Today I Learned…

(Today’s TIL is on the long side, but hey, today’s my birthday. So here’s my present to you.)

On the morning of October 23, 1894, Louis Bouchard enjoyed some good fortune. As the Fall River, Massachusetts, egg merchant drove his cart along his route, he noticed a wrapped bundle lying on the trolley tracks at the “Westport Four Corners” intersection. A subscriber to the “finders keepers” school of philosophy, Louis concluded that the unattended package was his, and he descended from his cart to make the retrieval.

He climbed back in with the bundle under his arm, settled into his seat, and slowly unwrapped his prize. Louis was delighted to find that the take was bountiful: four large, plump sausages, a ready-made breakfast for a hungry man who was sick of eggs. Unable to read English, Louis could not make out what was written on the large stamps prominently displayed on each end of the four tubes.

The lucky merchant dug into the end of one of his trophies and took a taste. He noticed that the flavor was different from that of any sausage he had ever tasted — and unusually sweet. He wondered if it was not a sausage at all, but some type of dried fruit. But he liked the sweet flavor, and after sampling some more, he decided to find out just what it was.

Louis pulled up to Barre’s Drug Store, hoping that Homer Barre might be able to identify the mysterious stuff. He proudly unwrapped his find and asked what type of fruit he had been eating. After reading the stamp on one of the tubes, Homer gave Louis a sympathetic look. He gently explained that he’d been eating dynamite and was likely, at any moment, to explode.

Horrified, Louis sank gingerly into a chair while Homer fetched help. Officer Louis Moreau soon arrived on the scene, relieved to find that the egg merchant was, at least for the moment, still intact. An explosives expert was summoned, and he identified the “sausages” as high-intensity dynamite. It had probably been meant to blow up the streetcar. What could have been one of the worst disasters in Fall River was avoided because Louis picked up the package. History doesn’t tell us if the police ever caught the saboteurs. It does seem that Louis never did explode. The Fall River Daily Herald noted that “when restoratives had been applied to Bouchard, he departed aimlessly and is probably treading his way back home with panther-like steps, that no sudden jar might set off the explosive he had chewed off the ‘sausage’.” (This story comes to us from the pages of Yankee Magazine.)

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