Exploding Lessons

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Exploding Lessons

Exploding Lessons brings several tales of folks needing to learn something,
but apparently requiring a more graphic lesson than school, morality or common sense could provide.
We don’t claim these all of these events are completely true,
but they likely are, considering the subject or the photos.

Nobody liked rustlers. Usually, between the law and/or vigilante justice, they got shot or hung to resolve the problem. Of course there were wildcat cures like the Death of Skins, but that was only applied by one Texas outfit, to those caught in the act. *
How was a man to protect his cattle when he couldn’t afford guards, or the time to do it himself? Here, Old West Daily Reader offers the story of one rancher’s creative solution to a persistent problem…
see also:
* Wk. 11, 03/14/1876 – rustlers
* References – DictionaryDeath of Skins

An old time Texas rancher had a vexing problems with some rustlers (1890’s). They would cut his “bob war” fences to steal some of his cows. Thing was, the rest of the herd then escaped and the rancher had to find ’em, bring “em home, and repair the fence. Sometimes, having to replace a few posts and the wire. It happened several times over a few years, so, he decided to take educational, corrective action.
In the usual, somewhat secluded, location where the miscreants operated, he dug up the appropriate fence post and tied a bundle of dynamite to the bottom of the loosely re-buried post. He also buried an old shogun with its muzzle snugged up to the explosives. The trigger of the gun was tied to the post in such a way that an attempt to remove the post, or cutting wire and the post falling over, fired the shotgun blast into the dynamite. The system worked as designed.
He did have to replace the post one more time, but the cattle rustling stopped. *
* It remains unknown if he had to make a one-time, somewhat larger, temporary excavation.

Again, the problem is theft. However, in this instance, a fellow noticed that his firewood stack seemed to diminish faster than he burned it. After several experiments in arranging his woodpile in a memorable way, he confirmed the problem and determined that the offender had to be one of his neighbors. As with the previous tale, he couldn’t guard his woodpile day and night.
He carefully drilled a length-wise hole, well into a log. Into the hole went a fused, capped stick of dynamite, or in some versions of the tale, black powder (no fuse needed). He carefully concealed his “modification” on the end of the log. Daddy brought in the evening firewood that night and the children had relief, for one night, of the onerous chore. No more firewood disappeared and life returned to normal.
There is, another ending to the story…
Seems that several days later he needed to go to town. On the way he met one of his neighbors. As neighbors do, they chatted about this and that, and their respective missions in town. The neighbor complained that he was on his way to buy a new stove, as the old one had been destroyed, nearly burning down the house, by the explosion of some bad “coal”. Again, we are told that the wood thefts ceased.
FYI: I must confess that I independently invented this measure well before I knew about this story. I did designs and some small-scale experiments. Better judgement finally prevented me from using the proven idea. I did finally catch and confront the person in question, which resolved the issue. – Doc (There was minor involvement of a shotgun.)
FFY: PS – Dynamite won’t explode without the fused blasting cap, it would just burn. In the first story, the shotgun was the blasting cap. – Doc

Firearms were, of necessity, a fixture of the old west. As today, not everyone was a master of the knowledge to use guns safely. Occasionally, the problem was failing to keep up with the times and new innovations in the field.  Black powder, in it’s various forms, was for several hundred years, the only propellant available. Then came smokeless powder.
At times, such is human nature, there are those who don’t get the message, don’t believe it if they do, or choose to go forth and find out for themselves. There were some who viewed smokeless powder merely more powerful, cleaner, black powder. They were to learn the hard way that smokeless powder generates quite a bit more pressure, somewhat sooner than black powder and that the charges for a given firearm were very different.
An unfortunate final error for some. Photo: U.S. PD? internet.  {001}
——– One does have to wonder where that other piece of the barrel ended up? ——–
Photo Gallery Index – Weapons Photos – Ammunition, Then and Now
Black Powder and Smokeless Powder
This story’s native location is Photo Gallery Index – Weapons Photos – Ammunition, Then and Now

A Crown Sheet ExplosionA crown sheet explosion - Railroads in the West

This is the result of a crown sheet explosion. The introducing of water to the locomotive while it’s fired up, but the water supply has run dry. When the new water hits the red hot crown sheet it instantly flashes to steam and this is what happens, often causing in the death of the crew. Photo: U.S. PD? internet.  {001}
This story’s native location is Photo Gallery Index – Transportation Photos – Railroads in the West

Let There be Light!

Before 1850, miners would use candles or small lamps that were hung from crevices or hammered into timbers near their work. Miners often carried open flames into the mines in the form of candles and hanging lamps, and later wore the open flames of carbide lamps and oil-wick lamps on their caps and helmets. Not much of a problem in hard rock mines, but coal mines had two major hazards to an open flame, blackdamp (methane gas) and coal dust. Many coal miners lost their lives in explosions. The invention of the Davy safety lamp (1820) in England significantly reduced the hazard, but accidents still occurred. Mining is a very dangerous occupation.
Note: The “in service” dates for the lamps are somewhat loose, only showing the peak years of use.

 As always with OWDR, this is a very light (pun intended) look at an important issue. – Doc

Miner's Covered Oil Lamp

Miner’s Covered Oil Lamp
Photo: U.S. PD internet
in service 1800 – 1870

Miner's safety Lantern - Mining Photos

Miner’s Safety Lantern
Photo: U.S. PD? internet
in service 1820 – 1900+









Miner's spouted oil wick lamp - Mining Photos

Miner’s spouted oil wick lamp
Photo: U.S. PD? internet
in service 1850 – 1910+

Miner's Candle Holder - Mining Photos

Miner’s Candle holder
Photo: U.S. PD? internet
in service 1800 – 1900+







Miner's "Bull's Eye" Lamp - Mining Photos

“Bull’s Eye”
Miners Lamp
Photo: U.S. PD? internet
in service 1800 – 1900+



Carbide Miner's Lamp - Mining Photos

Carbide Miner’s Lamp
Photo: U.S. PD? internet
in service 1900 – 1950+








The first electrical mining lamp was patented by William Clark (1859).
Electric lights began to come to the mines after the turn of the 20th century (1905+).
A miner’s headgear usually consisted of cloth or canvas hats with leather brims and metal lamp brackets on the forehead allowing for a light source (lamp)  on the front of their cap (1850 to 1915 +). Caps also served as minor protection from small bumps and eyes from dust, smoke and soot.
This story’s native location is Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos
References – Dictionary – methane
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – The Mystery of Burning Mountain in New Castle, CO
——————————– video at bottom of page —————————–

For Further reading in Old West Daily Reader relative to Exploding Lessons:
Wk. 27, 07/03/1901 – The Great Northern Coast Flyer

OWDR barbed wire divider - trappers and huntersEnd: Exploding Lessons

{001}-1-1- C 06/24; E 06/24; F 06/16; P 06/24
[whohit]-Exploding Lessons-[/whohit]

Copyright 2024 Robert W. Boyle and “The Old West Daily Reader”
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