posted on May, 7 2017 @ 02:54 AM
I was cleaning out the basement tonight and came across something I made many decades ago...a tennis ball cannon. I don't know why I'd saved it all
these years (and probably didn't even realize it), but I had. The memories came flooding back when I saw it though!
You see, it all started when this older kid up the street, Nelse, made this thing he called a "tennis ball cannon". He made all kinds of stuff, and
as a kid I kind of idolized him. He was real secretive about the stuff he made, and this thing was double-secret. It was this crude assembly of a
tennis ball can and a soup can. He'd squirt a little bit of lighter fluid in the soup can on the bottom, load a tennis ball into the top part and
launch the tennis ball by lighting it. The tennis ball would go about 200' feet...and it was REALLY cool (at least to my 11 year old mind). Nelse
So I set out to make a tennis ball cannon of my own. Nelse wouldn't tell me how he made his (he was like that), so I had to figure it out on my own.
I tried all manner of tennis ball cans and soup cans, but couldn't make it work. Maybe it was because I was using BBQ lighter fluid, so I switched
to regular lighter fluid. I could only get my tennis ball to launch about 10 feet, and it was a flaming tennis ball too, which was pretty hazardous.
So, back to square one.
Well, I'd tried everything and I just couldn't get mine to work as good as Nelse's did. Dammit! So I got mad and made one I could put about a
half a can of lighter fluid into and torched it off. It really didn't "launch" anything, but just exploded into a flaming bunch of parts. Once I
put the fire on my pants out, it was time for "Plan B". So I called my crazy buddy, Ward.
Ward came racing over to my house right away (with his go kart). He was totally up to this challenge! I expected him to bring all kinds of gear, but
this time he didn't. Ward said..."you've already got everything you need!" I had a lot of stuff, but I'll be danged if I knew how Ward knew
what we needed and what I had, but he was pretty clever that way. Ward said..."remember when we cut those shotgun shells down and dumped that powder
out into that jar...you still got it???" Hmmmmm....Ward might be onto something this time! We were about to make REAL tennis ball CANNON!!
We cut the top off a Campbell's tomato soup can (and fed the soup to the dog), punched some holes in the bottom of the tennis ball can, and then
taped the crap out of the soup can connecting it to the bottom of the tennis ball can. I don't remember how many shotgun shells Ward and I had cut
down that day, but it was quite a few, and we dumped all the powder we had into that tennis ball can. It filtered down into the soup can, and then we
loaded the tennis ball. I was ready for launch!! "WAIT...WAIT!", Ward said..."we've got to wait for Nelse to get off the school bus so he can
see this! We're gonna' show that butthead!"
We had a little bit of fireworks fuse strung together to give us time to get the heck out of there if something went haywire (which it usually did
with Ward), but the plan looked solid...wait for Nelse to get off the school bus and light the fuse.
Well, here comes the school bus, and Nelse gets off, looking all smart in his school clothes (he was pretty smart). We lit the fuse (and ran around
behind the house). About 15 seconds later I asked Ward, "Gee, it's been a long time, Ward, maybe the fuse went out...think we should go check it?"
I think Ward started to say something right about the time we heard KA-BOOOOOOOOOM!! The shock wave rattled all the windows for a mile! A yellow
streak soared skyward out to the stratosphere! It looked like Haley's Comet! No idea what happened to the tennis ball, it probably landed in the
next County, or maybe even the next State. Nelse was standing there in his driveway, mouth agape, and when I came out from the bushes Ward was
already out there taunting Nelse..."Nanner...nanner...nanner...you think you got a cool tennis ball cannon, do ya??? We made a REAL one!!"
I quickly scanned the area for evidence, and there was no sign of the cannon. I think it probably disintegrated, which was probably just as
well...because there were already sirens off in the distance. Good thing Mom wasn't home. We got the heck out of 'Dodge' and laid low in the
woods for a while. Mom said later she thought she saw a meteor, but it was going the wrong way. I just shrugged. "You and Ward weren't over here
earlier were you?????", she asked. "Nope" (snicker)
It was kind of weird, Nelse pretty much stopped inventing things after that. I'm not sure if he was shamed by our superior tennis ball cannon or
truly afraid of what our response to his next invention would be. I never heard from Nelse again.
But we had the best tennis ball cannon design...EVAR!!!