Things that go “Boom!” in the night…

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This past Saturday we went to a flea market and walked around. There was a new vendor, an old guy, there this time who was selling old dynamite boxes. I saw them and thought it was kinda cool and he noticed my interest and walked over and we started talking.

As it turns out, he worked in explosives for 35 years and told us a fascinating story about what happened one night. He lived out in the boonies in Mississippi…really, really out in the boonies. As it turns out, it was late at night and he was driving his truck with 3500 pounds of dynamite in the back. As he was driving, he noticed white smoke coming from the back of the truck and knew what that meant – something in the back of the truck was hot and starting to burn.

He jumped out of the truck and ran back down the highway. As he saw another vehicle, a logging truck coming, and told the guy to stay away!, that his truck had caught fire. As he stated back toward the truck with the dynamite, he noticed that the fire had turned white which meant that the dynamite itself was starting to burn. He ran back to the man with the logging truck and they jumped under the trailer of the truck. Just about then, “BOOM!”, it exploded! A farmer from one of the farms came over and when the driver of the dynamite truck proceeded to explain what had just happened the Mississippi farmer looked very relieved and drawled, “Oh, good. I thought them Roosians (Russians) bombed us!” (This was back in the time of the cold war when everyone was on edge about the possibility of nuclear war.)

It was too dark to explore the wreckage, but in the morning when the dynamite driver and his father went to check it all out there was nothing left of the truck except for the engine block that had blown hundreds of yards away. Apparently, windows on 37 houses 1.2 miles away were blown out by the force of the explosion.

He doesn’t drive dynamite around anymore and is out of the dynamite business entirely except for finding and selling old dynamite boxes!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1956, Look magazine published the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago. In the Look article, titled “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” the men detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article.

In August 1955, 14-year-old Till, whose nickname was Bobo, traveled to Mississippi to visit relatives and stay at the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright. On August 24, Till went into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, to buy candy. At some point, he allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who ran the store with her husband Roy, who was away at the time. Till’s seemingly harmless actions carried weight in an era when prejudice and discrimination against blacks was persistent throughout the segregated South.

In the early hours of August 28, Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, abducted Emmett Till from his great-uncle’s home. The men were soon arrested but maintained their innocence. On August 31, Till’s decomposed body was found in the Tallahatchie River. On September 3, Till’s mother held an open-casket funeral for her son, in order to bring attention to his murder. An estimated 50,000 mourners attended. Afterward, Jet magazine published graphic photos of Till’s corpse.

On September 19, the kidnapping and murder trial of Bryant and Milam began in Sumner, Mississippi. Five days later, on September 23, the all-white, all-male jury acquitted the two men of murder after deliberating for little over an hour. The jury claimed it would’ve reached its decision even more quickly–despite overwhelming evidence that the defendants were guilty–had it not taken a soda break. The acquittal caused international outrage and helped spark the American civil rights movement.

Milam and Bryant were never brought to justice and both later died of cancer. In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department reopened the case amid suggestions that other people—some of whom are still alive—might have participated in the crime. Till’s body was exhumed by the FBI in 2005 and an autopsy was performed. In 2007 a grand jury decided not to seek an indictment against additional individuals.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: only 1/3 of spacecraft sent to Mars have been successful, leading some scientists to wonder if there is a Martian “Bermuda triangle” or a “Great Galactic Ghoul” that likes to eat spacecraft.

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