The Dumbass Chronicles – The Trip Flare Incident
“What am I going to do with this trip flare?” a buddy asks me outside bar in Lawrence, Kansas on a hot summer evening in 1989.
“Wait…trip flare? What the fuck are you doing with a trip flare?” I replied.
Where he got it isn’t important (especially since the statute of limitations does not apply to “acquired” military ammunition). The only thing you need to know is I had a friend in need. He was a fellow National Guardsman who was moving (after six years in school) and didn’t want to take the aforementioned trip flare with him. So he brought it to a bar to pawn it off on some dumbass. Instead he found me.
“Let me see that,” I said snatching it from his hands. As a recent graduate of Infantry Basic and AIT and (more importantly) a Senior in Army ROTC, I was practically Rambo. All I needed was a grenade pin to rip out with my teeth. And I found it.
“Dude…you want to get rid of this? That’s easy.” Before anyone could move, I had the pin out and tossed it toward the street in front of the bar. I momentarily pondered why everyone was diving for cover, but then figured halfway through the flight of the now white hot magnesium ball of fire slowly arcing over some poor schmuck’s parked car to bounce carelessly into Ohio Street. You see, trip flares light up the second the spoon is released, hence the name trip flare. It wouldn’t do much good with a delay because during the five seconds between the pin being pulled and the miniature sun lighting up, the enemy could be in your foxhole stabbing you in the face. Which is what I hoped someone would do to me when I saw an entire Kansas neighborhood lit up like ground zero of a nuclear blast as this trip flare settled in the middle of the street.
I have never been so amazed at the power of the Army Ordnance Corps as that very moment. Were Eddie Murphy on scene, he would have run around yelling, “Now that’s a fire! That’s a fire!” Five hundred meters down the road, a man walking his dog appeared and just before he fell to the ground shouting in pain and covering his eyes, I could see they were a deep shade of blue. A Stargate opened up on Ohio Street. Waiting for the darkness to reclaim the night was the longest sixty seconds of my life.
“What the fuck, dude?” my buddy yelled as he got up off the ground and turned his back to the boiling hot white dwarf as it melted the world around us. I had to cover my ass.
“You said you wanted to get rid of it right? Problem solved. Now buy me a beer.” He wasn’t buying anything.
“I wanted you to turn it in to the armory for me. You know, like amnesty. Not light up half of campus!”
“The cops are going to come down here for sure,” my other friend said. He was always the “glass is half empty” pessimist of the group, but he was probably right. The Lawrence PD frequently cruised this neighborhood and finding an illegally procured and expended piece of government hardware on a college kid was just the thing redneck cops lust over. Besides, the flare (STILL burning) was attracting the attention of a slew of sorority chicks who were moths to a flame when it came to shiny objects. Only an idiot would have stayed at the scene. Then again, only an idiot would have tossed a military-grade trip flare into the road in front of a bar.
“What is that?” a petite blonde asked, emerging from the bar shielding her eyes. “Did you do that?”
“I’ll hang here,” I said. “What’s the worst that can happen?”