Saturday, June 15, 2013


I took this picture of my Mom and Dad
when I was 7 years old.
I have many memories of my Dad, but one sticks out in my mind from the time we lived in Trona, California.  Dad was the only dentist in town and active in the community.  For many years he served on the local school board.
                 During one school board meeting, the recreational use of dynamite by local high school youth became a hot issue.  Trona was a small, isolated town in the Mojave Desert.  The  principal employers were the local mineral processing plants and the railroad.  The desert, however, was studded with old mines and active prospecting sites, where stashes of abandoned dynamite lay hidden, ready for the taking by exploring teenagers.
                In that meeting, Dad waxed a bit hot under the collar on what should be done about this problem.  One member interrupted to say, “AlDean, your son is one of the ringleaders.”
                That stopped my Dad cold.

                I confess.  I was guilty as charged.  My friends and I for years had collected old dynamite.  Dynamite didn’t scare me.  With the hard caliche layer in our desert soils, dynamite use was pretty common.  Besides, I had looked up dynamite facts in a university library while I was there for a youth conference.   Along with learning the basics of how to do a blast, I had researched safety.   What could go wrong?
                I was late that night coming home from football practice.  As I walked in, I saw Dad sitting on a kitchen chair in the living room, facing the door, staring at me.  This was not usual.
                “Come sit down on the couch,” he instructed.  “We need to talk.”  His face was serious.
                 Uh-oh.  This did not look good.
                “At the school board meeting tonight, they said you were one of the kids using dynamite.  Is this true?”
                I never lied to my Dad.  “Yes.”
                He proceeded to tell me what a dumb thing that was.  He said I would get myself killed or kill someone else.  “What are you thinking?” he finished.
                “I never blow up anything that is worth anything, Dad.  Just old abandoned cars and stuff, big rocks and things like that.  And I am always careful.”
                My Dad shook his finger at me.  “Do you have any dynamite now?”
                “Where is it?
                “Hidden out in the desert.”
                That stopped him for a moment.  “Well, get rid of it.”
                “Dad, how am I supposed to do that? You can’t just put it out for the garbage truck.”
                Dad stared at me for a moment.  “Well, this weekend go out into the desert and blow it all up.  Just be careful.  And don’t get yourself killed.”
                “Okay, Dad. Don’t worry.”
                His face relaxed a little.  “And don’t tell your Mom.”
                That weekend my friends and I had a blast blowing up 50 or more sticks of dynamite in some of the largest blasts we had ever engineered.  That evening, Dad asked me if I had any dynamite.

                “It’s all gone,” I answered truthfully.
                I did do dynamiting while away at college, but never again at home.  After that evening, Dad never brought up the subject and we never talked about dynamite again.  He was never backward about letting me know when I messed up, but then the subject was in the past.
                My Dad was my good friend as an adult.  I always valued his wisdom and I miss him now that he’s gone.  I know everyone thinks they have the best Dad, but I’m pretty sure that I did.


  1. He sounds pretty amazing to me!

  2. Loved reading this one! Great post!

    1. Thanks, Elsie. It was good to be able to talk about my Dad.

  3. Fun story Berk, it sounds like you've had a lot of fun in the desert. I love and miss your dad too, I wish I knew him better....and that I had worn my retainer like I was supposed to.

  4. I remember your telling me this story when we were in college while doing your dynamiting! I was fascinated by your calm and lack of fear of dynamite. I also remember a story about blasting caps that Mr. Anderson from Antelope Valley told me when his mother washed his shirts with caps in the pocket. Hilariously funny, but dangerously potent at the same time.