Baxter Black: Cherry bombs in the winter
October 16, 2012
Back in the days of yore in a high mountain valley of Colorado lived a ranch kid named Sparky. In the winter time his valley would be covered with snow. The evergreen forests, blue skies, frozen ponds, and snow-white meadows looked just like the pictures you have on your calendar. The kids ice-skated. School was let out on Friday so they could go skiing. It was a bucolic life. The country was inhabited by mule deer, elk, beaver, muskrat, bear, coyote and abundant wildlife.
Like all ranch kids, Sparky was part of the family team. Each had their chores to do. He helped his dad feed the cows in the winter off a horse-drawn sled. As he grew older he took on more responsibility. They were hardy people. There were no slackers on the ranch. They put up hay in the summer to feed the cows in the winter. But their wildlife neighbors also were hungry. Baby calves were easy plunder for the wiley coyote, all manner of birds covered the barnyard and elk found the stacked hay easy pickins.
Game wardens were co-operative and furnished ranches with bags full of cherry bomb firecrackers to scare the elk off the haystacks. A cherry bomb looks like a larger-than-life cherry with a fuse. It has heft and is designed to be lit and thrown. It makes a loud bang that sounds like a gunshot to elk and deer.
Sparky and his brother Rod were given the job of chasing elk off the haystacks at least twice a day, early and late. They used the ranch snowmobiles. There were several haystacks in the meadows. On one glorious morning the boys mounted, grabbed a bag of cherry bombs, and took to the snow! They came down on the feeding elk like fighter pilots dive-bombing a Nazi submarine strafing the herd with cherry bombs!
As the elk ran away, the boys followed, firing, lighting up and throwing. The cherry bombs were carried in their shirt pocket and they were allowed to smoke cigars as a punk to relight. They were glorious days.
Sparky said one morning after chasing the elk, he was welding on a broken Hydrofork lifter above his head. The sparks were showering down over his mask. Somehow he heard a hiss over the welding shower. His subconscious connected chasing elk – lighting fuse – cherry bombs in jacket pocket! Wisely, he did not reach into his pocket, but pulled the sleeve off, turning it inside out. However, the sleeve hung up on the welding glove he forgot to remove and the cherry bomb ensemble exploded and blew a hole in his jacket big enough to pull a bobcat through!
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He walked into the house and asked his mom if she could mend his jacket. She took one look at what resembled a Confederate battle flag, and declined.
Years later, when Sparky had taken over the ranch, he was driving home one winter night and saw elk gathered around one of his haystacks next to the road. To avoid throwing a bunch of cherry bombs into the deep snow where they might smother, he rubber-banded a handful to drop on the plowed road. Great plan. He banded them, lit the fuses, leaned out the window and tossed them on the road. Super, he thought, then he heard the hissing. He looked down to see one of the cherry bombs nestled between his legs jubilantly throwing sparks like it was the 4th of July!
All Sparky would say about the damage was, it blew a hole in the seat cover.