PAPA'S FIREWORKS FACTORY

Copyright 1992
Sam Elmore


Several acres of woods adjoined one of our fields, and Papa wanted to increase his planting acreage. The 'new ground' was cleared of timber and brush, and Papa arranged for a man to come and blow the stumps loose with explosives, so they could be cleared off.

The man explained to Papa what methods he could use, and what each would cost. Papa, shy of ready cash, opted for the cheapest method. The man said he would use blasting powder to loosen the stumps, instead of the more costly dynamite.

When the job was done, Papa paid the man and he departed.....leaving Papa with a five-pound can of unused blasting powder. Papa stowed the powder can in the blacksmith shop, way up over the rafters, out of the reach of us kids. Of course, we were admonished that, whoever even THOUGHT about foolin' with that powder, would get their hind-parts dusted something fierce!

On the Fourth of July that year, us kids were playing mumbly-peg in the yard when Papa came out of the blacksmith shop with a funny look on his face. He walked to the back porch and called Mama out. We half-listened as he talked to her. She asked a few questions, then finally said the part that we heard clearly: "Keep the kids out-of-the-way and don't hurt ye-se'f".

"You two big boys come he'p ye' daddy", he said; "Sister, you watch the "Baby". The younger brother, Baucum, (whom we still call 'the baby'), was about five years old at the time.

"One-a you boys hold the shop door open---the other'n go hold open the pasture gate", Papa said. We hurried to comply.

Papa squatted and cradled his arms around the horns of the anvil. He grunted and stood erect, that huge anvil nestled against his chest. He stiff-legged across the yard and out into the pasture about fifty yards. He set the anvil on the ground, with obvious relief.

Going back to the shop, he fetched the half-inch-thick iron plate, on which the anvil block rested. Papa dropped the iron plate beside the anvil. The next time he came out, he was carrying that red can of blasting powder. That's when us kids started to get excited.

"You two boys go yonder to the house, now; get ye' mammy and sister and the Baby, and set down on the porch and be quiet!", he ordered.

"Yessir".

We lined up on the edge of the porch, where we could see him hunkered down by the anvil. He poured a little pile of blasting powder on the iron plate, laid a piece of fuse down, and took up the anvil. He placed it so that the hollow bottom of the anvil was centered over the powder, with it's base flush against the iron plate.

Papa stood up and looked all around, walked back to the pasture gate, and tied it open with a piece of baling wire. He went to the anvil, struck a kitchen match on his britches leg, lit the fuse, and RUN-LIKE-SIXTY towards the house. We were so excited, we didn't even breathe. Although the fuse he'd placed looked real short, it seemed like a loooong time before....WHOOOOOOMM !!

My goodness, what a noise! The window frames all rattled, and a ball of smoke as big as the house rose up in the air. The anvil flew six feet off the ground, and the roar of the blast echoed back from the pin-oak flats half-a-dozen times. It even made the rooster crow !

"Do it again, Papa!", the Baby squealed with excitement.

"Naw, now", Mama said, "a-nuff is a-nuff!"

We all looked at Papa; he was staring out at that pall of smoke hanging over the pasture. It was obvious that HE wanted to do it again, if Mama'd just let 'im.

"Wa'al, Hattie", he said, "Fourth of July don't come but once't-a-year, and I ain't never liked the idea of that powder settin' out 'ere, with the kids around and all.....O

He KNEW that'd convince her, because sheOd tried all along to get him to throw the powder in the slough.

"And', Papa continued, 'since everything's all set up, I'd druther jest get rid of it once't-and-for-all."

Against her will, Mama was persuaded; she reluctantly told him to go ahead. Papa went out to the anvil and poured the rest of the powder (all of it) onto the iron plate, and tossed the can aside. From where we sat, the pile of powder looked the size of a full-grown canteloupe.

He laid down another fuse and eased the anvil down over the powder. He looked around again, like he was trying to pick out exactly where his feet would be landing, when he made a break for it.

When he lit the fuse, he ran a LOT faster than he had before. Reaching the porch, he pulled the Baby over onto his lap, and hugged him close.

When the powder exploded, it made the first blast seem like you'd fired a cap pistol. I mean, it for-ever-more THUNDERED!

The concussion blew us all flat backwards on the porch, and we were knocked deaf for a little while. The anvil went THIRTY YARDS up in the air and curved towards the house. When it came down, it shattered the corner of the kitchen roof, and cypress shingles went ever-which-a-ways.

The mules broke out through the corral fence and went squealing and kicking across the pasture towards the pin-oak flats. The chickens under the house went to squawking and trying to fly out, and we could feel their heads thump against the floor joists as they tried to escape.

The anvil was buried half-way in the ground, inches from the corner house block, with the hollow base up, badly cracked by the blast. By the time our ears stopped ringing, Papa had replaced the busted shingles on Mama's kitchen, dug out the anvil, and filled up the hole in the yard.

It was a loooong time before Papa could coax the Baby back onto his lap again. I expect the boy held to the opinion that, settin' in Papa's lap jest MIGHT lead to another explosion!