Tag Archives: eagleville

Fourth of July in the Fireworks Capital of the World

4 Jul

Poorboys2We 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.shelton

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.


The #!@%$# Tree is Up

20 Dec

We put up our tree last night. It’s a small Fraser Fir. The names comes from an old Germanic dialect which means Dude, you were totally ripped off. I much prefer another variety of Christmas tree called coniferous cheapus.


A time long ago, when the girls still liked their picture taken with the tree.

I often buy trees from the boy scouts who have a lot at a nearby church. One year I was so late that the place was already closed. The scouts had packed up their kerosene heaters and  gone to celebrate the season by their warm hearths, mainly because it’s not easy to feel celebratory by a cold hearth. Back on the dark church lawn, aka frozen tundra, I stumbled across a forlorn Charlie Browner, which was so pitiful even the dumpster was too good for it. Like a mildewed sofa abandoned on a street curb, the tree had been left for any desperate soul who didn’t want to go home to a wrathful wife and disappointed children. I felt like Christmas  had come early.

One advantage of waiting until late in the season, besides the fantastically low, low prices, is the weight of the tree. By the time I usually bring our tree home, five or six weeks have passed since it left a tree farm in the Smokies and traveled to Louisville on a big rig. Most of the moisture in the tree has evaporated, and a good percentage of the needles have fallen off. Its lighter weight eliminates some of the time and profanity usually generated when I adjust the tree so it doesn’t look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


Dead Tree Walking

My wife and I used to take our girls to a you-cut tree farm in the country, but this period in our idyllic lives didn’t last long. There was a window of just three years when both girls were old enough, but not too old to find the experience stupid, OMG, just stupid.

When I was a kid, we didn’t buy our trees.  That would have been stupid, OMG, stupid. Instead, Dad usually grabbed a saw and went into the woods to cut one down. They were not spruces or even Scotch Pines that happened to be growing wild along a creek bank. They were invasive evergreens–ditch cedars–that needed to be eradicated even if we didn’t need a Yule tree.  The trees were flimsy and downright ugly. But once we got enough tinsel on them, and my, did we like our tinsel in the Smith household, we almost couldn’t tell the difference between them and one bought from a lot.  As long as we didn’t hang anything heavier than a feather on their weak branches, the trees held up. I occasionally still check out trees in ditches to see if they’d look good in our living room.

I have some experience on the other end of the Christmas tree life cycle, too. My brother and I, along with a couple of friends, got hired to plant them. Our employer, Keith, lived in the city, but he hoped to move back to our town when he retired to open a tree farm. Keith was known to be a little tight with his money, which meant he didn’t want to waste a single sapling. And if he was going to have to pay some kids to plant them, he expected them  to plant each one, no matter what. The weather that Saturday morning was cold but tolerable. Since I had never planted trees before, the experience was almost fun–for the first ten saplings or so. The repetitive process grew old quickly: bore a hole in the dirt, insert sapling, pack dirt around sapling, move to next hole.

By the middle of the afternoon, the weather began to turn bad. First, it was just a light misting. Our clothes were getting a little damp, but no big deal. What kid doesn’t like to be out in the rain once in awhile? We still had a lot of saplings to plant, and Keith wanted them all in the ground before the day ended. The rain began to pick up; the temperature dropped. We were working along a terrace on a gently sloping hill, going as fast we could. Water began to stream down the bank into the holes faster than we could plug them with saplings.  The rain intensified further. To quicken the process just a bit, I stuck two trees in one hole. Keith didn’t notice. We were becoming soaked. Our hands were getting cold and numb. The ground had now turned to mud. Cats and dogs were landing all around me. I began to put two trees in every hole. Still, the mountain of saplings to be planted hadn’t decreased. They seemed to be multiplying in the rain like Furbies in Gremlins. I began to stick three saplings in each hole. It seemed impossible, but the rain intensified further. At the top of the hill, animals, two by two, were boarding a large boat. Finally, with five saplings left, I stuck them all in one hole and yelled “Finished!”


The trees I planted are in there someplace. Imagery ©2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Map data ©2012 Google

I’m sure Keith eventually discovered what I had done, but I never saw him again. Who knows? Maybe those trees survived. Maybe they even look interesting. Just spit-balling  here, but let’s say someone makes another Harry Potter movie. Let’s say it’s called Harry Potter and the Doctorate Years and they need a creepy forest with triple and quadruple trunked pine trees where Harry and the gang can go to discuss their dissertations. If that were to happen, I can give them directions to a spot just west of Eagleville, Missouri.


P.S. If you’re pining (get it?) for something a little more substantial, please check out my stuff here.