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A DYNAMITE THANKSGIVING

    As a teen-ager, I looked forward to our annual family Thanksgiving outing at my aunt and uncle's farm. Such events are usually quite traditional, that is to say, predictable. But this one was to be quite different .
    Oh, yes, Auntie June prepared a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings – mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
    Uncle Stan was his usual cynical self, vocally thrashing the world’s problems as if a scowl could solve them all. Mom brought salted nuts for everyone to nibble on and we were all thankful for that, as she was not renowned as a fantastic cook. But the main course for me and my cousin Steve came after the meal.
    Steve and I always thought outside the box, in fact often outside the realm of reality. But today would prove we weren’t even thinking. I leaned toward him after finishing my second piece of pumpkin pie and whispered.
    “Hey, Steve, guess what I’ve got in the car.”
    “What?” he responded cautiously. He was curious but apprehensive. He’d been around me for all of our mutual lives and knew that whatever I was up to couldn’t be good. I leaned closer to avoid being overheard.
    “Six sticks of dynamite.”
    “Six sticks of dynamite?” he parroted back too loudly.
    “Shhhh...yeah, but it’s OK. Fireworks are illegal in Ohio, but dynamite isn’t.” Somehow that rationale was supposed to make sense.
    Slowly, my cousin’s look of concern dissipated as his boundless imagination went into overdrive.  As if synchronized, we both rose from the table, drifted out the back door, and over to the car.
    Opening the trunk lid, I reached in under an old towel and brought out the coveted cargo – a half dozen sticks of dynamite, some blasting caps to detonate the sticks, a coil of fuse, and a box of kitchen matches. We were ready to blow something up.
    Steve was first with an idea. Pointing to a target a few hundred feet away, he suggested, “Hey, let’s set one of those sticks in the crotch of that old apple tree. I’ll get my .22 and we’ll have a contest to see how many shots it takes to set off the dynamite.”
    That sounded perfectly reasonable to me. My cousin ran back to the barn to secure his rifle and a box of cartridges. I headed out to the tree, inserted a blasting cap into one stick of dynamite, and planted it in the tree crotch.  Backing up a considerable distance, I was joined again by Steve. We were ready for the raucous contest.
    Steve went first. Slipping several cartridges into the clip of his rifle, he cocked the bolt action, raised the firearm, aimed, and fired. “Bang!” A nice shot, but all was quiet. He fired again.
    “BOOM!” Now that was more like it. We whooped and hollered, dancing a bizarre, pagan-like ritual over the success of that second shot as we watched the smoke clear.
    And now it was my turn. Another stick of dynamite and another blasting cap. I raised the rifle and fired. “Bang!” Nothing heard but the shot. Determined not to let Steve win the contest, I raised the rifle once more, aimed more carefully, and squeezed the trigger. “BOOM!” Another joyful explosion caressed our ears.
    But this time, after the smoke cleared and the dancing had stopped, we made a discovery that we hadn’t counted on. The tree had split in half. Steve wasn’t sure how he was going to explain that to his father. He tried to picture that future altercation.
    He imagined he would accompany Uncle Stan on his next evening walk through the garden, and when his father discovered the fractured apple tree, undoubtedly sputtering “What the…” followed by a string of expletives, Steve would feign surprise, then calmly respond, “Huh…must’ve gotten hit by lightning.” Yeah, that would work.
    But enough now of planning how to cover our tracks, we still had four sticks of dynamite left. There was no reason to let those go to waste.
    “How big a hole do you suppose we could make with all four sticks, Steve?” I asked.
    “Let’s find out,” he replied.
    Moving into the freshly plowed garden area, we prepared for our grand finale – four sticks of dynamite to be detonated by one blasting cap attached to a fuse long enough for us to get far away.
    Nearby, we spotted a huge ant mound. There was no doubt in our minds that this would be a supreme target. Stealthily, we scooped out a hollow in the anthill, inserted our bomb, lit the long fuse, and moved back as our hearts pounded with expectation. We weren’t disappointed.
    A thunderous blast assailed our ears as the concussive wave struck our chests, nearly knocking us over. With great glee we shared our success by more theatrical dancing about, arms interlinked as dirt rained down upon us…and ants – thousands of red ants!
    Our dance ritual suddenly became much more animated, escalating to frenzy as we beat our arms and backs and legs, ripping off our shirts as we thrashed about. After what seemed like an e ternity, we had subdued our fiery little attackers. We looked around to survey the havoc only to discover that ants and dirt weren’t the only things that had blown up and rained down.
    Drain tile fragments. We had blown up either the underground irrigation system for the farm or the septic system. Maybe both. How was Steve going to talk his way out of this one?
    As much as I loved my cousin, I decided it might be a good time to go home. But, then out of the door, came Uncle Stan.
    “Hey, what are you kids doing?”
    “Oh, we were just doing some target shooting,” Steve replied to his father as we stood there nearly naked and covered with emerging red bumps.
    “Target shooting? It sounded more like demolition.” My uncle then began to walk slowly toward the crater in his garden. This couldn’t be good, I thought. It wasn’t.
    An actual transcript of what was said is not suitable for family consumption. It would be best said that Steve’s and my dynamite days were over.