Jim Buchanan

Jim Buchanan

So there’s this joke going around:

A young man receives a call from an elder who needs help with his roof. The guy’s 94 years old, so the youngster figures he can go out to the man’s house and take his sweet time on the roof doing repairs unmolested.

But when he show up, the man is running up and down a ladder to the roof, carrying bundles of shingles and working frantically.

Understandably, the worker asks the old man what’s up – how he’s so limber and energetic at that age.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” the man says. “Every morning at breakfast, no matter what you’re having – biscuits, eggs, fruit, whatever – take a little gunpowder and sprinkle on it. Not much, just a few grains. Do that and you’ll see results.”

The young man figured the guy was pulling his leg, but got to thinking on the matter and out of curiosity did as he’d been advised.

As the small amount of gunpowder was undetectable, not altering the taste of anything, he kept it up for a week or so and soon just got into the habit of it.

Time went by, and he started to notice he quit having allergies in spring, never got the flu in winter and in general never had any health complaints.

So he kept it up. And it continued to work.

The young man eventually turned into an old man himself, and stayed hale and hearty until death came for him at the age of 102. (Motorcycle wreck).

He left behind eight kids, 23 grandkids, 17 great-grandkids…and a 30-foot crater where the crematorium once stood.

I told that joke to Howard Allman as he was taking his daily walk down Main Street the other day. Howard said he’d heard stories of people slipping gunpowder into the feed of a plug horse to make it act more lively when attempting to sell it.

True? I don’t know. I do recall that Ichabod Crane’s horse in Sleepy Hollow was named Gunpowder, so maybe that’s a reference.

I have seen stories of people using gunpowder as a food seasoning back in the 19th century. Gunpowder back then was more or less a combination of charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate, so maybe that’s possible. I certainly don’t recommend it, and really don’t recommend using modern smokeless powder, most of which contains nitrocellulose. If you ate a bunch of that stuff and had a bout of gas I imagine your remains might end up in low-Earth orbit.

I got to thinking about powder and blasting a bit after a recent visit to my mother-in-law. She related a story about a hobby she had in her youth that definitely would have made her a prize winner on the old “What’s My Line?” game show.

Powder blows things up, and in war it also blows people up. A lot of those people survive traumatic injuries and go on with their lives.

Such was the case when Beverly, my mother-in-law, was looking for something to do to help kill time when husband Joe was off at military training.

She became the scorekeeper for a one-legged bowling team.

This was back in the days before advanced prosthetics, so the bowlers would hop up to the line on one leg and toss the ball.

It was apparently quite a challenge, as the team of veterans generally had a grander old time accusing one another of fouls for being over the line than any serious attempt to roll a good frame.

Buchanan is editor of the Sylva Herald.