Rumor whispers that, somewhere past the last boarded-up shop in the
mid-nowhere town of Hardyville, past the last dry lawn, out in the
sagebrush, there is — of all things — a pet cemetery.
It’s not much of a cemetery, they say. Hardyville isn’t much of a place,
and not the sort that has money enough to show sentimentality to dead
critters. Still, it’s out there: a boneyard filled with kitty coffins and
dearly departed dogs.
Nobody knows just where. Or if they do, they aren’t talking. It might be
up on BLM land past Nat Lyons’ horse ranch. Or half a mile’s walk from G.I.
Joe Carty’s favorite hunting spot. It might even be out near the airstrip
where Bob-the-Nerd, our one and only computer geek, flies model planes.
Like I say, nobody admits to knowing, exactly. But one thing they
whisper; someday things will rise from the dead out there.
No, this isn’t a Halloween column, five months late. I’m not talking
about Fluffy clawing upward, gory and grouchy as in Stephen King’s Pet
Sematary. I’m talking about ammo, maybe. Gold coins. Firearm
components. Valuable stuff still guarded by faithful animal companions —
though now Old Yeller serves as a silent decoy, rather than an armed guard.
My guess is that, some years back, perhaps around the last time the
Republicrats passed anti-gun laws or made it easier for government enforcers
to steal assets, Hardyvillians got their hands on a booklet called How
to Bury Your Goods.. This gem was, and still is, put out by my own
publisher, the underground outrager, Loompanics Umlimited (now going legit
as Breakout Productions). It was written by Eddie the Wire.
I must say I’m thrilled that once-respectable me shares a book publisher
with someone called Eddie the Wire. I’m even more pleased that Mr. Wire has
done good. This isn’t like some of those underground books, filled with
dangerous guesswork and instructions too vague to follow. In sixty-six
skinny pages (with helpful illustrations) Eddie tells you everything you’d
ever want to know about stashing stuff underground. Like:
- How to keep your goodies dry and intact
- How to foil metal detectors, sonar systems and other techno-snooping
- How to remember where your stash is located — without giving invaders
Pretty good info, clearly told. And the pet grave idea is just one of
many. Successful use of cat carrion as a ruse requires certain tricks, and
I’m sure Mr. Wire and the builders of the Hardyville Haven of Rover and
Revolvers wouldn’t appreciate my blatting those tricks on a Web site that
gets more than three million readers a day. So I won’t. But if you’re
feeling uneasy about whatever “help” Your Benevolent Government may offer
you next, or if you simply want to play pirate, burying treasure — I
recommend Mr. Wire.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the only recent use Hardyvillians have made of
mutts who’ve met their maker or cats who’ve come a cropper.
It’s a sad fact that, out here in the country, critter corpses are
common. Calves are stillborn. Horses founder and are put down. City folks,
having shown their children the “miracle” of puppy or kitty birth, dump the
result rather than take responsibility for the “miracle” of agonizing death.
Country people being what they are, nearly every spare thing gets used.
But aside from the traditional dog food and glue from large-animal bodies,
even Hardyvillians generally think there’s not much use for a dead animal.
Nat Lyons, an old-time ranch boy, thought so when he first saw the Young
Curmudgeon stopping his pickup truck to shovel road-kill off the highway.
The Young Curmudgeon is a local outcast who took up squatter’s rights under a corner of Nat’s Ranch.
Mudge isn’t the kind who’d clean up the highway out of sheer do-gooderism or
stop to give a lost pet a decent burial. So what, Nat wondered, was up? Was
the kid eating his meals at the Roadkill Cafe?
Nat patiently watched and waited. What he eventually got is information
you might be able use. Mudge was creating raw material for a time-honored
and beneficial product. And if you have a weak stomach, a soft heart, or a
chemical supply catalog, you don’t even have to use dead cats to make it.
Mudge, it turned out, was building what used to be called a nitre bed.
It’s something like a compost heap, except the end result isn’t fertilizer.
It’s saltpeter — one of three ingredients in gunpowder. And saltpeter
(potassium nitrate) in nature begins with animal wastes or wasted animals.
Saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur. Combine ’em and you’ve got a boom.
Combine ’em carelessly, of course, and you’ve got a boom that sends your
spleen splatting into your neighbor’s hot tub. So Don’t Try This At Home
unless home is waaaay the heck out there and you’re willing to risk your
spare body parts. (Not to mention possibly breaking a dozen laws. But then,
in these law-ridden days you do that just by getting out of bed.)
Just as I’m not about to reveal Mr. Wire’s details on defunct doggies, I
won’t try to give a Handy One-Paragraph Recipe for gunpowder. I’ve warned
before that I’m so chemically inept I can barely make a cup of hot chocolate
without demolishing the kitchen. So don’t count on me. And don’t count on
Mudge, who has a wild streak wider than any Reasonable Reader should.
Then who can you count on, if you want to learn how to “roll your own”
gunpowder? You might try my second favorite publisher, Paladin Press. Although Paladin
author Don McLean’s name isn’t anywhere near as cool as Mr. Eddie T. Wire’s,
his little work, The Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook is. In 73 pages, he explains
how to make traditional black powder, as well as red or white gunpowder. The
first half gives instructions for the safest ways — with chemicals of known
quality. The second half goes into dead-cat mode — how to make gunpowder as
they did 300 years ago, or as you might have to in a survival scenario, out
of horse flops, bat guano, drywall, old bones and even pre-processed urine
All along, McLean is blessedly clear about ingredients, equipment and
safety precautions. He’s even interesting, giving historic tidbits
As luck would have it, in that equestrian era there existed an
in-place source of saltpeter awaiting exploitation in the form of
encrustations on the walls of cellars and stables. In England, special
agents of the crown, known for being a rowdy and undesirable lot, were
appointed to seek out and fetch these deposits for His/Her Majesty, no doubt
the point in time where “s–t detail” entered the language.
If you want to see gunpowder made hands on Paladin also sells The
Homemade Gunpowder Video: How to Make It, How to Use It. Actually,
this is much more than its name implies. Besides demonstrating production of
three types of powder, its makers show how to build signal rockets and
tripwire ignition devices and how to use improvised and traditional black
Keep in mind that this isn’t the smokeless powder used in modern
firearms. You can’t make that at home, and you can’t use this
in your Uzi. These powders are for old-fashioned weapons, improvised
firearms and homemade fireworks, big and small. And as I’m sure Paladin
would want me to tell you, this book and video are For Educational Purposes
In a future column we’ll take a look at modern ammo building (including
some improvised techniques for hard times), as described in another Paladin
Press book, Duncan Long’s
Homemade Ammo: How to Make It, How to Reload It, How to Cache It.
Though I wouldn’t mess with making powder, I’ve loaded ammo myself, and I
can tell you that, despite the sneerings of my macho friends, “even a girl
can do it.”
You’ll also be relieved to know that doesn’t involve any kitty catacombs.
Note: Production of this column was not overseen by a representative of
the ASPCA. However, no animals, except
those belonging to the species bureaucratus obnoxious or
governmentalis overbearingus, were harmed in the writing of these