Independence Day is synonymous with fireworks. It gives me an excuse to blow stuff up and nobody can do anything about it. With two days to prepare it brings back memories.
Today the local news reported how well the fireworks business is in Indiana especially in locations directly adjacent to the Illinois border.
Every summer the Illi-No residents flock across the People's Republic of Illi-No border to buy a little slice of freedom to celebrate what little freedom and independence they still have over there. And each year the Chicago media reports on Illi-No State Police undercover spies hunkering here in Indiana parking lots relaying license plate information to road block partners on the other side where the cars are stopped and searched then passengers arrested after confiscating the illegal booty and then fined. Revenue generation at it's best. I suppose any Illegal Mexicans caught crossing the border back to Illi-No are allowed to go free since Illi-No has declared itself as a "sanctuary state".
We did a lot of dumb things with fireworks as kids such as…
...lighting cherry bombs taped to a stone for weight and launching them with a wrist rocket style slingshot sending them a good distance. This way the local Barney Fifes would go looking where the explosions took place, not where were hiding in the bushes giggling. Skyrockets always fascinated me for the same reason, send the firecracker far away as possible. Bottle rockets still give me a thrill and I often use them to chase away woodpeckers and other pesky birds.
As a youngster the ability to obtain fireworks was an art. All fireworks were illegal in Indiana and most northern states during the 60's, 70's and 80's. One way I got my supply of firecrackers, cherry bombs and M-80's was out of the trunk of resellers who traveled to southern states like Kentucky where fireworks were legal and brought them back to turn a profit.
The other way to obtain illegal fireworks were from certain retailers who operated sparkler, snake and cone sparkler fireworks businesses. Some would sell the good stuff out the back door. In this option somebody needed to know somebody and I usually knew a somebody but the prices were high. As a kid the local yokel Fifes were on full alert to bust kids using illegal fireworks.
One time we were in my back yard playing with a 100% legal firework. I was about 12 at the time accompanied by my hell-raiser usual suspects friends. The firework was branded as Fountain Sparkler #1. This item was a small cylinder larger than an M-80 with a fuse coming out of the top. It was meant to be placed on one end and after lighting the fuse and sparks came shooting out of the top end.
One time I placed one on a cinder block for stability and accidentally knocked it over with the match. Once on it's side it became an uncontrollable missile flying about wherever it pleased at a high rate of speed. We watched in amazement that this small, legal device could travel so far and so fast bouncing off the garage, fence and anything it came into contact with. I immediately rode my bike to the store and bought a handful of them. Here is where it got dangerous.
Not far away a railroad track paraleled a two lane road. Small homes like one belonging to a friend lined the road on the other side. There was little traffic on the road so we were lighting these fountain sparklers on their sides and watching them fly about after hiding behind a tree for our own safety. After launching a few a short freight train passed by. One of these little misled flew into an open door box car that contained remnants of corrugated board and paper packing materials.
As the train rolled off into the distance huge billows of smoke poured out of the box car. We laughed uncontrollably and had a hard time getting on our feet. Then we ran like hell.
We never heard anything bad happening to that train, my guess is that when the cardboard catalyst ran out the fire extinguished itself. Good thing a flammable chemical tanker wasn't behind the box car.
I did a lot of dumb stuff with fireworks as a kid. We had a lot of fun and nobody ever got hurt.