Also known in Britain as "Gunpowder Treason Day," "Fireworks Night" and "Guy Fawkes Day," today's Gunpowder Day commemorates the 1605 attempt by Fawkes and others to blow up the English House of Lords along with everyone in it, including, hopefully, the king.
The Gunpowder Plot, as it came to be known, failed miserably. The participants were rounded up and tortured. Then they were executed except for Fawkes, who jumped off the scaffold and broke his own neck before he could be hanged in a more civilized manner.
That was all a long time ago. Today what we have is a day that really just celebrates the infatuation many of us (almost the entire male population of Earth) have with gunpowder.
Note: Gunpowder is dangerous and should not be handled by lunatics, fools and casual vandals (almost the entire male population of Earth).
Women generally do not understand the natural male attraction to explosives. That's OK. Most men don't understand the natural female attraction to bearing children. And if we're being honest here, both are equally detrimental to peace of mind and personal finance.
What historians know for certain is that sometime in our distant past, prehistoric man started wondering if it was possible to see things blown to bits without having to wait on lightning or volcanoes.
It turned out the answer was a resounding, "Wow, did you see how far that *$%& went?"
The Chinese invented gunpowder in the ninth century. Why they did is perfectly simple: They could use it to make really expensive fireworks.
Locally, the first exposure most young males have to this sort of thing is Independence Day (Fourth of July) or Not-So-Independence Day (24th of July).
The light and explosions against the night sky instinctively prompt the immature male psyche to question whether such things could be made to happen without the constraints of adult supervision.
There are two ways to handle this perfectly natural yearning either allow young males to experiment on their own or have them learn from a master craftsman.
Either way is not without risk but the former is "damn dangerous" and the latter "not as much." Both are probably illegal.
I got my start with a cap pistol. Back then, "caps" came in small paper rolls that were fed through a toy pistol. It was every bit as lame as it sounds.
Reasoning that if one cap produced an unimpressive "crack," then hitting an entire box of 500 with a hammer would put a hole in a sidewalk, I gave it a try. It didn't. What it did was flash burn five of my bare toes.
Fortunately, I had a crazy grandfather who taught me how to do things more or less right. Meanwhile, Sonny was learning from his father.
Today, we combine our knowledge to answer such intriguing science questions as whether something ordinary can be made to travel fast enough to go through the side of a barn. Answer: It can, most of the time.
As I gather up the gear today, I'll be thinking about all those who taught me how to put a little more light and noise in life.
Walt Dyle, 1936-2013. This one is for you.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.