I've been thinking about the new year's celebrations which will take place around here. There will be a lot of noise at the stroke of midnight in our neighborhood. Horns will be blowed. Clappers will be shaken. Backyard fireworks will burst and bang.
Our family celebrated, too. My brother's birthday was New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was my father's. We'd look forward to the noise on the eve and the freshly killed pheasant dinner dad would bring home the next day. If dad was lucky and got a rabbit, we would also have Hasenpfeffer that grandma would make. Oh, those were the days.
From what I remember of one time during my childhood back in the '50s when, come December 31 evening, my father resurrected the family New Year's noise maker from the dark reaches of our basement. Dad would empty a few shotgun shells and wad up some paper methodically shoving both down the barrel of a small, cast iron cannon not much bigger than a foot long. I don’t know where we got the cannon, but it was fairly old and possibly was used to scare birds out of the fields — who knows, it could have been my grandfather’s for the matter. Anyway, this small cannon would be readied to be set off at midnight on New Year’s Eve…simultaneously my dad would aim his shotgun up in the air and fire it as the cannon erupted its round! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And we would all cheer “Happy New Year!”; the cannon got cleaned and put away, and that would be the end of our celebration that night, but not the end to the future firing of the cannon.
For years the cannon was only shot off to bring in the New Year, but one summer’s night it was another story...
My brother took the cannon into the backyard, and placed it on the driveway not too far from the house. It was very dark out; the only light was from the bug light next to the backdoor and a little light casting down from the back kitchen window where I was sitting to watch. We had a big backyard and an empty school yard in back of us, too. There was plenty of space to shoot off the cannon. Shooting off this cannon wasn’t dangerous, but you still had to be careful.
Where did my brother get the gunpowder? It could have been made from a chemistry set he got for Christmas one year, or with my dad being a hunter, he could have emptied some shotgun shells as dad has done previously. There were no cannon balls or anything like that being loaded into the cannon. The most dangerous projectile coming out of this cannon were wads of wet fabric balls. Gunpowder and wet fabric balls was a combination not to be reckoned with when the fuse was lit and it sizzled down to the explosive.
It was the loudest and most powerful percussion of any shot felt yet! My brother, with a startled look on his face, quickly took the cannon back into the house and hid it. Dad came out the house to the back yard as backup — just incase there was any trouble. I guess they both knew what would happen next. A few minutes later a squad car came down our driveway to the back of the house. The officer leaned out the window and said to my dad... What the #^%$#^$%!!! Your neighbor up the street called us about a noise that almost shook him out of bed. He said Boom-Boom was at it again! The policeman didn’t look angry at all, I think he was trying to not laugh. My dad and brother were warned not to do any more of "that"; the policeman didn’t confiscate anything — besides he never saw the cannon that night to take it away.
From that night on, my brother was dubbed Boom-Boom by a few of our neighbors. Curiosity must have gotten to that policeman, too, because sometime later I saw him out in the backyard with my dad checking out the cannon…and the policeman was laughing! He knew there was always something happening in our backyard that was just pure fun.
My brother would live to dream up more capers in our backyard of which there were many crazy goings on over the years.
Happy new year!
Hope 2016 brings good health and prosperity to everyone!