By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the April 1, 1946 issue of the Charlotte News
Because of a shortage of labor, farmers are using dynamite in blowing ditches and they are saving money. Under present conditions, the dynamite gives a much quicker job and results in a saving of money because the blowing of ditches does not take but a fraction of the labor necessary in ditching by hand.
Frank Doggett, new soil conservationist of the Extension Service at State College, says that farmers in the soil conservation districts are substituting dynamite for labor in solving many tough drainage problems.
According to Doggett, District Supervisor R.C. Jordan and County Agent C.W. Overman recently assisted Cotton Bright White of the Albemarle Soil Conservation in blowing 618 feet of ditch at a cost of $96 as compared with the cost of about $400 had the job been done by hand.
The problem was to connect a lead ditch across the Welch tract of land to the main ditch of the Bear Creek Drainage District. First a permit was obtained to open a ditch across the Welch land and the job was begun.
A large spoil bank on the edge of the large main ditch was blasted through. Then holes were sunk along the proposed ditch line and loaded with 50 per cent ditching dynamite. When the workers were ready to shoot the charge, the neighbors were invited to witness and blast and about 60 gathered at a safe distance from the section where the ditch was to be blown.
With one mighty heave, roots, stumps, earth, and water were thrown high into the air and scattered over a wide area. When the spectators went in to see the results, they found a V-shaped ditch about 4 feet deep and wide across the top. The sides sloped at 45-degree angles and there was no need for any hand labor to make corrections. A complete job had been done.
White spent $90 for 500 pounds of dynamite and the cost of putting it down was $6. “Had I done this job with hand labor, I estimate the cost would have been about $400,” White said, “and where could I have gotten the labor to do it? With machinery, the cost would have been somewhat less than by hand.”
Doggett says that White and all of the farmers present were impressed by the fact that the dynamite left no spoil bank along the edge of the ditch to give trouble in the future. Such would have been the case had the ditch been constructed by hand labor.
The soil was scattered over a wide area and now water can drain into the ditch in all sections along the 618 feet. A spoil bank would prevent this.
Howard Ellis, agricultural engineer of the State College Extension Service, calls particular attention to the need for safety in the handling of dynamite because a number of accidents have occurred recently in Eastern North Carolina where most of the dynamite is being used. He suggests that farmers discuss safety measures with the county agent before they begin the use of dynamite in blasting.