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I'm Gettin' Better All The Time

By Walt C. Snedeker

Why don't you take your new finger-trap and go out somewhere and shoot it?" This pregnant sentence was delivered by The Fabled PC in one of those unnaturally strained voices that women occasionally become prone to for no particular reason.
The sarcasm inside the unexplainable strained pitch was unmistakable. My dainty darling was cleaning up the tiles in the kitchen from where I had accidentally spilled the contents off the tray containing the little cocktail onions, blueberry jam, and the Sam's Club quart of maraschino cherries. All the jars had smashed with explosive reports, depositing gooey, sticky, and stinky objects around a fairly large area. A little of each had even gotten on the rug in the dining room. But it was no big thing, at least when you compare it to the time I… but that is another story.


I had decided to be husbandly helpful and assist her in cleaning the refrigerator. It was one of those tasks that beautiful women assign to themselves for no reason from time to time. How she could suddenly decide that a refrigerator was to be pronounced dirty is beyond me. Only good things are placed in there… unless you count the bag of fish guts I had left in there so they wouldn't ripen too much until the following day (garbage day). Of course, the bag of fish guts leaked a little, but not so badly that anyone would think of cleaning the whole refrigerator. And I had forgotten them when I pushed them back by shoving in the half gallon of ice cream (OK, so I forgot - ice cream traditionally goes in the freezer).
The Fabled PC had come into the kitchen and noticed the refrigerator drooling a little. We later found out that when I had painted that chipped spot on the wall behind it that I had unplugged the fridge and forgotten to re-plug it in while I waited for the paint to dry. Well, it's easy to forget something like that when you are busy cleaning up a whole gallon of spilled paint off the kitchen floor…


Anyway, the sarcastic reference to my "new finger trap" was regarding a slightly embarrassing episode with my brand-new .58 calibre Thompson/Center black powder rifle. I had been going into raptures over the beautiful beast there in my living room. It had just arrived, delivered by Reid, my exquisite boss' brother. The hole in the barrel was huge.
Of course, my rather thick, klutzy fingers couldn't fit into the barrel, but I was sure one of the slender digits of my dainty bride's delicate hands could. So I inveigled, insisted, and cajoled that she try.
Finally, she did. And sure enough, her finger slid down the barrel all the way past her knuckle. Wow! What a big gun! Wow!
But then, she couldn't get her finger out. We tried oil (that wouldn't hurt the gun), and butter (iffy, but I was willing to sacrifice), and many, many tugs. No joy. The Fabled PC was beginning to talk about hacksaws and the like. Defensively, I pointed out that I would have to cut the barrel three times, once to get the piece with her finger in it free, then once lengthwise on each side of the entrapment part. This could be dangerous to her finger.
I suggested that we go to bed and sleep on the problem, and maybe we would come up with an answer, but she was getting somewhat testy and unreasonable.
Then, I came up with what turned out to be the answer. I drove us both to that big sporting goods store up there on Rt. 441 by Palmetto. She said she felt very awkward walking through the store attached to a giant black powder rifle, but I said it was necessary, because I had to get the right gadget for the gun. Besides, I helped carry the gun.
The gadget was a high-pressure, CO2 one-shot gizmo that you screw into the place where the hammer falls. Sixteen dollars! Geez…
But, anything for my true darling. I paid for it, and with the crowd standing around taking pictures, squeezed the gizmo's trigger.
POOOOF!
Her finger popped right out.
After we stopped at the Emergency Room at the Coral Springs Medical Center for a splint, we went home. That is when the Fabled PC noticed the refrigerator drooling.


Sensing that she was for some reason feeling a little short with me for the moment, I decided to meekly follow her advice (read: "command") and go out to the shooting range and fire my new giant boorango.
And here, Gentle Reader follows total Gospel truth, unbelievable as it may sound:
They put me in one of those little shooting stalls, and I began to stoke up my cannon. Everybody else was shooting "normal" little stuff like .44 Magnums and the like. When I finally got ready and my kabola went off, there was sudden total silence in the range.
Several veterans slowly got up from the floor, except the one guy that kept on screaming something about "INCOMING!!".
Folks came wandering on down to my little stall to see what the heck made such a noise. That was when the real trouble started.


It went thisaway: The shooting range floor was constructed of twenty-by-twenty foot slabs of smooth concrete. Between slabs like that, there are expansion joints. They are about a quarter of an inch wide. For fifteen years, folks had been shooting at the range, and each night, someone would go out and sweep up all the brass and dust.
Well, the payoff was that the "dust" contained a lot of unburned gunpowder, for it is a fact, Gentle Reader, that when one fires a pistol, about 5-10% of the powder flies out unburned.
So, after fifteen years of shooting and sweeping, the expansion cracks had about four inches of unburned gunpowder in them.
Yup. While the erstwhile shooters were admiring my giant rifle (one guy tried to stick his finger in the barrel, but I dissuaded him), the expansion crack in the concrete floor near my little stall gave out a sudden:
SPUTZ!
This was accompanied by a billowing cloud of whitish smoke.
Then it started in earnest: SPUTZ! FOOOSH!! SPITSPUTZ!!!
FOOOOOOOOOSSHHHHH!
Huge monstrously expanding clouds of impenetrable white smoke flew to the ceiling and spread across it. Meanwhile, the powder trail made by the expansion crack moved the fooshing and sputzing further down. All the way to the place where four slabs came together about twenty feet away. Then, the display branched three new ways. By now, the entire shooting range was so milky white that we could just make each other out in the fog.
The guy in the corner kept calling us newbies, and that we should "hit the deck!" while we still had a chance. A couple of the shooters accepted his veteran advice.
The rest of us ran for it, choking pretty badly. We got out of the shooting area, and back into the store proper. The owner looked at me and said, "Walt, you are the only person in the world that could set fire to a smooth concrete floor!"
And a couple of other things.
Well, I couldn't go home, and the owner of the range was unmoved by my lucid explanation about how this couldn't possibly happen again for another fifteen years or so, he wanted me outa there.
So I went to the movies and saw "Volcano". The special effects were pitiful next to what I know I can accomplish with by lovely new blackpowder rifle.


 
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