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Desert Diary


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Much of the Southwest became a battleground as Europeans and their descendants invaded lands occupied by American Indians. The Europeans generally made headway by virtue of better armament and sheer numbers. Eventually, of course, the resistance became better armed. Yet, the Native Americans had the reputation of being notoriously poor shots, despite excelling with bow and arrow. The reason, according to some, is the human trait that what you learn in youth is almost impossible to forget.

Arrows and bullets drop about 16 feet during a 1-second flight, which means that a marksman has to aim above the target so the missile won't plow into the ground. Most of the tribal combatants grew up using the bow as their primary tool for hunting and warfare, and it became second nature to judge how much elevation was necessary in order to hit a target. But at that elevation, the faster bullet drops much less during the time necessary to reach the target. If the explanation is correct, then the shots almost always went over the heads of the enemy.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.