Racy title! But it isn’t what you think, it is because, as a prepper now I have always been adventurous, always had a curiosity as to how things work and was always building things from ideas that popped into my head or that I learned from my friends or observed when my parents though I wasn’t paying attention.
Some of these panned out well and some got me introduced to corporal punishment, and reintroduced, and reintroduced. All taught me things, but not enough to get me out of the corporal punishment loop.
My first experience of note was finding a box with about 10 sulfur based blasting caps. I was with two friends and we were all 8 years old, and we had no idea what they were, they were just shiny. No fuse, they looked like unmarked tubes of toothpaste with no caps. They were also pliable even in our young hands. We took them home and my friend who lived next door had a very large rock in his yard that we used to climb on, and we thought “let’s see what is inside!” so we placed one in a groove in the rock and I picked up a smaller rock and whacked it a few times. It did split and this bright yellow powder came out.
Lucky for us, as we thought about what to do next and I was thinking “try and light it with a match”, which we had, we were on a side of the rock that faced my house and our kitchen window. I heard my father screaming as he bolted out the front door and charged us like a raging bull. An Iwo Jima Marine vet who never had an ounce of fat on his 6’2″ body and had all the warmth of a wounded rattlesnake. What he was yelling I don’t remember, but we froze. When he gathered up all the tubes I do recall hearing “these are VERY dangerous.” About a hour later a police car came to the house and picked up our treasure.
Like almost every American boy I got a Red Ryder BB gun on my 9th birthday. It was and remains my favorite toy EVER and I still have one in my gun safe as my yard and its cinder-block walls afford me the opportunity to still play with it occasionally.
Of course my parents took it away when I shot it at things I shouldn’t have, things that shall remain unnamed because some of those old neighbors kids are still alive. So, being “stripped” of my primary weapon I moved onto other things like a modified potato cannon.
These were so simple.
In my modified version the combustion chamber and barrel were made up of tin/aluminium vegetable cans (made me eat peas and spinach so there was an upside.) You simply used one with only the top cut off as the “combustion chamber” and then used four or five with the tops and bottoms cut off as the barrel, ducked taped them together and I added a straight piece of 1×2 pine under another layer of duck tape along the side to give it more rigidity. Made a pin hole in the side of the chamber big enough to pour in some lighter fluid and plugged the other end with “the projectile”. Put in the fuel and held a lit match to the pin hole. Dangerous? You bet. It only needed a few drops of lighter fluid to send a tennis ball (the ammo used when parents were in sight) a good 30 to 50 feet.
Experiments with a potato resulted in a catastrophic failure – split the duck-tape seems, and a tomato produces the need to explain the many stains on our clothes. Once we knew the mix of fuel for the tennis balls we of course had wars with them as we felt safe holding them as we fired. And yes, when a parent saw this we all were back in the corporal punishment loop.
Did We Do Stupid Things?
Yes. Beyond stupid all the way to extremely dangerous, if fact extremely dangerous isn’t strong enough.
With a long bow we did fire arrows straight up in the sky, then lay down and play chicken, where if you moved you lost and yes, these were real arrow, and even with the practice tip they could kill you or your friend. I always fired at an angle to assure the arrow would not come back close but this was a kids foolishness as winds could easily have turned this Adrenalin rush into tragedy. The punishment for this stupidity went way past corporal, bordering on Sargent Major! And rightfully so. This game I never passed onto my children.
Yes, we tossed a can of insect spray into a campfire once to see it explode. We hid at a safe distance but still ended up in the corporal punishment loop again after explaining the holes in our tents, from both the shrapnel and the burning log fragments. Did we learn? On a subsequent camping trip it was a few live 22 LR rounds into the fire. Similar result, back in the loop.
When we gained access to firecrackers and cherry bomb, often brought across the Mexican border by returning teenagers when they were illegal here, taking a few from your older brothers stash was a right of passing.
On one occasion, “rich” in M80’s, a gift from a friend’s older brother as opposed to stolen, I lit one and tossed it in my back yard and the fuse burned all the way but it didn’t explode. I left it there but then foolishly decided to pick it up after what I thought was 15 seconds or so, a dud. I actually put it in my shirt pocked because I was going to cut it open later to see what was inside. A moment later I thought “who cares” and I still had many so I tossed it away and it detonated before it hit the ground. THAT moment, more than any visit to church, taught me there is a God and he had a plan for me. Writing this now, decades later, I still shutter at the memory which is vivid. And their are some brutal pic of M80 injuries on the web.
These are the things we did before we were allowed to be babysat by the boob-tube (TV) as our parents were fully aware that the Saturday morning cartoons were canned advertising, as opposed to educational. Before video games were even a thing, where as they seem now to be the only thing.
A lot of people no longer teach their children to behave in public, but just hand them the phone with a video game to tune them out from life – my opinion. This of course is not all children, but we do have a generation of fathers who grew up on Game Boys and never got over it. It is so much easier to immerse yourself in a video game that be bored by adult conversation, and it certainly is safer than many of the things I did as a kid. Preppers are people who do, who have experienced life and know the value of being ready for what it throws at them, people who know they don’t have a reset button, that “do overs” are not a life option. I am sure many of you have similar adventures, though approaching my level of stupid on some of these things is NOT something to aspire to. But we did learn real things with real things, 3-dimensional things, things we learned to respect
When my daughter-in-law heard some of these stories she said “Riley is not going to be allowed to play with you!” This was 12 years ago, while she was still pregnant with him. The Red Ryder BB gun I bought for him on the day he was born is still in its original box in a closet in my house.
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