BLOWING UP THE BOARDWALK: HOW NOT TO MAKE A BOMB

by Randy Reynolds

My brother Ricky and I were lucky that  the war on terrorism didn't exist when we made our bomb in 1961. Back then the word terrorism meant nothing more to us than the way we treated our four younger sisters and the "bomb" we made  resulted in nothing more than a black spot on a rickety boardwalk in the Semiloosa swamp that started near our yard in the country outside Covington, Louisiana.

We got our bomb-making materials soon after our parsonage burned down. (For the record, he and I had nothing to do with that particular fire.) The next house we moved into had been occupied by a World War II veteran who had brought home some souvenirs, one of which was an army-issue ammo box that he buried behind a shed in the back yard. He undoubtedly thought it would stay hidden there for all time. But Ricky and I went digging one day and found it.

Why we were digging behind the shed, I don't recall. Motives were forgotten in the excitement of discovering a dark green metal box filled with hundreds of beautiful brass bullets. A box of gold bullion could not have excited us more.

We did with the bullets what anyone would do. We used a hammer and pliers to break them apart, poured the gunpowder from each casing into a jar and went looking for something to blow up.

We settled on the boardwalk, a narrow footbridge in the swamp beside our house.We had no particular ill feeling toward the boardwalk. In fact, we needed it as a passage to neighboring farms where we surreptitiously fished in private ponds, had watermelon fights or lay among bales of hay in a giant barn reading Huckleberry Finn and (later) Playboy. The only thing in our minds was that we had gunpowder and a match and the boardwalk seemed like it needed blowing up.

We piled the powder in the middle of the tiny bridge and trailed some to the edge to serve as a fuse. As the older brother, I claimed the privilege of striking the match. When I threw it onto the line of powder we squatted, wincing and holding our ears in anticipation of a very big boom like hundreds of firecrackers going off at once. But there was only a sizzle as the powder burned itself out in the open air. And it left only a small black smudge on the weathered old boardwalk. What a disappointment!

We shrugged and went about our business for the day, whatever it may have been--pickling water moccasins (in vinegar, because we didn't have any alcohol,) skinny-dipping in the pond where we caught the water moccasins, racing our horses on the highway, setting booby-traps for our sisters...all in all, a normal day except for the unsuccessful bombing attempt.