Fireworks for the 4th of July!

My uncle has a fireworks stand. He has been in the biz for nearly 20 years and always gave the nephews a bag of colorful explosives every Independence Day. Old traditions run deep.

There was no way I was going to let the fourth slip by without lighting something on fire just as my revolutionary ancestors did 235 years ago. Well, maybe not as they did it back then…flint has since given way to sulfur and cannonballs to fireworks.

It wasn’t easy finding fireworks in this town. It shouldn’t have been difficult…seems they are always blowing something up around here. After a few phone calls I finally tracked down my target. I had a choice…bottle rockets, mortars or bombs. All three were sold at the baby clothes/accessories store.    Logical.

I went for the mortars. A dozen for $9, viva la revolucion!

Interestingly, the instructions written on the mortar wrappers were in Arabic and Chinese. Good thing I knew a thing or two about which end is up. Though after initial inspection, these seemed a bit different than the ones you get at TCal’s Firecraker Barn in Bridge City, Texas.

I asked a local friend if he had a spare pipe lying around his shop…that afternoon he handed me a foot-long cannon.

We were in bizness.

The 3-alarm bowl of chili with apple pie for dessert was damn tasty and fitting for the occasion (thanks Dan!). But the real dessert was after the pie. Everybody wanted to see the show. The Frenchies said fireworks were illegal in their country. One American guy said his dad had never let him shoot em off. I took the lead and said, “Let me show you how it’s done.”

I set the cannon sitting high and mighty on the sidewalk and dropped a round in the barrel. The fuse rose about 6 inches over the top. I estimated, based on my years of 4ths of Julys in Texas, that I would have approximately 5 – 8 seconds burn time to run for cover. I reached over with a lighter, stuck a flame and slowly approached the fuse anticipating the sparks.


I saw sparks alright…there was about 1/4 second lead time between lighting and ignition. This was NOT the same as the “Happy Flower” shells that come with a cardboard tube with the happy starburst drawings all over it. Nope. This was some low-grade military explosive made in god-knows-what-country-ending-with-“stan”. My face was about two feet from the barrel and the explosion and concussion left my ears ringing like a bell. I stumbled two steps back before falling on my butt. The ordnance sailed about 500 feet in the air and there was a second explosion. The neighbors ran out to see what the commotion was about, then ran back in when the ash began to fall.

I looked over at the group of Independence Day revelers who all stared at me, horrified. This is why dads don’t let sons play with fireworks, I thought. I checked my face, half expecting my ear to be bleeding. It wasn’t. My face was intact. I jumped up shouting, “I’m OKAY! Who is next!?”

11 more to go and no takers.

Not surprising. It’s always the same…nobody wants to be a victim. Wimps.

I rigged a candle on the end of a broomstick and passed it to the next American. This gave him a good five extra feet of distance, plus his fully outstretched arm. After a safe ignition (relative term in this case), the others were keen to try. Though this one seemed to sail in the air for what seemed like ages and have a delayed charge…maybe it ignited in the tube with the primer? All the sudden we heard a whistling sound before it slammed into the metal roof like a meteor.

Ohmygod this is so dangerous! Ten more to go!!

In the end we had only one other dud; and it sent everybody scrambling for cover before slamming into the curious neighbors’ house.

Maybe for New Year’s I will skip the mortars and go for the bombs, conveniently stocked next to the baby bottles and pacifiers. Viva la Revolucion and God Bless America!


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