www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Counting on Les -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Building bills in the Legislature -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Tale of the tree -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Seismic activity -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Where are the good guys? -1/27/2015, 9:21 AM

Brownback's budget -1/26/2015, 9:59 AM

Committee meetings begin -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Excitement starts at Capitol -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

What's happening with oil prices? -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Synthetic biology, brave new world -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Today's fierce urgency is voter mobilization -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Duke, Muslims and politics of intimidation -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Right to hunt -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Pipeline: Foreign profits, American risk -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christianity' -- Chapter 3 -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Kiwanis generosity -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

The state economy -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Restate of the union -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

France needs our First Amendment -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Repurposing Washington -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

March for Life -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Brownback, the budget and schools -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Sensible checks are no assault on gun rights -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

Jeb Bush chooses expedience on marriage issue -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

The State of the State Address and the legislative session -1/19/2015, 8:47 AM

Spending's not the culprit in budget woes -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Pilgrim's paradise -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Spring elections -1/18/2015, 3:23 PM

Kobach is back -1/16/2015, 3:04 PM

More with Les -1/16/2015, 10:03 AM

Understanding Hooper -1/16/2015, 10:02 AM

Basic economics -1/16/2015, 10:01 AM

Female governance -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

2015 energy policy -- a unique opportunity -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

The better option -1/15/2015, 9:36 AM

'Wall Street' a waste -1/14/2015, 2:50 PM

Trade already -1/14/2015, 2:49 PM

No media bias? -1/14/2015, 2:48 PM

Retirement funds -1/14/2015, 2:47 PM

Redefining public education in Kansas -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

What the future holds -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Efficient education -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Terrorists usher in the 'End of Satire' -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

Sexuality, lame logic, substandard science -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

A tragic family story -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

For freedom, LGBT rights, a year of decision -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Roberts' promotion -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

FHSU campaign -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Fairness in U.S. -1/9/2015, 3:05 PM

Liberals' use of black people -- Part II -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christians' -- Chapter 2 -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Taxing situation -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Trust: Society depends on it -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Education schools lack a paradigm -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Congress convenes -1/7/2015, 10:07 AM

Simple way to fix gridlock: change committees -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Kansas is your customer -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Large budget shortfalls await solution -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

The state and funding K-12 education -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Tree removal -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Republicans won -- now what? -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Social Darwinist religion, Chapter 1 -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Liberals' use of black people -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Ignorance abounds -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Superbug dilemma -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Thanks North Korea -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Sony gets the last laugh -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Free speech -12/31/2014, 1:16 PM

New Year's resolutions -- sort of -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

A flat-footed backflip for Wall Street -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Dim the lights -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Some near-sure bets for the new year -12/31/2014, 9:21 AM

Adios, Rick Perry -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Budget strife means high-anxiety session -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Time for caution -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

-12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Court's raw deal -12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Chris Christie's pork barrel politics -12/29/2014, 10:00 AM

A Festivus Miracle -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

Faith, not politics, keeps Christ in Christmas -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

EPA rule falls short -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

2014: The year in Kansas higher education -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Methane from cattle -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Black progression and retrogression -12/26/2014, 9:38 AM

Up-Lyft-ing Christmas tale -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Terrorism on soft targets -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Story of Christmas -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Fabricated column -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

The Christmas spirit dwells in us all -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

Celebrating life -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A visit from St. Nicholas -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A look ahead to the Legislature -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

There is a Santa Claus -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

Cuban sanctions need to be lifted -12/23/2014, 9:33 AM

2016 presidential campaign already boring -12/22/2014, 9:08 AM

A rainbow coalition of protests -12/22/2014, 9:07 AM

Budget needs dynamic leadership, not scoring -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Sure, you can say that -- but please don't -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Holiday travel -12/19/2014, 10:16 AM

ALEC's starring role in the 'Wrecking Crew' -12/19/2014, 10:17 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

The (mis)adventures of a mad banger

Published on -6/11/2012, 9:30 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Though they're now illegal as well as dangerous, it was a preacher who taught me how to make bombs.

Dad used explosives back on the farm. Dynamite obliterated stumps and the occasional large animal carcass. An innocuous white agricultural powder did the rest -- stunned carp deep in their holes in Red Willow Creek, or split logs for firewood.

This powder -- not ammonium nitrate, by the way -- is no longer available for public destruction, thank goodness (and -- rats!). In the cellar of Baxter's Hardware in Stockton, circa 1962, Dad located an ancient 50-pound bag, contents solidified into white marble by the damp. We chipped off pieces with a chisel, then pounded them into powder at home.

One can hammer on it safely -- the stuff is quite stable. Mix it with an equal volume of table sugar (or instant coffee), light it and it roars with an intense pink flame. Confine the mixture, add a spark, and the detonation is astonishing.

The manufacturing process is simple enough. It didn't take me long to assemble an Improvised Explosive Device the day before our senior prom.

In the wee hours after the prom dissolved, my friend Miller drove his Dodge and our dates out to Ballard's bridge, a minimalist country span barely clearing a creek between Stockton and Woodston. We paused in the dark while I lit the fuse and tossed our firecracker into the stream, where it landed with a reassuring splash. (We generally limited our bombing to bodies of water, which direct the blast straight up in a geyser, minimizing our exposure to, um, shrapnel.)

Then we drove 40 yards on up the road, and waited for the usual ground-jarring thump and the cackling complaints of sleepy pheasants.

But Ka-Blam! A tremendous explosion shattered the night. My toss had landed on a shallow sandbar, virtually out in the open. Lights came on in a farm house a quarter mile back, and we sped off, skidding around a corner in our haste.

Never heard anything about it, though, and we kept mum.

In the summer of '69, I worked at a feedlot north of Great Bend, where among other things, I did some welding and metal cutting. Segments of thick-walled oilfield drill stem made great IEDs.

Well down the hill from the operation, barely visible among high weeds near a dry crick, we spotted a decrepit old pickup, long since abandoned.

I asked the foreman if I could demolish it. He had no objections.

So I prepared a casing and loaded it. On our lunch break, we set the device in front of the seat over the drive shaft, lit the fuse and fled.

Propelled the high into the air by the blast, the roof separated into two wafers that spiraled down like autumn leaves. When we quit jumping around and hollering, we saw the sides of the cab curled outward and down, while the hole in the floor revealed a clean bite missing from the drive shaft.

And that was that, it seemed, except for -- the rest of the story.

Next payday, the boss told me he was withholding two weeks' pay until I settled with the owner of the pickup. Several years earlier, he'd traded the vehicle to a rancher in exchange for some hay, but the guy never picked it up. The foreman hadn't known this.

So, after work, I headed to meet the rancher who had just returned from selling and trading horses all day. He was very drunk.

I told him most of what had happened, and explained that I thought I'd secured permission, noting that only the cab was messed up, while the bed was fine.

"Welll," he slurred, "what I really wanted was the cab." As I was well aware, he'd acquired it to convert the bed into a trailer.

I apologized with immense sincerity, and told him I felt so bad that I just had to make it right -- whatever he thought was fair, I'd pay.

Then his boozy thoughts wobbled from exploitation to conscience, and he admitted that he himself had traded the pickup to a junk dealer in a nearby village. He even took me to see the guy; or rather, being sober, I drove my own old pickup, the battered condition of which probably added to my credibility. He cast surreptitious glances toward the bed, almost a trailer already.

The junk dealer was home that evening. His wife had died a few days earlier, and he was in no mood to take advantage of me, suggesting we could just forget about the whole thing; he himself had forgotten it until I showed up. But I needed to prove to my boss that I'd compensated the owner, so I most sincerely and remorsefully insisted I should pay something for his trouble. I forgot again to mention wages held hostage.

I overplayed my hand. He abruptly agreed to accept $25, which was a lot to me back then. By that time, I could hardly try to dicker. Rats. I forked it over, got a receipt for the boss and recovered my pay.

There were other such ventures, and fortunately, amazingly, participants didn't lose a single body part or sensory modality. That was luck, not skill.

But such diversions cannot be indulged these days -- another victim of Tim McVeigh, and of good sense. It probably wasn't legal back then, either.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and now lives outside Hays. hauxwell@ruraltel.net

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News