Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Complicated solution to a simple problem

by Julie Carter

Every hundred years or so, any old homestead inevitably becomes the destination for an event. That, of course, requires cleaning up and cleaning out a century worth of valued “treasures” and piles of “I might need that” items.

A wedding was about to happen in the old horse barn of the ranch. One hundred years of treasures and dust would need to be sorted, organized and tossed, or not. However, there must first be a place to put the items deemed worthy of saving.

The old tin garage next to the house was the perfect place to store the relocated treasures, but as you might imagine, first it must also be cleaned out.

Back in the 1950s, one could still buy dynamite at the local hardware store. The elder member of this ranching family and his hired man used whatever good excuse they could contrive to blow up some of the geography around the ranch. Road clearing and building water tanks commonly led to the use of dynamite.

Just a kid at the time, young Pete learned that whenever his father yelled, “Run like hell and get behind the truck!” it was a good idea to do so quickly because imminently rocks would be flying.

The dynamite, when not being used to change the terrain of said ranch, was stored in the old tin garage. Yes, the one next to the house.

Pete grew up and passed on the same warning to his son Jake, “Stay out of the corner of the old tin garage where the dynamite is stored.” For 50 years, Pete and his son Jake stayed out of that corner in the old tin garage.

With Jake’s wedding approaching, it was time to tackle the clean-up. Pete and Jake decided that before they began cleaning out the nuts, bolts, nails, tools, barbwire, pipe and other century old collections, they should venture into the forbidden corner of the old tin garage and get rid of the old dynamite.

They considered it prudent to get some expert advice on the procedure, so Jake called the county sheriff while Pete went off to town.

The next thing Pete knew, he was summoned back to the ranch while his son was hauled off to be interrogated. Every local law enforcement agency, fire department, EMTs along with the nearest town’s bomb squad and the FBI converged on the ranch.

It seemed very logical to friends and family that Pete’s profile as a middle-aged, single white male, educated and living in an isolated, remote ranch house set off ripples of suspicion in Washington, D.C.

The two mobile bomb squad command center semi-trucks could not make it across the river to the ranch headquarters, so a table was confiscated and an elaborate bank of computers was set up on it while men in bomb proof suits patrolled the area.

Finally the doors of the second command unit were open and out rolled the bomb robot.  Of course the robot had never heard elder rancher’s “Run like hell and get behind the truck!” or the “Stay out of the corner of the garage.” warnings.

The robot boldly brought the case of old dynamite out of the garage, past all the nuts, bolts and nails (shrapnel as defined by the government) while the bomb squad made a bed of hay.

After the robot nested the crate in the hay, the men in the bomb suits doused it with diesel and set it afire. High-tech solution for the situation that it was.

The advice Pete and Jake sought was finally delivered. Told that the nitroglycerin had leaked into soil and contaminated the garage, they were instructed to burn it all down.

Somewhere in Heaven, Pete’s mother, Isabel, was undoubtedly smiling.  The eyesore she always hated, not to mention one with dynamite in it, was going down, and the homestead was getting cleaned up for a very happy event.

All it took was a bomb squad to get done what she never could.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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