Ever Since the beginning of the Eastern indoor track season, Wes Santee has given—at least to the casual eye—a spectacular imitation of a man in the throes of some baffling process of disintegration. He set a new indoor mile record in January, true enough, but he let Denmark's redheaded Gunnar Nielsen beat him and break it the very next week. He was resoundingly booed in Madison Square Garden for his bout of shoving and elbowing with Manhattan's little Freddy Dwyer (who came through to beat him the week after that) and went on to lose the Pan-American Games 1,500-meter final to an unknown Argentinian. Remembering his compulsion for big talk, a great many of his fellow countrymen began to feel that the American candidate for the four-minute mile was only a false alarm.
It was an unfair estimate: it did not take into consideration the difficulties of pacing on little indoor tracks and Santee's lack of familiarity with them; it disregarded the effects of altitude at Mexico City and Santee's resolve to treat the winter season primarily as a time of preparation. And few who scoffed had any real understanding of the endless physical toil needed to condition a man for a distance race, nor the physical agony implicit in a four-minute mile. But by running 4:00.5 at the Texas Relays—the fastest mile yet run in the U.S. and fifth fastest in history—Santee himself has restored a sense of proportion to his own endeavors.
The Texas race—Santee's first outdoor mile of the season—made it obvious that he is far stronger and sharper than he was in April last year. And with milers, as with horses, motorcars and women, a slight increase in speed is only had by a tremendous increase in price. It was not until the last of May in 1954 that Santee managed to get within striking distance of four minutes with his 4:01.3; best time last year—4:00.6—was made in June. Santee himself was surprised by last week's 4:00.5; he finished thinking he had done no better than 4:02 or 4:01.5. It would be unfair to predict that he will break John Landy's world record, but there should no longer be any doubts that Wes Santee is still to be reckoned with in the world of track, and few doubts that he will break the four-minute barrier this year.
DUCKS OVER SIBERIA
The story of how 26 banded American birds, mostly pintail ducks, were shot down, or otherwise grounded, over northeastern Siberia has just been confirmed by Dr. John W. Aldrich of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington. Dr. Aldrich said he received the information, amounting to a bonanza in bird-tracing terms, from the Russian Embassy about two months ago and made no announcement at the time because he didn't think the public would be interested.
Now that he has received some inquiries about the incident, Dr. Aldrich is only too happy to oblige. He said that the report was delivered to him personally by Yuri I. Gouk, who is second secretary of the Russian Embassy. Mr. Gouk (pronounced Gook) cheerfully translated a letter he had received from Russia while Dr. Aldrich and his assistants took notes. It was a sparse report, Dr. Aldrich says, but it did reveal that about 20 of the birds were pintails and the remainder were snow geese and brants.
The meeting was on the friendliest of planes, Dr. Aldrich confides. This did not particularly astonish him, for birdmen have always managed to get along well together and are quick to share information about the meanderings of banded birds of all nationalities. Just two weeks ago, as a case in point, Dr. Aldrich received a report that an American had picked up a banded Russian tern in France; the word was immediately flashed to Mr. Gouk.
As for the American birds reported on by Mr. Gouk, Dr. Aldrich said they had been banded and released over the past few years from breeding grounds along the Arctic coast of Alaska and the Yukon Delta. They were banded at the "flapper" stage, that is, while big enough to walk but not big enough to fly. When released they fanned out, some of them, as it develops, fanning off to Siberia.
Dr. Aldrich says that peaceful coexistence is an everyday reality in bird circles. For all concerned except the birds. Those identified in Siberia were, alas, dead ducks.