With July 4th upon us, I got to thinkin’ back when I was a kid and what the Fourth of July to me. It meant firecrackers. Remember you kids out there, don’t try this at home.
Now, you’ve got to remember, I grew up in the country, and we didn’t have to worry about a place to pop firecrackers, we just had to worry about our moms. Moms and firecrackers just don’t go together. Don’t get me wrong, moms like to watch fireworks displays as much as the rest of us, it’s just they don’t like their little boys playin’ with them.
I guess you noticed I said “little boys.” Back when I was a kid, the girls I knew didn’t play with firecrackers. Of course, to be honest, there were only four girls that lived close to me, and that included my sister.
Where was I? Oh yeah, playin’ with firecrackers.
Now, when I say firecrackers, that don’t just mean firecrackers; it also means bottle rockets, smoke bombs, roman candles, and so on. You know, fireworks. It’s kind of like the word Coke. For us a Coke meant what the Yankees call a soda. If you asked for a Coke, whomever you asked, would ask back, “What kind?” Then you’d say, “Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, or whatever.”
If you wanted a Coke, then you said you wanted a “Cocola.’’ Not a Coca Cola. It was pronounced, “Cocola.’’
Well, it was the same way with firecrackers. You’d tell the man in the firecracker stand that you wanted some firecrackers, and he’d ask what kind, and you’d go from there.
Although there were a lot of different kinds of junk to buy, we spent most of our money on plain old firecrackers, and bottle rockets. Every once in a while we’d buy a smoke bomb just for the heck of it. But we could do more with firecrackers, than with any of the other stuff.
Let me stop here for a minute and tell all of you kids out there that some of what we did as kids, I now, as an adult, do not condone. But, to be truthful, I, along with my buddies, did do them. So, don’t be doin’ this stuff yourselves, or you might end up like me, with scars and hearin’ aids.
Regular firecrackers were a little too tame for us. What you buy these days, are nothin’ like the firecrackers we had back then. Oh, they have the same name, but they are not near as powerful.
HANDLE WITH CARE
If one of the ones now-a-days goes off in your hand, it stings pretty good. If one of the old ones went off in your hand, it rained fingers for the next few minutes. But even as powerful as they were, we wanted a louder pop.
We tried everything to make a louder, more powerful firecracker. First, we’d tie several firecrackers together, twist the fuses, and light them. More often than not, one of the firecrackers would go off first, and then send the rest flyin’. Some of them would go off, but it wasn’t anything special.
Once, I got the idea to make a giant firecracker. You can ask Janet, once I get an idea in my head, I’ve got to see it through, or die tryin’, which I have come close to doin’ several times.
Of course, Janet didn’t know me back then, or we probably would have never gotten married. She’s not into doin’ cool stuff like makin’ giant firecrackers and such.
Anywho, I studied hard on how I was gonna make one.
First, I needed a tube to hold all the gunpowder. I was gonna use a toilet paper tube, but that would have taken forever to fill up with the gunpowder I would be usin’.
A kid couldn’t just go and buy gunpowder, you know. But that didn’t stop me. I just used the gunpowder inside the firecrackers. Now, I don’t know if any of you have ever busted open a firecracker, but my guess is that you have. And you probably know that there is not just a whole lot of gunpowder in them, but there is a little.
Back then, there was a little more than there is now. I found that if you pulled the fuse out and lightly blew on the other end of the firecracker; you would be rewarded with a small amount of gun powder, and I do mean a small amount. To get enough for my giant firecracker, I enlisted the help of my cousin Coy, Greg Hunt, Little Rusty, and his little brother Wee Whoa.
For my container, I settled on a cardboard tube that my BB’s had come in. It wasn’t one of those great big tubes that cost a quarter. It was one of the dime tubes, which I figured was plenty big enough. It was about four inches long, and about an inch in diameter.
We each got a handful of firecrackers and went to work. I really didn’t think Wee Whoa would be much help, but he turned out to be pretty ingenuous. While we were puttin’ one firecracker at a time in our mouths, Wee Whoa would stick two up his nostrils; pinch down on his nose, and blow. His pile grew faster than ours. After what seemed like hours, we pooled our piles into one big pile and funneled it into the BB tube. It came nearly to the top.
“Wow,” said Coy. “I bet they’ll be able to hear this clean to Dallas.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“I bet it makes a mushroom cloud,” said Greg.
“Oooooo. That’d be neat,” said Little Rusty.
“What are we gonna use for a fuse?” asked Coy.
“Let’s twist a few firecracker fuses together,” I said.
“That’ll probably work,” he said.
Well, we twisted the fuses together and stuck them in the powder, and then we got the gum that Wee Whoa was chewin’ and pressed it around the fuse, and to the side of the BB tube. Then we cut a hole in the little cardboard cap and fished the fuse through it, and fit it on the tube. Coy went to his dad’s shop and got some duct tape and we used it to seal the cap to the tube. The only thing left was to light the giant firecracker.
“Where are we gonna fire this thing?” asked Greg.
“I know,” I said. “Let’s fire it in my front yard and that way we can all hide behind Mom’s brick flower box on the front porch.”
“That’ll work, but I think we ought to do it tonight. It’ll look better at night,” said Greg. We all agreed, and said that we’d meet back at my house at 9:30. We also made a pact that we wouldn’t tell anybody else about the giant firecracker. We knew if one of our mothers got wind of that thing, not only would we not get to fire it, but we’d probably get the tar beat out of us. They used to beat the tar out of kids back then, you know.
Well, at 9:30, Coy, Greg Hunt, Little Rusty, Wee Whoa, and me were standin’ in a circle in my front yard lookin’ down at the giant firecracker on the ground. Oh yeah Wee Whoa’s dog Bones was there, too.
“Well, here goes,” I said, and I bent down with a book of matches. I peeled one of the matches off and then closed the lid. You did that for safety reasons, you know. Then I struck the match, and although my hand was shakin’ I finally got the match close to the fuse.
When the first spark flew up, we made a run for it. It’s a wonder we made it behind the flower box at all. Each one of us was pullin’ on the one in front’s shirts and draggin’ ‘em back behind us. Anywho, we finally made it. We all had our heads down between our legs, with our arms over the back of our heads, like they showed us in school in case we got hit with an atom bomb. Well, Bones didn’t have his head between his legs, but it wasn’t his fault. He had never been to school.
Anywho, we stayed in that position for what seemed like forever. Finally I peeked out. I looked up over the flower box at the giant firecracker. I looked at the others, and they too were peekin’.
“I think it’s a dud,” said Coy.
“Great,” I said. “And after all that work.”
“Maybe it was just a crummy fuse,” said Greg.
“Let’s go check,” I said.
“You go check,” said Coy.
“You ain’t comin’ with me? What’s the matter, you chicken?”
“I ain’t no chicken,” said Coy.
“Me neither,” said Greg.
“Let’s just all go,” I said.
“Slowly, we crept up to where the giant firecracker was lyin’.
“Look,” said Little Rusty. The fuse went out. It didn’t even get to the firecracker.”
“Is that smoke?” asked Coy.
“Where?” I asked.
“Right there. On the fuse.”
“Maybe we could blow on it,” said Wee Whoa.
While we were contemplatin’ that, we saw a spark.
AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!” we all yelled, as we realized that the fuse had started again. But before we could run, there was a really bright light, and then the world went silent. I found myself on my back lookin’ up at what appeared to be a mushroom shaped cloud. I looked to my left and right and there were my buddies, with blackened faces, all laid out in a circle like the petals on a flower.
I continued to stare up at the sky and at the mushroom cloud and then noticed somethin’ big lookin’ back down at me. It was my dad. His mouth was movin’, but no words were comin’ out. Although, I could not hear what he was sayin’ I was gettin’ the distinct impression, that he was not really happy about somethin’. The next thing I knew, he had me by the front of my T-shirt and was pullin’ me up. The rest of the guys were on their hands and knees, all shakin’ their heads.
“Wow!” I said to my dad, but I couldn’t even hear myself.
Well, to make a long story short, that was the last giant firecracker I ever attempted. Fortunately, besides our hearin’ and singed eyebrows, none of us were seriously injured.
Well, not from the giant firecracker. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think my rear end has ever been the same.