Not very many kids in this world get to grow up in an environment like we did. The beautiful river running by our farm made it a paradise. We could go swimming, fishing or boating any time we wanted. We had the mountains all to ourselves for hunting and hiking and camping. Our parents owned a herd of horses for riding the many trails. We had homemade go-carts and motorbikes. You would think that with all this excitement we would be spending our free time at doing one of the above. But oh no, we had better things to do. Like sneaking down to the hidden weapons cache and stealing a two gallon can of gunpowder. Now this wasn't your normal fine gunpowder. This was a special powder much more dangerous. We figured life wasn't exciting unless you tempted the grim reaper once in a while. Or unless you put your life on the line for your buddies, yes sir. And since the opportunity to become a war hero didn't come around too often, we were forced to create the scenario ourselves. There were several us you young boys in this group as we hauled this two gallon can of gunpowder to where we thought no one could see us.
"Let's take this and see how big a fire it makes," said Someone. Up until now I didn't know there was a kid named someone in the family.
"That sound like a great idea," said Someone else. That was Somebody's brother, I swear.
"Dump a little pile on the ground and light it so we can watch it burn," offered some other Einstein. So, the oldest one in the pack dumped a small pile on the ground and struck a match to it. We all jumped back and watched the fire shoot into the air.
"Cool, like wow dude, do it again, only this time make a bigger pile!" Well, this time we ran for cover as the flames shot into the air.
"Awesome dude, that's some sweet stuff. Let's make a bigger pile this time." It goes without saying that is what we did, only this time a lethal mistake was made. In his haste to get away from the flames the "fire-whisperer" left the can full of powder with the lid off, only a few feet away from the fire. Thus the fire from the "biggest" pile ignited the much larger can of powder.
A huge explosion resounded throughout our valley as fire shot over two hundred feet into the air! A few seconds later after we had gathered our senses, and body parts, did we realize what had just happened. All of us....except one person of course....escaped the searing heat of the flames. Naturally it had to be the youngest innocent bystander, my brother David who was not even eight years old. Just as he had turned to run away, he tripped over a rock and down he went, face first into the ground. Before he could think about getting up, fire was raining down from heaven as we watched helplessly from a distance. He quickly jumped up and started running away as the smoking flames burned through his clothing. I shifted from shock into high gear and chased him down, slapping at the fire on his clothing and putting it out. At the shop a few hundred yards away, Uncle Paul and the rest of the world had heard the explosion and came running to see what in God's burnt earth had happened!
Mom started to cry when she saw her son, but she quickly pulled herself together and took charge. She started applying Aloe Vera leaves to the large blisters that were now forming on his back. This helped tremendously but he was still in agony. The only solution was to lay him on his stomach on a plank with both arms in buckets of cold water while she softly soaked his back with a wet cloth. Once again, Dad was gone on a trip with the only vehicle in the family that could have taken him to the hospital several hours away. As usual there were no phones or means to communicate with the outside world, so we had to do the best we could, right there. All night long and a few days after that, Mom was by his side keeping a wet cloth on his burns to soothe the pain.
When Dad returned and saw his son lying there suffering, he was furious. I was the oldest of his sons at the "bomb making" incident, so he took his anger out on me in the form of a hard whipping which I deserved. I should have got my younger brothers and got the hell out of there, but I didn't, I was part of it. The next day I was pretty sore from that whipping but I'm sure it didn't compare to what David was going through. He eventually healed up just fine except for a few scars on his elbows and back. After that catastrophe, we steered clear of gun powder for a long time, but one thing leads to the next and now instead of gunpowder, it would be guns! But we'll wait for the next post to tell you about that one.
And that my friends, is fuel for the mind.