Fourth comes in with a bang

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Keeping with my family tradition, I took the 7-year-old rule-following princess and the 6-year-old hurricane boy to Eufaula, Ala., to buy fireworks for the Fourth of July.

Taking the boy to a firework store is like taking Lindsey Lohan to a liquor store. He grabbed every item in the store and stuffed it in the plastic carrying basket. I spent half my time putting stuff back on the shelf. The other half I spent convincing the little girl that we would be safe, the fireworks were legal (which they were not), and we'd divide them equally with each child receiving equal lighting privileges... for the most part, meaning none.

The boy rode home requesting he be allowed just to hold one. "Please, please, can I just hold one?" He sounded like me at a strip club. He cuddled a multi-firing canon-shell-shooting thing-a-ma-jig called the Gator that looked like the Special Forces might use it in Afghanistan. He clutched the Gator like a man holding his last canteen of water in the desert.

I'll tell you, fireworks have sure changed from when I was a kid. When I was growing up, we had a few Roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers and a few spinney things. Nowadays, you need a degree in pyrotechniques to operate half the stuff.

We got home and shot a few off early before the Fourth of July. One type was a simple rocket that shot in the air, but the head of the rocket was about the size of a 16-ounce beer can. It would rise high in the air and then explode with a loud bang. It really wasn't too impressive other than the fact it was loud.

The little boy, being as ingenuous as he is, convinced me that a better use of the rocket would be to turn it upside down, stuff it in the ground, light it, and see what happened. Just as a footnote, never decide to light a firework to "see what will happen." The rocket, being unable to thrust forward, decided instead to blow everything out the back. Ultimately, it left a very impressive crater in the yard, almost blew up my truck and the 6-year-old boy was ready to put two in the ground next time to "see what will happen."

I decided that maybe we can wait until next year for that particular experiment.

Although the fireworks now are much fancier, probably with good reason they are not as powerful as they once were. When I was about 11 or 12, I had a cousin from Maryland who would provide fireworks because Maryland had no fireworks law and he would bring home cherry bombs and M-80s.

Back then, an M-80 was equivalent to 1/8th of a stick of dynamite. I'm pretty sure there are people all over nicknamed Stumpy, Lefty and Stubby because of these M-80s. I shudder to think what the 6-year-old boy would do with a few M-80s. He spent most of the late afternoon leading up to the Fourth of July countywide fireworks display trying to convince me to fill the entire box I had of fireworks and then shoot a rocket into it to, again, "see what will happen."

The scary thing is, I actually gave the idea a little thought before finally rationalizing that one big bang would not be as entertaining as multiple small displays.

Somehow we made it through another Fourth of July safe and sound. I have a feeling, however, that I've got a lot of years left of "seeing what will happen" and I suspect a lot of the time we won't be talking about fireworks. But, at least I'll have the security of the little rule-following girl, who is busy reading the Georgia code concerning fireworks law and checking to make sure everything is legal.

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.