Mr. Spaulding and His Charges: Part III


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This post is a continuation in a six-part series about Mr. Spaulding and his experiences with explosives.  Click here for a list of archived posts about him, including the first post about him as a highly effective educator.  (If you don’t read some of the archived posts, you might not understand the following transcript.)

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Mr. S.:  I had a mixture when I was in college.  I’d take __________ and __________.  You’d have to handle them very carefully and separately because together the friction could ignite them.  Hit that with a hammer or board or something and it’d make a tremendous bang.

I had a mixture of the two in a little test tube so I could pour some out and stomp on it.  It was just a tiny test tube…about like my little finger…with a cork on it.  And, I had that in my pocket.  I went to the movies.  I don’t know if it was day or nighttime.  But, anyway, just body heat set that off when I had it in my pants pocket.  There was a big whoosh and I looked down and saw a big glow, and a cloud of smoke.  I went tearing out the front door to the water fountain across the street, and the whole theater emptied out.  They thought there was a fire in the theater.  They wouldn’t let me back in to watch the movie.  Can you imagine that?!

L.:  I assume your clothing got burned then?

Mr. S.:  It burned through the pants pocket and burned into my leg.  __________ burns take a long time to heal, too.  But, I was kind of aggravated that they wouldn’t let me see the rest of the movie.  I don’t think they let me back in that theater for months.

Mr. S.:  I’ve had a lot of quaint mishaps.

L.:  Any others that you think of right off the bat.

Mr. S.:  When I was in high school?  No, I can’t think of anything now.  There probably were but I can’t think of them.

L.:  You said you gradually learned to make fireworks on your own.  Did you learn to make them on your own completely by trial and error?  Or by reading?  Or by learning from other people?

Mr. S.: Mostly from the encyclopedia.  I’d look up __________ and find out what was in them, and so forth.  Otherwise you wouldn’t even know where to start.

L.:  Did you have access to the encyclopedia at your library or at school?

Mr. S.:  At school, mainly.

L.:  You already mentioned about the movie theater experience from when you were younger.  I’m wondering if you have any experiences with explosives that you think were the most fun or the most scary…most memorable.

Mr. S.:  Oh, I had a safety fuse for blasting.  You put a cap on the end and that contained something like __________, which is very sensitive stuff.  It goes off fairly easily.

L.:  So what were you doing with this?

Mr. S.:  I was doing blasting work, where you use a fuse and caps, put a charge under a stump, or whatever you’re trying to get rid of.  I had cases where the fuse had burned down and I was off ducked behind a tree and nothing would happen.  So, I’d go back up there timidly…carefully…and, just in case something would happen, I’d grasp the fuse in one hand and with the other hand stuck a finger in my ear.  That was foolish.  I did it just for good luck, I guess.  I don’t know what good that’d done if it had gone off, but I might have saved one ear that way.  [Explanation about fuses.]

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Part IV will be posted by Monday evening, September 21st.

As a P.S., from reading Mona’s blog (Mona of Wild Faces Gallery where the prints of Mother’s watercolors are printed) I learned that a movie about the life of Georgia O’Keeffe will be showing on the Lifetime Channel tonight.  In case you don’t catch it tonight, there will be encores on the 20th and 22nd.  Mother loved the works of Georgia O’Keeffe.

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