The Roland Brothers lived five or ten minutes away from my cottage in a log house with a picture window next to a pond where one of the boat liveries stored bait minnows.
We usually explored along the shoreline of the minnow pond catching frogs and toads or watching interesting insects we saw clinging to the cattails that grew on the far side of the pond. Every once in a while one of us would catch a snake or discover red or yellow salamanders hiding under pieces of rotting wood.
One day when the three of us were walking toward the minnow pond, Karl, the older brother, found a fire cracker on the side of the road. ”Hey you guys, look what I found. A live firecracker!” Keith, the brother my age, and I rushed over to Karl who was squinting at the Chinese scribbles on its side. Keith and I stood on either side of Karl craning our necks to look more closely at the thing.
“Let’s explode it!” said Keith. “I wonder how big the explosion will be. Let’s bury it in the sand and make a bomb out of it.”
‘‘But look, it doesn’t have a fuse,’’ I said.
The three of us discussed how to explode the firecracker while we walked back to the their house. I said, ‘‘We could put a match in one end and light the match!”
‘‘But we don’t have any matches.’’ said Karl.
Karl scratched his chin for a moment, closed one eye, tilted his head and looked toward the sky. His eyes opened wide. ”I know! Keith, go inside and get that magnifying glass dad uses to read the paper.”
Keith ran inside, grabbed the magnifying glass brought it out and gave it to Karl. Then, we knelt on the soft sand in their front yard and watched Karl stand the firecracker up on a mound of sand.
‘’Go get some sticks now so we can build the fire.”
Keith and I scrambled away in search of twigs and paper.
Keith returned with the tiniest sticks he could find while I found the yellowed page of an old newspaper in the weeds. When I returned, Karl and Keith were already piling sticks around the firecracker.
When I saw how sloppily they were building the fire I said, ‘‘No, don’t do it that way. The fire won’t get any air if you just lay the sticks down on top of it.” My dad had taught me the proper way to make a camp fire. While I took the sticks away I explained, “You have to build a tee-pee like this.’’
I twisted a strip of newspaper then wrapped it around the mound of sand. Then, I pushed the little twigs into the ground leaning toward the center, so that they rested against each other. “There, now the fire will get plenty of air through the open spaces at the bottom of the tee-pee.”
Karl took the magnifying glass from his pocket. We watched as he focused the sunlight into a tiny white dot on the newspaper at the base of the tepee. White smoke began to snake upward from the little black hole where Karl had burned through he paper. Karl blew gently where the smoke rose when suddenly … WHAM/CRACK!! The firecracker exploded in our faces!
All three of us flew onto our backs! My hands were pressed tightly against my face. My face stung from the blasted sand. I heard a ringing in his ears. I tried, but couldn’t, open my eyes. I thought, maybe the exploding sand had blinded me.
Meanwhile Karl, who could see pretty good through one eye, had covered his left eye. With his right arm arm extended, he shuffled along the front of the house then found his way around the corner where he knew he’d find a water hose. While Karl let the water run over his hair and face he shouted for us to come over where the hose was.
I let the water flow over their head while pulling the water down over my face. I held the end of the hose straight up, slowly opened each eye into the bubbling water then looked around blinking. My eyes still stung from the sand but I could see.
After we brushed and stomped the sand off our clothes we looked at each other with sheepish grins. I said, ‘‘How could we be so stupid to put our faces next to a firecracker with a fire burning around it!?!“ We all laughed at our stupidity.
We walked to where, not longer ago, the firecracker sat on top of a little mound of sand where now, a crater a foot wide and six inches deep had taken its place. We pointed at the crater and at each other laughing, each of us trying to blame the other for what happened. We slapped each other on the back and punched each other on their arms then whooped it up doing an Indian war dance around the crater, our heads thrown back with laughter.