DALLAS, 8:48 a.m. CDT April 16, 2003 – A teenager has lost his sight after being struck in the face with a frog, shot from a so-called “potato gun.”
Daniel Benjamin Berry, 17, received the injury after he looked down the barrel of the gun’s PVC pipe barrel and was hit in the face by the frog.
This sort of senseless tragedy could be avoided if Congress would wake up and immediately ban the purchase and ownership of potentially lethal frogs. Daniel’s mother, Lisa Berry, offered the following warning about the dangers of frogs to other parents:
“Any of y’all’s children could bring it home, and you’d not even know they have it,” she said. “It could end their life or their neighbor’s life or your life.”
OK, what she’s really warning others about is the potential danger in kids playing with a “potato gun” which the news article describes as follows:
Potato guns are made of pipe with one end sealed. A potato is wedged into the open end and a flammable liquid put into a sealed chamber is ignited, launching the object.
Denton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Kevin Patton said the accident happened Sunday when Daniel Berry joined a crowd of teenagers watching the gun be fired. Patton said when it misfired, Daniel Berry looked down the barrel to see what was wrong when the gun went off.
Where I grew up in Pontiac we used to make similar devices that we called “Pop Can Cannons” because they were made from empty cola cans, duh. Instead of launching potatoes, which we all were at least smart enough to recognize as being relatively hard objects at high velocities, we used tennis balls.
You’d take 5 or 6 tin** pop cans and using a screwdriver and a hammer (or, if you were a little brighter than most you used a can opener) you’d remove the tops and bottoms from all but one of the cans. That can you used a small nail to put a small hole in the side of the can near it’s base and it served as the fire chamber. Stack all the other cans on top of the base and apply copious amounts of black electrical tape as if trying to splint a broken leg. Acquire a small can of lighter fluid and a tennis ball or two and you have everything you need to annoy the neighbors for hours. A small dash of lighter fluid in the fire chamber, swish it around so it covers the walls of the chamber, set on solid ground and stuff a tennis ball in the top can, duck down, strike match, apply to small nail hole and you get a nice, loud FOOM and a tennis ball is launched for what seems like a couple hundred feet into the air.
It was pointless and stupid and a helluva lot of fun. Used to drive the cops nuts because they’d drive by after someone complained and wouldn’t be able to figure out if I was doing anything illegal. About the most they could get me for would be disturbing the peace and usually they just figured that one kid shooting a tennis ball harmlessly into the air was one less kid out getting into a gang shooting so they left me alone.
Just for the record I did manage to shoot myself in the forehead with it once myself so it’s not like Daniel is unique in his mistake. Using a tennis ball instead of a frog, however, all I walked away with was a minor bruise on my forehead.
The only other thing I ever tried to launch out of the cannon was a little Playdoh model of Mr. Bill from the old SNL series of shorts known as The Mr. Bill Show in a sad attempt at making my own show using my brother’s Super 8MM movie camera. It worked pretty well, but I made sure not to look down the barrel while firing it off.
So even though my first instinct is to giggle inanely at Daniel’s misfortune I won’t go as far as to call him a dumbass over it because I’ve been that sort of dumbass myself in my youth though I never tried launching a live animal out of my cannon.
**NOTE: Any of you impressionable youngsters reading this should be aware of my use of the word TIN in my description of the Pop Can Cannon. We used TIN pop cans whereas today most pop cans are made out of aluminum. Don’t try making one of these with today’s pop cans as it’ll explode in a most impressive way and leave you with a face full of aluminum shrapnel. Even back when we were making these things it wasn’t unheard of to have a fire chamber explode on occasion if the tennis ball was wedged in particularly well.