Copyright
Sam Elmore

BALLISTICS EXPERTS
I was raised in a large family of farmers in Southwest Arkansas, during what is called the 'Great Depression.'. We supplemented our livelihood by trapping, hunting and fishing. We children learned early in life about fishing tackle, steel traps, guns, and ammunition.
At the tender ages of eleven and eight respectively, my older brother (called "Todd") and I held to the opinion that, between the two of us, we probably knew ALL there was to know about ballistics. (Be your own judge.)

THE PREMISE:
Todd: Apply to an unrestrained (loose) .22 cartridge sufficient heat to ignite the powder, and the bullet (made of lead, and therefore heavier than the brass hull) will remain where it was, and the hull will go flying.
Me: Apply to a loose .22 cartridge enough heat to ignite the powder, and the results will be the same as if it was shot from a rifle…the bullet will go in the direction it was pointed when the powder ignited, and the hull will remain where it was.
(Note - the reader should not assume that our claims were stated in those exact terms - it was more on the line of:
Todd: "Will, too!"
Me: "Won't, neither!")

THE PROPOSITION:
"If we had a .22 bullet, I'd prove to you I know what I'm talkin' about", Todd bragged.
"Wa'al, we ain't got nair'n, so what's the difference?"
"Why don't we GET us one, then?", he proposed. "I'm tall enough to reach up in Papa's shell-sack without climbing…I'll just ease up there while he's taking a nap, and steal us one."
Up ‘til he said that, I had no idea he was serious about this bullet-and-hull business. As for myself, I was just enjoying the argument.
"How we gon' get it hot enough?" I asked him.
"Wa'al there's a big fire in the fireplace, ain't there?" Todd smirked.
"You gone plumb CRAZY? Papa's in'ere right now in his rocking chair. He'd kill us if we…uh…how we gon' do it?" I inquired.

THE PREPARATION:
Our whispered confab had taken place back in our room, during one of the coldest winters we'd ever seen. The wind was moaning across Mama's bailing-wire clothes-line, and if you listened real close, it sounded so much like "Ol' Scratch" his-own-self, it'd make you shiver.
Todd motioned me to stay put and strode into the front room, straight to Papa's shell- sack, hanging on a nail just five feet from where Papa dozed in his rocking chair. Todd stuck his arm over in the sack, rummaged around a little bit and came out with a shiny .22 cartridge. He motioned me to come up to the front room. I went. He pointed to a chair by the hearth. I sat.

THE PROCEEDING:
I cast an eye at Papa, but he wasn't disturbed by our arrival. He was sprawled out as far as the rocking chair arms would allow, with both galluses un-fastened, his overall bib flopped down in his lap, and his bare feet resting on the deer-skin hearth rug that he'd tanned.
Todd took the poker and raked out a pile of red coals from under the burning logs. With the flat side of the poker, he tamped the coals level. He looked over at Papa…still dozing. Then he held up the .22 cartridge and indicated that he would lay it on the coals, pointing left and right, with the bullet on the left.
Catching my eye, Todd silently pointed at the bullet and STABBED his finger down; then, he pointed to the brass casing and JERKED his thumb to the right…it was plain that he felt the bullet would stay put and the hull would fly. I looked him square in the eye and repeated his motions in reverse. We both nodded, tight-lipped; determined.

THE PROOF:
Todd leaned forward and carefully placed the .22 cartridge on top of them hot coals. We kept glancing at Papa, but he was still sleeping. We leaned back in our chairs and gazed intently at that bed of hot coals.
Now, then, (I thought to myself)…I'll break ol' big-boy here from sucking eggs! Sure that I would be proved right, I was already figuring out how best to use my "bragging rights", when……..pow-WHOOOOOOM!!!!
THE EXPLOSION ALMOST BLOWED THE WHOLE FIRE OUT! Ashes and smoke went flying all over the place, and live coals went every-which-a-ways!
Papa had a red-hot coal, as big as a hen-egg, laying in the crotch of his overalls, and live sparks covered the top of his bare feet. The hair on the deer-hide rug was smoking and starting to stink. Mama's hand-stitched quilt was covered with ashes as they sifted down onto their bed, and…………..

THE PENALTY:
The punishment phase is easier for you to imagine than it is for me to describe.

THE PROGNOSIS:
Mama's opinion was, what with the cold weather and all, and since Papa wouldn't need to put his shoes on except to go to the privy, the blisters on his feet should heal in a week or two. She didn't "prognoce" about me and Todd, but we figured, MAYBE, in six or eight months we might be able to sit down again.

THE POSER:
Do any of y'all know which-a-way the bullet'll go, if enough heat is applied to ignite the powder in a loose .22 cartridge? Me and Todd never DID find out.