The one chore that I disliked the most as a boy was picking up rocks. When dad would announce that was our job for the day, I would immediately volunteer to clean the barn, my second most disliked chore. It never worked.
Indiana is home to endless square miles of beautiful farms, with deep, rich, dark soil. Ours wasn’t one of them. During the last Ice Age, our farm sat beneath a mountain of ice, the same vast sheet that dug the Great Lakes. Our soil was glacial moraine, that is ground up dirt and sand and rocks, lots of rocks. Before we could plant crops in that soil, we had to remove the rocks.
Somewhere I got the idea that rocks diabolically floated to the surface, but I couldn’t figure out how. The truth was that our farming methods exposed them. The routine was first to plow, then disc, spring-tooth harrow, spike-tooth harrow, and finally plant. The finished field was smooth, with the surface dirt soft and crumbly. It blew away, or washed away. Anybody could watch it go, exposing the next layer of rocks.
The drill was to load the stone-boat, a rectangular plank deck on skids, with picks and shovels, chains, and heavy crowbars, hook up the tractor, and drive to the field. Dad would park the rig, unload the tools, and assign each of us a sector to clean up in a fifty-foot radius. Once the stone-boat was loaded, he drove it to the fence line, where we unloaded it, and then back out into the field. All day long.
The only good part of that job was that every now and then somebody would find a real boulder poking out of the ground. This had to be dug out, pried out, pulled out, or blown up, hard, heavy, and dangerous work. Since I was the youngest, and weakest, I was always sent to fetch the dynamite, if it came to that.
I don’t recall how old I was when I learned the family protocol for handling dynamite, but I was very young. We used it fairly often for breaking boulders, and blowing stumps, and I was usually watching the procedure from the age of four or five on. I had seen what it could do, and I was afraid of it, so I treated it with great care.
Dynamite was freely available to people who had a genuine use for it in those days. I doubt if the owner of a feed store or hardware store would have sold it to a stranger, or to somebody who lived in town, but a person didn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops or sign his life away to buy it.
That’s all changed today, of course. Explosives of any kind are impossible to buy without elaborate permits from political authorities. So where do the bombers buy their supplies? The people who manufacture this stuff don’t give it away, and it doesn’t fly around the world like a bird. I’ve read several hypothetical answers to that question, but they all stink. The absolute controller of explosives is political government. Once again, I think we are the victims of a silent, massive fraud that the free press will not investigate.
As a farm boy growing up during the forties, I had no fantasies or illusions about blowing things up. I saw it. No matter how hot and angry my dad and his brother got about a stubborn boulder in the field, I watched how carefully they planned to crack it, and how gingerly they placed the charges. They kept an eye on their kids as well, and sent us to hide behind the broken boulders in the fence row. Nobody ever got hurt.
I may live in a different world now, and I haven’t had any use for dynamite for fifty years, but I still refuse to pick up rocks.