As I grew older, making and controlling fire became more complex, as did my tactics to hide my activities.
The best thing about cheap telescopes is what’s inside: Â awesome fire-making magnifying glasses. Â I started with simple stuff – newspaper, piles of leaves – then quickly moved on to moving targets. Â Ants, beetles, spiders. Â I think I liked frying ants the best, as the big ones popped like popcorn. Â I competed against myself for popping distance. Â I confess – this activity still tempts me. Â I’ve been known to roast marshmallows with magnifying glasses in the comfort of my own home when the sun shines through the kitchen window just right.
Fireworks Â were mostly forbidden by my parents, which meant that I could only purchase supplies enough to last from the time school got out until they returned home from work. Â Just setting off fireworks by themselves is boring, though. Â They must be bound to or inserted in something else to realize their full potential. Â As I’ve never been content to allow energy to remain kinetic, I felt it my duty to assist with said realization. With the help of friends, I scattered ant colonies, sent army men into space, and turned hubcaps into UFOs. Â The pinnacle of my firework experiences had to be the Batman car. Â I bought a 10″ black plastic toy car, then glued, taped and bound about 2 pounds of fireworks to it. Â The results weren’t quite what I was expecting, but satisfying just the same. Â The car flipped, spun, surged, then melted until it was one with the asphalt. Â In the aftermath, I had but a few quick seconds to stomp out several small fires in a 20 foot diameter before running from the cops.
Continuing with the automotive theme, I began to dream up new ways to dress up my Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby car. Â I carved out some thick wooden wings, attached them with wood glue, hollowed out the back of the car, and inserted a model rocket engine (“D” sized – the biggest available locally). Â The test launch resulted in immediate wing removal, many screams, a chaotic flight path that was impossible to predict, and a crash landing in my neighbor’s garden. Â Make that an ON FIRE garden. Â I stomped it out, ran away, and slept on it until I could come up with a better plan. Â Day 2 improvements included roller skate wheels (looked like a hot rod), and a safer launching area – the school playground. Â This time, I gathered my friends, as I knew these new improvements were completely FOOLPROOF. Â The roller skate wheels helped – a little. Â At launch, the car stood straight up, rose slowly, and hovered just above everyone’s head. Â More screaming. Â Only 1 hat destroyed. Â Win.
And then there were the propellants. Â If it had an active ingredient that ended in “ane,” it was fair game. Â Hairspray, bug killer, WD40, PAM – this stuff would keep me and an arson buddy occupied for hours. Â I think our favorite activity was filling our mouths with the propellant from near-empty hair mousse bottles, lighting a match, then breathing fire.
Now that I’m nearly 40 with children, I’ve restricted myself to the occasional “Oops, filled the BBQ up with too much propane before I pushed the button” incidents, and throwing acorns into campfires. Â But, if someone steals my stapler again, I might just have to kick it back up a notch.