It’s Father’s Day, let’s blow something up.

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Rex McCool, circa 1946 in Yokohama, Japan.

Rex McCool, circa 1946 in Yokohama, Japan.

My dad Rex McCool (who just turned 90, and thinks he’s 50), grew up on a farm in Kalkaska MI, in a time when people did what they had to do, with what they had to do it with.  One of his uncles, another farmer, had little fear, and some prowess with dynamite.   He also had a small dozer, and when a neighbor farmer had a boulder in a field, or a stump they were tired of farming around, they called Fay to blow it up and bury the rubble.  He evidently passed this handiness  with explosives down to my dad, who likewise had little fear, and liked explosions.

My Dad has told this following story so many times, I feel like I was there, so I have no shame in relating this as fact:

Uncle Fay was called by a neighbor to help blow a hole in a field stone barn foundation large enough to get a tractor in and out to clean the barn, as this particular farmer had grown tired of shoveling cow manure, and had just purchased a tractor which seemed capable of doing that for him.  Fay examined the barn, the foundation, the surroundings, and agreed that dynamite was the perfect tool for the job.  A string of explosives was hung along the foundation where the new opening was to be, some old mattresses hung over top and over the string of dynamite to keep debris down, the fuse was strung, the crew got a safe distance away, a match struck and the fuse was lit.

At that precise moment, a big yellow Tom-cat walked out of the barn, jumped on top of the mattress and began to serenely, in that particularly cat-like way, to give himself a bath.  The horrified onlookers coaxed, called, “Here Kitty-Kitty-Kitty!”, then threw stones or whatever else was at hand to try to scare the old Tom away before the charge went off.

He looked up, regarded them all for a moment, and went right back to licking himself, when of course the charge went off.

Out of the cloud of dust and smoke and falling stones, past the gathered crew of now genuinely shocked and sorrowful (remember now, these guys butchered their own pigs cows and chickens, and were no strangers to the perils of life on the farm) farmers, shot the yellow cat, eyes as big as saucers, fur scorched and tail bushed out like a bottle brush, one or more of his nine lives spent, never to be seen again.

When I was a kid, as I said at first, my dad enjoyed blowing things up on our farm as well.  He razed a cement block silo from beside a barn without  breaking window, and made a home movie of the thing toppling over, that us kids loved watching in reverse, the silo rebuilding itself from a cloud of dust and pile of rubble like that ’58 Plymouth Fury in the Stephen King movie “Christine”.  He  blew stumps out of the ground, and busted big boulders that broke plow points and drawbars.  I remember well going with him to buy dynamite at the “Hooper Supermarket” over on the Gun Marsh, bringing it home in the truck, those dangerous sticks of explosives wrapped in yellow waxed paper in a wood box, cushioned with shavings of wood called excelsior.

Seriously, we bought dynamite at a country grocery store.  Try that now…

Like his uncle Fay, my dad became known as something of a local demolitions and explosives  expert, and his neighbors called on him to help blow stuff up.  One time,  the local cop called him saying a neighboring  farmer  had called him to report his kids had found some dynamite while playing under an old corn crib on the their farm, and could dad come over to help safely remove it, so as not to have the farmers kids, or himself, blown to Kingdom Come.

So, dad went over to find the farmer, his entire family, and the local deputy standing  back some distance from the now explosive corn crib.  (A corn crib, if you don’t know, is a tall, rather narrow building with a pitched roof and wire mesh sides, that holds ear corn to dry, usually  built with poles set in the ground and a wood floor of off the ground.)  They pointed out which end of the shed had the dangerous treasure, and Dad, a small wiry  guy, slithered underneath, and in a dark corner at the back, saw what the kids had seen.

It was not dynamite at all, but an rather old dry cell battery, with the bundle of paper wrapped carbon rods now exposed, in the dry dirt under the building.  He took a couple of the sticks out with him, and emerged  sweaty, dirty,dusty, covered with cobwebs, carrying the paper wrapped sticks, about 8 inches long and an inch in diameter, in his hands.

Facing the deputy and the farmer, who had moved back a considerable distance,  without saying a word, holding one of the sticks by both ends, he broke it over his knee.  The kids ran, the deputy’s eyes got as big as the old yellow cat’s, and probably had to change his uniform.

Again, I relay this story as factual, although I was not there.

So, Happy Father’s Day Rex McCool, let’s get some dynamite and blow the hell out of something!




  1. John Verhey says:

    Great stories. Rex is one of a kind, very special. Thanks for sharing.

    Sent from iPhone


  2. Karin says:

    great stories! thanks for the chuckles 🙂

  3. Uncle Liash was my Grandma Keith’s brother-in-law that lived in town in Whitesboro, OK. During one summer he worked for the road construction company that was putting a road over the mountain not far away. Well, with July 4th falling of course in the summer, he decided that some of that Dynamite would come in handy as celebratory racket. All was good and a good time by all…………………until he blew Aunt Minnie’s clothes line pole out of the ground and about 40 feet into the air.
    This story was told to me by my father several different times. I was a little to young to remember or maybe not even yet born.

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