Growing up in a small Midwestern town, one which served as the seat for a county named after the finest of spirits, often came with a predictable set of experiences. If you lasted thru your teens you most likely had multiple children, a rotted liver, meth mouth, a lengthy arrest record, and/or an overinflated opinion of one’s self. As children, leaving flowers on May Day led to ding-dong-ditch which led to (failed) flaming bags of shit on porches. Sleep overs led to snipe hunting which led to (attempted) cow tipping. Truth or dare led to prank phone calls which led to (alleged) breaking and entering. Pretty standard stuff, and not really worth much detail.
I was never a gifted scholar of the sciences, but some of my most vivid memories involve chemical reactions. I’m not really talking about reactions like when my drunk chemistry teacher decided a sliver of sodium in water wasn’t quite as impressive as a whole chunk and blew a fiery hole in the ceiling of the lab. Though that did inspire my group of friends to take up the hobby of stealing dry ice from the grocery store, then placing it in a sealed bottle with water in the middle of a packed public parking lot and waiting for the boom.
Fire was generally preferred in the reaction. I’ll admit I was a bit of a firebug, and I’m kind of amazed I didn’t burn down a structure like a friend did his hay barn. I did almost take a barn out with a tractor once, but faulty brakes aren’t fire. My first real fun with fire happened when I discovered a box of paper cased 12 gauge shotgun shells in my basement. I used some fuses left over from 7/4 and turned them into a kind of hillbilly grenade. It wasn’t dynamite, but I liked it more than the M80s and cherry bombs we’d try to fish with Croc Dundee style. They did good work on mole hills, however I learned the importance of cover when the target was above ground. Those pellets didn’t hurt any worse than taking a B.B. from an air rifle, but it seemed silly to hurt myself.
I’d have to say combustion ranked up there with the best chemical reactions. Although I didn’t have a lifted 4×4 to climb neighbors trees or sling mud, I did have a 1985 Plymouth Caravelle that owned pastures and barbed wire fences. It gobbled up a couple transmissions, but it worked great as a get away car. Nobody suspected that silver granny car when we would swipe signs and lawn ornaments and redistribute them around town.
The mixture of explosive and combustion made some of the more lasting memories. There was the time when a buddy’s gramps mistook me for a common trespasser and shot at me with his .22 revolver as I dashed for my vehicle. A better memory is when I served as transporter for a friend that adhered a home made bomb to a 20′ x 10′ plate glass window (I had been robbed at fingerpoint at this particular business then accused of conspiring to take the loot a month or so prior, so it was deserved for sure). The cascade of glass after the massive bang and bright blast was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
I suppose it was fortunate that I wasn’t much of a scientist. Oh, but how things could have been improved if I had been…