top of page


I read a lot. It’s not my fault – I blame it on my upbringing.

I’m just trying to explain why I was reading an article about people in New York City making s’mores in their backyards.

The subtitle of the article was, “...But they pose deadly risks all the same.”

I read the article, two or three times, trying to figure out the point. I thought the primary hazard from s’mores was getting the marshmallow out of my beard.

It turns out that, apparently, human beings like sitting around fires.

I thought we cracked that case roughly 300,000 years ago when we found out that lions and tigers and bears were less likely to eat your family if you had a fire burning and, as a bonus, woolly mammoth steak tasted better with a little bit of char to it, and maybe a dash of garlic butter.

Fire can be dangerous, though.

Once again, something I thought we had a handle on.

It was a long article – over a thousand words. All sorts of tips about how to safely be a rebel and make s’mores without burning the city down.

It made me realize once again what a different world I live in than many folks. If the dangers of making s’mores in New York City was worth a thousand words, I wonder what the writer would have thought of my son’s cannon?

A few decades ago, our son was about 12 and had just learned to weld. He and his best friend Doug decided to use his skills to make a cannon. They had a welder, piles of scrap metal and a lot of spare time.

I don’t know why they chose to construct a cannon. That’s a dumb question. They were 12-year-old boys. Do you need any more explanation?

There was a complication. A few years earlier my wife had given me a kit to make a black powder pistol. It was a great gift, but over time the flint broke, I got tired of melting lead to make the bullets...times change, and I stopped using it. But we still had a canister of gunpowder laying around. The sort of stuff that would work well in, you know, a cannon.

My wife came home from work about the time they were testing their prototype. She thought this was too dangerous for a pair of adolescent boys.

So, she helped.

When I came home the three of them were enthusiastically launching tennis balls about a quarter mile into the air. Their final innovation was to slit a hole in a tennis ball, put some gunpowder inside it along with a short length of fuse, then fire the whole thing off. The fuse would be lit by the gunpowder in the cannon. If everything was timed correctly, the tennis ball would sail into the air and blow up before it hit the ground.

I realize that some people might see this as too dangerous an activity.

But at least they weren’t making s’mores.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


bottom of page