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Friday, November 9, 2012

The match-head cracker caper

A few people have discovered recently my Calliope fireworks saga and it reminded me of another explosive event of my childhood. 

   No, nothing like that....

   Some kid at school reckoned you could shave the heads off matches, wrap them in tinfoil [there being no alfoil when I was about ten] hit it with a hammer and it would make a very satisfactory bang.

The real thing! Oz-made.
   So I sneaked up to the cupboard where the boxes of matches were stored, and nicked a full box. Fifty top quality Redheads matches in a box – the real thing, not the imported rubbish you get now.

   Our house, as were most Queensland farmhouses, was on stilts about two metres above the ground. I went downstairs, got out my trusty pocket-knife last used for making arrows, and carefully shaved off the matchheads one by one.

   I buried the matchsticks under the old slightly raised floor in the centre of the space downstairs amongst the ant-lions' funnel-shaped traps. I then wrapped a pleasing quantity of the match-heads [i.e., the lot] tightly in the tin-foil I had commandeered from the second kitchen cupboard drawer.

Ant-lion traps
   We had a flat steel disc on which we hammered the kinks out of objects like No 8 wire. It was always next to the cobbler's last used to give many a shoe a few months' life extension. Perfect for the experiment.

   I got the big claw hammer from the bench next to the rifles and ammo, placed my small foil package on the disc, and struck it tentatively.

   Nothing. It just flattened it a bit.

   I wasn't that surprised. I struck it again, a good bit harder.

   Nothing again. I guessed it needed more force than I thought.

   Third time lucky? I gave it a good wallop, and I can tell you, years of driving three inch nails into hardwood made me no slouch with any sort of hammer.

   Nada. Nix. The package was holding up well, but looking more like one of those little Dutch pikelets in size and shape – maybe a bit flatter. What are they? That's right – poffertjes. One of those.

   What a waste of time and effort, I thought, now thoroughly cranky. I picked up the hammer intending to smash that stupid poffertje to bits.

   Bang. It flattened a bit more. I raised the hammer and hit it full force. Twice, in quick succession.

   It wasn't so much the god-almighty bang that made me fall backwards, it was those ringing waves of sound in my ears. My head was an echo chamber. I felt like my now-entirely-successful experiment had been performed right inside my head. Not even the loudest bunger I had ever lit had achieved such distinction.

   Fortunately for me, my sisters were playing with our cousins at their house across the creek, and Mum and Dad were both at the dairy. Had either of my parents heard it they would have been certain I'd fired a cartridge from the double-barrelled shotgun, with unimaginable consequences. I'd cocked and fired that empty gun a thousand times, but would never have dared put a shell in the breech.

   Anyway, I had proved the point. For half an hour afterwards, my ears were still ringing, but I had made a glorious bang that I'd have enjoyed much more if I were expecting it.

   My ears are ringing now. Not from the memory, but from my permanent state of tinnitus.

   People speak so softly these days, don't you reckon? What? Speak up dammit, can't you?


  1. What is it with you males and explosives? My father, near cracker night one year, let off a whole lot of Tom Thumbs in a kettle under a bed in my sister and my room. (I think it was my bed as I was closest to the door). I don't know how he managed the long fuse so it was such a shock to us as we settled down to sleep. We got the fright of our lives! Mum was quite cross with him!

    I hope you had fun with your venture despite the ringing ears. I think my Dad enjoyed his episode too despite our disapproval!

    Anne P.

    1. I'd have been slaughtered. Twice. Once by Mum and then even more convincingly, by Dad.

      But the kettle's a helluva good trick. If I tried it on here I'd get slaughtered twice more. Not that you can buy even piddly little Tom Thumbs any more....

      It's fascism I tell you – kids should be free to blow their fingers off and blind themselves and other passers-by – shouldn't they?


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