From Bob K., a current-serving member of the United States armed forces, we have this reminiscence via email of an early improvised munitions lesson.
Around age 10 my dad got me one of those little badass compound bow beginner kits. Of course, the first month I went around our place sticking arrows in anything that could get stuck by an arrow. Did you know that a 1955 40 horse Farmall tractor will take 6 rounds before it goes down? Tough sumbitch.
That got boring, so being the 10 yr. old Dukes of Hazzard fan that I was, I quickly advanced to taking strips of cut up T-shirt doused in chainsaw gas tied around the end and was sending flaming arrows all over the place. Keep in mind this was 99.999% humidity swampland, so there really wasn't any fire danger. Ill put it this way - a set of post hole diggers and a 3ft. hole and you had yourself a well.
Anyway, one summer afternoon, I was shooting flaming arrows into a large rotten oak stump in our backyard. I look over under the carport and see a shiny brand new can of starting fluid (ether). The light bulb went off. I grabbed the can and set it on the stump. I thought it would probably just spray out in a disappointing manner. Let’s face it, to a 10 yr. old mouth-breather like myself ether really doesn't "sound" flammable. So, I went back into the house and got a 1 pound can of Pyrodex (black powder for muzzle loader rifles) to add to the excitement.
At this point, I set the can of ether on the stump and opened up the can of black powder. My intentions were to sprinkle a little bit around the ether can, but it all sorta dumped out on me. No biggie. A pound of Pyrodex and 16ounces of ether should make a loud pop, kinda like a firecracker, you know? You know what? Screw that. I'm going back in the house for the other can. Yes, I got a second can of Pyrodex and dumped it on, too. Now we're cookin'.
I stepped back about 15ft and lit the two-stroke arrow. I drew the nock to my cheek and took aim. As I released I heard a clunk as the arrow launched from my bow. In a slow motion time frame, I turned to see my dad getting out of the truck... OH SHIT! He just got home from work. So help me God, it took 10 minutes for that arrow to go from my bow to the can. My dad was walking towards me in slow motion with a WTF look in his eyes. I turned back towards my target just in time to see the arrow pierce the starting fluid can right at the bottom. Right through the main pile of Pyrodex and into the can. Oh, shit!
When the shock wave hit, it knocked me off my feet. I don't know if it was the actual compression wave that threw me back or just reflex jerk back from 235 fucking decibels of sound. I caught a half a millisecond glimpse of the violence during the initial explosion; and I will tell you there was dust, grass, and bugs all hovering 1ft above the ground as far as I could see. It was like a little low to the ground layer of dust fog full of grasshoppers, spiders, and a crawfish or two. The daylight turned purple. Let me repeat this...THE DAYLIGHT TURNED PURPLE! There was a big sweetgum tree out by the gate going into the pasture. Notice I said "was". That mother got up and ran off.
So here I am, on the ground blown completely out of my shoes with my Thundercats T-shirt shredded, my dad is on the other side of the carport having what I can only assume is a Vietnam flashback – ECHO BRAVO CHARLIE YOUR BRINGIN' EM IN TOO CLOSE!! CEASE FIRE DAMMIT CEASE FIRE!!!!! His hat has blown off and is 30 ft. behind him in the driveway. All windows on the north side of the house are blown out and there is a slow rolling mushroom cloud about 2000ft over our backyard. There is a Honda 185s 3 wheeler parked on the other side of the yard, and the fenders are drooped down and are now touching the tires.
I wish I knew what I said to my dad at this moment. I don't know. I know I said something. I couldn't hear. I couldn't hear inside my own head. I don't think he heard me either... not that it would really matter. I don't remember much from this point on. I said something, felt a sharp pain, and then woke up later. I felt a sharp pain, blacked out, woke later.... repeat this process for an hour or so, and you get the idea. I remember at one point my mom had to give me CPR so dad could beat me some more. Bring him back to life so dad can kill him again... Thanks, Mom.
One thing is for sure... I never had to mow around that stump again. Mom had been bitching about that thing for years, and dad never did anything about it. I stepped up to the plate and handled business.
Dad sold his muzzleloaders a week or so later. And I still have some sort of bone growth abnormality either from the blast or the beating. Or both..
I guess what I'm trying to say is, get your kids into archery. It’s good discipline and will teach them skills they can use later on in life. Something they won’t learn in school.