The Ozark Cannon

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The Ozark Cannon

Postby Dennis » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:58 pm

The Ozark Cannon
By Dennis Raney

Some people (older generation like me) argue that that things were better in the old days. While there is some truth to that statement, I personally would not return to those days without being able to take along some of the modern conveniences we have today, like air conditioning for one.

One truth about those days, we did not seem to ever utter the word "terrorism". It just did not exist, unless you considered the threat of nuclear war terrorism (kind of). I'm still amazed that farmers could go to their local coop or hardware store and purchase dynamite and a fuse. No multi-page forms to complete, weeks to wait, mandatory training to attend, etc. Just tell them what you wanted it for, like blasting stumps or rocks out of your field and pay the man. Now, don't get me wrong, the hardware store knew the farmers and had a good feel for how smart or stupid they were. So, if you're thinking that any idiot could walk in and purchase dynamite, you are wrong.

I was about 10 when my grandfather told me about small hole (big enough to stick your arm in) on the side of the mountain (Boston Mountains) that as a child, after a good rain, he could hear a very large waterfall. He knew there was a large cavern beneath the solid rock and always thought about how he could "expand" the hole so a person could crawl though it. Well, a childhood friend was visiting and they got to talking about it and decided that a few sticks of dynamite could do the trick and they could finally open that cave up to see the grandeur of it all. So, off to town he went to purchase what he thought would do the job, six sticks of dynamite and a fuse.

When he returned from town, we grabbed our hiking gear (walking sticks) and took a ride to a drop off point on the side of the mountain (Mt. Sherman). They remembered the general area, but it would take up to half a day of hiking to find it again. So off we trekked down and up valley's looking for the elusive "grand cave" opening. Needless to say, it was a difficult hike with lots of boulders, rocks, thistles, thorns, brush, ticks, chiggers, and every type of ankle twisting crevices you could imagine.

We finally found our way to a narrow ledge that led to a small cave he called "Buzzard Cave". Apparently, as youngsters, they would hike up to the small cave that was just tall enough to stand in and went back about six to eight feet. One time him and his brother walked the narrow ledge to the cave and a couple of buzzards happened to be in the cave. If you don't know, buzzards have a natural defense that works rather good against potential predators, they puke on them -- I'm sure you know what their diet consists of, so buzzard puke is not what you want to have coming your general direction. Both were startled and they started to fall backwards and quickly realized the drop from the cliff below the cave was about 50 feet. They could only fall on their backs as the buzzards charged over them puking all the way. Now, they were choking and puking as they climbed back down from the cave and headed for the nearest stream to wash off. When they returned home, their mother made them burn their clothes (you did not do that very often in those days).

Well, with that story fresh in my memory, he said, "why don't you go take a look in the cave." I was brave, but cautious and made my way along the very narrow ledge about 25 feet long and 2 feet wide. As I got close to the opening, I crouched and slowly peaked around the corner... whew, no buzzards. I walked in and looked around; there where piles of small animal bones, twigs and not much else. Not wanting to tempt fate and have a flock of buzzards returning to their nest, I hurriedly made my way back to the group thankful that I did not meet the same disgusting run in with an angry buzzard. I hold a great respect for my distance from buzzards now.

Back to the hunt for the cave opening we went. Crawling along near the top of the ridge there were short over hangs of limestone rock about 6-8 feet high. Finally, he found what he was looking for, a small opening about six inches in diameter. Brushing away some of the leaves he peered into the opening but it was to dark to see very far. He listened, but could not hear any water running. Wanting to see further, he took a small hatchet blade and reflected the sun into the opening and immediately jumped back; there was a rattle snake curled up about two feet from the opening. Yikes! Using a stick, he tried to drag the snake out, but it just went further back into the opening and we could no longer see it.

Well, that little guy was not going to stop him from what he set out to do and he took the plastic bag of dynamite sticks out and they discussed how many sticks it might take to open up the rock. Finally, they decided to use all six sticks. Carefully placing the bundle into the opening they knew they needed some packing material to keep the blast in the hole as much as possible. Using dirt, leaves and what little mud we could find, we packed the hole as tight as we could.

Grandpa told us get at least a hundred feet away and behind any large tree we could find. He did not need to tell me that, as I was already on my way to a very large oak tree. He lit the fuse and I could see and smell the powdery smoke as it drifted across the side of the mountain. With my fingers in my ears and imagining the whole side of the mountain falling down with everyone tumbling among the rocks and trees, I waited for what seemed like an hour. BOOM! The concussion of warm air blasted my face, but no rocks or trees, thank god. I removed my fingers from my ears and all I could hear was the BOOM... BOOM.... BOOM... BOOM... BOOM of echo's throughout the mountainsides. It was the loudest thing I'd ever heard in my life and I was giddy with joy listening to the "Ozark Cannon" waking up the hills.

As I scurried along the ridge to see first hand what I figured must be a giant hole in the side of the mountain, I could immediately see the face of disappointment on my grandfather's face. The hole, now about 2 inches wider at the opening had swallowed up his six sticks of dynamite like a hog devouring table scraps. He figured the cavern on the other end of the hole was so large, it just absorbed most of the blast rendering it to just a very loud BOOM. A very large firecracker. Shaking his head, he said "Well, I'm sure that rattle snake will have a headache for awhile."

The boom wasn't heard around the world, but in those valley's of the Boston Mountains on that warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, we were heard for many, many, miles. Love you grandpa.
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Re: The Ozark Cannon

Postby Eugene » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:32 am

Probably more luck than anything that I survived the good old days,

As a kid we would make rockets out of plumbing parts. Purchase potassium nitrate from the drug store and fuse from the hardware store. Mix the potassium nitrate and sugar to power the rocket.

We set the first rocket on a garage floor. Lit the fuse. Closed the garage door. Rocket went off, smashed through the lower corner of the over head garage door, about 3" thick.

After the first rocket we would go out of town to set them off.

As a kid we would visit the neighbors when they dynamited tree stumps, clearing land. Good show watching the explosion and then the John Deere A's trying to pull out the remaining roots.

For years, Grandpa had a box of dynamite stored in the garage rafters, above the stick welder.
I have an excuse. CRS.

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Re: The Ozark Cannon

Postby Stanton » Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:45 pm

Good story, Dennis. Thanks for sharing a memory.
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