One could buy dynamite sticks and caps from Graves’ Hardware if one’s intent was known to be constructive. There were no written rules to be followed or credentials required for its purchase. A child could not walk or crawl in and buy dynamite. A highly intoxicated individual raving about a perceived slight or betrayal would probably not walk out with dynamite. A farmer whose wife had just left him for the hired hand might have to wait a week or two to acquire dynamite, especially if the new couple was still in town. Good judgment was the rule.
Pete Trepanier was the largest single consumer of dynamite in Lamoille County. To Pete dynamite was a handy tool that could be applied to almost any task, not unlike a hammer or screwdriver. From rock and stump removal to bass fishing, dynamite was a staple in Pete’s arsenal of tools.
Not a registered “triple A” dynamite man, Pete nevertheless knew from years of experience and acquired wisdom its many practical applications. He kept a large wooden crate of sticks and caps handy for any task and had his own handmade plunger, twisted-pair wire, and lantern battery for detonation.
Pete boarded at Elise Couture’s. As a troubled youth, he had been adopted by Elise and Clovis. The home balance sheet in those days did not count children as a liability, but rather as an asset, not something to pay for, but something to help pay. A good number of children, one’s own or another’s needing family, assured that crops were harvested, animals were fed and mucked out, snow was shoveled, wood was cut, split, and stacked, and the countless tasks required for survival got done.
Pete grew into a self-sufficient man, had a brief try at married life, sired a son, and then returned to board with Elise after Clovis met his end in a slow and agonizing death from stomach cancer. Elise continued to feed Pete two meals a day and wash his clothes until his own death of cancer at the age of 68.
The only exception to this routine was the time Pete spent alone at his modest summer camp on Little Hosmer Pond in North Wolcott. Little Hosmer was a reedy, bass-filled pond where a few local folks had deer or fishing camps or a just a getaway. Pete’s summer place had largely been cleared with dynamite, a log chain and his ’48 Ford truck. Recalcitrant boulders were blasted either to smithereens or off the property depending on the extent of the charges he laid. Tree stumps were likewise blown into a fine shower of kindling, and in no time flat, the two-acre parcel looked like a finely landscaped estate with a majestic lawn extending down to the water’s cattailed shore. In the middle, Pete erected a disproportionately small, one-bedroom fishing shanty with white painted Homosote interior walls, an unfinished board and batten exterior, and a roof of motley tin panels scoured from abandoned barns.