Fireworks Fiascos

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2017

’Tis the season for fireworks stands to pop up here and there around the area in preparation for Independence Day next week. My inner kid tries to drag me in to buy the pieces with the goofiest names, but I have done pretty well for the past several years of not giving in to the temptation.

When I really was a kid, it was a different story. I had a knack for wasting money on things that went poof, pop and pow.

One of my earliest memories with fireworks involved the usual “Firework For Kids and Beginners”: the sparkler. One to become bemused and bored easily, I figured out if you take a sparkling sparkler and throw it through the air like a dart, it looks like a genuine shooting star racing through the night sky. Shortly after making that discovery, I learned something else: sailing sparklers resembling shooting stars set ditches on fire when gravity returns them to the ground in the midst of tall weeds. This lesson was learned one night at my late grandmother’s old house in Leeco, Kentucky. I can still recall several uncles frantically hooking up a garden hose and running containers of water across the road to the ditch to kill off the blaze just in time for it not to grow out of their control.

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I killed off the family fireworks tradition for a year or two, I seem to recall.

Another adventure I lived to tell about involved a friend of mine named Max in Nebraska, and firing off a couple of bags of assorted fireworks in front of his house out by their farm. Like a tried and true pair of 11 or 12-year-old knuckleheads, we had our bags of fireworks on the gravel driveway about 10 feet from the dirt road on which we were lighting everything off for everyone’s entertainment. That was okay, until one of the hot sparkling bees from a Killer Bee Fountain got rambunctious and flittered its way over to one of the bags holding the other fireworks. That is when the real show started.

I still remember as clear as day watching the glowing light sail over and land in the bag. I remember racing over and snatching the other bag of fireworks (which contained more by this point) up off the ground and away from the bag with the smoking and glowing light inside and looking down just in time to see the red wrapping paper around a block of Black Cat firecrackers begin smoking profusely. I won a gold medal with the time it took me to race into the yard as the first set of firecrackers started going off in the plastic bag in the driveway. The machine gun rattle of the firecrackers all going off in such tight proximity started the bag ablaze and ignited the few other fireworks still in the bag. 

We had a multicolored fire with popping, whistling and fizzing noises amid the vibrant sparks and colorful trajectories flying off in all directions. Our parents didn’t find the humor in it that we did, but we were allowed—in the absence of injuries or damage—to ignite the remainder of our fireworks. Just with the other bag a greater distance away from ground zero.

My final adventure with fireworks came probably ten or so years later. My best friend at the time—and still close friend—Adam Jackson, his younger brother and a good friend of their sister’s came over to my house, and we got the notion to go to town and purchase a few fireworks to celebrate the Fourth with. We bought all of the goofy stuff we could find—the tanks, hens laying eggs, a bulldozer and so forth—and grabbed one Artillery Shell package because one of us had a coupon. Off we went back to my farm, and we set up shop on one of the concrete pads in my front yard that once held a grain bin.

There, the hens laid their eggs, the tanks rolled forward and fired their little fireballs and the bulldozer simply fizzled out in a weak poof because it was a waste of my good $.75. The Artillery Shell worked like a champ, however. Even when a stiff Nebraska wind gust toppled the canister that the shells fired out of over onto its side. The side aimed directly at the front of my house. I may have yelled an ugly word as I lunged forth to straighten the canister to its vertical base, which luckily still held the shell and its ever-shortening lit fuse. I managed to get the canister to about a 70-degree angle before it fired, and I watched with gritted teeth as the shell fired right up over the roof of my house, then exploded into a green and red shower of sparks. 

The problem? That colorful burst of festive magic and energy popped to life directly over my house, and all of the sparks fell down on my roof. Luckily, my roof on that house was metal, so only some black marks were left behind from the heat. Had it been shingled, that story may have ended differently. We hosed the roof down good to eliminate any lingering heat, and I thanked goodness I dodged a disaster.

So that is a short history of some of my personal Independence Day celebrations (or fiascos, depending on how you want to look at them). I look forward to experiencing the best of what Jessamine County has to offer for Independence Day this year, and hope everyone has a safe and fun Fourth of July!