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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/882

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860
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

off, and the current swings the two sections apart, leaving a free opening 528 feet wide. It is the widest draw in any bridge ever built. The ends of the section are connected by a sunken steel-wire cable, and the draw is closed by winding this up on a capstan, worked by one man. There is a pontoon bridge across the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, the draw of which requires a powerful engine to close it. The bridge is to be removed each winter when ice covers the river. Both the pontoon bridge and a crib-work structure 1,050 feet long which crosses a second arm of the river were built in twenty-eight days, at a cost of about $18,000. For the spring floods it is proposed to greatly increase the strength of the steel anchoring cables. The bows of the boats are to be sheathed with iron, and the bottoms are to receive an extra planking of oak. A railroad bridge of steel crosses the river near the pontoon bridge. This was built between December, 1887, and June, 1888. Heretofore pontoon bridges have been little used except as a temporary expedient for military purposes; but their cheapness, and the satisfactory character of the draw and other details in the form just described, bespeak for them a more extended use.

 

Somali Traits.—The Somalis, as represented by Mr. F. L. James, who has traveled among them, are a curious people, hostile to Europeans, treacherous, "marauding, semi-civilized half-castes, offshoots of the great Galla race, allied to the Caucasian type by a steady influx of pure Asiatic blood. They are Mohammedans, but the rites of their religion sit loosely upon them. Although their trust is in Allah, they have been known to ask where he can be found, as some of them would like to catch him and spear him for having laid waste their homes and killed their wives and cattle. Yet they let off sudden prayers with great fervor during moments of anxiety." The hire of camels and drivers to the traveler was ratified by an oath that, if the man failed to keep the terms of the contract, he would divorce his wife. Mr. James had to engage women servants, because the men refused to build their own mat-huts or do any cooking. None of their fathers had done this, they argued, and were they to do the work of women the tribes through which they passed would despise them. At one place the people believed the caravan had descended from the heavens, and this was confirmed when Mr. James and the others began to smoke. "The pipe was part of ourselves, for how else could our mouths blow forth clouds, which would of course bring down rain?" The author explained that these clouds were not "water-bearers," but were due to plants lighted by harmless fire-makers," and to prove this one of the party struck a match and lit a fresh cigarette. This caused further bewilderment. The match had produced lightning, and of course the cloud could produce thunder; so the travelers were "storm-makers."

 

Healing of the Broken Bones of Birds.—It is not often that doctors are able to observe a broken bone almost in the very act of healthful healing, as has recently been the privilege of Dr. R. W. Shufeldt. He obtained on the same day a red-tailed hawk and a turkey-vulture which had been shot while high in the air with a 0·45 caliber government carbine; the ball in the former case passing clear through the chest, and in the latter case breaking in two the radius and the ulna. The hawk's wound could not be discovered, and the bird was apparently whole and vigorous. When killed and dissected, three weeks afterward, it was found that all of the costal ribs and the scapula had been broken across, but were now substantially healed. The ribs had individually made a good union and there was no anchylosis among them, and the blade of the scapula, though not perfect, was in essentially as good a condition as ever; the whole constituting a case of "a fearful wound with a truly magnificent recovery." The buzzard, besides having been shot, had been kicked about by the soldiers, "and was more dead than alive." It had recovered, and could fly well in about a week, when it was killed. The union of the bones was complete and firm, and a mass of callus was being rapidly absorbed at the sides of the fracture, while the bones had remained practically straight. From this and other cases within his experience, the author is convinced that, in case of fractures of the bones of the wings in birds, the good unions that result with