Happy almost Fourth of July. Tomorrow is the day, two hundred thirty-nine years ago, when the American Patriots declared their independence from England, because they were tired of drinking tea and wanted to start drinking coffee. (I believe Starbucks was a big instigator.) England was not keen on letting the Patriots go, because they had been sent a lot of turkeys by the colonies, and they had plans to sell them back for Thanksgiving at a significantly marked up price once the Avian flu had run its course. It resulted in a big war where the Patriots won 28-24 against the Seahawks—even though General Tom Brady obviously cheated. (Or was that the last Super bowl. I’m getting old, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a history class.)
I’ve always loved the Fourth of July, because it’s on the same date every year like Christmas and your birthday, except you eat watermelon instead of cake and there aren’t any presents—we need to work on that. It’s not like some of the other more devious holidays such as Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Labor Day that keep moving around to different dates every year in hopes you’ll forget it’s a holiday and go to work. But every year you know when the fourth day of July rolls around, you won’t be working.
I was born and spent the first ten years of my life in South Dakota where fireworks were legal. Every year for about two weeks the state sounded like a war zone with explosions going off continually—you have to love a state where a fifth-grader can walk into a store and buy enough explosives to blow his face off, no questions asked.
Things get boring very fast when you’re young, even lighting firecrackers. At first you put one on the ground, light it, run a safe distance away, listen to it explode, and then giggle. But eventually even that gets old, so you start holding the firecracker in your hand when you light it for that added thrill that it might go off in your hand. At first you just toss it on the ground, but soon you’re chucking it at things: trees, bushes, garbage cans, brothers, sisters, friends and—depending how close the firecracker gets—former friends. When you run out of friends and relatives who aren’t hiding or hospitalized, you start blowing things up. The first thing you do is put one under a tin can to see how high it will fly when the firecracker goes off. Then you put one inside a shoe box to watch it get shredded or inside an apple to make apple sauce. I once taped one to my sister’s Barbie doll to see what it would do. I figured I’d just hide it when I was finished and she’d never know. I didn’t realize I’d have seven gazillion pieces to hide.
Sometimes, if you still had some friends left, you’d have contests. You and another guy would each hold a firecracker, light it and see who chickened out and dropped his first. The trick was to pretend you couldn’t get your firecracker’s fuse to light so the fuse on the other guy’s firecracker would be half-burned before yours was even lit. Of course after you did this once, the other guy would figure it out and do the same thing. Sometimes these contests could take three of four hours until eventually a third parties would light the firecrackers. It seemed like Bobby (three-fingers) Thompson always won. (Just to clarify for any kids out there who might be reading this, I was very young when I did this, and I had the brains of snot. I have since changed: I’m no longer young. Do not try this at home or anyplace else. All stunts were performed by a professional idiot. Fireworks should only be used by adults, and preferably by adults who are far more adult than me.)
So celebrate our country’s birthday tomorrow. She’s held up pretty well for being over two centuries old—maybe a few wrinkles and her butt’s getting a little big. But we still are one of the freest countries on the face of the Earth. And many people have fought and died over the years to assure we have the inalienable rights and freedoms to do anything the Supreme Court tells us we can do. Happy birthday America. USA. USA. USA …
Thanks to all of you who have bought my new book, In The Lake. I hope you enjoyed it, and I’d appreciate a review.