When I was growing up, every Fourth of July it was the same thing. My dad had this story he’d tell every, oh, July 1 or so. It got to the point where the rest of us could practically recite it word-for-word with him as he told it.
“Yep,” he say, leaning back in his chair and staring at the ceiling, “when I was growing up, kids weren’t wimps like they are today. The gang I hung out with was so tough, they used to set off fireworks in their bare hands.”
After being suitably impressed with how tough the gang was, we’d all lean forward and wait for the punchline.
My dad would let the suspense build for a moment, then say wistfully, “Yeah, I remember the old gang: Stumpy, Lefty, Two-Fingers Bob....”
Luckily, I’ve never been injured by fireworks myself.
Actually, luck has little to do with it. I’ve always avoided fireworks stronger that those little sparklers on a wire, and I even burned myself on one of those once.
(Tip: don’t set a used sparkler down on the ground, then later try to pick it up by the burned end. Those metal wires stay hot for awhile.)
One of my regular activities since I’ve started at the Gazette is watching the annual fireworks display in Morton on the Fourth of July.
(Aside: why do people pretty consistently call it an “annual” Fourth of July display? How many Fourth of Julys are there every year, anyway?)
I also enjoy the people who ask every year, “What time does the show start?” while looking at their watches.
It’s variable. It depends on how quickly it gets dark that specific day. On cloudy days the fireworks crew can start the show earlier than on clear days.
Several times the Morton fireworks crew has let me watch them shooting off the shells from ground zero. It gives me the best seat in the house for a fireworks display — right directly under the explosions as they go off.
Watching the shells shoot out of the mortars like cannonballs is fun, too.
The displays are actually very safe. The Morton crew has decades of experience, and have it down to a system to cut risks to the minimum.
However, they can’t control all the variabless. Every now and then they get a shell that doesn’t do what it was supposed to, and blows up 50 feet off the ground instead of the usual 400 or so.
There’s nothing like watching shards of burning cardboard and gunpowder zing past your head at the speed of light to really get your attention. Once you get over the surprise, it’s extremely cool.
Page 2 of 2 - With apologies to Lefty, Stumpy, and Two-Fingers Bob, I’ve gotten worse burns from eating hot burritos.
At least fireworks come with a warning label. When was the last time you saw a burrito wrapper with a label: “Biting into this burrito will squirt molten hamburger and beans as hot as the interior of the Earth onto the roof of your mouth, where it will stick like napalm until your mouth is blistered, and eating will be painful for the next four days.”
On the whole, I would rather spend half an hour watching fireworks than watching a plate of burritos, however.