Friends fire up Fourth of July

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

It's amazing what a little explosive chemistry will do to boost the national spirit. We'd be hard pressed to celebrate our birthday without some colorful explosions.

Never mind that all those fireworks were made in China or some other low-rent country. We proudly proclaim our Independence Day by shooting off fireworks that paint the sky a tapestry of colors and give us a big bang for our bucks.

A group of our friends get together every Fourth of July to chow down on plenty of food and explode a ton of fireworks.

OK, it's not really a ton of fireworks. It just seems that way. There are small towns that don't have this many fireworks.

One guy in our group seems to always be the master of ceremonies. He's good at lighting the fireworks, sending them roaring into the air with a trail of sparks.

He's the guy who manages to maneuver through the foggy aftermath of each pyrotechnic display and avoid burning himself on the blackened debris that remains.

It also helps that he identifies each successive fireworks display by name before lighting the fuse. That way we can put a name to all this fiery sky art.

Add some 3-D glasses and life is pretty good even without an adult beverage.

Fireworks may be made in China, but on the retail shelves they carry names like "Texas Cyclone" and "Bobbleheads."

I've learned that anything with Texas in the name generally lights up the sky.

On Sunday night, we gathered in one of the city's west-side neighborhoods where it seems almost everyone has stockpiled more fireworks than most Third World countries.

This allows the neighborhood to be lit up from end to end with each explosion dueling for attention with another.

Francis Scott Key would have been proud of all of the "rocket's red glare" and "bombs bursting in air."

I guess it's not surprising that our nation has such a love affair for aerial explosions. Our beloved "Star-Spangled Banner" was the creation of Key, a Washington lawyer and amateur verse writer who penned the words while watching the British fleet's bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814.

It's also not surprising that Americans often toast Independence Day with some of their favorite alcoholic beverages. Key borrowed a popular English drinking song to provide the music for our national anthem.

No, sports fans, the Budweiser theme song is not our national anthem. Although if Key were composing the song today, he doubtless would have used that popular brewery tune as opposed to some English pub song.

At any rate, my friends and I felt downright patriotic Sunday night as we sat in our folding chairs on a friend's front lawn watching the cascading fireworks showering the heavens.

There were the occasional fireworks that didn't do a bang-up job. But most were grand.

The kids even enjoyed their share of sparklers without burning down anything or anyone.

Afterward, neighborhood residents made a clean sweep of the debris.

It was a great Fourth of July.

After all, the best thing about shooting off fireworks with friends is there is no such thing as a short fuse.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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