by Jack Scott
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I got into the use of dynamite in my teaching and farming projects when I finished college after the war. I was teaching a group of 25 small horse and mule farmers in a backward area of Breckenridge, Kentucky. They were still farming with turn of the century equipment and tools. The farms were rough, poor and hilly. The best of the land was in small bottoms where crops could easily drown out in a rainy season. Ditching equipment was expensive and hard to obtain. Dynamite was occasionally used for ditching farm bottom land and digging ditches in wet areas for the gas pipe lines that were starting to be built across the country after the war. Few were experienced in its use.
I decided I could help get the small bottoms drained for the farmers I taught. Dynamite was inexpensive and easy to obtain. I bought a few cases, some wire and dynamite caps and set about learning to ditch with dynamite. In the small, wet bottom lands, the creek banks would be higher than the bottom. The ditching had to be done when the ground was wet, preferably when a little water was standing. I would start at a point fatherist from the creek and start across the bottom putting a stick of dynamite in the ground every 12 to 15 inches. I would start at about 3 feet deep and gradually increase the depth until I got to the creek. Then I lighted the fuse on the first stick where I had started. If all went well, the pressure from each explosion would set off the next stick, and so on until there was an an almost instant ditch to the creek. The system worked very well and would provide good conditions for growing crops. The job was not without danger. Occasionally a stick of dynamite would misfire and the process would come to a halt. I would wait a good while before going to find the first unexploded stick and put a fuse in it and start again. About this time, a man ditching for a pipeline nearby, got impatient and went back too soon.. As he started to dig the stick up, it went off and killed him. The job was a little nerveracking. On the warmer days, I would start sweating and would forget and wipe my face with my hands. The dynamite residue on my hands would give me a splitting headache. All in all the projects were successful and helped my students raise better crops.
The road to the farm on the creek of Alices parents, was near a sinkhole, that would stop up at times and let the water get over the road. I dug a hole with a posthole digger and put several sticks of dynamite in the hole. The explosion took care of the situation. I did a little dynamiting on the Henderson farms, I managed. One New Years eve, Sue and C.H. Alexander, were having a party at their house on the farm. Everyone was enjoying themselves playing rook. I excused myself to go outside where I had a few sticks of dynamite and some fuse in the truck. I too them across the road to an empty field and lighted the fuse to go off in five minutes or so. Going back into the house, I started playing cards again. The dynamite went off at midnite and brought the year in with a big bang. There were very puzzled people at the party wondering where the noise came from.
I wound down my dynamite days after that. Today dynamite sales are closely controlled. The things I did in those days would be illegal. Maybe my life started settling down to calmer things.