Rocket Man


I was looking through my books and I spotted a book by Max Shulman that was a take-off of Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Toll".

I came home from work and went into the basement to take a shower. Your Uncle Bobby was working at the tool bench taking apart firecrackers and putting the powder into a cardboard tube. About 30" long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter.

He worked, with Eddie Coleman, almost all summer after school putting the power into the tube. I made a pointed tip for the front and fins for the bottom.

Finally, the day came when Bob had the tube full of powder, so we got into my car and drove to a large vacant lot on State Street.

We found a little hill about 4' high. So I put the rocket into a can that I buried. I had made a wick about 5' long and I inserted it into the rocket.

I told the boys to move back about 30' and I lit the fuse. This is where I remembered the Max Shulman book, "The Feather Merchants".

In the book, these 2 soldiers were home on furlough and were in a bar bragging about how they were demolition experts. It happened the Mayor was in the bar and heard these guy's with their bragging. As it happened there was a small bridge over a little stream that ran in front of the new munitions plant that the Mayor’s Brother-in-law had just finished.

The Mayor thought it would be great for him politically if these soldiers blew up the old bridge, (the new bridge was next to the old one). Now the Hemingway story, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was during the Spanish War and these 2 Partisans' were assigned blowing up the bridge over the gorge so the Italian troops could not cross the bridge.

The Partisans were at work placing the dynamite and one of the Partisans was in a hurry and kept telling the dynamite expert to hurry "Roberto" the bridge.

The 2 bragging soldiers were ready to blow the bridge up and they asked for a case of dynamite to do the job. After they got the case of dynamite one of them said it wasn't enough, so they asked for another case. Al the time they are placing the dynamite, the loud mouth kept saying “the bridge Roberto, the bridge Roberto".

Finally they were ready and they told everyone from the town to move back. Just like I told Bobby and Eddie to move back.

In the book the "Feather Merchants", that is what they called the soldiers. They kept saying to each other, "The bridge Roberto". Move back a little farther.

They lit the fuse and got on their knees. When the dynamite blew the whole sky turned black and not only was the old bridge gone, but the new one was also.

The Mayor’s Brother-in-law cheated and did not drain the ground where the factory was built and as the dust settled the factor was seen sinking into the mush.

Back to Me and the boys…

I lit the fuse and ran back when the light hit the powder. The explosion was so loud my ears hurt, the sky was full of dirt and there was a hole where the hill was.

“Get in the car, boys!”

And as we drove out of the prairie, people were running from the apartments looking to see where the plane crashed.

"The bridge Roberto"