As my readers know, Shiral is the home planet of Shi’ahn, the main character in The Universe Cycle. What you don’t know is that it is based on a real place.
Every year, not long after school was out for the summer, my dad would take Mom and I up to a cabin on an island in Lake Huron that had been in the family since 1909. He would leave us up there to care for his mother, who had been spending summers there since she was a child. It was originally named Camp Llywelyn, after our Welsh ancestor.
It was a rustic camp with four log sleeping cabins, a ‘main cabin’ which served as a family room, with attached kitchen and covered porch were we ate our meals, and as Dad used to say, two paths – his and hers outhouses. There was no electricity, no phone, and our kitchen water came from a hand pump drawing water from the lake. There was no bridge to the island, and no roads on it – access was only by a two mile boat ride.
Dad was leery about leaving us without a man in the camp, so he would hire someone he trusted to stay with us and perform certain camp upkeep chores that were necessary to keep the place from falling apart. In order to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent, I’ll call him Walt. During the weekday’s, we were kept fairly busy, but from the late afternoons on, and on weekends, we had a great deal of fun.
The Root-Beer Can Cannon
Walt had learned to make what was called a beer can cannon, where you make strategically placed cuts in cans and tape them together to make a rudimentary cannon. One usually placed a tennis ball in the top can, lighter fluid in the bottom can, shake it up and place a match at the opening of the bottom can. A mild explosion would send the tennis ball into the air.
Well, we didn’t have any tennis balls, so we used a mustard bottle. It was a bit of a tight fit, but the extra compression served to give us higher launches, so all was good. Until we ran out of lighter fluid.
One of my families unusual traditions was building and shooting flint-lock rifles, so Dad had a nice stock of black powder for target practices. You can see where this is leading…
Walt and I decided to use black powder in place of the lighter fluid, but we didn’t know how much to use, so we filled the bottom can about a quarter full. Now we knew that black powder was dangerous, so we carefully placed the cannon on the dock, put a fire cracker in the opening, lit it and ran like hell. The following explosion was quite impressive, although we immediately knew that our cannon was-no-more. A ring was burned into the dock log, and our mustard bottle was missing.
Or so we thought.
After what seemed like a good deal of searching for the mustard bottle, we heard a SPLOOSH out in the bay.
We did not make a new cannon.