That Time I… broke my neighbor’s window with a rocket


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Columnist Max Honermeier broke his neighbor’s window with a rocket he made.

By Max Honermeier, Opinion Columnist

There’s few things more exciting than lighting a fuse and running away. Watching that green string turn to sparks, burning down to meet something extremely flammable gets the heart pumping like nothing else. When that pyromaniacal rush applies to someone who has too much time and not enough money, like myself in eighth grade, the question isn’t “what if something goes wrong,” but when.

In middle school, I was known among friends as the guy who asked people for their apples during lunch so I could blow them up with firecrackers when I got home. 

However, my true passion was building rockets. After I saw the movie “October Sky,” my sights were set on going big. So, when a friend wanted to see how I made my rocket propellant, I felt the need to impress.

That same friend and I rode the bus to my house after school on a warm spring day. Dashing down to the basement where I had my lab, we got started weighing sugar, potassium nitrate and a few other special ingredients. Then, my friend and I went outside to cook. When the propellant was ready, I cast the entire 600 grams into a cardboard tube.

While we waited for the tube to cool, my dad took one look at the huge charge and made me cut it in half. Even so, I had never lit that much at a time before. Without a nozzle to build pressure and focus the energy in the rocket, I figured we would get a nice fireball and nothing more.

We went to my test area in the backyard where a half circle of blackened bricks surrounded a patch of scorched earth. I carefully secured the tube in place with a few more red bricks.

Heart hammering, I lit the extra long fuse and sprinted away. After an eternity, we had ignition. A spear of orange flame roared to life, hidden behind a cloud of white smoke. Like a helicopter taking off, the tube launched, spun in midair and shot away between the houses.

My friend and I ran after the rogue device and were greeted by my neighbor. 

“Hey, Max, take a look at my window here.” The glass was shattered. Apologies were made, money was owed, but at the end of the day, we all had a good laugh about it. 

However, that launch marked the beginning of the end of my backyard experiments.