Kids and TV

Big Fin

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I posted this on my Facebook page, so figured I may as well tell the story here. Since many here know me a bit more than the FB crowd, it will give a little insight as to my upbringing.

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Seeing this photo sent my mind back in time, so here is a Throwback Thursday story of a childhood event that in today’s world would have parents, grandparents, and siblings in jail for what we did. You can blame Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the mischief four young, bored, and ingenious kids tried to pull off. Even if you watched the train bridge blow up on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, your mind probably did not travel this path.

Butch and Sundance, the movie, was a big hit in 1969 and 1970. That movie hit its zenith in our little northwoods berg around summer of 1972, when I was the ripe age of 7. My Mom’s two youngest brothers, Boog and Jimmer, were 10 and 8, with my oldest cousin Robin being 9 and filling out the age gap.

We grew up in a small little town, rather boring, yet as idyllic as any young boy could ask for. Those familiar with Big Falls, MN know the train bridge is a rather prominent figure, full of intrigue to the devious minds of rural kids. It is the bridge in this picture, a place I spent a lot of time swimming, diving, and dreaming.

When we saw Butch and Sundance blow up that train bridge in that movie, we dreamed about doing the same thing. Anyone who says young minds are not influenced by what they see on TV is a fool. Proof positive.

Grandpa Bob was on the North Slope working as a mechanic that summer and left his cases of shotgun ammo in the warehouse attached to Grandma Harriet’s café. What a better source of gun powder than his cache of goose loads?

We meticulously cut each shotgun shell in half, dumping out the BBs, then pulling the wad that separated the gunpowder. Powder from each shell was poured into a quart-sized Hardware Hank paint can with a screw-on lid. With a wick made of power saw starter rope soaked in OFF bug dope and threaded through a hole punched in the paint can lid, we had our device that would bring the train bridge to rest at the bottom of the Big Fork River. To make sure it would ignite, we loaded a half dozen Black Cat firecrackers inside the can lid, theorizing they would surely ignite from the fuse and in turn, detonate our pyrotechnics.

We fought over who would get to light the fuse, all anxious to use the new Zippo lighters my older uncles had brought us as souvenirs from their service in Vietnam. Robin won the fight. Early the next Sunday morning, before church, we would take our treasure to the bridge, right where the concrete abutment met the railroad grade.

Robin lit the 30” fuse. Out little legs carried us for cover, diving into the lilacs growing thick on the opposite side of the grade. We laid flat, covering our heads and ears. BOOOOOM!

A shower of rocks landed around us. We waited a few seconds, half afraid to look and waiting for the loud splash a collapsed bridge would surely cause. Finally, Boog stood and walked up on the grade to inspect. He used a few choice words only the oldest of us dared speak.

What? Nothing more than a little scour hole between the railroad ties. We were as confused as we were depressed. Best get home and prepare for church, or Grandma Clara would box our ears (she would).

Deputy Hank Cody (who a few years later would become my Uncle) lived across the river. As we scurried home, Hank stopped to ask if we'd heard a big noise. "Nope. No noise here. We'll be moving along now."

This story stayed a secret among the four of us until we were in our twenties. I can’t imagine today if your kids got caught carrying a pound of gun powder, tamped down into a paint can, with a long wick, intending to replicate an impressive TV stunt. Surely the parents would be incarcerated. The kids would be off to foster homes. The house would inspected by the FBI and ATF. And Wolf Blitzer would be doing a live report from the front lawn.

In Big Falls, Minnesota, it was all in a summer’s fun. No harm, no foul.

Moral of the story, don't let your kids watch too much TV.
 

Gerald Martin

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You boys been smokin? Shucks officer, if you would have gotten here a little sooner, you'd have seen us when we were still on fire!
 

VAspeedgoat

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Great story, reminds me of my friend and I making a cannon. It didn't stay anchored in the ground and became a rocket. His mother kept talking about the big boom she heard. It was more exciting than any video game.
 

noharleyyet

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Smokin' grapevines and 'urping' from a Copenhagen encounter are among some of the more vivid passage rites I recall. Gunpowder was way too extravagant for my neighborhood.
 

duckhunt

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Great story. That sure reminds me of some of the stunts we pulled. Funny how growing up in a small town gives a kid a huge imagination.
 

Dave N

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Nice! I remember lighting one off under an old truck tire still mounted on the rim. Sent it up over the power lines where it bounced off of them on the way back down.
 

Gellar

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A lady that my wife works with got a phone call from the ATF a few years back while she was in the office. Her son and friends had decided to try and blow up some old computer monitors. They rigged up their explosives, loaded them into a car and went to a dead end road outside of town. The computer monitors blew up perfectly. The only thing that the kids did not take into account was that Pr. Obama was stopping in town for a campaign speech that day. Black SUVs had descended on their house before they arrived back home. The kids got community service, but nothing like they could have gotten.
 

1_pointer

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Great story! I have a similar one...

Peanut and I made a pipe bomb. We capped the one end of the pipe and the other was threaded and we were able to find a bolt to fit it. So, we loaded up the pipe with all the blackpowder we could get our that would fit. If I had to guess, it was probably close to a pound! We didn't have a fuse, but we had a lot of blackjack firecrackers that donated their fuses to the cause. We spliced a bunch of them together and glued it into a hole we had punched into the side of the pipe. Using a cigarette I boosted from my parents we lit and after a few puffs used it for a 'time delay fuse' to light off the spliced fuse and took cover.

We waited for what seemed like a long time, but was probably just a few minutes and BOOM! WHHHHIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! WHAP! The bolt we had used to cap one end embedded itself in the tree that was between us! :eek: We were old enough to understand how bad that could have went and thus ended our home brewed pyrotechnic days.
 

StrutNut

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Lets see, we used BLACK powder instead of shotgun powder. We would load it up in used CO2 containers from model car racing. We used canon fuses and we would blow up stuff. It worked well. I also for fun put a fuse on a whole pound of older smokeless just to see what happened. A white mushroom cloud towering over the old family farm is what happened. I still cant believe I didnt get caught on that one. Nothing like a huge mushroom cloud .5 miles off a major highway. Good times....
 

ID_deerslayer

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Great story, my tv watching usually led to building ramps ramps and crashing bikes into rose bushes and trees. And a lot of broken bones.
 
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And to think all I did was blow up water skippers with M-80's and bottle rockets. Black cats burned a little faster than I could throw them sometimes and half the time the fuse went out when it hit the water.. I was not allowed to have matches and lighters. Or maybe I was just unable to find them. Had to light my punks with a magnifying glass. :cool:
 
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I remember the first time I tried smoking. I was about 7 or 8 and we found where the neighbor kid had been lighting off firecrackers. We found some duds and unrolled them to dump the powder out, we were crazy not stupid, and started puffing away.

Not a good flavor from those black cats, but hey we looked cool. It was all fun until my buddy hands me one that he said he had unrolled and I light it up. Well, he hadn't unrolled it and Bang! The old exploding smoke, to the extreme. I think my lips were numb for a week. Sad thing is, that's probably not the dumbest thing we did as kids.
 
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This story just made my day!!! its amazing how little it takes to return your mind to a time long forgotten.
I once lost a part of my Halloween costume at some point during the night which just happened to be a training grenade from my uncle... (real grenade with the insides removed) It was promptly returned by a nice police woman who had just calmed down an irate homeowner who had found it in their front lawn the next day. I was very relived as the grenade completed my army ranger costume quite well.
 

Nameless Range

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Great story. I think it is a good reminder that sometimes we need to give kids a break, because you're right, if this happened today your parents would be punished and your 7 year old self would be shipped off to Guantanamo.
 

nidahunter

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Awesome story that brings back a lot of memories. It is truly amazing we have all of our fingers left. I don't think my friends dad ever did figure out where all of his powder went to...
 

HSi-ESi

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Great story. I love the things the youth can do in small town America.

I keep all my powder under lock and key. I relate to this story all too well.
 

StrutNut

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Yeah, I think the worst thing we did was hide in a corn field along a road and as cars came by we had a doll with goggles on, dont know why we had goggles on it, we a rope tied to it and we would pull it across the road as fast as we could and watch the cars hit the brakes. Luckily nobody got hurt but one of my buddy's neighbors recognized his laugh....busted. Of course we eventually blew up the doll with the goggles still on.
 

Kaitum

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New Mexico
I too look back and am amazed I still have all my fingers and my vision. The stupid things me and my buddies would do.... BB gun and bottle rocket wars in the neighbor's gravel pit. Filling big balloons with acetylene, attaching a cigarette as a wick, lighting, and letting them go up in the air. I guess losing an eye would have been getting off easy considering what could have happened....

Aside from the small things we tried blowing up, my buddy got the idea we needed to expedite the erosional process of a creek near my house. A meander bend had almost cut through the bank forming an oxbow. Maybe 4' of bank left to erode. What better situation than to apply a fertilizer bomb? We planned that one for months but in the end we never implemented the idea. I'm really glad we didn't.

I will say, most of our crazy ideas usually didn't come from television. They came from our older brothers / cousins and dads who did the same thing when they were kids. Those stories kids heard around the camp fire and at family picnics weren't lost on us.
 

TimeOnTarget

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I blew up lots of stuff as a kid. I was preparing my explosives in my parents basement, and some how I ended up with one of them lit in the basement. I quickly tossed it in the toilet thinking it would go out. BOOM! the toilet bowl burst in half, flooding the bathroom. My ears rang for a week,

Another time I hooked an old ceiling fan blade assembly to a washing machine motor that I had salvaged from the city dump. I wired up a plug in for it and had a 100 foot extension cord attached, it took awhile for the fan to build up enough speed but it eventually shot up in the air like a rocket to about 40 feet. At the 40 foot mark it found the roof of my Dad's shop. This is when it hit the 1st giant hanging light. The collision with the light fixture caused the fan blade assembly to basically explode cause 2 other lights to be broken too.

Dad made me fix everything that I ever broke. I was a hell of a handy man by the time I was 15.
 

1_pointer

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Is it bad, that even at my age, some of these things sound cool enough that I now feel compelled try them?!?!
 
AMK Sportsman

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