Sounds of “New Years”

Tales of Vashon

I had just traded a black lab pup to Uncle Jerry for a Krag 30-40 rifle and was looking forward toward shooting it in the air as soon as the clock said it was midnight.  It was common practice to celebrate the coming of the New Year by shooting in the air, for sound at night can carry a long ways.

Brother Mike was carrying the shells as we climbed the hay field towards the road that led north to Cove.  This was the first year that Dad had allowed us to use a gun to bring in the New Year.  It was pitch black except for the twinkle of the stars and the cold made Mikes breath appear as fog as we climbed the hill.  “Is it near midnight yet,” I asked Mike?  We had synchronized the alarm clock to the radio so as not to be late for the midnight celebration.  “It’s five minutes to twelve,” Mike replied as a faint popping could be heard coming from Olalla over in Kitsap county.  “Hey, that’s not right, they are jumping the gun, “Mike calls out as an answering report came from Cove, a half mile down the road.

Ed Secor was an aspiring young opera singer and his arias could be heard above the gunfire as we neared midnight and the shooting swelled to a crescendo and I lifted the rifle that Teddy Roosevelt used when he charged up San Juan Hill many years ago.  The noise was deafening as Ed’s aria rose above the din of the New Year.

Ed’s family raised chickens for sale and had a steel drum with rubber posts sticking out that would rid the young chickens of their feathers.  As the drum rotated, it went whump! whump!  As Ed sang along with it.  We could hear Ed’s aria, we called all opera “aria”, from our place a quarter mile away as Ed plucked his father’s chickens.

We could hear people shooting clear to Colvos, two miles to the North because the sound of old Al Roen’s elephant gun was recognizable.   Actually, we think Al used it on bear.  We were surprised to hear Al’s gun because us kids knew that Al was fighting a bad case of hepatitis and was just recovering.  More than one well on the west side had picked up the virus, or, maybe that was yellow jaundice that year. I guess you could say that we were communicating the positive spirits of the New Year.

John had a similar take on new year’s  celebrations from Bainbridge island.
He said that the ‘sons ‘ of the Norway used to light things on fire at midnight and pass around a jug of homemade aquavit and a jar of home harvested pickled herring while loudly singing songs in somewhat mixed Norwegian and Swedish.

Wisely.. the daughters of Norway stayed inside while the men did the outside ceremony. They usually quietly consumed gluhvine and ate  cookies since at this time of year it was usually cold and wet..and any practical person could see that being outside at this time of year was just plain nutty.

One of the traditions on Bainbridge island as well as Vashon was to fire off a round or two, at the moment of midnight.. it was only a round or two and never enough to disturb any household pets since most of the rifles were basically big bore monsters only recently converted from black powder rounds  so they made  a ‘boooom…’ rather than a sharp ‘crackkk… ‘.

Later, John and i celebrated new years when we both lived in Ferry County.  We would fire my 30.40 Krag and his .405 Winchester 95 plus a few left over large Fourth of July monsters.

One year i had been managing a mine for a time and had found some sticks of old dynamite.  I cut them in quarters and found some old .. and dangerous blasting caps and some old fashioned fuse. I brought them Over to Johns ranch to celebrate..

John was somewhat skeptical but allowed the load of explosives to be fixed by line to a tree next to his baler which was covered by a tarp.

The guns were fired.., one round each.  The night was very cold and clear and sound carried low to the ground for miles.  We could hear the compressors working away at the gold mine 5 miles distant.  We then lit the fuse to the dynamite, hauled the charge up to the too of the tree, and ran back a good safe distance. The fuse sparked and flared as it burned up to the dynamite.  A loud somewhat muffled Boom resulted and the tree flared up in shattered fir needles and branch ends.. and a bit of dull light that seemed to last for a bit.

We stood for a bit in the silence which was broken by a muffled low frequency larger boom.  That was the mid shift at the mine setting off rounds deep underground as if to answer our puny efforts. We were pleased to be acknowledged.

No damage due to our celebration was evident until the next morning when it was found that the tarp over the baler was blown across the road onto a fifty foot pine tree..and was hanging from the top.