Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Today's Photo Journal: "You dropped a bomb on me, baby!"

What does my house have in common with The Hurt Locker?  Both are crawling with explosive ordnance disposal technicians.   

Yesterday afternoon as I blissfully edited pictures of Halloween costumes, SuperHusband decided to clear a prickly pear (cactus) from behind the bird bath.  A few minutes into his project, he walked into the house.

"Momma, when you get a chance, I'd like you to step outside and take a look at something." 

When you've been with someone for 11 years, you know the subtleties of their tones.  I picked up that he wanted me to come now, and he didn't want me to draw the curiosity of two very busy little magpies.  My curiosity was piqued.  I checked on the kids, playing blissfully in the living room under Gran's watchful eyes, and gingerly stepped outside.

I followed my husband to the flower bed on the side of the house.  He had partially unearthed a rusty elongated object.

"What does that look like to you?" he said (a little too nonchalantly). 

"Honestly?  A UXO," I said, raising my eyebrows.  That's militarese for unexploded ordnance.  We both laughed, because, well, that's ludicrous, right? (We don't live on a military base, by the way.)

I suggested maybe we should call the police...just to make sure.  Five minutes later, we gave a quick, calm call to the local police department's business line where the receptionist put me through to a dispatcher.  The dispatcher was NOT familiar with the term "ordnance."  





"Ma'am, I'm sorry, I don't know what that means."

" a huge bullet...a projectile that comes out of a cannon."

"I just can't figure out what you're trying to tell me."

"Does the term MISSILE mean anything to you?"  Okay, so there is NOTHING missile-like about these rounds, but I was getting desperate.

"Oh, like a shell." 


A few minutes later, a very nice (if mildly misguided) deputy stopped by and told us the objects posed no threat and would make cool driveway markers.  No, really.  He said that...right before he dug the second one up and pulled it out. 

By this time, our neighbor the retired bomber navigator had joined my husband the gunship fire control officer and me.  None of us really felt comfortable being so cavalier about it, so I took a few pictures and emailed them to SuperHusband's work account.  

He passed them to the base's civil engineer squadron who told him they appeared to be 155mm Howitzer rounds, and two hours later, an explosive ordnance disposal team stood in my driveway pulling out OD-green metal detectors, reference materials, survival knives...  (Sorry kids, no cool bomb suits today.  Good thing, too, cause I was tending to a sick kiddo.  I didn't relish evacuating for the day with Bitty holding steady at 103 degrees.)

Turns out, yesterday's deputy didn't even file a report.  His lieutenant sported a pretty righteous scowl today when he found out we had called the previous evening.  

The professionals from Hurlburt Field's 1st Special Operations Wing and Duke Field's 919th Special Operations Wing spent an hour or so identifying the objects and checking all around the flowerbeds to see if any more interesting items lurked beneath the surface.  (Apparently, our property is "heavilly littered" with metal fragments).  At last, they determined our finds were World War II era illumination rounds, used by either the Army or the Navy.  

Though the rounds are still produced, they explained that some of the imperfections in the surface belied the method of pouring used to mold the exterior, indicating they were older.  They were very rusted too, which could indicate age, but really, outdoors and 150 feet from salt water?  I'm not sure rust is a huge indicator. 

Interestingly, our other neighbor told us our home's previous owner served in the Navy in WWII and placed the projectiles in the flower bed as decoration, meticulously maintaining the area around them as with any other landscaping feature. Our neighbor and her girls had walked by them hundreds of times but always assumed they were safe.

A big shout out and thanks to Senior Master Sgt. Davis, Tech. Sgt. Robinson and Senior Airman McGowan for spending time making our family safe today.  

Now, back to the thrilling business of piecing quilts, mending shirts and making Halloween costumes.  :)