L. Ron Hubbard Oil well stories, for instance, always seem to have a villain who in the height of hate, drops a wrench or something down a well to ruin it. Dropping things into the hole is common. In cable tool drilling, so many hours or days are regularly estimated in with the rest of the work for fishing. The tools fall in, wrenches drop, bits stick, cables break, and wells are never, never abandoned because of it, or is it considered at all serious.

In the oil well story Mike McGraw gnaws upon a lighted cigar while he mixes nitroglycerin. He shoots fulminate caps with a slingshot to explode them. He is, in short, doing everything a man shouldn’t do—according to popular opinion. There’ll be fireworks in that quarter. Plenty of fireworks. But I’ve nailed the answers down. Soup, unless confined, will burn slowly when ignited. Smoking while making it is no more dangerous than smoking in a gasoline station—and everybody does that. As for caps, they explode only when they are scratched with steel or when they have been hammered hard.

I almost went crazy in Puerto Rico while surveying a metal mine. The native in charge of dynamite was very, very careless, so I thought. One day, after he had blown a series along a drift, I told him what I thought about it. He was smoking and carrying 60 percent dynamite at the same time. To my horror he shoved the lighted end of his cigar against a stick. It burned no faster than a pitchy piece of kindling. He used to shoot dogs with fulminate triple-force caps.

[Picture] The process of digging up data is interesting when I can get these gentlemen to give me a hand. The navy diver here is responsible for the data and authenticity of this story. Going down off the end of a dock didn’t give me such a good idea of what it was all about after all. Never got so scared before in all my life. Something ghastly about it. And the helmet is enough to deafen you and the cuffs were so tight my hands got blue.

But it was lots of fun!

When these stories start to come out and when the letters start to come in calling me seven different kinds of a liar (which they will), sit easy and grin and shoot them this way. There isn’t anything reasonable in the way of criticism I can’t answer anent this collected data.

It was either bow to popular fallacy and avoid all technical descriptions, or ride roughshod, make sure I was right and damn the torpedoes. Making the latter choice, I’ve laid myself wide open several times to crank letters. So be it.


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