…and let them taste fury!
Now, there’s no secret that the Soldier and I met when I was in cannon school. Yes, cannon school. You go to class and learn about how not to blow yourself up, then get to learn all the motions in firing the cannon. It’s not complicated, but you do have to memorize it. It’s not all willy-nilly like the movies. Not some haphazard job, but an elegant art.
Twice a year, the Castillo de San Marcos here in St. Augustine has cannon school. There’s a small fee to attend, but it’s totally worth the two days of training and booms! If you’re in the area in April, I would recommend looking it up. Not everyday you meet someone who’s a certified cannoneer.
There used to be 70-some-odd steps to firing the cannons at the fort, but the modern age has seen this cut in half. So, there is still the pomp and circumstance, but the end result comes a little quicker. If you’re the one allowed to “botefuego” (fire), be prepared to smile like an idiot the first time you fire that cannon. The pressure in your chest, the sharp clap of the initial boom, and then the rolling thunder of the echo that hits the island…more than anyone could describe in words, I assure you.
Most people don’t tend to understand why the drill is so slow and deliberate, but there is a reason: Castillo was a siege fortress. It was designed to hold out until reinforcements could arrive. The nearest armed Spanish town was Havana, Cuba. It could take 2 months before the besieged townsfolk saw help, so they had to conserve supplies, including the black powder to fire the cannons. And, considering there were 60 guns atop her deck, they had enough firepower. Each gun would only fire 4 times per hour. This was more than enough strength to keep anyone at bay! Even if each gun only fired once per hour, they would be able to shoot every minute of every hour from dawn until dusk for three months before they got low on supplies. So, imagine four guns going off! I would say they were safe enough. And, considering the Castillo never lost a single battle in her entire history, history agrees with me (for once).
At any rate, come watch the cannons when you visit Saint Augustine. It’s a sight to see, for sure. Currently, they only fire on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. And with cannon school coming up, they’ll be seeking recruits!