Fourth of July Humbug · 4 July 2010

I am a true blue American. I stand up and remove my hat when the flag goes by at a parade or sporting event. I often get a tear in my eye when I hear The Star-Spangled Banner, especially when I think of those who defended and still defend the flag and the ideals it stands for. And I believe that most of the country believes the words on our money, “In God We Trust.” However, if you looked at my budget for fireworks on Independence Day, you would know that I am a Fourth of July humbug.

I know that fireworks are a big part of many Fourth of July celebrations. After all, they are supposed to represent the “rockets’ red glare” sung about in our national anthem. But I guess I am some sort of cheapskate or humbug, because I do not get into the “blow your whole wad” mentality when it comes to fireworks. Besides being a tightwad, I have a somewhat cynical defense of my “buy a few sparklers” mentality. I do not like to burn money.

Some people will say that fireworks are just entertainment and spending money on them is like going to the movies or buying other forms of entertainment. Still, I think that spending lots of money on fireworks is like burning large denomination bills. So I buy as little as I can get away with. If that is being a cheapskate, so be it. After all, I do like to blow stuff up. I just do not like to pay for it.

When I was younger and we lived in Colorado, a couple of my cousins used to go out of state to get fireworks. They got aerials that were illegal, but which everybody had anyway because they too went out of state to get them. They spent lots of money and got all sorts of firecrackers and fireworks. We had a great time with the noise and lights. People from both sides of the family went to the farm to see the night time display of fireworks. Last I heard, many still do.

It was always great fun blowing up stuff on the Fourth and the days leading up to it. I liked to blow up ant hills and dirt clods. My dad showed us how to use two cans to make a rocket. We took a soup can and put a hole just big enough for a firecracker. Then we took a tuna fish can and put some water in it. We put a firecracker snugly in its hole in the soup can and put the soup can in the water in the tuna fish can. Then we lit the firecracker and ran away to watch. The soup can would go high in the air with a loud boom and we would all shout for joy. That was even more fun than holding firecrackers until the fuse was almost burnt and throwing them into a lake to see if we could get them to explode underwater.

Eventually, I got tired of those small firecrackers blowing up in my fingers and near my ears. Consequently, I am not much for the big noises or small flashes of firecrackers anymore. I do not need to light the fuses and run away quickly to make sure things go boom far enough away not to blow off parts of my body. I do not need to clean up the mess after the show. And I do not need to spend food money on bright lights and loud noises that disappear in a few minutes. But our oldest kid needs all of this.

Our oldest son, Thing 1, really likes the Fourth. He likes to get the most bang for his buck. Rather bucks. He drives far to get the legal fireworks that entertain those for miles around. Of course, in our county, everybody else is shooting off their own fireworks for miles around too. There are shows all night for anybody willing to twist and turn every which way to see. So while it is a bit superfluous to get all those fireworks, my wife and I let Thing 1 do his thing. And at least for the past few years, I have not had to spend much on fireworks.

One day, my three sons’ kids will be watching whatever fireworks their fathers get them for Independence Day. I do not know how crazy for fireworks the younger two will get, but if they all three live close enough to each other, they can at least watch the fireworks Thing 1 gets and have a great show. Hopefully, they live close enough to me too because even though I will still be a true blue American, I am sure I will still be a Fourth of July humbug when it comes to fireworks.

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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