maybe you were just overly sensitive?” Sally said.

“I don’t think so” Walt said.

“Mike Junior never missed a chance to slag his dad. I mean, clearly, he feels stifled by him” Walt said.

“If he is so unhappy, why doesn’t he move?” Sally asked.

“He feels trapped. He isn’t stupid. He looks around and sees ever other place is way worse off. But if he stays, he will always be second fiddle to his dad” Walt said.

“How is that different from the other sons and daughters?” Sally asked.

“Well, maybe because Mr B doesn’t know a lot about greenhouses or sewing clothes or curing tobacco.” Walt said. “Everything Mike Junior does, he looks up and sees his dad has already been there, done that, and probably did it better than Mike Junior.”

“That has to suck” Sally agreed.

“Sure it sucks” Walt said. “But that is no excuse to be so negative. He just makes everybody miserable.”

Sally played around with an idea that popped into her head. She was usually spontaneous but she wanted to see if the pieces fit together before she trolled it past Walt.

“Maybe” Sally said “just maybe Mr B put you with Mike Junior BECAUSE he didn’t fit in.”

“Maybe he figures the Shaw clan is a lot like the Bazylewicz clan and he wanted you to see where family businesses fail.” Sally ventured.

“I don’t know. I think ‘fail’ is too strong a word. Mike Junior still did everything he needed to do. He just did it in the most painful way he could think of” Walt said.

“I mean, it is still a cash economy. The family members still have to pay each other for what they consume. No work, no cash, no food” Walt said.

“Hmmm” Sally said and then was quiet for a while.

“Maybe that was the message. That you don’t need saints to make a community work if you have no-work, no-cash, no-food rules. Maybe he was trying to show you that charity has its limits, ‘cause you know the Mike Juniors of the world would take advantage of it.” Sally suggested.

Then the two were lost in their thoughts for the rest of the two-hour ride.



  1. Drillpipe these days is normally made of steel with yield strengths in excess of 100,000 psi. You have to start being careful with the ultra-high yield strength pipe if you're operating in an environment that has Hydrogen Sulfide, because it can lead to corrosion-stress-cracking and embrittlement. Not sure how their drillpipe will do if used for ordnance launching though, that's a neat wrinkle. But it normally has pretty high burst pressure ratings.

  2. Your characters won't have access to Wikipedia, but I looked up artillery on it and found an Italian 65mm mountain gun that was used in both the first and second world wars and while small was well liked by the troops it supported.


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