By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
The old saying goes that close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes. A Portales couple got closer to a grenade than they wanted Saturday.
Shortly before 2 p.m. Portales Police got a 911 call from a person reporting finding a hand grenade in the yard at Eighth and Chicago streets, directly east of City Park.
Two hours later, an explosive ordnance disposal team from Cannon Air Force Base scooped the grenade up, placed it in an armored trailer and took it home.
Police responded and evacuated the residents as well as everyone else in the neighborhood, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry. The evacuation, carried out with the help of the Portales Fire Department, displaced residents for a block on each side of the residence and cleared the park, including the baseball park, where a youth practice was going on, and the Memorial Building, where a reception was about to get under way.
Steve and Margaret Hodge said they were working in the yard, preparing to put in a new lawn for Steve’s father at the residence when they found the device.
“She (Margaret Hodge) hit it with a rake,” Steve Hodge said. “She picked it up and handed it to me and I said, ‘Ohhhh,’ and put it down by the curb.”
Steve Hodge said once he looked at it he knew it was time to put it down and call 911.
“I thought it was a pine cone from the tree,” said Margaret Hodge, motioning toward a big pine.
Berry said police initially inspected the grenade and could not tell if it was live or a dummy practice grenade. He said most dummy grenades are painted blue or have a blue top, and are usually hollow on the bottom.
Berry said since the bottom appeared to be solid and no blue paint was apparent, police decided to err on the side of caution and contact Cannon EOD.
“It looks like it’s probably been in the ground for years,” Berry said of the grenade.
Once Cannon crews left with the grenade, police swept the yard with a metal detector and reopened streets and City Park shortly before 4 p.m.