OPINION — Last week in this column I mentioned that a Florida man blew up his Hummer when he wrecked with twenty gallons of gasoline in cans in the cargo area. Maybe I should’ve pointed out that it was unintentional. Hopefully no one thought he did it on purpose, although I have to admit such misunderstandings have occurred more times than I can count during the 24 years I’ve been writing this column. Sometimes people work pretty hard to misunderstand things.
But I also have to admit that blowing things up is an American tradition, so you never know. I’m sure there have been plenty of people who blew up their own vehicles on purpose over the years. Normally they don’t do it while they’re in the car, but in Florida you can’t rule that out.
Besides, explosions are fun. When I first learned about Tannerite I was stoked. For those who may be unfamiliar, Tannerite is a brand of binary explosive you can buy in just about any gun store in the country. The two parts of the mixture are kept separate during shipment and sale, so it won’t explode on you accidentally. When you mix the small packet of gray powder with the can of little white balls that look like Styrofoam, it becomes marginally volatile. Sort of like the drive home after you eat at Taco Bell. You need to be a little more careful with it.
Even then it won’t blow up without adequate provocation. You have to shoot it with a fairly fast firearm round, and a pistol typically won’t do. It takes a rifle of sufficient velocity, such as a deer or varmint round. Which is fine, because it’s a good idea to be at least 100 yards away from the stuff when it goes boom. It’s perfectly safe, like telling your wife she’s wrong is perfectly safe. You need to do that from at least 100 yards, too.
People have been using Tannerite, and similar binary explosives, for years, with very few casualties. Every once in a while some knucklehead kills himself with it by doing something stupid, like standing too close to shoot it, or using too much. But then, anything really fun is going to be dangerous to some degree. Besides, when someone takes themselves out of the gene pool by blowing themselves up, you can bet the world hasn’t lost the guy that would’ve cured cancer, or invented cold fusion, or developed an engine that runs on sunlight or something. Mensa candidates rarely play with explosives at all. Just sayin.
And when you’re talking about binary explosives, ‘too much’ is kind of a relative term. The point is to make a big boom, and if you like that sort of thing, the bigger the boom, the better. Still, there has to be a limit. The limit is usually not how much is safe. The limit is usually how much you can afford. And Tannerite isn’t all that expensive. Which is why rednecks sometimes go overboard with it. Money and stupidity are not mutually exclusive.
A popular thing these days is using Tannerite to explode a bunch of blue or pink chalk as a fun way to reveal the gender of a child about to be born. I have no idea what color you’re supposed to use if your child will be some other gender, and I don’t want to know. Anyway, back in April, a couple used 80 pounds of Tannerite for a gender reveal at a quarry in New Hampshire, which may have been just a smidge too much. And in this case, a smidge is about 70 pounds. The explosion rattled the windows of houses miles away. Some residents claimed it caused cracks in the foundations of their homes. Bunch of whiners, if you ask me.
But blowing stuff up isn’t just fun in America. People all over the world enjoy a good pyrotechnic show. And I’m not just talking about China, where gunpowder was invented. The Swiss also have rednecks, and they can make things go boom with the best.
Andermatt, a town in central Switzerland, for example, holds a festival every spring called Sechselaeuten, which means Ringing Of The Six O’clock Bells. They build a huge snowman, named Boogg, with a lot of explosives inside, and then blow it up. Never let anyone tell you the Swiss don’t know how to party.
Although I’ve used Tannerite on several occasions, I’m always very careful with it. By which I mean I make sure there are no houses close by, and everyone present is wearing ear protection, and my wife isn’t around. The most I’ve ever blown up at once was ten pounds, which made a pretty good pop, but I’m thinking I can do better. If anyone knows of a suitable quarry that’s not currently being used, give me a shout.
And in case you’re wondering about that New Hampshire baby, it’s going to be a boy. In a few years he’ll probably blow stuff up with Tannerite, unless it’s been outlawed by then . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who always wears eye protection when exploding things. Write to him at [email protected]