It’s funny how stories from one’s childhood pop up at odd times. Almost as funny as how most ten minute small talk conversations hop through at least seven topics before they end. Nobody knows why, they just do. During a recent small talk conversation I was reminded just how many people used to have whatever kind of license was needed to own and use dynamite when I was a kid. It seemed back then like you never had to go very far to find it. If you had a stump or rock that needed removal it was a lot easier and cheaper to buy $4 worth of dynamite than it was to burn the clutch out of your loader trying to dig that thing.
Eventually, this conversation reminded me of a second hand story about a guy named Dewey. It was a nickname actually. The person who told the story claimed to have been there when it happened. Given all of the various characters that lived out in this area, the story was completely believable anyway.
A local farmer had an overgrown piece of land they were clearing the trees out of so they could farm more of the field. They had long since gotten rid of their livestock operation so no longer had any need for a tree filled pasture. One group of people were in charge of getting all the trees down, then Dewey was in charge of knocking loose the stumps. There were quite a few kids around, so, to keep them where he could see them, Dewey decided to entertain them. One guy went around with a little auger drill making a hole under/into the stump where Dewey would put two sticks and a short cord. This was enough to pop a bunch of the dirt out, but, given the size of the stumps, would leave them held up in the air by roots.
Dewey would have the kids go off a distance, then connect the wire to the plunger he had hanging off his hip. When they were all grouped together on a side opposite the drill side he would shout “ Watch Dewey Do-er!” and slap the plunger on his leg. Two sticks was never enough to be dangerous with a stump that size, but it sure did provide good old fashioned entertainment. Well…at least until people started talking too much to Dewey.
At some point during this billable day of stump removal somebody struck up a conversation with Dewey after he placed the sticks, but before he hooked anything up. Yes, it was a long and laughing conversation, probably right around lunch. When Dewey returned to his task, he started from the beginning…putting two sticks in the hole… All of the kids quickly took their places when they saw Dewey hooking up the cord to the plunger. This time, “ Watch Dewey Do-er!” was followed by an ear ringing four stick detonation. As unbelievable as it sounds, the stump didn’t split, shatter, or impale itself in Dewey. Instead, a stunned group of kids and adults watched Dewey ride that stump three feet into the air and have it sit right back down in the hole it had just vacated. After that, a rather shaken Dewey didn’t do-er anymore.
I was something like nine or ten at the time I heard this. Sadly, I wasn’t one of the kids watching Dewey ride the stump, so, I can’t tell you if the story is true or not…but it definitely is a story consistent with the characters of the day.