Monday, August 03, 2009

One Boring Summer Day - A Story From My Past

After having told my Chevy Blazer story two years ago, I thought sharing my gunpowder story from when I was twelve years-old would make for a good summer posting.

"Mom, I'm bored!", I told my mother one summer morning with the hopes that she would tell me something exciting to do.

After giving me a list of numerous other options that I also categorized as "boring", I decided to go across the street to see if my neighbor Stuart wanted to play. Stuart was free. However, we could not figure out what to do to occupy ourselves that day.

Our pre-pubescent brainstorming session quickly led to us looking up the entry for gunpowder in the World Book Encylopedia that was sitting on my shelf at home (these were the days before we could have done a simple Wikipedia search here). The encyclopedia entry revealed that there were only three ingredients in gunpowder: charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate (also known as "salt peter).

Charcoal: "We can take those charred logs in your outdoor fireplace and use big rocks to smash down the charcoal on them into a powder!"

Sulfur: "Hey, I have a thing of sulfur in the chemistry set I got as a present!"

Potassium nitrate: "Hmmmm....were are we going to get that? I know! Sniders!"

Stuart and I got on our Schwinn dirt bikes and road down the hill to the Sniders Drug Store. We proceeded past the candy aisle directly to the pharmacy at the back of the store.

"Excuse me sir, would you happen to have potassium nitrate?", I asked.

"You boys are trying to make gunpowder, aren't you?", the elderly pharmacist responded.

"", I replied before Stuart and I quickly left the store.

Not easily dissuaded, we decided to ride out bikes clear across town to the Osco Drug Store where we successfully were able to buy potassium nitrate after asking the pharmacist for it innocuously as "salt peter".

Returning to Stuart's back yard with all three ingredients, we prepared our crude gunpowder for its first field test. Although we were only novices, we already considered ourselves to be somewhat of experts in the field of gun powder production since we had both viewed countless cartoons where dynamite was used. When we lit it with a match for the first time, we were quite surprised when it did not blow up in a gigantic explosion (we certainly did not take any precautions for this occurrence to begin with).

Experimenting a bit further, we started making wicks by rolling small sheets of toilet piper in our crude gunpowder. Once this too got boring, we decided to attempt to blow up a Star Wars figure. I looked through my collection and selected the one I cared about least; the Emperor (I would have never dreamt of blowing up the mail-order Boba Fet after having sent in proofs of purchase for him).

Stuart and I snapped off the Emperor's head, filled his insides tightly with gunpowder, and then stuck a gunpowder-rolled toilet paper wick in his neck. I lit the match with great anticipation and...... the flame quickly fizzled out in the Emperor's neck. After one more attempt of filling an empty metal band-aid container with gunpowder and setting it off in an empty field, Stuart and my experiments came to an end.

Perhaps the reason I routinely got D's in science class growing up was because class was never as exciting as my summertime neighborhood experiments with Stuart.


At August 3, 2009 at 8:46:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Tanchum Burton said...

And to think that the mail-order Boba Fett's launch-able jet pack (until it put some kid's eye out, lo aleinu) would have kept you busy enough!

At August 3, 2009 at 9:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I remember mail-order Boba Fett came out waaaaay before the movie did. I recall thinking, "this thing looks stupid."

At August 3, 2009 at 9:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Never had the original Boba Fett.
I think your teiyvah to destroy things has been positively channeled by creating an excellent and long running blog. Baalei Mussar discuss this as taking a bad middah and working on its opposite.

At August 3, 2009 at 9:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I had a Boba Fett as well...

Actually, this is rather bizarre that you wrote about this today, since my 10 year old son asked me yesterday for some gunpowder as well.

(He asked if he could get some from the stray M16 bullet cartridge he found in my car...leftover from last month's milluim)

At August 3, 2009 at 9:35:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

What is it with guys and blowing stuff up? : ) I gave my dolls swine flu shots.

At August 3, 2009 at 9:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I gave my dolls swine flu shots.

What is it with girls and needles?


At August 3, 2009 at 9:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

And now my child can give his toys swine flu shots too. It's a tradition!

At August 3, 2009 at 9:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Alice: Seen this PSA about inoculations?

At August 3, 2009 at 10:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

And the shot is so simple....

At August 3, 2009 at 10:45:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Yehonasan said...

That evil emperor certainly had it coming. Too bad he got away that time.

At August 3, 2009 at 3:38:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

My parents bought me the gun powder as kid . . . I used to build and launch model rockets!

I loved this post. It draws one back to the care free adventure of youth.

At August 4, 2009 at 11:03:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Great story!
I also was a very proud of my Boba Fet - I wonder what happened to it (and the rest of 'em)?

At August 4, 2009 at 1:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger Staying Afloat said...

Sniders!!! We used to cut lunch at school and go for salads.

At August 5, 2009 at 4:14:00 AM EDT, Blogger Esser Agaroth said...

I believe it is an issur midOraitha to destroy Star Wars figurines.


At August 6, 2009 at 9:52:00 AM EDT, Blogger Spiritual Dan said...

My brother and I have several great gunpowder stories as well... the best of which was when he tried to make a stink bomb variety by boiling all the chemicals in a pot on the stove. Needless to say, it caught fire and nearly burned down the entire house. BH it only damaged the floor and counter.

I also once directly lit the powder with a match, and it created a massive white light that burned my hand. BH I'm also okay.

I have since learned that the only "fire" worth spending time on are the fires of Torah and prayer.


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