The Bomb Shelter: a Mike and Dink Adventure
by Michael I. Hobbs
1959 in Missouri's bootheel is no different than any place
else in the United States—or the world for that matter. Everybody is
frightened, at least concerned, about the nuclear threat. The U.S. and
the Soviet Union are the only two players and we have all been led to
understand that if a nuclear war is started it will be by the crazy
leaders of the U.S.S.R. Our own government has been the leader in
advising what to do in case of a nuclear attack and has even gone far
enough to publish pamphlets on how to survive a nuclear holocaust.
"Holocaust" is a very scary word. Of course the news media and
Hollywood have done more than a fair amount of scaring the hell out
of all of us! The media blows all the stories they cover out of
proportion and current movies reflect the total destruction of
nuclear war. They depict monsters, mutations of animals and humans,
new species or new natures—their survivors of nuclear war have strange
cravings, for everything from blood to brain matter. Damn! We have
to do something to save ourselves from all the horror that may drop
out of the sky at any moment. According to the movies it will happen
at night and we all know this is correct. All bad things always take
place after dark.
There are a lot of creeks and ditches running through this
area around Bloomfield, Missouri and Dink and I travel them looking
for everything imaginable. We look hardest for old stuff like dinosaur
bones or cannon balls but so far we have had to settle for a few
really old bottles and horses' teeth. In our searches, though, we have
found several good places to fish, swim, hunt and hide out. One of
these is a shallow natural cave in a creek bank, probably formed by
water draining into the creek from the surrounding land. There is no
rock in the walls or ceiling, just dirt consisting mostly of clay. It
is pretty sound, so we have little fear of going into it to get out of
the weather or spend the night. Dink and I both have problems at home
with fathers who like their liquor a little too much and sometimes take
their aggression out on us. The easiest way to prevent this is to
stay away from them as much as possible. We are the best of friends
so we stay away together most of the time but when not together we stay
away apart—staying away is key.
The pamphlet, "Surviving the Nuclear Holocaust," not only
advises us to construct a bomb shelter as the primary means of protection
but also shows how. It suggests using a corner of the basement; a
storm shelter is a good place to start and a natural cave is wonderful.
Dink and I have a natural cave! But it is not large enough and not
sturdy enough to hold up against something like a bomb, even a small
bomb. There's a lot of work to be done and Dink is the self-appointed
engineer and foreman. I am a reluctant laborer, just doing what I am
directed to do, with the knowledge that if we get this thing completed
in time I will probably survive when the bombs begin to fall. The
engineer says we must enlarge the cave first and then shore up the
walls and ceiling with logs. Sounds like a plan, so we begin. Digging
the clay out with our army—surplus entrenching shovels is a real job
but we accomplish it after several days. Then we cut small trees up
and down the creek bank to strengthen the walls and ceiling. Sheets of
plastic between the logs and dirt provide a little waterproofing. All
of this takes several weeks. When we finish, we have a first-class
hideout and Bomb Shelter. We stock it with a kerosene light, a few can
goods, an iron skillet, salt and cornmeal. The skillet, salt and cornmeal
are necessary for frying fish, squirrel or rabbit, which we figure will
be our main diet after the bomb.
Everything is going well. We spend our days and many nights
away from home in our home away from home—the cave bomb shelter clubhouse.
What a cool place!
I guess it's true "all good things must come to an end."
Some do-good adult discovers our secret place and contacts Dink's dad.
He tells him what an unsafe place we are spending our time in—a dirt
cave that would probably cave in, killing both of us. This guy goes a
step farther and takes Dink's dad to the cave. We learn about this
when we're inside the cave and Dink's dad comes crawling inside, scaring
the hell out of both of us. The guy has always treated me okay but
I'm still afraid of him. Dink, whose reaction is always to attack
first, doesn't—I guess because he can tell his dad is sober. We don't
like what the man has to say but he makes sense concerning the danger,
giving some pretty graphic examples of accidents. So, we agree to
abandon it, our home away from home.
We believe this is the end of our bomb shelter adventure,
but in a few days we find out that abandoning the cave did not
complete the process. If the cave is dangerous to us it will be to
others and must be destroyed!
Dink summons a meeting to explain how the cave is to be
destroyed. It seems he is still the engineer and foreman of this
project. The plan is as follows: We first will get several old tires
from Churn's station and move them to inside the cave. Churn has
already said we can have all the old tires we need and he does not
question the intended use. He has always liked and trusted us. We
will soak the tires in gasoline—five gallons should be plenty,
only costing us a dollar or so. Then we will throw a torch inside the
cave and the extreme heat created by the burning tires, log walls and
ceiling will cause our bomb shelter to fall in. Moving the tires takes
several trips back and forth from the cave to the station, and rolling
two tires at a time over all sorts of terrain is no easy task. After
after several hours, though, we get it all the way the engineer, Dink,
wants it. We douse the tires with gasoline, eat a bologna sandwich and drink a
coke while the gasoline soaks in. All things ready, Dink lights the
Dink and I have overlooked (plain did not know) what effect
touching off the gasoline confined in a hole with only a small inlet/outlet,
the cave entrance, will have. Dink moves with the torch to directly
in front of the mouth of the cave and tosses in the torch. KAROOM!!!
Dink goes flying past me at near the speed of light. His arms and legs
are outspread and he is still completely vertical but about two feet
off the ground. He just misses a large oak and lands flat on his back
about forty feet from me. I rush over to him fully expecting to find
a dead Dink but thank God he isn't. He is lying there with his eyes
open, but his hair, bare arms and clothes are smoking; his eyebrows
and lashes are gone; his feet are bare. He is such a sight that I have
to laugh and I laugh even more when he gets to his feet slapping at
still-smoking clothing, repeating "Goddamn" over and over. My laughing
rankles him at first but after seeing the humor in all of this, he begins
laughing too, laughing through the pain. The cave has remained intact!
Then as only my buddy Dink would do, he looks up the big oak tree that
he had just missed during his recent rocket-man experience and calmly
says, "We have got to build us a tree house up there."
That would be another adventure.
Michael I. Hobbs lives in Dexter, Missouri, and is completing a collection of essays. (See Authors, this site.)
Copyright © 2005. Do not reproduce without permission.