Franke: A Non-Explosive Encounter with the Bomb Squad

February 10, 2021

by Mark Franke

“A policeman is here and more are coming . . . from the bomb squad. Will you be home soon?”

Needless to say, that is the kind of text message one would rather not get from his wife. 

Now this is not a disaster story and it actually turns out quite well. I should tell you that before going on with the explanation.

My wife’s retirement hobby is reorganizing everything in our home that can’t run away under its own power. Furniture is constantly moved, pictures rearranged and extensive cleaning perpetually underway. Fine, until she casts a covetous glance at my study, my workshop or my garage. The threat requires my continuous 24X7 vigilance.

Her latest project, and perhaps the most ambitious, is to clean out the storage area of the basement. I actually encouraged her on this, at least until she got into my stuff. Still, we worked through it without professional counseling and our 48-year marriage remains intact.

I should clarify that it was nothing of mine which required a visit from the city police bomb squad. I can truthfully blame that on my deceased father, whose stuff is crammed onto several heavy-duty shelves in a corner. Most of it, in unopened boxes moved from his home during his last years, contains family memorabilia, old documents and photographs of people I can remember only vaguely.

Several boxes housed things he saved from his Navy days. He served on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) during D-Day, something he never talked about with his kids. He saved his sea bag with his uniforms and such but also a few items that my wife found disconcerting. OK, so we have a box of hand grenades and artillery shells in our basement? Who knows when they might come in handy?

Our city has a general information number one can call to ask how to deal with issues that may involve governmental assistance or intervention. She called that number and they immediately transferred her to the police department, fortunately not on the 911 line. The desk sergeant put the bomb squad on alert, sending the closest specialist to the house and then dispatched two more who were at headquarters. The lieutenant in command, who happens to live close by, also was called in.

This was the situation as I drove home with a rather casual regard for posted speed limits. 

The four officers were quite friendly and helpful in advising us what to do with the stuff. One of the officers had served on an LST himself so he could explain why my father, who never left his ship, could have a German potato-masher hand grenade and helmet. When I told him Dad’s ship delivered its armored unit to Omaha Beach in the second wave then transported casualties back to England the rest of the day, he suggested that some of those casualties were probably German.

As an aside I do have an avocational interest in military history but I am not a memorabilia collector. Someone out there probably can tell you who was the first peasant to shoot a cow with a crossbow, but I am not he. I can tell you how the crossbow helped change military tactics to the detriment of the mounted knights of King Arthur lore. My interest is in the role military conflict plays in beginning or ending political, economic or social systems, not what I consider arcana.

Now for the happy ending. They scanned the ordinance and determined it was inert. They also told us they maintain a curated collection of these things back at headquarters. I offered to “donate” it all to them and they couldn’t box it up fast enough. They also recommended we call our local historical society, which operates a museum in the city’s nineteenth century former city hall building, about the non-lethal items. We are members of the society but I never thought that we might have something of potential display interest.

One last amusing anecdote to this story is that our son-in-law drove by to drop off our grandson for babysitting after his morning preschool and saw four large SUVs with police license plates blocking our driveway. His heart rate eventually returned to normal but the four-year-old wasn’t sure about it all, perhaps because the vehicles weren’t marked police cruisers. He would have gotten excited if they were.

They can defund the police in the coastal progressive cities where, by the way, murder rates are rising at a frightening pace, but here in the heartland we appreciate getting rapid and courteous response to a simple phone call requesting information.

And I can brag about the bomb squad’s being called to my house . . . by my wife. She will just have to live this down as best she can.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is formerly associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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