The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fireworks Follies on the 4th

I love the 4th of July, especially the fireworks. The local fireworks this year were beautiful. Particularly special were the flying lanterns that flew past from a local church, small orange lights in the sky drifting silently past. That was special.

One of the best 4th of July fireworks displays my wife and I ever saw was on the Mall in Washington, D.C., years ago. The people watching was amazing, especially as it got late ... and a few overindulged. However, the fireworks themselves were astounding. The giant chrysanthemums overhead felt like they would envelope you completely before they disappeared. The music accompanying them was special indeed. I highly recommend you try it once if you can.

However, what really sticks out are the firework follies ... those occasions where things were not quite right.

On the small scale, there were the Roman Candles that blew out both ends instead of creating a fountain of fire out the top. I'll never forget my grandfather sitting there laughing as all the little kids ran past him coughing and sputtering from a malfunctioning Roman Candle. Then there were the "Smoking Monkeys," those little plastic figures smoking firework cigarettes. They puffed smoke from their mouths. However, with a sharp pin, they could be made to smoke from their ears and backsides as well. Hilarity ensued if you were young enough. It sure beat the "snakes" which just did a slow burn and left a line of unimpressive black, sooty ash on the back porch.

One year, an in law purchased over $100 worth of fireworks for a display. His neighbor down the street must have had connections with the county as it seemed, much to our in law's frustration, that this family had the real, professional grade displays. Impressive as they were, before the evening was over that neighbor had set a large bush in the backyard on fire. However, that's nothing compared to a really explosive evening in Virginia!

On the large scale, the biggest fireworks display gone wrong occurred at Wolf Trap National Park near Vienna, Virginia. This was decades ago. The fireworks display had gotten underway only a few minutes earlier when suddenly movement off to one side drew my eyes. A man was running full speed away from the firing area. Seconds later, every single firework left on the ground went up at once. I do not remember the sound at all. However, the sight of the expanding fireball growing from ground into sky over your head was a truly scary sight. I have no idea how I got so far from where I'd been sitting in three steps (as far as I could remember) and honestly I don't remember moving from that spot to where I stopped just before running over a startled guy who had also been watching the display when it all went wrong. I remembered hearing on the news that many unexpended shells were found in the surrounding woods ... and how unbelievable that had seemed considering the size of the explosion. That was some night.

Wishing everyone a safe and nearly folly free 4th of July. Enjoy the rest of the weekend as well ... with all your digits and your shrubberies intact.

I'll leave you with one last thought, a quote from the irrepressible Mark Twain about the 4th of July:

Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together. This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.
~ Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

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