A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Mother of All Firecrackers

Due to a little accident that I experienced this weekend, I was unable to write this week's blog entry.  But, that's a good thing, because it allowed me to share an entry from my brother Phil's blog, which bears the whimsical name Sackett Land and Cattle Company.  I'm on the mend now, and I'll be back next Monday with a new entry.  Till then, enjoy Phil's story of The Mother of All Firecrackers...

In the late 50s and early 60s the Fourth of July was right up there with Christmas on our favorite holiday list. We were not burdened down by all the rules, regulations and safety concerns they have now. We would sell our Coke bottles and cash in coupons from Readers Digest at Buddy Grey's Grocery Store, beg for whatever we could get from our parents and head to the Crumptown Store. We were not interested in the expensive stuff that looked pretty. We wanted cheap and above all loud! We could hardly contain our excitement as we headed back down Bonstien hill for home. We would choose up sides and with one unit on the south end of the field and the opposing unit on the north end we would shoot bottle rockets at each other until one unit member cried. It was the most fun after dark. We would also line up all the plastic army men and equipment we had bought at Parsley's 5 and dime in strategic battlefield formations on opposing sides. From ten feet away we launched Black Cats at them until one army was decimated. Our parents would often remind us of the boy that blew his hand off somewhere. We never pressed for details.

I can't remember all who were involved but one day we decided to build a Sputnik Killer. After one more trip to the Crumptown Store, we used a razor blade to disassemble 100 Black Cat firecrackers and wrapped the black powder in a piece of a brown paper bag, like we used for smoking corn silk, but we put a fuse in one end and taped it to a dollar bottle rocket with daddy's black electrical tape. We made a small hole in the nosecone of the rocket and inserted the fuse figuring once the rocket reached it's maximum altitude of over 200 feet the powder in the nosecone would ignite the "bomb" and there would be a big cool explosion that we would be famous for for years to come.

The launch was scheduled for just before supper figuring the moms would all be cooking supper and the dads would be inside reading the paper or doing whatever dads do after work. The "rocket-bomb" was top heavy so instead of a coke bottle we used a piece of pipe stuck in the ground for a launchpad. Having drawn the short straw, I quivered with excitement as I lit a punk and cautiously approached the launch pad. Glancing back over my shoulder I watched the last of my comrades disappear behind the smokehouse.

I touched the glowing punk to the fuse. It seemed to take forever for the fuse to ignite but when it did it ignite, it ignited with great intensity. I dropped the punk and turned to run for my life but tripped and fell flat on my face. Before I could get up again, there was a loud hissing noise accompanied by a huge cloud of white smoke. As I struggled to breath, through the smoke and fire I could see the Sputnik Killer slowly rising into the heavens. 20 feet....25 feet......30 feet .... 25 feet......20 feet........BOOOOOOOOOM!!! Windows Shook...dogs barked....chickens squawked. People came running out of houses....every house. By the time the smoke had cleared I had managed to scramble, crawl and run to join my brave comrades behind the smokehouse. We didn't come out for a long time.

I don't remember what our punishment was or whether law enforcement was involved. I just remember it was one of the greatest summers I can remember growing up in a small town in America.

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