July 16, 2020
A news release from the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, recently crossed the editor’s desk. The release was directed to the agricultural community and contained many safety tips with regard to the handling of hazardous materials.
I’m not disagreeing with the tips but I’m sure glad my father didn’t know about some of the tips when I was growing up. If he had, my childhood would have been much different.
The one I particularly noted advised children should not be allowed near fuel storage locations.
I grew up playing around the family gasoline station and on top of underground storage tanks that held at least 20,000 gallons of petroleum products.
My sand box was located on top of a 1,000 gallon kerosene storage tank.
In my play time, I liked to build roads. And those roads needed to be surfaced. I mixed waste engine oil with dirt and sand just like the highway department mixed asphalt with sand and dirt, to make blacktop materials. My roads didn’t last as long as theirs did but they looked good until it rained. I also had a faux concrete mix. I watched the trash cans for candy and gum wrappers made with shiny foil. I used the foil to wrap my faux guard rails and hazard warning signs.
I thought the sand box was placed so I could keep a close watch on what was going on at the gasoline station but my father may have selected the location to keep a close watch on what his young son was doing.
I wasn’t afraid of the kerosene, in fact it was used to soak the wool sock I had to wear around my neck whenever I had a sore throat and I liked to use it as solvent to clean and shine the parts I tried to adapt as toys. Some of gasoline station customers polished their automobiles with kerosene. The oily product made the vehicles shine but I suspect it also attracked dust.
I knew better than to drink the kerosene for my father had tried that when he was a youngster. He reported it didn’t taste good and the attempt sent panic through his parents’ veins. A doctor was summoned from Nelson to the Blauvelt farm north of Abdal to attend to him.
They weren’t mentioned in the article but I suppose the safety experts would also frown on my use of firecrackers.
During fireworks season, I laid in a supply of the explosives to use with my construction projects throughout the year.
In my imagination, I substituted the 1.5 inch long firecrackers for dynamite. Some youngsters used the fire crackers to send cans flying into the air but I liked to blow up dams. I’d build a dam, fill it with water and then set off the charge. I liked to see the mud and water fly and the water rush past the failed dam.
Apparently older boys still like to play with explosives.
The July 9 issue of the Washington County News tells about a 10-year tradition in that community which involves shooting 70-pound anvils into the air.
I sometimes got a little wet and muddy while blasting dams but never seriously hurt. But if someone was hit with a 70-pound anvil that would hurt.
The newspaper published a picture of a flying anvil and another of grown men preparing the anvils for flight. According to the story, one anvil is placed on top of another with gunpowder and a 30 second fuse in between. Of the seven attempts on July 4, it was estimated the highest flying anvil flew up about 100 feet into the air.
The newspaper explained the launch base is leveled and the base anvil anchored in an attempt to shoot the flying anvil as vertically as possible.
In my shop, I have an anvil similar to the ones pictured but it is bolted to a tree stump. The stump lifts the anvil off the ground to make for a more convenient working height, I don’t plan to try shooting either it or the stump into the air.
And before closing these entries for this week, I should probably clarify that I was never allowed to shoot firecrackers in the vicinity of the petroleum products. When I was substituting firecrackers for dynamite, my construction project had to be located far away. Generally, they were north of the house I called home. There I could use a garden hose to bring water from the house to fill the lakes behind the dams. Once or twice my construction projects were beyond the reach of the garden hose and I had to carry the water in a bucket. That didn’t work well. Not only was it lots of work but between buckets much of the water soaked away and was not available for my project.