Sunday, July 04, 2010

Of Independence Days Past

Today I reminded myself of a particular July 4th, 1951 I think it was, in which I really enjoyed the holiday for the first time--even though I had no idea of the political or historical issues implied by the day.

We had a picnic at the park in Larimore, where we lived at the time, after which we all went home to wait for dark, and fireworks. Uncle Jim brought a long trough, made of two 1x4 boards nailed together in a 10-ft long V. He leaned it against his truck, at a steep angle and tied it off to part of the bed.

He brought out the rocket. It was a foot or so long with a two-ft stick trailing behind. "This better work" he said. I could only afford one," he said as he lay it into the trough.

Some of the neighbors came over and brought their fireworks with them. Then, we fired bottle rockets, burned sparklers, fired off firecrackers and Roman Candles. We had a few fountains and some of those little helicopter fliers. Being not quite seven at the time, I had to content myself running around with sparklers--kind of a thrill at the time--and watching the other stuff.

Finally, we started seeing the high-flying rockets going up all around town. Uncle Jim shouted, "Ok! Here we go!" As we all gathered around, "not too close," as my Dad and other parents kept saying, Uncle Jim lit the fuse of the big rocket. The fuse burned for what seemed like minutes, but was really just a few seconds. Suddenly, there was a whoosh of sparks blowing out the bottom of the rocket, which quickly turned into a roar as the rocket flashed up the trough and into the sky. We followed the lengthening trail of burning powder until it looked like it was higher than the moon. Then the rocket exploded with a slightly delayed boom into a vast, multicolored umbrella of fire. Oohs and aahs escaped the lips of everyone there.

Well, it only lasted a few seconds--well under a minute. I watched the trail of smoke, in the light of the moon, until it drifted away and dissipated.

We stayed outside for a while longer, watching fireworks of neighbors, and other high-flying ones still going off around town.

That particular Independence Day sticks with me to this day, I guess because it was the first, very exciting fireworks of my young life. I feel for the kids born in other places, and more recent times, who miss the joy of the family/neighborhood Independence Day celebration with the picnics, softball games, followed by a fireworks show of which the kids are really a part.

How many of today's kids get to use ordinary firecrackers to "shoot the anvil," the anvil in this case being just a plain inverted empty tin can?

Those times are gone in this part of the country, for a number of reasons: Perversely over-protective parents. A government that wants us to forget our heritage. Lazy and authoritarian police and fire departments (they could teach kids how to use fireworks safely, not just ban them). Those times are forgotten by many, and never known by the young.

As adults work ever more toward the attempted creation of a nerf-world to keep the kids safe until they (the adults) die, many of the kids will grow up utterly unable to face the dangers--great and small--of value-seeking. The attainment of anything of value requires risk, and kids are learning to avoid risk at all costs, of they are simply not learning to deal.

The adventure of risk taking to attain goals is what built America, and it will slip away--it is slipping away--as America's parents produce more geldings in lieu of stallions.

Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don't.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California