Growing up with a dad who enjoyed fireworks was fun. He taught my brother and me how to light firecrackers (one of the few activities where Chad actually seemed to take safety a little bit seriously), and we took it a step further by blowing up crickets in Coke cans, all encouraged under Dad’s watchful eye.
When most counties in Kansas banned bottle rockets, somehow my normally law-abiding dad always had an extra stash of them to shoot off every year. One year we had a whole pack of some aerial things that promised fountains of spark showers high in the sky. No question that they were illegal.
My mom, brother, sister and I settled in on our lawn chairs in the backyard ready to watch the show. Our house was in a recently developed area of town, and there was a huge empty field behind it. Perfect for a launch. Other than the fact it was composed of dry, tinder-like stubble and grass.
As promised, the rockets produced beautiful pink and yellow cascading showers of fire. So pretty! Oooh! Aaaah! Aaahhhhooooh. Uh oh. The sparks kept coming down, down, down, and didn’t flame out until they hit the ground. And poof! The field was very much on fire. And it wasn’t going out.
So the way I saw it, my parents had a few options in that situation. Hope that it burned itself out or call the fire department and expose themselves as the morons who set the field on fire. I think they held onto hope for a few minutes, and then, realizing that the fire was spreading, did the prudent thing and called 911.
So as a bonus that fourth of July, we kids were treated to fire trucks too! I don’t remember if the firemen lectured my dad afterwards or if they just put it out and went on their merry way. But I do know that lessons were learned.
Yes, because of that very special episode of the Windholz Family Independence Day, the next year when my dad set the field on fire again with the same rockets, my mom, not wanting to revisit the embarrassment of calling the fire department a second year in a row, grabbed a blanket, ran out into the field in her housecoat, and put the fire out herself.
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana, Spanish American philosopher. Wise words indeed.
Have a safe and happy 4th!
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011