Herald and Journal, July 3, 2000

Red, wet, and blue for the Fourth of July


When I was a girl, I eagerly anticipated the Fourth of July. There were always certain things you could count on to make the day special.

Of course, there was always a family picnic. A Fourth without a picnic would be positively un-American.

It was also guaranteed that sometime later in the evening, we would be heading for a fireworks display somewhere. It would be impossible to close out the grand day of celebration without the shrieking, popping and hissing of the fireworks as they burned their blazing colors into the night sky.

Each year, we waited impatiently until it finally got dark enough to put on our own mini fireworks display with sparklers. We would toss the sparkling sticks into the air and watch as they carved a glittering arc back to the ground.

Sid and I always got cap guns for the Fourth of July. I'm sure the rest of the family was thoroughly tired of us by the end of the day.

Believe it or not, our mother was the one who always came up with the cap guns. I'm not sure of the origin of the tradition, but I remember it fondly.

Of course, Mother had a few rules about those cap guns. No firing cap guns in the house. The smell and the noise were supposed to be kept outside. No whining when the caps were gone. We always ran out long before we were tired of firing our guns.

One year, my mother outdid herself and bought Sid and I the latest thing in cap guns. They were a cap-firing machine gun called a "burp gun." Or maybe that's what Sid and I called them. I'm not sure.

I do know that they were the best cap guns ever. You could make a terrible noise with them.

Unfortunately, you could also go through a terrible amount of caps in a short time.

Another certainty was that Mother would buy my sister Kyle and I matching red, white, and blue outfits to wear for the big celebration.

I can remember how I looked forward to dressing up for the Fourth. One year, we had white blouses with sailor collars, and red and blue trim. Navy blue shorts completed the patriotic theme. These outfits were carefully saved for the big day. Playing baseball or climbing trees in them was not allowed.

When the appointed day finally came, I dressed early, with the promise that I would keep my new shorts and blouse clean. Time dragged on and it was hours before picnic time.

I finally managed to talk my mother into letting me walk down to nearby Forest Lake. She was probably more than glad to get rid of her whining, pleading daughter by that time. She sent me off with an admonition to "keep your clothes clean, and don't come home wet!"

I had no intention of so defiling my new Fourth of July outfit. I trudged off happily to the lake. I enjoyed walking along the lake shore by myself.

For a while, I walked along carefully, peering into the water for crayfish or turtles.

After a while, I decided to see if my friend had left his cane pole down by the lake. Our neighbor would let him keep it stashed by his dock. I spotted it there and decided to pass the time by fishing.

Naturally, I didn't plan ahead as to what I would do if I actually caught any fish. Flipping over a couple of rocks, I found enough worms to get started.

The hook was quickly baited and the bobber set for the correct depth. The water wasn't terribly deep where I stood, midway down the dock. I suppose the water was about two and a half feet deep or so.

I stood there for quite a while, watching the bobber for the slightest twitch. As I stared at it intently, the movement of the water flowing around the bobber began to give me the sensation of movement.

The more I stared, the more I felt like the dock was beginning to move. I started to teeter back and forth slightly. As I began to sway, I remembered what I was wearing and how much I wanted to keep it dry.

Suddenly, I realized I was now leaning out toward the water. Before I went head over heels, I made one last attempt to save myself. I jumped into the water.

I know it sounds ridiculous to say I saved myself from falling into the water by jumping. At least, only my shorts got wet. To this day, I still can't believe I managed to jump into the lake with my new Fourth of July outfit on.

That morning I dripped my way back home, redfaced, wet, and in a blue mood.

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