Friday, July 01, 2005

Fireworks in the Desert

From my book, Adventures at 1122-7th Street, I'm posting this story for the second time. I originally posted it last July 4th weekend (2004). You're welcome to read the whole book.

God Bless America

The 4tha July is the best holiday of them all. Plenty of sunshine. A hundred five degrees. Long days, short nights. Picnics, parades, pretty girls at the pool, and most likely a lively baseball game at Clawson school.

15th Street Park, next to the city swimming pool, was crowded with picnicking families. On the 4tha July, after hanging out at the pool, we casually cut through the park about four o’clock, hoping somebody would recognize us and wave. “You boys want a hot dog?” Polite boys only took three.

Our family didn’t have 4tha July picnics because Dad worked the day shift or we extracted honey.

But that evening, Dad jammed eight or ten boys and girls into the back of his pickup and took us to the football stadium for fireworks. In Douglas, the sun sets so late that fireworks don’t start until about ten o’clock. In the meantime, a big community red-white-and-blue affair started the city freedom celebration.

Children’s groups took turns on wobbly risers to sing patriotic American songs into a pathetic little PA system. The lower-grade Catholic students from Loretto School always—always—danced a May Pole, and I liked that.

Each student carried a long, colored crepe paper streamer around and around the tall pole. Their nuns, with hands clasped on their tummies, proudly coached them through the maze of ribbons. Before long they presented a nifty red, white and blue pole. How’d they do that? I liked the year they braided three poles at once.

The American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps blared up and down the field and veterans marched Old Glory around for everybody to see and salute. The mayor added his two-cents worth. His speech, usually inaudible through that squawky PA contraption, meant fireworks were not far behind. By nine-thirty, everybody in town was within four blocks of the stadium.

And somebody couldn’t wait. Firecrackers went off behind the bleachers. Fidgety kids tore off in the direction of all the popping. Some more went off in the parking lot. Somebody in 15th Street Park fired off M-80s. Across the street a few whistling bottle rockets took off and more kids took off for that.

“You kids stay here where I can see you! Hey! Come back over here, young man!”

“Aw, Mom. Everybody else is...”

“You’re not everybody else. You stay right here. I don’t want you blowing your hand off. Or putting your eye out.”

“What time is it, anyway?” Even the adults were restless for fireworks. ”They should be starting any ti…”

Boom! Finally. What we were there for. We plopped cross-legged onto the football field and oohed and aahed for half an hour under the bright, loud, colorful explosions.

God bless America the Beautiful.

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”—Psalm 119:45

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