The rocket came in early December and the weather was rather warm. It was perfect for testing and we had the perfect spot for the launch pad, the large vacant lot next to my house. One afternoon after school it was decided to try a launch using the liquid fuel designed for it which was similar to the oil fueling display candles in church. When the fuse was lit, the rocket lifted off skyward probably two hundred feet, then fell back to earth perhaps fifty yards away and intact. Perfect, we thought, and now our wizard friend would go to work. He told us to give him three days and he'd come up with a bigger boost so we just waited. In the meantime, I was the record keeper and started a journal concerning conditions of weather, performance of the launch and condition on return with date and time.
About a week later, our technical wizard scheduled another test. When we assembled at the launch pad, a careful examination of the rocket noted a big difference. The exterior of the fuel section now had a light metal interior chamber with a cardboard base with a pinhole in the bottom allowing a long fuse to extend out the bottom that was about five inches long. When we asked what the new fuel was, our wizard just laughed, saying he'd tell us after the test. I assisted the brave one, the "Moose," who would light the fuse. I placed the rocket on the firing pad and backed off to my observer's position. The "Moose" lit the fuse and the rocket blasted off with a whirring roar resembling a jet being launched by catapult off the deck of an aircraft carrier. The burn wasn't long, but it was nearly out of sight in seconds in the bright afternoon sky, far above the earlier shot. Moments later, however, it was spotted and it landed no more than one hundred yards away. There was a slight dent in the exterior metal housing for the fuel pod, but otherwise just as it was at take-off. It was only after success was affirmed that the "Wizard" told us he had ground up two cherry bombs for fuel and hence, the explosive lift off. The cardboard base allowed the force to be delivered downward through the weakest link and into the ground, causing the very forceful lift off.
We were now ready for New Year's Eve, the big show, and on that night, at about one minute to midnight, I placed the rocket on the launchpad, having a little trouble getting it stabilized due to the soft earth from the rain earlier in the day, and then walked to safety as the "Moose" lit the fuse and ran to get out of the way. As the explosion of force from the blast hit, the launch pad listed and instead of going up, up, up, the rocket made a sharp ninety degree turn and skimmed the ground in the direction of the "Moose" who took a glancing blow to the arm, otherwise unharmed, and the rocket sizzled into the huge hedge separating the field from my house. It was lodged within the bush and was hot, so we waited for it to cool before removing it. The force was noted by the fact that the "Moose" had a burn mark on the sleeve of his coat from the hot rocket. Luckily, a near miss was as good as a mile. Not to be deterred, the "Moose" then performed what he called his "snow dance," as he did every New Year's Eve in hope of the snow that never came. This year, however, the rain turned to snow and by sunup we had about five inches, before the later rain turned it to slush.
When we asked the "Wizard" why the power had seemed so much greater, he sheepishly said he had doubled the fuel, using four instead of two cherry bombs. Later, we would fire one more shot, this time with five ground cherry bombs for fuel. It was a perfect late afternoon launch, more powerful than ever, and we never saw the height she reached or the rocket ever again. We combed the entire area, but to no avail and no one ever said they had seen it. Who knows? Perhaps it's just another piece of space junk floating around up there. Wishful thinking and Happy New Year! And here's to those crazy memories of yesteryear.