Monday, December 08, 2008

Evidence That God Loves Me

Back about 1964 and 1965 the Mattel toy company put out some guns called “shootin shells”. You can find some photographs here . The guns came with “bullets” that looked real (check the photo about halfway down the page on the link above). The “lead” was a gray plastic gismo that you could push into the shell until it clicked and stuck. The shell had a spring inside it affixed to the end. You could load these bullets into the attractive revolver. Pull the trigger and the hammer would smack the end of the shell. The spring inside would fling the gray plastic bullet head a few feet.

Mattel also sold sheets of “stickem” caps to put on the end of the bullets to make a rather wimpy little “bang”. A stickem cap was a circle of green paper about a quarter of an inch in diameter with a little mound of gunpowder in the middle. A good concussion would make it “pop”.

A friend of mine named Glen and I took these Mattel “shootin’ shell” guns and turned them into apparatus that would be the envy of most teenage boys of the time. We discarded the contemptible gray plastic bullet heads, and with needlenose pliers yanked out the springs from the inside of the brass cartridges. Then we drilled a small hole in the back of the resultant empty casing and put a stickem cap on its smooth and inviting flat end with the mound of gunpowder placed carefully over the hole we’d drilled. Then we poured a suitable amount of gunpowder into the shell (acquired by patiently opening up fifty or so caps and depositing the few grains of gunpowder each provided into a growing pile), and then pushed a small wad of paper into the casing and rammed it tight with a construction nail that had a proper-sized flat head.

Put them headless bullets into your Mattel “shootin’ shell” gun and you just ached for some smart aleck to provide you with the leanest excuse for pulling out your iron and sending some flaming paper flying his way with a boom that could set dogs barking for several streets around. Lacking some unsuspecting kid toodling about the neighborhood waiting for us to shoot him, we staged gunfights while we stood on opposite sides of the road as cars approached. Once we got chased by some busybody driver who had an overdeveloped sense of community service or something.

We also took some gunpowder, painstakingly acquired by the method described above, and grew a pile on a piece of wax paper about three or four inches square, put a bolt or a marble over the pile, and then twisted the wax paper into a teardrop shape. These made highly satisfactory bombs for throwing. The intensity of the explosion was, of course, directly proportional to the amount of gunpowder used and the weight of the bolt or size of the marble employed.

I remember when Glen and I were out somewhere and saw a girl we both knew. Peacefully, casually, almost aimlessly, she was riding her bike. Our eyes bulged at the providential opportunity that had been afforded us. We hastily dug into our pockets as we both yelled her name: “Hey, Cindy!” Forty feet away, she stopped her bike and turned toward us, an innocent and unsuspecting smile spread across her countenance, as we hurled two or three bombs apiece. One or two seconds passed—that sweetly delicious but all-too-brief span of time in which you know that an unforgettable, thrilling moment is about to precipitate, while your oblivious and naïve victim hangs suspended in time, puzzling just what it is that she has done to earn the wide but somewhat lopsided grins on your faces—and then small clouds of gray smoke erupted from the ground on all sides of the girl, micro-seconds apart, accompanied by dearly satisfying eardrum-shattering detonations. Cindy’s eyes opened wide and popped out like hard-boiled eggs as if she’d been hit hard in the back. Panic-stricken, the unfortunate lass dropped her bike and fled.

It is a miracle that neither we nor our victims were crippled, defingered, disfigured, or blinded, or that none of us now has wattled epidermis, the lasting result of hundreds of inextricable microscopic shards of marble glass that had sprayed into our adolescent bodies. Considering the idiotic chances we took with these homemade explosives, I now consider my good health and complete anatomy as strong evidence that God loves me.

Once, however, as I was cramming a wad of paper into a “shootin’ shell” with a large nail, the explosive detonated. Glen and I, sitting at his dining room table, looked around for the nail until I found it firmly driven about half an inch into the end of my left index finger. Just as we saw it and started laughing, his mother’s voice wafted from the back of the house: “You boys be careful out there!”

“We will,” responded Glen with a smirk.

NOTE: The author of this blog disavows any responsibility if some idiot reads this material and then tries to duplicate or excel the lunacy herein described. Don’t try this at home or anywhere else. It’s stupid. I used to be crazy and foolhardy, but I’m smart now and usually know better. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16, quoted by Jesus himself in Matthew 4:7).


Anonymous said...

I think all of us who survived the innumerable chances to kill ourselves during male adolescence are living proof that 1) there is a God who watches over us; 2) He has an incredible sense of humor; 3) His likelihood of interfering for the good is in direct proportion to one's lack of common sense; 4) He has blessed those of us who are now parents with selective amnesia when we lecture our sons on the stupidity of doing the same things we did!

Anonymous said...

Great story! By the way, when I was 25 years old, I made at least one more of those cap bombs. The one I remember was one I took to the UCLA Emergtency Room when I was working there. Wayne Davis and I had just finished our shift and were out in the underground parking structure that was adjacent to the main E.R. entrance. The walls of the parking structure were concrete, and facing one, fumbling in his pockets for his car keys was Michael Lambrosini, another orderly who worked with us. By this time, it was no longer necessary to take hours scraping gunpowder from the stick-em caps to make a bomb. All that was necessary was to go to any gun store and buy a tin of black gunpowder, and all the work was done. Most of it, that is. What was sold in the tins was not percussion powder, so a small primer of percussion powder from stick-em caps was still necessary, which could be purchased at any toy store. Putting the two together would produce a bomb that would go off on impact against a hard surface due to the stick-em cap powder, and then would flare into a whoosh-sounding fireball due to the black gun powder which we could now buy from gun stores since we were adults. So there we were, Wayne and I, and I should add that Wayne knew nothing about what I was carrying, and Mike standing about ten feet from the concrete wall in the partially illuminated subterranean parking lot. Then there was an inexplicable swing of my arm, almost imperceptible in the subdued light, followed a split second thereafter by a rapidly-expanding, reddish-orange, starfish-shaped, whooshing flash on the concrete wall which Mike was facing which grew quickly to about five feet across, hung frozen in a brief instant of time the way fireworks do in the sky when they first expand out, and then faded immediately into nothingness. Michael was not harmed by the fiery display, however he did express surprise. In the aftermath there was an eerie silence, like the silence that follows in the first few seconds after an earthquake with nothing but a single bark of a lone dog in the distance. Then Michael, having noticed the flash, expressed interest in knowing what had happened, but Wayne could not fathom an explanation and I looked just as puzzled. The only clue to what had happened was that for the remainder of the time that I worked there, I noticed that where the flash had appeared there was a faint smoky shadow remaining on the wall.
Richard Baumann