Ed. Note: Last November, this column dealt with the term “shoo-shoo,” which the author maintains has been part of the area’s lexicon – although newcomers do not seem to be aware of it. As explained, the term most often applies to a situation that did not meet expectations or threat levels, such as, “The tropical storm was a shoo-shoo.” This follow-up column deals with another, critically important, and once quite common use of the term. Consultation with a physician, or an explosives expert, is advised.
When the subject is shoo-shoos, Royce E. Hodnett Sr. has stories to tell. Hodnett, who now lives in Poplarville, Mississippi, read the aforementioned shoo-shoo column while waiting in the doctors’ office. His memories were soon transported to Christmas seasons as a kid when a common holiday past time was to shoot firecrackers.
Disclaimers Nos. 1-3:
1. What follows are accounts of actions by wayward youth back in the days before kids had to wear helmets to ride bikes or were strapped down in the back seats of cars.
Do not attempt anything mentioned below either at home – or anywhere else.
2. Fireworks in many places are illegal. They are mentioned here strictly for historical purposes. The author himself never purchases fireworks, not even Black Cats, which, he says, are often sold from rural roadside stands in combination economy packs though, he laments, Roman Candles are not what they used to be in terms of fire power.
3. Finally, the term “bomb” is used to apply simply to something rigged together to make a noise probably no louder than to scare a chicken. There are no implied links to any nefarious organizations.
Hodnett, who grew up in the Plaquemines parish community of Sunrise, recalls the good ole days of lighting a cherry bomb in an oil can and watching it explode “in a million pieces.” Or sticking a firecracker in an anthill and watching it explode. (Disclaimer No. 4: We will just assume that the ants were out shopping at the times of the incidents and were able to relocate to better anthills.)
Then there were the shoo-shoos. Those were the fireworks that for some reason didn’t ignite. Hodnett recalls that there were sometimes hundreds “maybe thousands” of shoo-shoos in the yard. Those would be gathered and used in various ways. One was to bend the firecracker in the shape of a “V” so that it broke open in the center. When a lit match was applied to the exposed “gun powder” there would be sparks and the bent firecrackers would “take off in all directions.”
There was the time when their friend Lanny came over sporting a shoo-shoo between his lips like a cigarette. He lit the shoo-shoo to create a smoky billow. Hodnett told his friend that a shoo-shoo cigarette didn’t seem like a very good idea. The friend scoffed, so too did Hodnett’s brother, Steve, who also decided to puff on a shoo-shoo. The two boys were enjoying their would-be cigarettes until both smokes exploded, practically simultaneously. “The next morning, Lanny came over. Steve and Lanny smiled. They looked like a mirror image of each other,” Hodnett wrote. “Their lips were swollen, burnt and split. They looked like they had huge, red clown lips that made tears run down their faces, every time they tried to talk.”
Nevertheless the family members had a good laugh, so too did the boys, though smiling was painful. Both recovered.
Then there was the time Royce decided to make a “bomb” with shoo-shoo remains. (See disclaimer No. 3 above.) He emptied shoo-shoo gunpowder into a plastic pill bottle. When he told his little brother, Paul, what he was making, the younger boy wanted to help. His job was to hold the bottle while Royce filled it with gunpowder and then lit it. At that moment the younger brother was to put the plastic cap on and throw the bottle as far as he could. Well, the timing was off. The powder began to shoot sparks, which caused the plastic pill bottle to melt on Paul’s fingers. Steve, the other brother, saw what was happening, ran into the house and came back with a potion to soothe Paul’s hand. Paul screamed as the stinging liquid splashed on his palm. It turns out the ointment was their dad’s after-shave lotion, which, as the well-intended Steve pointed out, said right there on the label, “Ice Blue Aqua Velva.”
Years later, after he retired from working offshore for Texaco, Hodnett’s wife bought him an electric typewriter. He has been chronicling memories ever since. Life’s lesson from all this is that today’s big ideas could have been yesterday’s shoo-shoos.
Disclaimer No. 5: No chickens were bothered in the telling of these stories.