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Our ghost story

By lex, on March 28th, 2004

Every other week or so, one of my two daughters will have some friend, or assortment of friends, over to the house for dinner and a sleep over. And if it is a friend who has not heard our ghost story, at some point during the evening meal, one of my daughters will look at me, a joyful kind of malice shining in her lovely, angelic eyes and ask, “tell the Story, Daddy. You know, the ghost story.

As ghost stories go, it is not so very frightful in itself. It does have one advantage over those told over scout campfires and sold in paperback novels –

It is entirely true. Which is strange, because I do not believe in ghosts, and have not, to my certain knowledge, ever seen one. For certain.

But on to the story:

My family and I were back in Virginia for our annual Christmas visit. That night we were dining at my sister’s house, a Cape Cod built on what had been the outer grounds of a still standing 18th century house. This older house had belonged to a wealthy merchant family with southern sympathies, and during the American Civil War (the war of northern aggression), the house and its lands had been expropriated by the federal government to serve as a hospital for gravely wounded soldiers, all of whom were in great suffering, many of whom would die there. And in that place, if no one else came to claim them, some were buried.

So as the evening meal wound down, we sat in that familiar glow of a reunited family, happy in each others’ company, well fed and deeply satisfied. All were there assembled, and I myself was at the head of the table, facing the hall, with the Hobbit on my right hand.

As I was talking to my niece, on my left, I suddenly noticed from the corner of my eye that someone was standing in the hallway, looking at us. I could feel the intensity of his regard. He was a large figure, shrouded in shadows. A man by size, but strangely clad in a large, two-piece cloak, the kind that Union soldiers would have been issued in garrison, but that southerners would have to do without. These impressions were formed almost instantly, and given texture by reflection, because I also instantly grew a bit alarmed as I realized that all the menfolk of that stature were already assembled at the table – there should have been no one else in the house.

And when I turned quickly to challenge this intruder, he was gone. Nothing at all there. My mouth still open with a peremptory question still unformed, opened a bit further due to dumb shock. It closed again, as I turned my head a bit to the side to try to determine what combination of light and shadows in the room across the hall could have formed this strange illusion, made stranger still by my realization that the form, as it had been recognized by my brain from that quick glance out of the corner of my eye, had been headless.

But nothing was in the opposite room that could have given suggestion to what I had glimpsed. Having broken off the discussion with my niece in mid sentence, I paused for a moment longer, saying not a word, while trying to make sense of what I had imagined. And in that moment of thoughtful reflection, the Hobbit turned to me and said, “I saw it too.”

“What did you see?” I asked.

“A large man, standing in the hallway, strangely dressed.”

Eyebrows were lifted around the table, questions were asked, and both the Hobbit and I related what we had seen. Being a sensible family, we turned it over in conversation for a while before assigning it to strange coincidence, and went back to our polite discourse. But it’s fair to say that we were all a bit unsettled, and all a bit thoughtful.

And that is where the ghost story ends. But this is why the girls always ask for it, when a new friend shows up at the house.

Having in my heart a streak of mischievousness, I stepped away from the somewhat freighted atmosphere at the dinner table in Virginia that night, in a way that I would do over and over again in succeeding years from a dinner table far removed in California, in a different but equally unsettled company. Making my excuses in Virginia and in California, I would proceed by various means unobserved to the back yard of the house, shrouded in darkness.

From that position I would slowly approach the window facing the dinner table from the outside and there, standing in absolute silence, I would place my face up against the glass. Where eventually, someone inside, having an unsettled imagination, and distracted by the strange patterns of reflections in the window, would catch a glimpse of something that almost looked, you know, like a head, and turn to make some sense of it. And my sister in Virginia, and my daughters’ friends in California, would focus, see my face there at the glass and SHRIEK aloud – usually causing everyone else at the table (even those in the know in California) to scream aloud as well, although not always at first knowing why. So it’s important to stay at the window, as those not in a position to observe directly recover their breath if not their composure, look around to see what had startled the first person, and see that face at the window. And then the SHRIEKS begin again, and sometimes there are girls under the table, and always there is much rejoicing after, when I walk smiling into the room.

And calls to do it again, daddy, please!

It’s the little things, sometimes.

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Show Season

By lex, on July 13th, 2008

Saturday morning dawns cool and clear with the Kat tapping at your correspondent’s shoulder whispering, “I’m late.”

It’s not quite six AM. On a Saturday morning.

The only plausible explanation for anyone being late at 5:45 AM in Southern California on a Saturday morning in July is that this is horse show season. Plagues of locusts would not have otherwise sufficed.

It’s a quiet drive to the Del Mar Show Park on Saturday morning at 0600. You’ve got the roads pretty much to yourself and your daughter. Who – bless her soul – has her thoughts elsewhere entirely, at least until we get to the stables. Already seeing it. In the moment.

We arrive on scene and she asks if I would like to come in and see Harold. Harold being the new horse. Recently owned by famous regional jumper, but now relegated to school work and jumping at three feet or less. Because of his superannuation, at age 18, the poor beast.

I know the feeling.

Of course I’d like to meet Harold, I replied. The question being, in all honesty, almost entirely rhetorical. She’ll spend the day aboard or around this brute in one way or another and entrust her precious life to him. A “getting to know you” session between the two of us is entirely appropriate, never mind the importance of showing interest. I have things I want to say. Things he needs to hear. The nature and origin of canned dog food might be a worthy topic of discourse. Such a fate being a not unlikely end for elderly horses who are not attentive to the needs of their riders. Such as their continuing need to remain properly saddled, unhurled and untrampled.

The Kat joins her cohort, the rest of them – like her – tousle haired, pink cheeked and puffy eyed. It’s mid summer, and it’s not like they’ve been greeting the dawn with song since school let out. Mariachi music plays in the background as caballerangos walk around trying (and failing) to look busy. The girls wear flannel pj’s atop their best riding breeches, and club jackets atop t-shirts. The jackets will have the name of their barn on the back, and their own names on the front, and the having of one is an ineffable symbol of belonging. A fighter pilot might look in his closet and see a jacket of his own, with a name tag on the front, and various patches of experience and excellence everywhere else and gain a glimmering insight into all of this. But these are young women, and their magic is deeper, it thrums at a pitch below male hearing. It always has.

In an hour’s time or so they will spend a moment in mentor-assisted chrysalis – hair nets, rat catchers, jackets and helmets – to emerge as fully mature Ice Princesses (First Rank) of the Equitation Imperium. In the meantime, these girls (most of whom would not lift a finger to pick linen off the deck at home) cheerfully muck out stables like any set of stable hands.

You’d think that seeing your youngest child vaulting through the incorporeal air over fences atop a twelve hundred pound animal with small – and, it must be pointed out, unnecessarily sharp feet – might be bad enough. But first you have to earn the right to get there. First you must watch her warm up amongst thronging legions of variously grouped, differently abled competitors, each of them fully focused on their own lines in blissful ignorance, and all of them seeming to run at cross purposes.

Bedlam ain’t in it.

Eventually they head to the competition ring, where – at this age – each of them enter the arena alone to face the stern judgment of equestrian officialdom and fate. They will do their best, and at the end of the day some of them will walk away at the end of the day with yet another gaily colored strip of ribbon to hang against the wall. While others will walk away with little more than their pride, and the experience of having once again been “the woman in the arena.”

Oh, and the jacket with their name in front, and their barn on back. They’ll have that too.

You ask, isn’t it pricey, all of this anachronistic tomfoolery?

No, I reply.

It’s priceless.

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Home Again

Ed Note: Unfortunately a lot of the links lex referenced 12 years ago are gone. I have included the links that are still live and given that he wrote this almost exactly 12 years ago though some of the things he said were still funny. To wit: How sh!t happens in the Navy; the world’s most humiliating store, etc…

Hope you enjoy the post. To me so much of what Lex wrote has a timeless aura to it…

BB

Sun – December 19, 2004

Wow – glad that’s over.

Or almost over – we still have the debrief to go on Monday morning. Jump up in front of the three star with my merry band of principal warfare assistants and subject matter experts, pontificate (but not at length, not as who should say “great length” – he’s a busy man – so are they all, all busy men) and then sit back down, await the momentary frisson of approbation that comes with a exceptionally difficult job, done exceedingly well, and then move on to the next thing. Which right now, happens to be Christmas. So I’ve got that to look forward to. Which is nice.

But no, the Christmas shopping is by no means complete, thanks for asking.

You might have advised that I try to shop at sea, via the internet, but that would only mean that you had never tried to shop at sea, via the internet, before.

You know those itty-bitty straws they use in night clubs to mix the well drinks? Imagine that you have been without water in the desert for six days, while forced to do push ups and sit ups in the burning sun, in between wind sprints. Now imagine being asked to drink your table spoon-sized ration of water through one of those cocktail straws it and you’ll have some idea of what surfing the World Wide Wait can be like at sea. It’s not like we don’t have bandwidth. Bandwidth we’ve got, great huge frothy galumphing amounts of bandwidth – it’s just that none of it is apportioned that way. For Christmas shopping, I mean.

Oh, sure – if you know exactly what you want: Google up “Airborne Laser Volcano Lancing ,” for example – you can probably get that done. That is, unless you were for two times in the preceding three months while at sea the victim of credit card theft, and the credit card that you actually have in your wallet is now cancelled, and now there is no reliably secure way to email or fax your new credit card number to the ship.

In that case you’re pretty much SOL, airborne lasers on your shopping list or no.

Neither am I one of those preternaturally organized, invariably smug and sand-poundingly self-satisfied shoppers that has crossed every item off their Christmas list by the preceding ides of March. No, I greatly prefer the carefully controlled lab experiment in chaos theory which comes from traveling across the country to Virginia, my own, my native land, on the 22nd of December, going pied-à-terre in the world’s most maddening shopping mall on Christmas Eve, and catching the sport at its very best. The pleasures are simply indescribable.

In fact, the only thing more wonderful was last year, when after several hours of hurling myself repeatedly (and it must be admitted, with little success) upon the altar of consumerism, I found myself looking about longingly for a store that sold any of the following items: Firearms and ammo, razor blades/rubber tubing, rat poison, quality braided rope of not too rough a texture and capable of supporting roughly 190 pounds, moving at, say, 32 feet per second, squared. While thus (fruitlessly) engaged I saw the actual Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who stands in precedence to your humble scribe in roughly the same proportion as he himself stands to single-celled organisms) doing his Christmas shopping in the same circle of hell as was I. Or me. Myself.

Whichever.

And so seeing this, I grasped at the beginnings of wisdom. These I will share with you, constant reader, free of charge: Death may indeed be the great leveler of men, but Christmas shopping is repeatable, and as a form of practice for the real thing, not to be lightly cast aside.

All that being true, then it can’t get any worse, you say?

Come, let me disabuse you: Have I failed to report that the Biscuit (age 13) now considers it nothing less than normal, indeed quite natural, that a portion of each trip to the shopping mall must be spent inside the world’s most humiliating store (for a man to enter, anyway)? I feel like a vampire at the church doors each time I go near the place. I stand there in front stammering “No, fine actually!” to all the several passersby who, alarmed at the sight of my violently blushing complexion, wonder if perhaps it isn’t possible, even likely, that I’m having a stroke or seizure of some sort? Because from my perspective, there simply isn’t a plausible or creditable reason for me to be on the same level as that store, not to mention standing on its threshold. Which is not to say that I’m a prude. It’s just to say that, well… I’m not exactly sure what it’s to say, but it’s deuced uncomfortable, old chap. To all of this, of course, the Biscuit is either sublimely unaware, or acutely unconcerned. And I can not quite decide which.

But this is all to look forward to, and perhaps one of you would prefer to be caught up:

We’ve been busy. Long time readers of this blog (I mean you two, over there) will know that your humble scribe has been at sea more or less continuously since the 12th of September with some all-to-brief intervals of sand crabbing in between to remind myself where I park my car, which office is mine (there’s that sandwich!), and to reacquaint my family with my gross physical characteristics. But as I mentioned above, our own Long March is over, for the now, and the workload should become a little more normal in the discernible future.

Why such much? Glad you asked: For the Iraq War we got every ship to sea that we could, and so all the carriers that went and joined the war in 2003 all came back pretty much at the same time. Which meant that they were all pretty much ready to go to sea again at the same time. Which was the last four months. Which is where me and my merry band come in.

But in between coming home from the war, and going to sea again, the CNO , who by the way is (for a Shoe) an incredibly smart individual, besides being a powerful and handsome man, made some decisions. For one, he decided that it would be keen to institutionalize our capability to surge the force in case of emergency, rather than discerning a crisis on the horizon and then walking the strand and turning over rocks to look for ships, like we’d always done in the past. This strategy is called the FRP, or Fleet Response Plan (variously, the Fleet Readiness Plan, no one seems to be able to authoritatively decide) and it’s an Exceptionally Powerful Idea¹

Which is a precise formulation guaranteed to send staff officers scurrying to shopping malls, looking for stores which sell: Firearms and ammo, razor blades/rubber tubing, rat poison, quality braided rope of not too rough a texture and capable of supporting roughly 190 pounds, moving at, say, 32 feet per second, squared.

Because it’s all very well and good for service secretaries and four stars to have Exceptionally Powerful Ideas, but someone has to figure out how it’s all going to actually work. And that someone is us!

So yeah, we were busy, but now we’re not and that pretty much encapsulates all you need ever know about the naval service.

More later, as it comes to me.

——————–

Note 1:

 

In the beginning was the Plan

And after the Plan came the Assumptions

And the Assumptions were without form

And the Plan was without substance

And darkness moved upon the faces of the action officers.

And they spake unto their Division Heads, saying:

“It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh”

And the division heads went unto their Chiefs of Department,

And Sayeth unto them in turn:

“It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof!”

And the Chiefs of Department went unto the First Flag Officer

in their Chain of Command, and Sayeth unto Him:

“It is a container of excrement, and it is very STRONG!”

And that Flag went unto his Fleet Commander, and

Sayeth unto Him:

“It is a Vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its Strength”

And the Fleet Commander went unto CNO, and Sayeth:

“It contains that which aids Plant Growth, and it is very strong”

And the CNO went unto the Chairman and Sayeth:

“It Promoteth Growth, and it is very Powerful”

And the Chairman went unto the Secretary,

And Sayeth Unto Him:

“This Powerful New Plan will Actively Promote the Growth

and Efficiency of the Department, and this area in Particular”

And the Secretary looked upon the Plan,

And he saw that it was Good, and so the Plan became

Policy.

 

And that is how shit happens.

 

 

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So

By lex, on December 6th, 2005

Phase II of the flight physical today. In the room alone with the doctor, the stethoscope and the tube of cold jelly.

Oh, the indignity!

So many things get better in the Navy, as one grows more senior. Your jokes get funnier. You get a nice parking place. Everyone calls you “sir,” and very often they appear to mean it. Which is a tremendous improvement from ensign days, let me tell you. People tend to be nicer in general, even solicitous at times: “Would you care for the VIP room, Captain?”

“Why yes. Yes, I would.”

You could get full of yourself, if you weren’t careful. All puffed up, even. But in a flight physical follow-up on the wrong side of forty, you are not offered the VIP treatment. Oh no, my son, not at all – not if it were ever so. In fact, it begins to appear as though this is how they let the hot air out:

“Elbows on the table, grandad. You know what to do.”

You: Did the fact that your doctor was a fetching lass of some thirty-odd summers do nothing to mitigate the intense position of moral disadvantage you found yourself in, Lex?

Me: It did not, Gentle Reader. To a surprising degree, it did not.

You: Were you at all concerned when the conversation, pre-… well, you know – when the conversation turned to how difficult it could be to be a female flight surgeon in a male dominated world at times?

Me: I will confess to a moment’s Seinfeldian angst at where this might take us, Gentle Reader.

You: Because of the payback potential?

Me: Precisely.

You: Ah.

Me:

You: Oh, right – it’s still my go. Was it cold in the room, Lex?

Me: Oh so very.

You: And because of that, did you experience any…

Me: That’s quite enough, I think!

So. 364 days and a wake-up.

At least she had small hands.

 

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Index – The Best of Neptunus Lex

On March 6, 2012 we lost Lex. He died doing what he wanted to do, teaching Naval Aviators how to be even better.

For many of us, the Lexicans, he became more than just a blogger but a friend.  Carroll “Lex” LeFon not only enjoyed writing, but he enjoyed the interaction of the “commentariat”, many of whom he called “the best friends I never met”.

Soon after his accident, his website, Neptunus Lex, went down. If it weren’t for one Lexican, who copied and pasted most (about 70%) of his posts for later reading, “the lightness of Lex”, all 9  years’ worth of his work, would have disappeared into the digital ether.

Continue reading

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The Daily Lex – November 25th

The Genie

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A Mk-76 Tale

Let me introduce you to the Mark 76 Practice Bomb. More commonly referred to as the Mk-76, the bomb is the mainstay of Navy flight training.
First thing to know is that the Mk-76 is not really a bomb, although it could kill you and it will put significant holes in things it is hurled at, generally at around 500 knots or so, from a fast flying Navy jet. The Mk-76 is blue, as is all inert practice ordinance. The movie buffs among you will instantly recall Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun (I know, TOPGUN, all one word, all caps) preflighting his completely worthless in combat blue Sidewinders before going face to face with the dreaded enemy Migs.
The Mk-76 is only about 2 feet long, weighs 25 pounds, has a fat little front body and a set of fins welded to that body. The center of the bomb body and fins is hollow, there is a charge in the nose that goes off when the bomb impacts and the point of impact is marked by the white smoke from the charge. At night there is a visible flash.  The AF version of the Mk-76 is the BDU-33, it’s zackly the same bomb.
Naval aviators can spend a considerable amount of time on the practice range dropping Mk-76’s, they don’t cost a lot of taxpayer dollars and don’t blow the target to smithereens like a 500 pounder might.
I have a tale (that’s not a typo) attached to the Mk-76, and a lesson that I learned. The lesson is going to come first in this story: don’t aggravate the troops, and in particular do not cross Navy Chiefs. Ever. Things happen.
My first squadron was the A-6 RAG, and my tour there as a very junior officer (I was Mr. Vice at the annual Dining In 2 times, or was it 3?) brought me in contact with the best officers in the fleet–and occasionally some who might have thought they were the best.
My initial encounter with Lcdr. Ring Knocker (like Dragnet, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, if any) occurred whilst I was still a lowly RAG staff Enswine and not yet in the driver seat of the Intruder. No slight intended here for Lex or other graduates of the Highest of the Military Institutes of Learning On an East Coast River, but Knocker was the epitome of perceived status given by virtue of a certain diploma and ring followed by reasonable performance in the aviation world followed by promotion followed by…a bit of Headous Largeous, a curious affliction that may infect some, although the victim of such a disease rarely detects the symptoms in himself. HL can sometimes be diagnosed in fighter pilots, where confidence in their chosen arena is of the utmost importance–we must remember that second place is dead–and uncommon in the ranks of the attack community.
The HL symptoms were revealed when Knocker and I were working on some project or other and I asked a question of him, he supplied the answer, and I mentioned that gee, I didn’t know that.
The response was That’s why you’re an ensign and I’M a LCDR! Followed by Hohohohahaha.
I must admit that this small blustery event had no effect on me, when you are at the bottom of the command heap it seems that you do know very little, although it may show a lack of couth for others superior to point out such a deficiency. Whatever. Lcdr. Knocker moved on to a fleet squadron a few months later and I forgot about him.
Fast forward a couple of years and now I have advanced a bit, I’ve finished the RAG, am no longer an Enswine and have risen to the heady height of Lieutenant Junior Grade, thank you, and have arrived in my first squadron. I’m a nugget, a full fledged nugget.
Knocker is in my new squadron. We, the squadron, are at Navy Fallon on a weapons det, meaning we are there to refine our tactics and bombing before going to sea and maybe having to drop bombs on targets that shoot back.
And I’m going to the target today with a load of 12 Mk-76’s to practice system boresight bombing in the latest and greatest iteration of the Intruder, the A-6E. I’ll be flying on the wing of my lead for this event, Knocker. He is one of several Lcdr’s in the squadron, and from the muted comments at the back of the ready room from time to time I have already formed an opinion that perhaps, just perhaps, Knocker has ruffled a few junior officer feathers with his personality and is still afflicted with the HL syndrome. What I did not know was that Knocker had somehow, some way, also irked one or two maintenance chiefs. Irked them big time.
OK, the stage is set, a little bit about how to use the boresight system bombing in the Ugly. The pilot sets up a 40 degree dive at the target, 500 knots or so, put the luminous piper in the gunsight on the target, depresses and holds the commit button on the stick, and then commences a 4G pull up. The computer figures out the wind, bomb ballistics, distance to target, aircraft speed, dive angle, applies the current rate of interest on a 10 year CD (just kidding), blah, blah, blah, then lets go of the bomb at the precise point needed to put the bomb on the target. Beats the heck out of the old way–figure out a mil setting, dial it in on the manual gunsight, and try to put the fixed pipper on target, compensating for whatever wind you think is swirling about. At exactly the right dive angle, altitude, and airspeed, with the pipper on the target, the pilot hits the pickle button, pauses, and then commences the pull up. A well tuned boresight system was just plain wunnerful, it made things so much simpler.
Knocker conducted a thorough brief, and as we left the ready room to don our flight togs, I committed to the standard bet with Knocker, a buck a bomb. Best hit of each run. Could be a total of $12 on the line, but usually only about 4 or 5 bucks ended up changing pockets in the end.
Then down the stairs to maintenance spaces to review the aircraft logs and system performance of our assigned jets. I noted with some pleasure that the bombing stats from the previous flight were good, my jet was a sweet bomber. Knocker, on the other hand, was standing next to me and looking at the stats for his plane, which were not quite so good. He looked over at the logs for my jet, and said Tell you what, yours is the better bomber, so we are going to switch planes. He swapped the logs and proceeded to study the maintenance record of what was now his sweet bomber. I stood silent, not really able to come up with a suitable remark. My trusty BN and I traded glances and a shrug of the shoulders, then checked the paperwork on what was now our jet.
Knocker finished his review and looked at the two of us. He grinned. RHIP, he said. HL had him in its clutches. His BN said nothing.
The four of us headed out to the flight line, our jets were parked side by side, waiting in the morning sun. The jets were new, they really looked good.
I finished my preflight walk around quickly and settled into the cockpit, my BN was already strapped in and checking out his system set up.
This is when the Maintenance Chief climbed up the ladder and stood on the top steps at eye level with me. He said Mr. B, do you have any bets on the bombing for this hop? Yes I do, Chief, a buck a bomb.
Well, says he, you’re going to win. Chief, I replied, I’m going to give it my best, thanks for the vote of confidence.
No, no, says the Chief. You are GOING TO WIN, says he. Look over there, he says, and leans back a little so I can see Knocker’s jet next to us. Knocker had just finished preflighting the starboard wing and moved around the jet to finish up on the port side. After he was out of sight, another Chief, who had been standing quietly under the starboard wing, moved over underneath the weapons rack where 6 Mk-76’s were hanging.
He looked over at us, and then reached up and grabbed the tail fins of the closest bomb. And twisted. Hard. Put his whole body weight into it. Bent the fins. The bomb was not going to follow a predictable path on its way to the earth. No way.
Then did the same on the other 5 bombs. The tail fins were going in multiple directions. He looked at the Chief next to me and smiled. The Maintenance Chief says to me, The other 6 on the port side will be adjusted as well. Have a nice flight, he says, and steps down to the ground, folds the boarding ladder into place, latches it, and gives me a thumbs up.
Whatever Knocker had done to get on the non sunshine side of the folks who run the show is still a mystery to me. Must have been that HL thing.
Off we went to the target, it’s a really clear sunny day in the Nevada desert, our pair of Intruders was cleared hot on the target and we went at it.
When lead’s first bomb hit 1200′ at 7 o’clock you know there was an eruption of sorts in Knocker’s cockpit. My BN and I erupted as well, a fit of laughter and giggles as we followed in our dive and scored a 50′ hit.
It got worse, or better, depending on which cockpit you were in. Lead’s second hit was somewhere in Nevada, and his remaining bombs followed suit, run after run, until all 12 blue bombs were gone. Gone all over the place, in no particular predictable order at all. One or two actually got close to the center ring, but that was purely by accident of dispersal. The safest place in Nevada when Lead was dropping his bombs was the Bull’s Eye.
I had a good day, my BN tuned up the system well on the way to the target, and we had a respectable 2 digit average, pretty good for a nugget.
We cleaned Knocker’s clock, would have given him a run for his money even if he’d been armed with the straightest bombs ever built. But he wasn’t.
Join up and RTB were uneventful, all the way back my BN and I were thinking of the free beers we were going to consume that evening.
After landing and shut down, Knocker was out of his cockpit and on the way to the maintenance spaces at a brisk pace, he was there for several minutes before I walked in the door. When I walked in, Knocker was in the midst of angrily describing how poorly the boresight system had worked for him. The first one hit 1200′ short, says he, and the next one was 1000′ short, so I fudged the system a bit on the next run and put the pipper long about the same amount. That one hit about 900′ at 3 o’clock. So I tried putting the pipper at 9 o’clock and that one….
The chiefs and system tech guys listened earnestly and asked what the pilot and BN thought might be the problem, the two of them had an idea or two, something about system velocities and ballistic calculations being out of whack, even though the readouts in flight looked good. Knocker said he wanted an extensive check conducted on the black boxes.  He wrote all this out, cataloging the erratic hits, and then he and his BN clomped up the stairs to the ready room. My BN and I were still standing at the maintenance desk submitting our flight data when the door at the top of the stairs closed.
And the poker-faced maintenance crew burst into muffled laughter. They tried hard not to be too loud. Backs were slapped, stomachs were held while doubled over with glee, and some laughed so hard there were tears in their eyes. My BN and I stood there just smiling, not joining in wholeheartedly because we had no idea what the original sin was at the root of all this. But we were getting an education.
HL is a dreadful thing, never let it get out of hand and aggravate the troops. Particularly Chiefs. Things happen.

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