From the files of beating a dead horse . . .
I know that my last post was about my crazy uncle Ronnie, but I feel the need to go back to the well on this topic. Thanks to all the great comments that I exchanged with all of you, I was flooded with memories that I need to put down in writing. So here's another one-
As I mentioned in my last post, Uncle Ronnie is a gun enthusiast. Last Christmas I got him a Winchester tin sign to hang in his garage that classifies all the different calibers of ammunition. Well, you'd have thought I gave him a friggin Renoir. He oohed and aaahed and gushed over this stupid thing like you can't imagine. Now to get the gravity of this behavior, you have to understand that he has never been sensitive about any one's feelings, ever. It is not uncommon for him to say things like "I didn't know you could give that as a gift." or to tell you that the food that you served him was a "grave disappointment". So if he's acting pleased, he's genuinely pleased. He is not armed with the social skills required to fake it.
The reason that I purchased that sign, was because of his love of guns and because of the time that I spent with him in his bullet factory.
Somewhere around 1971, Uncle Ronnie started purchasing bullet making machinery. This included loaders that put buckshot into empty shells, a gunpowder dispenser and a priming machine. The priming machine was really cool. It would tuck the little, nerd candy sized nib of gunpowder packed brass into the bullet casing. The primer is the little circle at the ass-end of the bullet that that the hammer of the gun strikes to start the explosion that propels the lead slug out of the brass bullet casing. OK, I am going to stop right here. I just read that sentence and scared the crap out of myself. Do you understand that I am imparting bullet making knowledge that I learned at the age of 8? Is this effed up, or what?
Uncle Ronnie also had a lead smelting pot and slug molds that he used to form his own lead slugs. That's right boys and girls, my brother and I used to sit up in his bullet making room drop lead ingots into a pot molten lead. Now I know why I can't do math.
Anywho, Uncle Ronnie would assign us a job, like reloading shotgun shells or whatever, then he would get us all set up and he'd leave to go clean his guns (which he does obsessively). Yup, he left us alone in his attic, surrounded by gunpowder, molten lead and dicey, 80 year old electrical wiring.
One day when we were happily loading shotgun shells, the machine jammed up. We called to Uncle Ronnie, but he was engrossed in attaching a new site to one of his rifles and he did not come upstairs right away. Left without shells to load, we got bored (like andy 8 and 5 year old might) and we started poking around on the work bench, looking at all the bullet supplies - the shiny, brass bullet casings, the rainbow of different colored shotgun shells, the various weights of buckshot, etc.. In my investigation, I came across a box of primers. They looked like candy, all lined up in jewel-like green plastic box. I took one out and inspected it under the work lamp. It was so tiny and cute. It hardly seemed dangerous to me.
Just then, Ronnie came up the stairs. When he saw that I had the box of primers out, he got very upset. He started telling me all about the function of a primer and that it was small, but very powerful. Almost like a tiny cap of dynamite. And with that he took the box and put it away. But I still had a primer in my hand and after getting the lecture from Uncle Ronnie about not handling them, I was afraid to show him that I had one out of the box.
Ronnie got to work unjamming the shell loader while I shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, trying to think of how I could get rid of the primer in my hand. I decided to throw it on the workbench when uncle Ronnie turned away. I waited until he wasn't looking and I threw the primer toward the workbench. Well, in one of those "you couldn't have done that if you tried" moments, the primer landed in the pot of molten lead, just as Ronnie was bending over it to put in a new lead ingot.
All of a sudden we heard a muffled explosion, like a **BOUF** noise and Ronnie turned to look at me with molten lead spatter all over his glasses. "What did you throw in the lead pot?" he demanded. I looked down at my feet and sheepishly responded "a primer". This answer completely set him off and he started ranting and raving about how unsafe that was and what damage it could have done and what a fire hazard it was, etc.
Luckily, Uncle Ronnie did not sustain any injury in the accident. He managed to get the lead spray off his glasses and to get the tiny bits of lead out of his hair. The silver (or lead) lining to this story is that from that point forward, he always made sure to supervise us when we were in his bullet making factory and we remained safe and sound. That is until Christmastime when he let me play with his new pocket knife. . .