I remember when I was growing up on a farm in central Minnesota that the Fourth of July wasn’t always a real fun time. In many ways, it was just another summer day.
Besides working on the farm, my dad also worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud. He often worked on July 4.
My mom didn’t have a driver’s license during my childhood years so that meant when Dad left for work, our means of leaving the farm were limited.
So, on those festive Fourth of July holidays, I was stranded. As cars drove by our house headed for parades and for fun on the area lakes, all I could do was watch.
And even when Dad arrived home, and going to a firework’s display was still an option, he was tired and had to head to work the next day. And since fireworks don’t occur until after dark, we often were in bed trying to fall asleep as the bursting of fireworks could be heard coming from a distance.
So, we were often left to our own devices to find entertainment.
My mom was aware of our plight so she tried to make things as merry as possible. When I was real young, I remember her giving me and my siblings a cap gun that didn’t hold up to use very well and was soon broken. We improvised by taking the caps and exploding them by hitting them with a rock on the sidewalk. This of course made a noise, but it also left cap residue and marks on our sidewalk. This was not OK with Mom.
So, we wandered out to the road that ran in front of our farm and smashed the caps there.
This also was not OK with Mom. After all, she didn’t want to end up celebrating the Fourth in the hospital emergency room if one of us youngsters was hit by a passing car.
If we wanted a more safe activity, we could always wander out to the cornfield and measure the height of the corn to our knees. The adage is corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July. Often, the corn was up to our waists, so this gave us a passing moment of pleasure and pride. But really, how much of a celebration is that?
One year I remember my younger brother, Kevin, and I finding a stash of firecrackers my older brother, Dick, had purchased out of state. These were illegal in Minnesota at the time, which made finding them all that more intriguing.
Kevin and I knew we couldn’t light the fireworks at our farm or they’d be heard and we’d be busted.
So, we biked to our uncle’s neighboring farm and went deep into his meadow to ignite the firecrackers. I would hold the little stick of paper-wrapped powder and Kevin would strike the match. I would then fling it into the air and it would explode. This worked fine until one of the wicks on one of the firecrackers extinguished as I threw it. I picked up the unexploded firecracker and noticed a bit of the wick remained.
Since we only had a few firecrackers, we decided not to waste this one so I told Kevin to light it again and I would fling it fast. Well, he did just that and as I drew my arm back to throw it, the firecracker exploded right by my right ear. I was not only deaf in my right ear for the rest of the day, but my right hand stung like crazy.
That ended our thrill-seeking for the day and no one ever found out until years later when we confessed to our chicanery.
Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday.