atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2135: Dude, they made Socrates drink poison for that crap!

The corruption of youth, I mean.

This will be partly about today, and mostly a retrospective musing on things pyrotechnic. You've been warned, etc, etc. brother and his family came out this way today, and while they were here I dug out a couple packets of bottle rockets and a couple ground bloom flowers, and lit them for my nephews' amusement.

When my brother and I were their ages, that was a big deal; our father never let us have anything that exploded or flew because they were illegal. One year he let us have some firecrackers he'd found in his closet: OMG!!!

It wasn't until I was 10 that my oldest sister made a command decision and had her husband/fiancee (I still cannot remember which) go to Missouri before making the trek up this way. He brought an assortment of wonderful things.

I've told the story here before: one night before the 4th Dad finally let me pick out (from that assortment) a small selection of things to light, and among them was a fountain which was a tube about 1" across and 3" high on a plastic base. It was the first thing I lit that night...and it was the last.

I went out on the back patio, set it down, and under his watchful eye carefully lit the fuse and got back. And then

SCREEEEEEee! *pow*

...this huge, bright white ball of sparks went shooting into the night sky, screaming as it ascended, before blowing up. I was delighted.

Dad? Not so much. He pulled me inside, closed the curtains, and shut off the lights. And that was it for that night.


Those fireworks lasted a good long time because we never got to light more than one or two pieces at a time. When you're talking about a pile including a couple gross of bottle rockets and a brick of firecrackers, that takes a long time to get rid of when you can't even light an entire pack of firecrackers.

Yeah, Dad was more than a little paranoid about it. Too paranoid.

One year my teenaged friends and I were lighting bottle rockets and other package fireworks in my back yard before going down to Beecher to watch the big display, and Dad was getting antsy about it, worrying the cops would come--but they didn't, and the next day we picked up the sticks and no one ever said a word about it.

But in later years when we really started in with the stuff--eschewing the fireworks display in Beecher to light our own--we decided to go to a friend's house in Monee, where there was no one around who would be bothered nor whom would call the police. I'm sure Dad worried he'd have to come bail me out.

In 1997, a friend of a friend had made the Indiana run for a bunch of people, and he'd gone to places with "buy one get one" policies and then kept the extra as his payment. It turned out to be quite a large selection, and I was invited to help my friend and him dispose of it. It took hours--the neighbors called the cops, the cops came, the cops said, "Okay, it's a bit late and there have been complaints, so it's time to stop." No arrests, not even any confiscation. Just: "You guys have had enough fun by now, haven't you? Knock it off and let people sleep."

What I can never seem to remember is that the DOT clssifies from the top down: the big stuff (TNT, Semtex, other explosives) is class A. The big display fireworks are class B. The fireworks you get from roadside stands--consumer or package fireworks--is class C.

Sparklers are class C. So are bottle rockets and mortars up to 1.75".

The crackling ground bloom flowers (GBF) I lit were a pretty big hit with the youngest nephew. The thing spins up and runs through a couple colors before spitting out a series of crackles, which more-or-less go off together. I didn't get a chance to tell him that GBFs were one of my Dad's favorites.

The glacier melted a bit around 1978 or so, when my brother and I got Dad to buy some small fireworks from a roadside stand. Can you imagine what it's like for typical adolescent boys to go--every weekend!--to a state where fireworks were legal, and not be allowed to have any? Dad kept the sailboat in Indiana, and every weekend we'd make the drive up to the marina to spend the weekend there...and around the 4th it was torture. Seeing the fireworks going off around us, Dad relented...and discovered GBFs. Dad loved 'em, the way they spun frantically. So he bought some, and would light them on the back patio, and the police didn't come...which is why my teenage friends and I (in 1985 or so) were able to light stuff in the back yard at all.

GBFs are fun because they get going so damned fast; once the propellant runs out they spin on for another second or so from sheer momentum. But there are variations on them now, like the crackling ones; and of course there are JUmping Jacks, which come in bricks and are firecracker-sized single-color GBFs. You can light a pack for mass insanity, or do them singly which has its own charm. (In 1986 I learned that I could light the fuse, let it burn down a way, and throw it, and watch the thing take off in a random direction. Fun.)

In 1994 I made a "flower pot": put about a teaspoon of gunpowder and a handful of firecrackers and jumping jacks into a container, and ignited it remotely with a model rocket ignitor; and the thing went whoomp! and out came a cracking, spinning display which left my jaw hanging open. Simple, safe, and awesome.

(I got the gunpowder in a legal fashion from a fellow model rocket enthusiast, who himself had acquired it legally. The model rocket motors I had in my range box individually had more black powder in them than the amount of gunpowder which was given to me.)

When I was 18 or 19 I tried modifying a GBF: I drilled a new hole and put a wick into it, and sealed the original hole. I took it out into the street and lit it, expecting it to take off in a linear fashion.

POW, it went. I mean, it just blew up. The bang was louder than a typical firecracker but not as big as an M-80. Subsequent attempts to replicate this result failed.

Which is, if you think about it, probably just as well.

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