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Pancakes and. . . dynamite

In recollective mood, Owen said, ''The year the Legislature banned firecrackers in Maine was the same year we had the grandest Fourth of July explosion in history. The denizens of Bullhorse Pond have never forgotten it.''

You've got to be one of the true breed to know about Bullhorse Pond. When this lovely lake began to feel ''development,'' and folks from towns nearby built camps (cottages) around its shoreline, there was a hoity-toity feeling that Bullhorse Pond was an inelegant way to describe a paradise. This happened several times in the elevation of uncouth Maine into ''Vacationland,'' and those who deplored the vulgarity of niceties went unheeded.

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Dry Pond became Crystal Lake, for example, the rationale being that a body of water described as dry must be misnamed. We can be grateful, however, that Bullhorse Pond persists in the area among the true believers, and Clearwater Lake is not entirely accepted.

Owen had built one of the earlier camps on Bullhorse Pond, and watched in some dismay as others came to build other camps, until the lake was pretty much rimmed. Owen's camp, for some years, was accessible only by boat. He brought all his building materials in Phoebe, an inboard craft fairly large for that lake, and the only boat I ever saw that has an altimeter. Owen is given to whimsy.

There came a day when the isolated point of land where Owen had his camp was divided into lots and sold, and by that time Bullhorse Pond was mostly accepted as Clearwater Lake and his new neighbors felt an access road was in order. Owen was sort of obliged to join in this group venture and one summer the road was laid out and built - from the highway down over the hill, across the swamp, and on to the end of the point. Side roads went to each camp. In a number of places rock had to be blasted, and after the road was finished Owen had 10 sticks of dynamite left over.

''I put 'em in a galvanized pail,'' he told me, ''and where the boy was at that age where he was running around and into everything, I hung the pail high up on a nail in a rafter under the woodshed roof. Seemed a safe place, and I meant to give the matter some thought and figure out what to do. Good question; what do you do with ten sticks of dynamite? Next thing I knew winter had come on and all the camps were empty and the pond frozen over. Pail stayed right there, and it was still there at ice-out when I came back.''

Owen's question was worth a pause. What options are open to anybody wishing to dispossess himself of unwanted explosives? Dynamite isn't something you heave onto the town dump - at least if you value the friendship of the dump master. Having allowed a sufficient narrative pause for me to consider this, Owen assumed that I was ready to hear what he did do.

''Well! It got along into late June before I did anything. Then one day I got down my ladder and climbed up to get the pail. Way I did it, I just went up the ladder, put my hand under the pail, and came down again with the pail balanced on my fingers the way a waitress carries a tray. I didn't plan to jiggle or juggle or jostle, and long as you don't bump dynamite around too much you can keep out of trouble. But once I got down to the ground and had both hands, I took that pail by the bail and made something of a discovery.''

Owen indulged himself in another narrative pause.

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''Up under that roof, where it gets hot in the sun, those sticks of fairly harmless dynamite had disintegrated, and I found I had about half a pail of liquid nitroglycerin in a kind of a sludge, and all at once I was so scairt I couldn't bring myself to set the pail down. I had the ingredients of a major demolition, and when I did set the pail down I went about a half mile away and set myself down to catch a breath.

''Anyway, that was the year the state banned firecrackers, so I touched that pail off with a very long fuse at sunrise on The Fourth. Carried it away around into Muskrat Cove and put it on a big flat rock. Woke everybody in every camp all around the pond, and defoliated every tree in the east end of the township. Only thing ever known to rival Krakatoa. If it'd been a firecracker, I'd have been arrested.''

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