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Shooting the Anvil

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  • SRektorik@aol.com
    Oh come on folks, what did your family do to celebrate the new year? Surely someone with ancestors in Williamson County knew about this or did it? No? In the
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 27, 2000
      Oh come on folks, what did your family do to celebrate the new year? Surely
      someone with ancestors in Williamson County knew about this or did it? No?

      In the early part of the 1900s in Nueces County...there was not much
      development. Anyone within 25 miles was considered a close neighbor. Almost
      everything was brought in by trains which ran from San Antonio to Laredo and
      then to Corpus Christi. It was still pretty rough county even though the
      "Nueces Strip" was considered to be tamed by then. As recently as the 1870s,
      Native Americans who took offense to a railroad crew and killed all but one
      of them as they laid track around Banquete Creek in western Nueces County.

      The early settlers down here still looked for entertaining ways to celebrate
      the holidays. There were no fireworks available for the celebration of the
      new year. So when our family gathered, they "shot off the anvil".
      Seriously, two anvils were put together. Black powder was placed inside,
      contained, and then lit. Subsequently, the anvil flew into the air with a
      bang.

      I will relate the detail here; however, no one should try this. This really
      does take skill and can maim or kill if not done properly. I am also
      relating this because most people nowadays do not have access to anvils and
      black powder.

      One anvil, weighing from 50 to 75 pounds, would be placed upside down in an
      open field. The "blind hole" in the body of the anvil was filled with black
      powder and the upper surface was also coated with the black powder. A second
      anvil, weighing from 50 to 75 pounds was placed on top, face down. A piece
      of red hot steel was used to ignite the black powder on the surface of the
      lower anvil. As the powder burnt, it would drop the top anvil down onto the
      bottom one. The black powder in the blind hole would have been ignited
      already. The burning was now concentrated and an explosion would occur.
      There would be a loud band and the top anvil would fly into the air up to
      twelve feet high. This was done at night.

      As I said before, this can be dangerous and result in death if not done
      correctly. We know. Once, a homemade anvil was used as the top anvil. It
      was made from a railroad tie and was much lighter than the other anvils used
      before. It was filled with black powder and the charge was set at night.
      All of the men who stood around heard a whirring sound and knew that the
      anvil was going up in the dark farther than one had ever done before. They
      also knew that this meant that the anvil would come down with greater force
      and speed. They all heard. It must have seemed forever before that anvil
      hit the ground about ten feet from one of the men. They never shot that
      anvil at night again.

      The man who brought the shooting off of the anvil to south Texas was Tom
      Mrazek, a Czech immigrant. It is to this Texas Czechs List that I will start
      writing about him. Accounts of his contributions can be found in a book on
      the history of Williamson County, books on Texas Czechs, and in Nueces County
      Historical Bulletins. He also turns up in old articles in the Robstown,
      Texas newspaper. He was a remarkable man with a genius for working iron as
      well as designing and engineering machines. He was also a remarkable
      character. I have been gathering information and tales about him for years.
      My dad remembers him and passes on the tales. Tom Mrazek was trained as a
      wagon- and wheelwright, he designed and built steam-powered cotton gins, and
      his root-plow design allowed the running mesquite to be cleared and the land
      developed around Robstown, Texas. Most of these things have been documented
      but there is so much more. He was a trickster, a drinker, and a genius.

      Shooting the anvil was one of his tricks. He seems to have loved black
      powder, fire, and explosions. We know he did it in Williamson County, Texas.
      The fun may have begun in Europe.

      My Dad's eyesight is going now; however, he learned the art of being a
      blacksmith in the Mrazek Machine Shop and Grubbing Plow Factory in Robstown,
      Texas. He can still tell you the composition of the iron by the color of the
      sparks. He makes knives which sell for over $100.00 at church auctions. The
      working of iron has played a great role in our family and I am sure it did in
      the lives of other Czech families. Perhaps your ancestors did not work the
      iron but those who did so provided them with many of the items they needed
      for daily life.

      Please contact me if you had a smith in your family. We still have a ringing
      anvil, do you?

      I will write more about Tom Mrazek soon.

      Also, I will not be held accountable for what happens if someone tries to
      "shoot the anvil". It is dangerous and you have been warned. The skill for
      this, in most people, has been lost.

      Susan Rektorik Henley
    • Susan Rektorik Henley
      We did it! For the first time in over 40 years, my family shot the anvil. Aw, come on now! Remember that way of celebrating. It takes two anvils (with blind
      Message 2 of 13 , Dec 24, 2001
        We did it!
         
        For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
         
        Aw, come on now! Remember that way of celebrating.  It takes two anvils (with blind holes, black powder, and a fuse.)
         
        My brother engineered the project.  By the time it was my time to light the fuse, the charge was such that the top anvil flew (weighing over 70  pounds) flew over 12 feet into the air spinning front over back.  What a hoot!
         
        The force of the charge was such that it blew out the pilot light of the stove cooking our  roasting ears--yards away; and, when I was still at my house, each charge would lift the floor a  little.
         
        Don't you just love being Moravian?
         
        Merry Christmas to you all!
         
        Susan
      • John L. Mikeska
        Susan, I glad you live a couple hundred miles from me! Sir John The force of the charge was such that it blew out the pilot light of the stove cooking our
        Message 3 of 13 , Dec 25, 2001
          Susan,
           
          I glad you live a couple hundred miles from me!
           
          Sir John
           
          The force of the charge was such that it blew out the pilot light of the stove cooking our  roasting ears--yards away; and, when I was still at my house, each charge would lift the floor a  little.
           
        • fmikula2000
          ... My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis was about 4 miles
          Message 4 of 13 , Dec 25, 2001
            --- In TexasCzechs@y..., "Susan Rektorik Henley" <srektorik@h...>
            wrote:
            > We did it!
            >
            > For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
            >
            > Susan

            My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just
            hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis
            was about 4 miles away and windows shook there!!
            Merry Christmas!
            Frank
          • John L. Mikeska
            Wow! In addition to being hard workers and providers, they REALLY had some fun, too. I can hear it now, Those Czechs are at it again! Just think, if I
            Message 5 of 13 , Dec 25, 2001
              Wow!
               
              In addition to being hard workers and providers, they REALLY had some fun, too. 
               
              I can hear it now, "Those Czechs are at it again!"  <G>
               
              Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article "My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff Dept, Beaumont Police Dept, Texas Rangers, F.B.I., the Green Barrettes, Navy Seals, etc. for possible connection with the 911 attack while the Air Force planes circled above. <G>
               
              I'd just use my neighbor for my defense, as he probably would say "That's just Sir John!".
               
              Sir John
               
              Subject: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

              --- In TexasCzechs@y..., "Susan Rektorik Henley" <srektorik@h...>
              wrote:
              > We did it!
              >
              > For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
              >
              > Susan

              My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just
              hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis
              was about 4 miles away and windows shook there!!
              Merry Christmas!
              Frank

            • Susan Rektorik Henley
              Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff
              Message 6 of 13 , Dec 25, 2001
                Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article "My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff Dept, Beaumont Police Dept, Texas Rangers, F.B.I., the Green Barrettes, Navy Seals, etc. for possible connection with the 911 attack while the Air Force planes circled above. <G>
                 
                Don't you just know it.  I had some second thoughts about ordering cannon fuse via the Internet!  (smile)
                 
                But, in the end, it was just a few common household chemicals...in the proper proportions!  (grin)
                 
                My brother (an engineer) has already devised a change in hardware that will allow us to use more powder and, hopefully, get the anvil up about twenty feet or so.  We are all pretty excited.
                 
                So far, we have not had any complaints from the neighbors...but they are all relatives who were invited anyway.
                 
                Susan
                 
                 
              • moraw_gerik
                Guys, I have to ask. What is the deal with shooting the anvil and how is this a tradition? I have never heard of this, nor has my mother. Please help me
                Message 7 of 13 , Dec 26, 2001
                  Guys, I have to ask. What is the deal with "shooting the anvil" and
                  how is this a tradition? I have never heard of this, nor has my
                  mother. Please help me understand.

                  Thanks,
                  Heather
                • Susan Rektorik Henley
                  ... Hello, Just got from hunting/camping in Starr County and am trying to sort through all the e-mails. Heather, Shooting the Anvil is an event brought to
                  Message 8 of 13 , Dec 31, 2001
                    >What is the deal with "shooting the anvil" and how is this a tradition?   I have never heard of this, nor has my mother.  Please help me understand.<
                     
                    Hello,
                     
                    Just got from hunting/camping in Starr County and am trying to sort through all the e-mails.
                     
                    Heather,
                     
                    "Shooting the Anvil" is an event brought to the United States by immigrants from Central Europe.  In fact, this year's Christmas issue of the  Texas Monthly magazine includes "shooting the anvil" as one of the Texas Christmas customs.  That article indicates that the main reason for shooting the anvil was for the noise.  I think there is much more to it than that.  It is awesome to watch an 70-pound anvil tumble end-to-end about twelve feet above the ground!
                     
                    Shooting the Anvil in my family originated with Tom Mrazek who was a blacksmith and a wagon wright by trade.  He and his family immigrated to Texas from Jablunka in Moravia in 1881.  Being a blacksmith, he always had several anvils available for use. Back then, black powder was also used more frequently and more easily available too.
                     
                    I am always looking for other families who used to shoot the anvil.  So far the only other ones I have verified are a branch of the Grossman family and my Ermis family who all had contact with my Mrazek family.
                     
                    My Dad told me that shooting the anvil was done on special occasions when the family gathered because back then fireworks were not easily available, there were no movies, (and we all love fire and explosions.)
                     
                    I am lucky in that my family did carry forward traditions from the old country.  We are now working hard to revitalize these customs and pass them on to the next generations.
                     
                    For some of you, it is more difficult to find those old traditions because so many Texas Czechs assimilated so fully.  That is part of the reason why I share so much of what I learn.  Our Moravian ancestors were really quite colorful...somehow that has been left out of lore of many families.
                     
                    I will try to write more later.  We have a deer to process, it is cold, and my goats have the scours.
                     
                    Susan
                     
                     

                  • RAY J. BACAK
                    A friend of mine who was a Jurek remembered hearing of the tradition, but thought it was more Texan than European. Will tell her that it appears to have
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jan 1, 2002
                      A friend of mine who was a Jurek remembered hearing of the tradition, but thought it was more Texan than European.  Will tell her that it appears to have originated in Europe. 
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      Sent: Monday, December 31, 2001 1:13 PM
                      Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                      >What is the deal with "shooting the anvil" and how is this a tradition?   I have never heard of this, nor has my mother.  Please help me understand.<
                       
                      Hello,
                       
                      Just got from hunting/camping in Starr County and am trying to sort through all the e-mails.
                       
                      Heather,
                       
                      "Shooting the Anvil" is an event brought to the United States by immigrants from Central Europe.  In fact, this year's Christmas issue of the  Texas Monthly magazine includes "shooting the anvil" as one of the Texas Christmas customs.  That article indicates that the main reason for shooting the anvil was for the noise.  I think there is much more to it than that.  It is awesome to watch an 70-pound anvil tumble end-to-end about twelve feet above the ground!
                       
                      Shooting the Anvil in my family originated with Tom Mrazek who was a blacksmith and a wagon wright by trade.  He and his family immigrated to Texas from Jablunka in Moravia in 1881.  Being a blacksmith, he always had several anvils available for use. Back then, black powder was also used more frequently and more easily available too.
                       
                      I am always looking for other families who used to shoot the anvil.  So far the only other ones I have verified are a branch of the Grossman family and my Ermis family who all had contact with my Mrazek family.
                       
                      My Dad told me that shooting the anvil was done on special occasions when the family gathered because back then fireworks were not easily available, there were no movies, (and we all love fire and explosions.)
                       
                      I am lucky in that my family did carry forward traditions from the old country.  We are now working hard to revitalize these customs and pass them on to the next generations.
                       
                      For some of you, it is more difficult to find those old traditions because so many Texas Czechs assimilated so fully.  That is part of the reason why I share so much of what I learn.  Our Moravian ancestors were really quite colorful...somehow that has been left out of lore of many families.
                       
                      I will try to write more later.  We have a deer to process, it is cold, and my goats have the scours.
                       
                      Susan
                       
                       



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                    • Andy & Karen Pustejovsky
                      Hey Sir John - are you related to the bar-b-q Mikeska s? Karen apustejovsky@academicplanet.com ... From: John L. Mikeska To: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com Sent:
                      Message 10 of 13 , Jan 1, 2002
                        Hey Sir John - are you related to the bar-b-q Mikeska's?
                         
                        Karen
                         
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 12:48 PM
                        Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                        Wow!
                         
                        In addition to being hard workers and providers, they REALLY had some fun, too. 
                         
                        I can hear it now, "Those Czechs are at it again!"  <G>
                         
                        Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article "My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff Dept, Beaumont Police Dept, Texas Rangers, F.B.I., the Green Barrettes, Navy Seals, etc. for possible connection with the 911 attack while the Air Force planes circled above. <G>
                         
                        I'd just use my neighbor for my defense, as he probably would say "That's just Sir John!".
                         
                        Sir John
                         
                        Subject: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                        --- In TexasCzechs@y..., "Susan Rektorik Henley" <srektorik@h...>
                        wrote:
                        > We did it!
                        >
                        > For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
                        >
                        > Susan

                        My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just
                        hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis
                        was about 4 miles away and windows shook there!!
                        Merry Christmas!
                        Frank



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                        texasczechs-unsubscribe@egroups.com



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                      • John L. Mikeska
                        The Bar--B-Que Mikeskas are in the family tree beginning with Jiri Mikeska about 1630, as most of the Mikeskas I ve found are, plus I am, too. I believe
                        Message 11 of 13 , Jan 1, 2002
                          The Bar--B-Que Mikeskas' are in the family tree beginning with Jiri Mikeska about 1630, as most of the Mikeskas I've found are, plus I am, too.  I believe those Mikeskas were second cousins about 1875 an I can't quite see that far over the Family Tree trunk to find exactly where we are related today <G>.  I have their fathers, etc., in the Mikeska tree chart given me by my 3rd cousin in Prague, who is well into genealogy and has written some books on his works, but in Czech, unfortunately for me.
                           
                          Sir John
                           
                          Sir John
                          ----- Original Message -----
                          Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 3:00 PM
                          Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                          Hey Sir John - are you related to the bar-b-q Mikeska's?
                           
                          Karen
                           
                          ----- Original Message -----
                          Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 12:48 PM
                          Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                          Wow!
                           
                          In addition to being hard workers and providers, they REALLY had some fun, too. 
                           
                          I can hear it now, "Those Czechs are at it again!"  <G>
                           
                          Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article "My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff Dept, Beaumont Police Dept, Texas Rangers, F.B.I., the Green Barrettes, Navy Seals, etc. for possible connection with the 911 attack while the Air Force planes circled above. <G>
                           
                          I'd just use my neighbor for my defense, as he probably would say "That's just Sir John!".
                           
                          Sir John
                           
                          Subject: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                          --- In TexasCzechs@y..., "Susan Rektorik Henley" <srektorik@h...>
                          wrote:
                          > We did it!
                          >
                          > For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
                          >
                          > Susan

                          My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just
                          hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis
                          was about 4 miles away and windows shook there!!
                          Merry Christmas!
                          Frank



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                        • Andy & Karen Pustejovsky
                          John, How interesting! We have enjoyed their bar-b-q here around Houston and surrounding area for a lot of years. The name is not usual and caught my eye.
                          Message 12 of 13 , Jan 1, 2002
                            John,
                                 How interesting!  We have enjoyed their bar-b-q here around Houston and surrounding area for a lot of years.  The name is not usual and caught my eye.  We don't have any Mikeska's in our tree - Pustejovsky - but I am still searching for Fabrygel.  Well onward with that search and more...  By the way, if you ever come across any Czech sites in Czech my husband knows of a web page that can translate some of them to English.  If you do not know of it let me know and I can get that address for you.
                             
                            karen
                             
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 5:08 PM
                            Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                            The Bar--B-Que Mikeskas' are in the family tree beginning with Jiri Mikeska about 1630, as most of the Mikeskas I've found are, plus I am, too.  I believe those Mikeskas were second cousins about 1875 an I can't quite see that far over the Family Tree trunk to find exactly where we are related today <G>.  I have their fathers, etc., in the Mikeska tree chart given me by my 3rd cousin in Prague, who is well into genealogy and has written some books on his works, but in Czech, unfortunately for me.
                             
                            Sir John
                             
                            Sir John
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 3:00 PM
                            Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                            Hey Sir John - are you related to the bar-b-q Mikeska's?
                             
                            Karen
                             
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 12:48 PM
                            Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                            Wow!
                             
                            In addition to being hard workers and providers, they REALLY had some fun, too. 
                             
                            I can hear it now, "Those Czechs are at it again!"  <G>
                             
                            Just think, if I did that today, Susan could have an article "My first Interview of Captive Czech being held for interview by the Jefferson County Sheriff Dept, Beaumont Police Dept, Texas Rangers, F.B.I., the Green Barrettes, Navy Seals, etc. for possible connection with the 911 attack while the Air Force planes circled above. <G>
                             
                            I'd just use my neighbor for my defense, as he probably would say "That's just Sir John!".
                             
                            Sir John
                             
                            Subject: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                            --- In TexasCzechs@y..., "Susan Rektorik Henley" <srektorik@h...>
                            wrote:
                            > We did it!
                            >
                            > For the first time in over 40 years, my family "shot the anvil."
                            >
                            > Susan

                            My dad and Uncle John were not as creative or work as hard! They just
                            hung sticks of dynamite from a mesquite limb and set it off. Ennis
                            was about 4 miles away and windows shook there!!
                            Merry Christmas!
                            Frank



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                          • george patrick
                            Susan, I m not sure if this is related to shooting the anvil or not, but, my dad and his 3 brothers were helping their father clear stumps on some new land
                            Message 13 of 13 , Jan 2, 2002
                              Susan,
                               
                              I'm not sure if this is related to "shooting the anvil" or not, but, my dad and his 3 brothers were helping their father clear stumps on some new land he was clearing in Bell County.  Seems there was a couple of sticks of dynamite left over.  The boys decided to see what a stick of exploding dynamite would do to the outhouse.  They never said how high it went.
                               
                              I always took this story with a grain of salt because they were usually partaking of a bit of pivo when they started telling stories.
                               
                              George
                              ----- Original Message -----
                              Sent: Monday, December 31, 2001 1:13 PM
                              Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Re: Shooting the Anvil

                              >What is the deal with "shooting the anvil" and how is this a tradition?   I have never heard of this, nor has my mother.  Please help me understand.<
                               
                              Hello,
                               
                              Just got from hunting/camping in Starr County and am trying to sort through all the e-mails.
                               
                              Heather,
                               
                              "Shooting the Anvil" is an event brought to the United States by immigrants from Central Europe.  In fact, this year's Christmas issue of the  Texas Monthly magazine includes "shooting the anvil" as one of the Texas Christmas customs.  That article indicates that the main reason for shooting the anvil was for the noise.  I think there is much more to it than that.  It is awesome to watch an 70-pound anvil tumble end-to-end about twelve feet above the ground!
                               
                              Shooting the Anvil in my family originated with Tom Mrazek who was a blacksmith and a wagon wright by trade.  He and his family immigrated to Texas from Jablunka in Moravia in 1881.  Being a blacksmith, he always had several anvils available for use. Back then, black powder was also used more frequently and more easily available too.
                               
                              I am always looking for other families who used to shoot the anvil.  So far the only other ones I have verified are a branch of the Grossman family and my Ermis family who all had contact with my Mrazek family.
                               
                              My Dad told me that shooting the anvil was done on special occasions when the family gathered because back then fireworks were not easily available, there were no movies, (and we all love fire and explosions.)
                               
                              I am lucky in that my family did carry forward traditions from the old country.  We are now working hard to revitalize these customs and pass them on to the next generations.
                               
                              For some of you, it is more difficult to find those old traditions because so many Texas Czechs assimilated so fully.  That is part of the reason why I share so much of what I learn.  Our Moravian ancestors were really quite colorful...somehow that has been left out of lore of many families.
                               
                              I will try to write more later.  We have a deer to process, it is cold, and my goats have the scours.
                               
                              Susan
                               
                               



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