In case you missed it, on Saturday I put up a teaser chapter from my new Western, the second volume in the Ames Archives and sequel to ‘Brings The Lightning‘. If you haven’t already read it, click over there and enjoy it.
As part of the research for this novel, I’ve been looking into early forms of dynamite and how it was used. It’s been very educational. (I hope the FBI doesn’t get suspicious about the Internet searches I’ve been doing on that subject over the past few days!) I’ve learned a lot about it, as well as related areas such as fuses, blasting caps, handling precautions, etc. In particular, I’ve gained a new respect for those who used the stuff in those early days, before it was properly stabilized. It had a shelf life of only up to a year, and that only if it was stored under controlled conditions and turned regularly, to stop the nitroglycerin oozing out of the sticks of dynamite and pooling or puddling at the bottom of the case. Once that happened, or if beads of nitro formed on the sticks, it became highly unstable. A sudden shock to the stick or case, and you’d be spread all over a couple of acres of countryside.
Old dynamite is still sometimes discovered, as my Internet searches have revealed. Among other things, it seems a group of people with too much time on their hands needed to dispose of no less than 192 (!) sticks of it. They did what everyone does, of course: stuffed it all into an old Chevrolet Celebrity and set it off. The resulting screams and shrieks of glee will gladden any redneck’s heart. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.
Boys and their toys, indeed!
I’ve discovered several video clips of similarly explosive shenanigans in the course of my research. I’ll post one each day this week, just for fun.
In a town where I once lived a demo crew was cleaning out an old basement for an upcoming remodel. They noticed an ancient looking wooden crate with some sort of sticky substance leaking out the bottom and forming a puddle around the box. The lock was bashed off with a claw hammer and the lid opened revealing long tubes resembling road flares all stuck together. The crew pried a few apart with screw drivers and crowbars and examined them and also opened up a smaller box inside with a hinged lid to reveal strange looking metal cylinders about the size of a ballpoint pen refill. About that time somebody realized what they were dealing with, the faded "Hercules Blasting Powder Company" on the box being the the tip off I guess. They gingerly returned the contents and swiftly exited the basement. The local constabulary was summoned who in turn contacted the fire department who in turn contacted the state bomb squad. A couple square blocks were evacuated and 4 or 5 hours later the state fire marshal and bomb squad arrived and the whole dripping mess was loaded into a bomb container and taken out in the countryside and blown up. Never forget the slightly shaking voice of a cop friend on the radio calling to the station "um yup it sure looks like a leaking box of old dynamite to me. You'd better call Ernie (the fire chief) and get him over here.".
Did they clean up the mess they created all over that field?
On tours of old mine workings around Central City Colorado, the tour guides will point out dynamite warmers, which worked by having a candle under a dozen or so sticks.
A couple of my uncles were burning old dynamite they'd found while cleaning up some out buildings on the ranch. They thought they knew more than they did. The one tending the fire was blown over a nearby building, lost his right hand, and was left wearing only his belt with one pocket attached and one shoe, no sock. He had trouble with his hearing for the rest of his life.
That stuff doesn't give you any respect when you're wrong even if you're trying to do the right thing.
These stories are about nytroglycerine and oil well shooting but make for some interesting reading:
Gives one a good idea of what those Middle East car bombs look like at detonation.
The RPG sourcebooks GURPS Old West and GURPS High Tech might be worth a look. Like all of the classic GURPS sourcebooks they are mostly full of useful background material and one of the two had some scary stories about dynamite, such as trying to get the nitroglycerin out of dynamite for safe cracking.
The exclamation point following the words "evangelical Islam!".