I’m not a big fan of fireworks. First off, they’re an incredible waste of money. I knew a guy that owned several fireworks stands. At the beginning of the season he would drive down to Mexico and purchase an inventory large enough to last through the two-week span the law allowed him to sell. He considered a 200 percent markup adequate, but he usually marked his fireworks up at least 300 percent.
But that’s not the real reason I dislike them.
My family owns a cabin on the Brazos River. We share it with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle and their two boys. When I was a kid I spent nearly every summer with my two cousins, Brad and Brent, and my grandparents on that river. I loved it. My grandmother would begin cooking breakfast early, my grandfather would take us fishing until lunch, and after we ate we would watch movies and nap until dusk when we would go swimming.
We began talking about and looking forward to the fourth as soon as our vacation started, usually at the end of May. My grandmother’s extended family would come down to the cabin and we’d fry catfish in a huge fryer in the yard, and then at night we’d shoot an obscene amount of fireworks.
One fourth a distant cousin brought some of his school buddies to our annual celebration-“buncha hoods” my grandmother said of them. My grandparents always made me and my cousins light one firework at a time. One person would light the firework with a smoldering punk while the spectators sat and waited on the tail-gates of the the nearby pick-ups. We took turns lighting the fireworks; we were three very patient kids. Unfortunately, the guys our distant cousin had brought with him were not patient individuals. They wanted to light things willy-nilly, which naturally drew ire from my grandfather. He told them to wait their turn, which made them mad, and they ended up taking their fireworks and leaving.
But they didn’t go far. They walked up the hill behind our cabin and started shooting their fireworks as dangerously as they wanted, while we resumed shooting down below in an organized manner.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a space-ship firework. It is round piece of cardboard that spins into a fiery ball of color after you light it. It’s supposed to shoot straight up into the air after ignition. Those boys on top of the hill lit one, and it did begin to fly up into the sky, but then the wind caught it and blew it down the hill. It changed color as it floated down the incline: red then green then blue then purple. My cousin Brad didn’t see this beautiful display of color because he was walking backwards away from a firework he had just lit at the bottom of the hill. While his attention was diverted that spaceship floated down and hit him in the belly. He screamed and batted at it with his hands, but because the wind was blowing towards him it kept right on pushing into his belly. His shirt (a striped green polo that he loved so much he would wear it dirty if you let him) caught on fire, and still the hateful spaceship pushed at my screaming, crying cousin. The spaceship finally burned itself out, but not before it burned an oblong little indention of welted, red flesh into Brad’s stomach.
I loved my cousin…still do. He was my best friend in the whole world, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the image of him screaming with his shirt on fire. All I could do was stand to the side and cry.
Today, as we celebrate the Fourth of July, let us remember to remain ever vigilant towards those who would take advantage of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. We should not let our self-indulgent and selfish tasks prevent us from acknowledging the fact that there are those in places of elevated power who through their greed and sense of entitlement ruthlessly do what they want regardless of constitutional laws and societal rules.
If we don’t keep an eye on those fellows up on the Hill they’re liable to burn each and every one of us.
Be safe today, and in the words of Edward Murrow:
“We must not confuse dissent from disloyalty”¦.we will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. If we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, we will remember we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who dared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular”¦we proclaim ourselves as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom where ever it still exists in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”
Happy Fourth of July.