Town Recovering after Incident Involving Corn and Rocket Engines
(BOCA CHICA VILLAGE, TX) In what has been deemed by many in the community as a “happy accident,” residents of the small town woke up to something previously unseen last Thursday.
Over the past several years, Boca Chica, population 26 and surrounded by marsh and farmland, has become a hotbed of activity and excitement. Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX chose the village as home to its south Texas Spaceport and construction began in 2014. Most residents had been excited at the prospect of seeing regular rocket launches, and at a potential resurgence of tourism not seen since before the Great Depression. There’s even talk of opening a restaurant again.
But not everybody’s happy. Local rancher and farmer Jed Billings is one who’s not. In fact, he blames SpaceX and “that guy from South Africa” for a total loss of his corn crop this year. Billings blames the misunderstanding on the design of the Mark I spaceship itself. “Who the hell builds a rocket and makes it look like a big silver grain elevator?” he said with tired frustration.
It was a prosperous growing season in south Texas for his prized corn crop this year, and four weeks ago, Billings was in a hurry to finish harvesting the entire 85 acres one evening as the sun was setting. His combine and chase truck had worked flawlessly all day, and he had just driven the short distance in the dark to what he thought was his silo. He attached his blower to his yield and spent the next several hours emptying truckloads of corn kernels into the massive stainless steel suppository.
As per usual post-harvest, Billings spent the next few weeks visiting his in-laws in North Dakota before winter hit and while his corn dried to peak popping consistency. Like last year, he planned to sell his crop to the parent company of Orville Redenbacher, Jolly Time and Pop Secret. That’s where the story takes a turn from the usual, and when Billings realized there had been a grave mistake.
Musk’s Mars directive to his company has ignited its design pace. After SpaceX built and successfully launched Starhopper earlier this year, the team quickly moved on to build the 164-foot tall Mark I, the next phase of testing as the company works toward completing the Starship transport system. It seems that the night Billings filled what he thought was his silo was actually the night before the SpaceX team attached the nosecone to Mark I. Billings had filled the rocket with his crop.
When engineers fired up the six proprietary Raptor engines on Mark I early last Thursday, they quickly realized there was a major issue. “We thought the whole ship exploded,” said Leon Verduzco, chief Merlin engineer at SpaceX. “Let’s just say it was scary – like a combination of fire, a Fourth of July finale, and a drive-in theater showing the first three Nightmare on Elm Street movies back-to-back.”
When the disaster was over a few minutes later, the entire test facility and much of the small town was covered in about three feet of perfectly popped corn.
As with any small town, Boca Chica’s residents came together quickly to recover from the hit. Long-time resident Clyde Bastion said, “We’ve survived eight or nine hurricanes together. We were in no way going to succumb to death by popcorn.”
The town has indeed risen to the occasion, starting by gathering as much of the yield into 64-gallon clear food-grade bags. “The dance hall at the senior center is literally filled floor to ceiling, and we’re not even a quarter done,” said resident Irma Slidell. “We’re moving on to the fire station, the empty K-Mart building, and the old high school gym.”
The accident has reenergized the tired town. TV satellite trucks are set up and looking for stories. Snow shovels are still for sale at the gas station. There’s talk of big money to be made, including selling and shipping big tins, gourmet flavors like salt and vinegar, and balls of every size worldwide. There’s also talk of making popcorn strings “cool again” on Christmas trees across the country this season, and of selling do-it-yourself kits with needles and thread. Spirits are high, coffers are full, and salt is in short supply. In fact at the last town hall meeting, most residents had agreed that with the recent fame, it was time to figure out how to dethrone “that damn Marion, Ohio” as the Popcorn Capital of the World, and to take more advantage of “those space hippies that keeping coming in for the rockets” like they do at Area 51.
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