On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence. The 56 members represented 13 colonies united and ready to rumble with King George III and his impressive red-coated army.
As the Declaration was read to the colonists gathered at College Hall, spontaneous celebrations erupted with gunfire, firecrackers, and copious amounts of dark rum, rye whiskey, and beer. Yes, our founding fathers were quite the party animals.
Believe it or not, little has changed in the way Americans celebrate Independence Day.
From the Mountains
The people of the Four Corners—New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona—will mark America’s birthday with caution, as the 461 Fire has consumed 47,031 acres and is only 37% contained. In the city of Durango, the Rotary Club is hosting free festivities, including a 5k fun run, barbeque, and a street dance with live music. Although the air may be thick with smoke, Durango patriots are a hardy bunch.
Due south is the oil and gas community of Farmington, New Mexico. The city sponsors the only legal fireworks display, but that suits Brian and Becky Heath:
“He came over in his dapper suit and I was dressed to the nines and it was about time to go when we realized we couldn’t find my pregnant Pomeranian. We searched all over and found her beneath my daughter’s playhouse giving birth to her puppies. Bryan climbed under the playhouse in his suit and pulled out 4 beautiful little puppies. We decided to stay home, put on our sweats, order pizza and watch over the newborn puppies. Luckily we could see the fireworks from the backyard and have kept the tradition of watching from our backyard since that night.”
Vee Gee Soderberg, wife, mother and seemingly responsible adult of Flora Vista, New Mexico, has finally abandoned her family’s tradition of arson to celebrate America’s freedoms.
For 15 years, Vee Gee’s family managed one of the local city firework tents. It was a family affair with each of her four kids working the booth:
“Of course, the youngest was 4 and due to child labor laws earned fireworks as “pay” for picking up trash. During that time, there was not a year that went by that we could escape the calling of the fire department, as my wonderful son managed to start a fire. I always found this ironic and amusing, since the fire department knew we managed the tent, but also because I had managed as a teen to set Heights’ [junior high]football field on fire and the ditchbank that runs thru Cherry Hills! Lol pyromania runs in the family.”
She may not LOL if the FBI is looking for the Soderburg fire bug dynasty.
To the Prairies
Firework use, including sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets, is a tradition nearly every community in the United States shares. Texan Stan Mobley may have unintentionally removed his fingerprints while playing around with Black Cats with his rowdy brothers one celebratory weekend at Granny Mobley’ farm:
“My brothers and I got our hands on some blackcats when we were probably 8, 10 and 12 – throughout the day we all 3 had tempted fate, thinking we could light a “short fuse” and throw it in time … at some point we all were soaking fingers in ice water.
And Granny Mobley had the last laugh.”
And then there are the “hey, watch this” celebrations that make the news July 5, as accidents are reported across the great nation after folks who lost their minds imbibing too much decide to play with explosives.
Dave Drasal is one such patriot, and his recounting of a family tradition gone awry will stun even the most adventurous party-goer.
It began, as most such stories do, with copious amounts of alcohol. This time, specifically, a trucker, a biker, and the assistant chief of police had a cutting torch, a box of Ziploc bags, a roll of fireworks fuse cord, and a large plastic trash can.
We were drinking beer and filling the bags with gas and air from the torch, attaching some fuse a setting them off. Believe me when I say they are window raddling loud… more beer more bags, fun fun fun. They we collectively put our heads together and wondered how it would sound if it were put in a trash can…”
Well, after two cases of beer, they decided to conduct an experiment, you know, for scientific purposes and such. Drasal filled a Ziploc with gas, adding an extra-long fuse. In his own words:
“So’s I could get away from the loud noise, I assumed it was going to make. I put the bag in the bottom of the can, lit the fuse and let go. HAHA jokes on me. Since the fuse came on a spool. When I let go it
coiled up on itself. I got a half step before it dropped inside the can and touched the bag.
It Vaporized the trash can. I still had shrapnel coming out of my legs for three years.”
That move is called a “Drasal” across the prairies today.
God Bless America
Whatever your traditions for celebrating the Fourth, remember this day for what it represents: freedom. Whether it’s the Boston Pops famously coordinated fireworks to Tchaikovsky’s 12 Overture, Oysterfest in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, or the Navy Pier in Chicago (watch for stray bullets), that sparks your fancy, stay safe, be kind, and for goodness sakes, remember you live in a nation that was hard fought for and that is the envy of every other country around the globe. Happy Independence Day to all.