My brother Jack was born on July 3rd and he and I loved fireworks. We both wanted to be soldiers and we practiced war our entire childhood. Because of our obsession, our favorite holiday was the 4th of July. The one I remember best is the first one I can remember.
While growing up in small-town Vivian, there were no city ordinances barring the use of fireworks. Every manner of explosives was sold including M-80s and two-inchers. Jack and I are both lucky to have all our fingers as we later experimented with everything to which we could strike a match.
My friend Timmy Jon and I even mixed our own batch of gunpowder and almost burned up the house with it. The first 4th that I can remember we made do with firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers and Roman candles.
Every 4th, Mom, and Dad would buy us about ten dollars worth of fireworks. Ten bucks doesn’t sound like much but you could pop lots of firecrackers for that amount in the fifties and sixties. We always began the fireworks as soon as it was dark enough.
I don’t remember how old I was my first 4th though I was old enough to feel the excitement of impending danger. With our dad’s help, we began lighting sparklers, popping firecrackers and launching one bottle rocket after another. We soon got down to the good stuff.
“Hold it in the air and shake it,” My dad directed as he lit my first-ever Roman candle.
I can still remember the percussion and slight recoil as incandescent flame burst from the coiled-paper barrel of the explosive device.
I couldn’t count at the time but I had a seat-of-the-pants feel for how many fiery rounds the candle contained. When the eruptions of flame and smoke finally ceased, I held the spent rod in my hand, inhaling acrid smoke and burned powder. It’s an odor I’ll never forget.
My redheaded brother Jack was next at-bat and he had mischief in mind before my dad ever lit the candle’s fuse. Mother Mavis was standing behind us in the open door of our house. Soon after the candle started spitting fire, Jack began pointing it at anything that caught his fancy: a tree, the family car, me, and finally the open door of the house.
Dodging the oncoming fireball, Mom screamed and jumped off the porch. Jack put at least three fireballs through the door and into the house, luckily catching nothing on fire. When he finally threw down the spent Roman candle my dad just shook his head, grabbed the remaining fireworks and carried them into the house. Mom followed him, but not before unloading verbally on Jack.
Mom and Dad did not say much about the incident, giving Brother Jack the benefit of the doubt that inexperience and lack of good sense caused the accident. After living in close proximity to him until I was fifteen, I know better. He went to sleep that night giggling about scaring Mom and Dad and getting away with it.
The 4th of July means a lot more to me than just fireworks and hot dogs and we should all reflect on the sacrifices this wonderful holiday symbolizes. My favorite holiday still remains on the 4th of July, and the one I like best is still the first one that I can remember.
Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series. Please check it out on his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.