Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
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OT: Long Story, But VERY FUNNY!!
This is a long read but well worth it. you might could see yourself in this position.... I know I could. I don't know the origin of this story, Don't know if it happened, and don't really care.... It's still funny...
About 2 weeks ago, I was looking around the Web for the BIGGEST skyrocket
that I could get shipped to me via common freight carrier. I located a
fireworks importer in Wisconsin who had this mondo skyrocket - biggest thing
I had ever seen-called a SkyDragon. These things are 48 inches tall and are
mounted on a 1-inch wooden dowel.
Pure aerospace engineering. I plopped down a bunch of money and had him send
me two cases of these things. They arrived at the freight dock a few days
ago and I had to drive the van over to pick them up.
Two boxes each 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet in size containing 80 rockets
each. The 'Class 4 Explosives' sticker on the side of each box was a real
bonus. I am gonna have to save them for the scrapbook.
That night, the kiddos and me had a gen-u-ine rocket launch ceremony. I
laced one of these beauties in a liter-size glass bottle and the bottle fell
over. Hmmmm- this thing was waaay too big. I looked around the shop for a
pipe to set it in, but realized that the only dirt I could drive the pipe
into was in plain sight of my neighbor's house. I knew he was a cool guy,
but I didn't want him to call the cops. You see- 'projectile-type' fireworks
are totally illegal in this county. I was surprised that the Buncombe County
Sheriff Department wasn't waiting for me at the loading dock when I picked
these things up. Anyhow, I finally rigged a launch pad by prying up one of
the driveway drain grates with a crowbar and sitting the stick into the deep
pit. Looked sorta like an ICBM silo with its hardened lid slid aside.
I asked which of my three kids wanted to light the fuse, but all took a few
steps back and politely declined. Chicken****s. Kids just aren't made the
same nowadays. They fulfill their danger quotient by shooting bad guys in
video games. About as far from real danger as you can get, if you ask me. I
told the little weenies to stand back as I bent to light the device with a
The lady at the fireworks importer promised me that these things would NOT
make any noise. I told her that they HAD to be relatively quiet so I could
shoot them off in my neighborhood without causing 'undue alarm'. She said I
wouldn't have any problem. I emphasized the particular legal problems I
would have if there were any type of loud report at apogee. I emphasized the
fact that I lived right next to a National Park and that any type of
firework that was discharged or assumed to be discharged on that property
would get me sent before a FEDERAL judge right before I got sent to the
COUNTY judge. She again assured me I would have no problem.
That lying b----. That rocket engine had a burn time about as long as any I
had EVER seen, and the ascent echoed off the surrounding trees. Diamond
shock pattern extended from the back end. It kept going and going and going.
When it hit apogee at about 1000 feet, the rocket disintegrated into a huge
shower of silent red sparks. Pretty cool, I thought......until the shower of
sparks burned out and suddenly transformed into a cloud of extremely bright
and loud explosions.
The kids scrambled into the back door 'Three Stooges' style (i.e.: where all
three try to get through the same closed door at once) and left me standing
in the smoking haze waiting for the cops to arrive. The dogs that live along
our street were all barking their heads off at the apparition they had just
witnessed in the night sky. That ended the fireworks test for the night.
The next day, my oldest son Doug and I decided we were gonna 'neuter' one of
the rockets so it wouldn't make any noise. I took him into the closet where
I store the gardening tools and he saw these two huge cases of fireworks
standing there. The kid went nuts. He wanted to open BOTH boxes so he could
see what all 159 rockets looked like lined up next to each other. This kid
has promise. I told him: "Since mom only thinks I have a few of these things
lying around, maybe that wasn't such a good idea." He mulled that over for a
few seconds, then gave me a real big smile in agreement.
We pulled one of the rockets out of the box and re-locked the closet door.
He and I both sat down on the driveway and proceeded to take it apart. It
was a standard issue big-[censored] Chinese skyrocket. I bet they used these to
kill people 500 years ago.
As I sat there takin layer after layer of paper off, his brain was filling
with the details of construction. Tissue, cardboard, plastic, fuses...etc.
Realizing that he was mentally storing the design for some future project
sorta made me shudder. All I was thinking was the fact that this thing was
probably put together by a political prisoner in a hellhole somewhere who is
probably gonna get 'executed' so they can sell his internal organs on the
Probably not too far from the facts, but I managed to do a bit of explaining
to him from the standpoint of aerospace engineering regarding how the thing
worked. Doug is probably the only 4th grader in the U.S. who can now
describe the principle of thrust using a control volume model.
The rocket was pretty simple. It had a very large booster engine topped with
a warhead that contained the red sparkly things that exploded. Removing the
warhead was as simple as giving a quick twist, and I assumed the neutered
rocket would fly higher without the payload. I was correct.
Doug and I did a daylight 'stealth' test and were able to add about 50% to
the altitude attained the previous night. We decided to modify four more
rockets and put them aside in the closet for easy access. When this was
done, Doug had a jar full of stuff that came out of the warheads including:
12 fuses about 3-inches long each, some paper, 4 plastic nosecones and a big
handful of these little black balls about the size of 12-gauge buckshot that
turned out to be the 'red sparkly popper things'.
It appeared that the outer layer was a simple gunpowder coating designed to
quickly burn off as red shower of sparks. I surmised that the inner core had
some kind of magnesium thermite that gave off an intense white light and a
loud bang. Pretty cool if you ask me. Lots of energy packed into one teeny
I didn't want to see the popper thingies go to waste, so I told Doug we were
gonna put them in a hole in the ground and set them off. He gave me another
big smile. It's amazing how kids think alike...even when separated by 30
As I was digging a shallow hole with my hand, Doug asked if it would be
alright to put an army man next to these things so that "When they go off,
it would look like he was getting shot with a machine gun".
Dang....exactly what I was thinking.
I agreed and he ran off to his room to dig something out of the mess. He
returned in about 3 seconds, out of breath and holding a cheap plastic
imitation of Robert E. Lee on horseback and a Civil War cannon. I pointed
out that they didn't have true machine guns in the Civil War, but we would
overlook this for the purpose of the demonstration. He handed me the action
figure and I placed it and the cannon next to a rather large pile of black
beads from which a few of the fuses extended.
I figured that three inches of fuse would take 2 seconds to burn, so I had
at least that amount of time to stand up and take a few steps back. I
neglected to recount the night before.....when the warhead ignited
IMMEDIATELY upon reaching apogee. Tricky Chinese. They had installed
extremely fast-burning fuse in these things and that fact totally escaped
I squatted next to Robert Lee and gave a short eulogy. Doug laughed. I took
the trusty Bic lighter and placed it next to the fuse. One flick got the
lighter going and THIS IMAGE IS ONE I WILL REMEMBER FOR A LONG TIME. My hand
holding a lighter next to a pile of explosives. There is usually a short but
noticeable mental pause that occurs immediately before something bad or
really stupid happens. It is where that little voice in your head says: "You
dumbass." The fuse burn time was in the 1/1000ths of a second range. The
pile of little popper thingy's immediately ignited into a tremendously
brilliant ball of fire. All I could think was
..."...th....th.....thermite..." Unfortunately, when they are viewed at
ground level, these little popper thingies become REALLY BIG POPPER THINGIES
and have a tendency to jump up to 15-feet in every direction from their
point of ignition. I instantaneously became engulfed in a ball of fire that
sounded a lot like being in a half-done bag of Orville Redenbacher's
It was all over about as fast as I could can snap my finger. After the smoke
cleared, Doug started laughing his butt off. That meant I was still in one
piece. Doug does not laugh at dismembered limbs. He said I jumped about
10-feet, an action that I do not remember. I checked my clothes for burn
marks, and found none. He checked my back to make sure it was not on fire.
No combustion there. The driveway was peppered with black holes where the
concrete had been scarred from these things.
A close one. Another REAL close one. My mind ran the tapes again to re-hash
what it had seen. All I remembered was being inside something akin to a
30-foot diameter ........flaming dandelion. Whew.
We examined Ol' Robert E. at ground-zero. Instead of a machine-gun
peppering, he got nuked. He and the horse he rode in on.......and his cannon
too. One side was untouched, but the other side was arc-welded. Real
warfare. Doug examined it real quiet-like and then started laughing again.
I assume he will remember the finer points of the lesson as he grows older.
When I now speak of 'almost being burned beyond recognition' he will have a
slightly better understanding of what I mean. I hope that this vivid image
tempers the knowledge he now has regarding rocket construction. O well.
After all, if your dad isn't gonna teach you how to get your [censored]
blown off, who will?