Kirby: ‘Walter’ the bowling ball howitzer did us proud

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published: April 9, 2014 07:08AM
Updated: April 21, 2014 12:47PM
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Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Robert Kirby prepares to launch a bowling ball from a cannon he and friend Sonny Dyle recently purchased, Saturday, April 5, 2014 in Rush Valley, Utah.

Rush Valley, Tooele County • On Saturday, Sonny Dyle and I took Walter into the desert and shot him. We shot him a lot. It was hilariously fun.

Walter is our bowling ball cannon, named in honor of Sonny’s dad who died last year. Walt lived to be 77 but maintained a reckless streak that I greatly admired. Naming a cannon after him is fitting.

There were witnesses to the shooting: Sonny’s wife, Sue, assorted friends, neighbors and two guys who just happened to be driving by and thought a group of people standing around a pile of bowling balls in the middle of nowhere might prove interesting.

Why wouldn’t it? Even my grandkids love it. When we shot Walter two weeks ago, my 7-year-old granddaughter, who was wearing hearing protection, laughed and said, “Papa, I can hear it with my feet!”

Note: Yes, my grandkids like to shoot bowling balls. The dog Nu-Nu does not. He waits in the truck until the shooting is over, then jumps out and crams his head down the barrel to see what all the fuss was about.

Walter wasn’t the only gun around on Saturday. We also had several golf-ball mortars, a couple of billiard ball guns and a carriage mounted pirate cannon. We set up a gun line.

Everyone’s favorite is Walter. Something about shooting a large object 800 yards appeals to the sort of person willing to drive out into the desert for a few laughs. You have to be in the desert so the noise doesn’t bother people.

It’s rather hard to describe just how loud Walter is, but some cows sleeping a quarter of a mile away jumped up and galloped frantically in the direction of Tooele when we set off the first shot.

Another note: No cows were injured in the filming of the attached clips.

One thing Sonny and I agree on is the need for safety. We only ever argue about gun powder. What kind? How much? Should we dig foxholes for this next one?

Usually we keep this difference of opinion to ourselves. It makes spectators nervous when two guys who clearly haven’t grown up start arguing about the size of a coming blast.

We messed up on Saturday by bringing our differences into the open. Sonny started it by calling me an idiot for wanting to double charge the gun. I accused him of having little or no testosterone, that it was like shooting artillery with my grandma.

The debate, which grew increasingly more insulting, made our audience nervous. We settled the matter temporarily by determining that it was my turn to load. Double powder, fuse, ball and a match.

WHAMMM!!

The gun recoiled 8 feet and the bowling ball disintegrated in the barrel. Sharp acrylic bits rained over a wide area. A seagull may have gotten its feelings hurt. After that everyone was on Sonny’s side.

All of this sounds like mindless fun, and it mostly is, but there’s an important research purpose. The owner of Coaches Club Cannons — where we got much of our arsenal — wants us to study the possibility of golfing with guns.

You heard right — cannon golf.

The idea is to figure out the powder loads necessary to play nine holes of golf with a mortar for a driver and a putter for the short game.

I have my doubts whether the game will ever catch on, but it’s enormously fun figuring out what it takes to put it on a green 1,500 yards away.

If you have any that you want to get rid of, we’re still looking for bowling balls. We couldn’t find all the ones we shot Saturday.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.