It was the 5th of July and my buddies and I had some contraband fireworks left over from Independence Day celebrations—two cherry bombs and one big “Silver Salute.” I had never had a treasured “Silver Salute” before. Jack Chruma, Grant Cox and I took them out in the back yard and decided to put the two cherry bombs under two upside down wagons. We decided to light the fuses to see if the cherry bombs would lift the wagons off the ground. We counted to three in unison, lit the fuses, then tossed the cherry bombs under the wagons and ran. We turned around just in time to hear the thundering boom and see the wagons lift about five feet off the ground, fly into each other with a bang then fall to the ground. “Hooray!” we yelled. The desired effect was achieved. And, there was no permanent damage to the wagons.
“Hey,” says Grant, “let’s go down to George Lewis’s chicken coop and throw in the Silver Salute and see if it blows some feathers out the door!”
“Great idea!” Jack and I reply. We went down to the Lewis home, which was right next door to the Chruma house, and waited till “old man” Lewis went in the back door. Jack jumped over the fence into the Lewis yard and told us to sit tight. He reached into his pocket and took out the big ole Silver Salute. I lit a match and reached through the fence as he held the fuse against the flame. Suddenly the fuse lit up, Jack threw it into the tiny coop and slammed the door shut. He jumped over the fence and we all hid in the irrigation ditch.
We peeked out with heads up just in time to hear a huge KABOOM!! The windows shattered and blew outward in hundreds of pieces of flying glass as the blast shook the whole coop. The door flew open and feathers billowed out in a sideward mushroom explosion, blowing five or six chickens with it. They rolled out on the ground upside down and their out-stretched legs stiffened as they gyrated through the last throes of death.
We looked at each other with bulging eyes of terror and jumped up on a dead run for any far away place we could find to hide. I glanced back just in time to see brother Lewis run out the back door of his house and catch a glimpse of our fleeing…soon to be whipped…bums. We hid the best we could by climbing trees in Wines Park.
We were caught within an hour. I blamed Grant! Jack blamed me! Grant blamed Jack! Under threat of handcuffs and jail sentences, it took Clem Turner, the Chief of Police, about three minutes to get the whole story. Dad took me down to the Lewis home where my apology was not received well. My fine was $35.00, which really didn’t cover the value of six dead, prize-winning Rhode Island Reds. But Mr. Lewis said he would forgive me.
“Did you know Mr. Lewis and your grand-dad were best friends?” dad said to me as we walked home. “He may never forgive you in your lifetime,” he finished.
I voluntarily went down to Brother Lewis’s house and weeded his garden every Saturday for the rest of the summer. One day, Sister Lewis came out and gave me a tall glass of lemonade and said, “we forgive you Billy.”
“Thank you,” I said very sincerely. “We never meant to kill any chickens!”
“I know that,” she replied, smiled, and then concluded by saying, “you remind me of your grandfather and we loved him and Kate too. We ate the chickens you know.”
“Ohh gooood,” I said.
Soon after that, my home teaching companion Brother Gammon passed away and Brother Lewis requested that I be assigned as his companion. We became very good friends until he died many years later. I think he forgave me…but I’m sure he never forgot the fireworks on the 5th day of July in 1960.