BRASHER: Aside from death and taxes, there are few guarantees in life. One of the other lesser heeded guarantees, aside from heating and air being an eternally strong industry, is that something sooner or later is bound to explode, and Arkansas is no exception.
ROWE: Hey guys, do you like Buzzfeed? The people who sell ads on Buzzfeed say that you guys really like Buzzfeed. Do you like top tens? Do you like human misery? Get ready …
BRASHER: This episode is a little different from our other columns. In the interest of combining entertainment and education, (a process pioneered in 1990 by Boogie Down Productions called “Edutainment”) some of this may not be very amusing, some of it may be kind of grisly. Actually, now that I put it like that, I guess isn’t any different from our other columns after all. So without further ado we bring you:
Some top times that things exploded in Arkansas.
ROWE: In 2013, Bret Bielema had taken the reigns of a beat-down college football team. Excitement was high, the crowds gathered to watch a team that would overcome the curse of Petrino and Ms. Motorcycle Mania 2011 and SMILE and so on with a beating of The University of Louisiana (at Lafayette). Then, as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on Aug. 31, 2013, an intern with the university’s athletics marketing department shot a T-shirt into the crowd, sending the t-shirt and much of the gun with it. Witnesses said the intern fell immediately to the ground, and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Like many things on this list, you’ll notice an incredible disregard for worker safety.
BRASHER: When guns fill the streets, accidents are just bound to happen and you have to accept it because that is the way it is in the United States because the Constitution is why. I guess we can just be glad that thing wasn’t loaded up with those cop killer armor piercing T-shirts you can get at Bass Pro these days.
BRASHER: If you were dirt poor, desperate for work, had a death wish, and somehow the military wasn’t an option, there was always coal mining. I didn’t know Arkansas was such a coal place but apparently we put a lot of people underground, living and dead, both literally and metaphorically. This is just the start of the many Arkansas explosions attributed to our ticking time bomb of an energy sector. Arkansas has evolved over time however, we have ceased blowing people up in primitive coal mines almost entirely and started blowing them up with completely different and more efficient fuels.
ROWE: I’m not sure where coal miners fit on the hierarchy of society, but I’m certain it’s no lower than Godly lepers. If it wasn’t the government bombing you for trying to join a union, it was the malfeasance of the folks in charge.
BRASHER: Some dudes in Highfill (Benton County) load up a dryer up with 20 lbs. of explosives and shoot it with a rifle, for entertainment. A lot could go wrong here, but apparently nothing did this time.
ROWE: Do you have any idea how boring regular skeet shooting is? All it does is make some clay debris. If only we could give it some oomph, some vavoom.
BRASHER: The bomb dryer of course made a massive boom, a huge fireball, terrified the neighbors, and caught some grass on fire. It sounds bad, but all of those things are completely legal good times around here. No smoking weed though, or beer on Sunday, but please by all means make bombs out of all the dryers you want.
BRASHER: I remember it like it was last year, which it was. A closed off pipeline underneath the Arkansas River kind of near the airport blows up, flinging concrete and debris all over the place. If this is the kind of mess that goes down with a pipeline with nothing in it, one reflects upon the safety of pipes with, you know, a lot of actual flammable stuff in there.
ROWE: I don’t know if this made it to Forbidden Hillcrest, but if it did, I imagine the comments were something like this:
“I always KNEW that pipe would burst.”
“Little Rock is full of these urban pipes glad I moved.”
“THIS IS THE PIPE’S BROTHER”
“I’m glad your thug pipe brother blew up.”
I always appreciate the service of Forbidden Hillcrest, but do yourself a favor and don’t read it on a touchscreen device, or else you may accidentally like a post saying the pipe deserved it.
BRASHER: At 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2005, a freight train rear ended another in Texarkana, Ark., at fairly low speed derailing a few cars. This likely wouldn’t have been big news if it weren’t for a punctured propylene tank which immediately sent it’s creepy invisible, flammable, and heavier than air fuel slithering across the ground. The fuel crept across nearby Hobo Jungle Park (yes, it is called that) until it reached a nearby house. The fuel ignited and blew the house to pieces killing one person. The fire then raced back across the ground to the tank where it proceeded to ignite the remaining fuel creating a massive explosion. The only upside to this entire situation is that none of the six other propylene tanks on the train were affected. One dead, 3,000 evacuated. Any and all hobos in the jungle thankfully survived.
ROWE: The link at railroad.net we pointed to has a quick second post: “Tankcars, like guns, explosives, etc., are not inherently dangerous at all. The problem comes when those not qualified, or capable of handling them, come into contact with them.” I see the train lobby is already out in attack mode, ready to sully the good people of Hobo Jungle Park.
BRASHER: What, you didn’t know there was an explosion at a nuclear reactor in Arkansas two years ago? I mean why would anyone try to keep that under wraps?
ROWE: The big secret here is that ________ _______ _______ and you know that State Rep. ____ _______ __ is involved and __ ___ _ ______ with his wife ___ _______ __ and that when it all cools down, __ _ _____ and shining wizards will reign across the landscape. Hopefully this column goes so under the radar that no one will try to censor the truth. (No worries.)
BRASHER: In 1865 just after the Civil War ended, boats filled with former Union soldiers, mostly released prisoners of war from all over the South were finally released and sent home. They were loaded onto steamships and sent north up the river. The Sultana was one of those steam ships. It had a legal passenger limit of 376 people, but the powers that be thought they might be able to exceed that by maybe a couple of people — maybe around say, 2,000 of them. It was a classic case of graft, a Union officer cut a deal with the ship captain to maximize and then split the profit from moving the men. Long story short the boilers explode, and 1,800 dead people later Arkansas claims the title for the worst maritime disaster in all of American history.
ROWE: Mikey from the Goonies made a documentary about all this, which you can learn more about here.
BRASHER: The 1986 made for TV movie “Under Siege” featured a story where Iranian terrorists used truckloads of explosives and airplanes to suicidally blow up stuff in America. After major attacks by a group of Arab nationals on US soil, president Hal Holbrook is urged by his senior staff to go into a war in the Middle East with a country that, it turns out, wasn’t responsible for the actions in the first place. President Holbrook, being a smart prudent guy, doesn’t listen to his hawkish fool advisers and holds off, avoiding an expensive and unnecessary decade long war. People at the time were critical of the premise which they thought was too unlikely and far fetched.
I’ll just let that sink in for a second.
Anywhoo, parts of the movie, most notably the capitol explosion scene, were filmed in Little Rock. The Capitol avoided any structural destruction from the shoot but did bear the Hollywood scars of the pyrotechnics for a few years.
ROWE: A good friend of the column has a pretty good story about the movie’s production. He was working at the Capitol building and was with his wife when filming began of the film’s climactic scene when helicopters storm the Capitol building, making their way from Capitol Avenue from Chester Street at a very low clip. He said it was loud and terrifying, and he ran for cover, leaving behind his wife. Then-wife, I should say, because they separated not long after. This is just some collateral damage. Also, this story may be about the other movie shot at the Capitol, “STONE COLD” …
BRASHER: Ah yes, the filmed-partly-in-Arkansas action flick “STONE COLD,” another Academy Award winner not really. It’s incredible how big a thing Brian Bosworth was in 1988. He had a great college run at Oklahoma but ultimately played just two years of professional football. Due to a steroid test failure, he sat out of the 1987 Orange Bowl in which Barry Switzer’s Sooners created another explosion, cratering the Razorbacks 42-8. Little did he know then that he would later get a chance to blow up some of Arkansas’ stuff after all.
Looking like an ’80s jacked version of Riff Raff, the bemulleted Boz talked hell of trash, called the NCAA communists, and with Ferengi shrewdness sold T-shirts bashing himself to opposing teams. He was an absolute spectacle, so it’s not too much of a surprise he parlayed that into acting. “STONE COLD” is the story of a cop who tries to stop a white supremacist organization who wants to kill government officials, so yeah, pretty much just run of the mill Arkansas stuff that happens. The State Capitol gets fire on it again, this time by a helicopter, more specifically by a motorcycle, running into the helicopter, while it’s flying, you know, like they do.
ROWE: Someone made a supercut of how awesome-dumb this movie is. If I can recommend one thing, it’s this thing.
BRASHER: Jetfire raining on the neighborhood! It’s not metal lyrics, this really happened in Little Rock. In 1960, a huge B47 bomber plane blew up in the sky over around where Children’s Hospital is now. Before I-630 effectively segregated the town there were neighborhoods where the freeway now stands and all those got lit up like flammable ’60s Christmas decorations. Pieces of the plane fell all over the metropolitan area. A friend who used to live on Kavanaugh and Ozark in Hillcrest had a large crater in their yard that, story goes, that was created by an airplane engine.
BRASHER: We had not one but two ICBM missile disasters in Arkansas. However, in very not-action-movie form the missiles weren’t locked onto us as any sort of strategic target, they were just chilling in the ground minding their own business, trying not to explode until people and their attendant negligence came and messed that all up.
ROWE: I fail to believe that they weren’t riding motorcycles around the missile silo, launching motorcycles into the missiles. I feel like “STONE COLD” really gives an unrealistic world view.
BRASHER: So In 1965 someone was doing a bit of welding with an oxyacetylene torch in a Titan II missile silo near Searcy, when they accidentally cut through a high pressure hydraulic line. The silo roof was closed and the horrifying resulting fire killed 53 people. The missile luckily was undamaged by the blaze, averting a more serious disaster.
A few years back the Times ran a blurb about the second 1980 explosion so here’s the Cliff Notes version: Dude drops a socket wrench in a missile silo, it hits the fuel tank, rocket blows up, warhead not detonated. One dead, 21 injured.
ROWE: Most of these stories we’ve touched on deal with workplace negligence or employer malfeasance in Arkansas, a state that has historically bad worker representation and an incredibly anti-union sentiment. Of course, Arkansas businesses have also made billions and billions of dollars, so maybe think about how much money Arkansas business could have made with a few more disasters? With just a few more accidents and a couple more easily avoidable workplace deaths, Arkansas may have made in the trillions. Underachieving Arkansas again.
BRASHER: Those shareholders doe.
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