We have a soggy Independence Day in Louisville, which will make the Old Fashioned 4th brought to you by Cialas and Propecia a little damp. I don’t mind if I have to skip the fun. Independence Day in Eagleville, Missouri (fireworks capital of the world, yessiree) set a high standard.
Here’s how a typical Fourth went:
Ignore fatherly suggestion to arise as the day is already half over.
Explain to father that it’s a holiday, for God’s sake.
Listen to father admonish you for taking the Lord’s name in vain in the house, dammit.
You have not arisen, so father arrives with a cold cup of water to pour on your face.
Call father all sorts of names, though under your breath, because he is a large man who could squash you like a bug.
Listen to him explain how the grass won’t mow itself.
Express opinion that it would be pretty cool if it would.
Listen to father say for hundredth time that work is something to take pride in.
Stumble into kitchen where mother is already preparing the homemade ice cream mixture for that evening.
Ask why not just buy ice cream at the store, because it tastes better anyway.
Mother expresses opinion in so many words that you are spoiled and she can’t figure out where she went wrong.
You have a stinging retort, but keep it yourself. Though mother is smaller than you, she could squash you like a bug.
Mother asks you and your brothers if bedroom is clean.
Ask her definition of “clean.”
She does not find this amusing and slams a sauce pan on the stove. It is a sturdy Paul Revere saucepan, and it has been slammed many times before.
You scowl, and she tells you to quit looking at her like she’s an ogre.
Mother warns there will be an inspection of the room later that day.
Wonder aloud what difference it makes as only relatives are coming tonight for the cookout, and none will venture upstairs.
After a very long and leisurely breakfast consisting of two bowls of corn flakes with enough sugar to sweeten three Cokes, you and Jeff begin to mow the lawn.
It is a large lawn that can take more than an hour to mow if done correctly. It will take you about twenty minutes.
Father appears to make his usual pronouncement that if something is worth doing right, it’s worth doing right the first time.
Roll your eyes.
Hurry to finish mowing the lawn so you can mow the “ball field.” Your backyard abuts the school track, and you have adopted the track as your play area.
After mowing the yard, use the mowers, on their lowest settings, to cut base paths in the grass. This job takes half the day because you want the field to be as pretty as Wrigley Field.
Father is in a good mood and gives twenty dollars to buy fireworks. This is the first time you’ve been allowed to buy the family fireworks without parental supervision. You have already bought a lot of Black Cat firecrackers and smoke bombs, but this is different. The entire success of the family cookout is at stake. The Huttons, who run a gas station and tire store, set up a large fireworks tent at the interstate exit every year.
Twenty dollars will buy a ton of fireworks, though twice that much would be better should some purchases be duds. There is a science to buying fireworks. First, you want to have enough money to buy the grand finale, the big doozy that will blow away all the others. You have already learned from experience that this is not necessarily the largest firework for sale. Still, the largest ones are quite tempting. Selecting fireworks is always a gamble. Some of the smaller, cone-shaped fireworks can be monumental for their size. Sometimes, though, they’re a disappointment. Choose carefully and buy fireworks in the order they will be set off. Sparklers are first.
Return home with a paper sack filled with explosives.
Father expects you to help churn the ice cream. The family has an electric ice cream maker, but he insists the hand-cranked ice cream tastes better. He is, of course, crazy.
Your sweat generated while churning the ice creams helps salt the ice.
Father is never satisfied with the ice cream. It always needs a few more turns, a little more ice, a dab more salt.
Mom has made chocolate and peach ice cream mixes.
Do not try the peach ice cream, because you are philosophically opposed to ruining ice cream with fruit.
Later, the adults at the cookout will go on and on about how wonderful the peach ice cream is. Worry that next year your mother will make only fruit-flavored ice cream.
Guests arrive. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.
It’s time for baseball.
You don’t have enough players to form decent teams, but years of improvising have made it possible to play.
Fifty feet down the left field line is a cow pasture. Anything hit over that fence is an out.
Anything hit over the outfielder’s head is an out.
Anything hit hard is an out.
You have to use ghost runners because there will only be three people on each side.
You will expend more energy playing baseball than you did mowing the lawn and churning the ice cream.
You will not notice the irony.
Now that everyone who played baseball is dripping with sweat, it’s time to eat.
The deviled eggs don’t last long.
Skip the slaw and the potato salad, opting instead for a plate full of potato chips with a dab of baked beans and a hot dog.
Make that three hot dogs.
Time for fireworks.
The small kids are handed the sparklers, which signals to the adults that the serious stuff is about to begin.
Everyone watches the little kids twirl their sparklers, hoping they’ll tire of it quickly.
The sparklers create excitement for about three seconds before even the little kids grow bored with them.
Every child is admonished for the fourteenth time by every adult not to drop the sparkler wires on the grass.
There was that one kid in that one town who carelessly dropped his sparkler wire. A couple of days later, when his dad was mowing the lawn, the blade shot the sparkler wire right into the kid’s gut. He died on the spot. We don’t want that to happen to us, do we?
Father is not ready to let you set off the fireworks yet. That is his job. He takes it seriously. He also takes it literally.
After the sparklers and before the roman candles, he instructs you to find an empty sixteen ounce pop bottle for the bottle rockets.
Also, bring out a two by two section of plywood as the launching platform.
Father sets off a few bottle rockets.
You wish you could help. You would tie together the fuses of several rockets and set them off at once. With luck, some would come toward the crowd. That would add some excitement.
The roman candles are predictably unpredictable. Some have the full complement of eight bursts, some fewer. One splutters and falls on its side, sending a feeble fireball toward the crowd sitting in lawn chairs.
As the show moves up the line to bigger and better fireworks, the crowd oohs and aahs at appropriate spots, just like they do with the same fireworks every year. Everyone jokes again about the propeller firework that Uncle Royce lighted one year that went straight for mother’s leg. It never gets any less funny, though mother doesn’t laugh as much about it as she used to.
The grand finale.
The rocket you spent thirty percent of your fireworks money on is lighted. Will it be a dud or a beauty? It’s somewhere in between, not much to look at, but noisy enough to scare any dogs or cats that are already cowering in some dark corner wondering why the apocalypse comes every year at the same time.
Everyone heads home. Tomorrow, you’ll have to pick up the trash from the spent fireworks. But tonight, you’ll go to bed sleeping in the dried sweat of your day.
Happy birthday, America.
2 thoughts on “Fourth of July in the Fireworks Capital of the World”
Loved reading this, Ron. Thanks for reminding me of just what fun it was to be young on the Fourth in a small town. Oh, and those twisty fireworks are the reason I still shudder when someone sets of firecrackers!
There’s no place better on the 4th, Lisa.