Tha Cannon that Backfired

Look what I found!” Kenneth yelled as he tugged strenuously at a piece of rusty iron stuck fast in the mud. Harold hurried to his brother’s side.

“Why, it’s an old shotgun barrel!” he exclaimed. “Maybe it was dropped here by a buffalo hunter a long time ago! Let’s wash it out and see what it looks like.”

The two boys ran down the river. After a good scrubbing, the old gun barrel looked almost good enough to use. “It’s one of those really old-fashioned ones,” explained Floyd, a neighbor friend of Harold and Kenneth. “It’s made like a cannon. First you pour some gun powder down the barrel here. Then I think you’re supposed to put a wad of something in next. After that you put in the bullets and pack it all down tight with another wad.”

“How do you fire it?” Harold asked.

“Well,” Floyd said, pointing to the touchhole at the butt end of the barrel, “this is where you put a fuse or some more gunpowder, and when you light it, the gun goes off!”

Suddenly the boys stopped talking. Harold guessed what was on his brother’s mind. “Now, Kenneth,” he said, “you know what father said about playing with gunpowder.”

“I know,” Kenneth replied, “but you must admit it would be fun to make a real, honest-to-goodness cannon! Besides, father has been away preaching for weeks now. He’ll never know if we don’t tell him when he gets back.”

“My dad has some blasting powder in his shed,” Floyd volunteered. “I could sneak some out when he’s in the field clearing land.”

The idea of making their own cannon seemed so exciting, all else was forgotten. Floyd ran home and brought back some blasting pellets. In the meantime Harold and Kenneth fastened the gun barrel securely to a small log.

“Let’s aim it at that flock of pigeons on the barn,” one of the boys suggested, and the little cannon was carefully placed in position. Floyd poured about a teaspoonful of powder down the muzzle, then stuffed a wad of paper in after it. Next the boys poured in a bunch of pebbles and nails for bullets, and packed everything in tight with another wad of paper.

At last the big moment had arrived. Floyd began to make the fuse, but just at that moment Kenneth looked up and saw a familiar figure coming down the road. “Hurry up, here comes father,” he said anxiously. “If we don’t light it now, we’ll never get to.”

Harold grabbed a pinch of powder and quickly put some in the touchhole. “Stand back!” he called, and touched a match to the cannon.

Baa voom! There was a shattering blast, and everything went black for Harold. When he finally came to his senses, he still couldn’t see. Someone had carried him into the house, and father was talking. “Thank the Lord he’s still alive. It’s a miracle that gun barrel didn’t split wide open and take his life.”

When Harold was rushed to the doctor, he could see only a glimmer of light through one eye. The doctor laid him on a table and, with a pair of tweezers, painstakingly picked out each tiny particle of blasting powder lodged in Harold’s eyes. It took hours to remove them, but finally the task was finished, and the bandages were firmly in place. “You’re a lucky boy,” the doctor said. “If you had been any nearer, you would never see again.”

Harold paid heavily for his disobedience. One eye went completely blind, and through the other he could see only partially without the aid of glasses. Young Harold grew up to be Pastor H. M. S. Richards, the first director and speaker of the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast. He survived an exploding cannon only to be set on fire for sharing the good news of Jesus.


This story originally appeared in the October 2, 1963 issue of Guide.



Did you know that H.M.S. Richards believed in creating stories that would lead families to Jesus? Listen to the program that the ministry he founded, the Voice of Prophecy, airs today.

Did you know that the Bible school that started with H.M.S. Richards and the ministry he started all those years ago is still running today? You can study the Bible online free with the Voice of Prophecy at, including lessons created just for readers your age.

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Tha Cannon that Backfired

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