Tomorrow is Fourth of July and there will be fireworks – serious fireworks, but you’re not supposed to have any in Virginia. That’s because our state would trust you with a 3,000 pound Ferrari that will do 250 miles an hour in about 10 seconds, but they think you might hurt yourself with a bottle rocket. So we can buy things that smoke and sizzle but nothing that leaves the ground. If it’s fun, it’s illegal in Virginia. That’s why one of South Carolina’s main exports is fireworks. They sell it all.
I have always loved fireworks. I remember an afternoon birthday party with a fifth grade buddy whose Mom had bought a stash of fireworks, gave each of us a small bag of cherry bombs and such and we blew up everything in sight. Nobody lost an eye or a finger, though we’re each a little hard of hearing these days.
All this reminds me of a couple Independence Day celebrations gone by.
One took place at Litchfield Beach, SC. My Aunt and Uncle, Jodi and Jim, had rented an ocean front cottage over the fourth of July week and invited my family. My daughter Angelin, age 6, was about the same age as her cousin Jamie, and his sister, Livie, was maybe two years older. We were down on the walkway and my job was to help the kids set off sparklers.
Sometimes those things are the devil to light. You have to heat them practically to inferno-temperatures to ignite. I was having such a problem with one of Livie’s sparklers, and I held my hand under and around the sparkler to capture more heat from the match. The very instant the sparkler caught fire, it broke off and half fell right into my hand. It burned raw flesh a half-inch deep before I could toss it aside.
It continued burning, even after applications of cream and medicines and whatever we had. It hurt like a SOB. I went to sleep in pain and woke up the same way. Those little devils are nasty, but you can buy them in Virginia.
One thing you can’t buy, though, is a bottle rocket. These are really nothing more than firecrackers with a little black powder in the tail end that takes flight when the fuse ignites. They sail in the air about 80 feet and go “pop.” It’s not much of a pyrotechnic device, but when you run out of the big stuff, you shoot off these.
One Fourth of July we were all at my Mom’s house in the back yard and many of us were feeling very little pain after a number of holiday brewskies. We had shot off the big stuff and were down to bottle rockets. My nephew, Bubby, about 12 or so, was master of firework ceremonies. After shooting off single bottle rockets, Bubby decided that two at a time would be more exciting. And it was.
As he was lighting the second bottle rocket propped up in a Pepsi bottle, the bottle tipped over, in our direction of course, and two small balls of fire were headed our way. I managed to just duck as the rocket whizzed by my ear and detonated on the side of the house, but my son-in-law, Brent, was not so fortunate. The rocket nailed him in the lower chest and took off a good bit of skin. He has a scar there to this day. After that, we nicknamed him “Flash.”
All I can say is that you may be safer barreling down the interstate in a Ferrari than setting off sparklers and bottle rockets in your own back yard.