When I was a kid, any type of fireworks bigger than a sparkler was illegal in North Carolina without a permit. Which was why we had to go to church to see them.
Not to imply that the church had a permit. Or anyone who knew how to fire them off safely. But were they going to be bound by the laws of man? No; they answered to a higher calling, one that involved dangerous explosions. Because that’s how Presbyterians roll, baby.
There were three men who always ended up in charge of the fireworks. I’m pretty sure this is because they were the ones willing to drive to South Carolina, which was apparently a no-holds-barred firework free-for-all, and load up the bed of their truck with whatever promised to give the biggest boom. Or maybe, they were the only people willing to fire off rockets sober (This was one of those “alcohol is an invention of Satan” churches, which may have been why we only attended for fireworks, weddings, and funerals.).
Their system was something like this:
Step A: Light the rocket
Step B: Aim the rocket
Step C: Run
All this took place in the parking lot about ten feet from the crowd of onlookers. For “safety,” the fireworks were aimed in the direction of the cemetery. Just to add to the excitement, by July the area was usually in the grips of a drought and the grass was so dry an angry look could ignite it.
So July 4th was usually spent stuffing ourselves silly with burgers and hot dogs, then going to church and waiting for the grass to catch fire, someone to blow themselves (or us) up, or for the residents of the cemetery to get sick of all the noise and start the zombie apocalypse just to get some peace and quiet. If that doesn’t encapsulate the American experience, I don’t know what does.
Do you have any July 4th memories you’d like to share? Tell me all about your narrow escapes from exploding death in the comments below!