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July 03, 2014 7:14 am

LAWRENCE AT LARGE: The delightful danger of fireworks

Written by Tom Lawrence

The Fourth of July! Love those words and that day.

Like many special days and events, memories help shape our feelings about it. Mine are almost all positive, even after a finger was smashed into a bloody mess by a slammed car door on July 4, 1976.

For most of us kids who grew up in the 1960s, it was all about fireworks. Loud, possibly dangerous fireworks.

We were told, usually by older siblings and kids a class or two ahead of us, that Black Cats were the kind of firecracker that would scare girls, anger your parents and put your hands at risk.

There was, we were told in conspiratorial tones, more gunpowder in the Black Cats. While Zebras were also acceptable, and would least take off the tip of a finger, Black Cats gave us the most bang for the buck, we thought.

We always had sparklers, too, which were fun for little kids but mostly served as a source of amusement when someone who was barefoot stepped on one.

There is a lot of pain to the Fourth of July. No wonder kids love it.

Bottle rockets were a favorite. I can hear the Fizz! as they darted from pop bottles and the Bang! a second later.

My brother Vern and I also used them when we became pirates and rode the Spanish galleon that also served as our wooden picnic table across waves of grass. We would use long iron pipes for cannon and fire rockets at approaching enemy picnic, er, ships.

We also lodged gravel into the end of the pipes and placed Black Cats next to them. Touch a flame to the firecracker and a volley of small rocks was propelled forward.

I’ll say this — in our buccaneer years, our yard was never successfully invaded.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t cause damage. I tossed a firecracker at my sweet little sister Julie once, and it exploded as it landed on her back. Still sorry about that one, although it may explain the door slammed on my thumb on the bicentennial. She said she didn’t mean it.

But it’s somewhat amazing that no one was seriously hurt during all those years of July explosions. Mom warned us of the pain her sister Margie suffered when a firecracker placed under a tin can — seems harmless, right? — caused a bloody cut.

We heard that story every summer and of course then replicated the experiment. No blood was shed.

Since we lived on a farm for most of those years, we would hold our own fireworks shows. Our relatives would drive out, bringing their supply.

Once Vern left home, I was promoted from punk with the punks to young guy willing to light fireworks while the adults sat in lawn chairs and the kids danced about. It was an honorary title.

We would fill the night sky with rockets and other fiery projectiles. The embers would float down around the hay, trees and other flammable material, but we never had to organize a bucket brigade or call the fire department.

After setting off all the fireworks, the air smelled like the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In other words, glorious.

July 5 was always a bittersweet day. It was the final day they sold fireworks and we knew we would have to wait for almost a whole year to become pirates, carelessly toss firecrackers, or paint the night with brilliant flashes of color.

I wonder if I can still get some Black Cats. Sure, not the old Black Cats — they were banned, some kid told me.

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