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The Lake News Online
  • My view: The good old day of M-80s

  • I will escape the Fourth of July weekend with my fingers intact. No powder burns, no singed hair on my knuckles. Just another day in the neighborhood in Osage Beach. What fun. My condo association sent out the obligatory reminder, nee warning, that not only are fireworks prohibited in Osage Beach, but they're also banned within the confines of the condo complex. Including sparklers.
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  • I will escape the Fourth of July weekend with my fingers intact. No powder burns, no singed hair on my knuckles. Just another day in the neighborhood in Osage Beach. What fun. My condo association sent out the obligatory reminder, nee warning, that not only are fireworks prohibited in Osage Beach, but they’re also banned within the confines of the condo complex. Including sparklers.
    What? No sparklers?
    The decisions by our leaders to protect us from ourselves is an abomination on our freedom as United States citizens — especially as we celebrate our independence this Friday. But, until I become king of the world, as my dad would say, it is what it is.
    I’m hoping some rebel, some provocateur, some true patriot sneaks into the parking lot at my complex and sets off a string of Black Cats. Let freedom ring! I’ll never tell.
    I honestly feel sorry for those who grew up in communities that prohibit or prohibited fireworks. My grandsons will never realize the thrill of having their dad light the fuse of a Lady Finger and toss it out of harms way; or hold a Roman Candle as colored balls of flame shoot out the end; or light the fuse of a Bottle Rocket and watch as it streaks into the night sky.
    Hamburg, Iowa, is two miles from the Missouri border, and about 19 miles from Rock Port, Mo., where fireworks stands populate the roadsides.
    A week or two before the Fourth of July, John and Maxine would load Polly and Danny into the back seat of their car and off we’d go for an afternoon adventure into Missouri. My parents smoked then, and I certainly recall trying to crack my window and grab a breath of fresh air. I can relate when I see a dog’s ears flapping in the wind, taking in as much air as possible.
    The trips usually included numerous side trips to check out the crops, or look at a friend’s new corn crib, to “see what’s down this road,” or just to venture down roads where no man had gone before — or at least not for a long, long time.
    Eventually, we’d ready the first fireworks stand. Now, please understand, my dad was not only frugal, but he was also the consummate fireworks shopper. One stand was never good enough. We’d hit two or three, compare prices and then my dad would haggle over a package of Black Cats or Sparklers or Snakes.
    Often, he’d have a quiet conversation with the fireworks stand proprietor, walk behind the canvass tent and return with a sack of special fireworks that turned out to be M-80s and Cherry Bombs.
    Page 2 of 2 - Yes, they were contraband; they were bootlegged from another state where they were legal. We’d usually bury them at the bottom of our fireworks sacks, or John would stick them in the trunk in case a wily deputy sheriff was carousing the back roads. Always the back roads. Very clandestine.
    I don’t remember my sister ever being so brave as to light an M-80 or Cherry Bomb. But I and my male friends knew we had come of age when we were bestowed the honor of setting off our first ear-splitting, window-rattling M-80.
    My best friend and I lived about a mile from the West Ditch, which was a drainage ditch that eventually empties into the Missouri River about five miles from town. At its deepest during dry times, the ditch was maybe three feet deep.
    We’d load the baskets on our bicycles with fishing gear, night crawlers, a tackle box and a dozen or so M-80s and Cherry Bombs. It was two or three miles from our homes to the West Ditch, so it was quite a trek which always included stopping to throw rocks at imaginary creatures along the way. Eventually, we’d reach our destination and settle in for an afternoon of fun.
    The M-80s and Cherry Bombs were like gold to us. We set them off sparingly because we knew it would be another year before our next supply. But, as boys will be boys, our favorite thing to do was pack them in mud, toss them into the ditch and watch as muddy water and an occasional fish would rocket into the air.
    Bullfrogs for as far as we could see leaped from their grassy confines into the sanctuary of the ditch. Looking back, I hope the statute of limitations has expired.
    I’m not sure boys are allowed to be boys in today’s world. Too many electronic distractions; too many weirdos perusing the streets; too many parents afraid of what lies beyond.
    I’m so thankful my parents allowed us to get dirty, to expose us to life’s adventures and especially to let us be kids.

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