Reconciling A Fear Of Fireworks With The Fourth

Fireworks i i

Commentator Laura Lorson's patriotic spirit fizzles out with explosions from Fourth of July fireworks. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Fireworks

Commentator Laura Lorson's patriotic spirit fizzles out with explosions from Fourth of July fireworks.

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Laura Lorson is the local All Things Considered host for Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence.

Look, I'm as patriotic as the next guy.

On the Fourth of July, I want to parade around and denounce the king, toss a box of tea into the river. I just never translated this feeling into a desire to blow stuff up.

When I was a kid, fireworks were mostly verboten in our household because my dad was convinced that we, his children, would do something stupid. My extended family has a history of, shall we say, traumatic ends.

This is why, while other kids were gleefully setting off Roman candles and bottle rockets and Black Cats or whatever — blithely endangering wood-shingle roofs and abandoned property — my sisters and I were glumly playing with those snake things that don't really do much of anything except generate an impossible amount of ash out of a little flat sooty tablet.

My father would stand on the porch with a fire extinguisher, just in case that was too much for us to handle. We were also allowed to have those paper snapper dealies that look like tadpoles that you throw on the ground and they make a wussy little "pop."

All of this is by way of saying, I'm completely hopeless around fireworks that you set off yourself, as I have no experience whatsoever with them. Except for the snake things. Which I don't think count.

So when my husband and I moved out to what you would could call a quasi-rural area, I got quite the rude awakening about the relative amount of danger that other people are willing to put themselves in, in the name of celebrating our nation's independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy.

Now, despite the fact that we don't set off fireworks, our entire Fourth of July is spent trying to keep our dogs from completely losing their minds, because everyone but everyone in town is setting off, like 600 firecrackers at a time, or things that whistle and explode right at second-story level, and the dogs strenuously object. So last Fourth of July, I'm inside, in the most soundproof room in the house, petting the heads of my extremely unhappy dogs, when I look outside.

There's a kid, maybe 13 or 14, setting off a series of fireworks that sit on the ground and belch out sparks and supernova-esque light. He tries lighting one with one of those smoky stick things you use to light fireworks. No dice. So he tries lighting it with a match. Nope. He comes over with, apparently, a lighter. No. Now, the firework is smoking, but not expelling sparks, so clearly, ignition is not really the big problem in this situation. So then I see this kid vanish into his house and come back out with a can of gasoline. I realize what is about to happen.

Laura Lorson

Laura Lorson KPR/University of Kansas hide caption

itoggle caption KPR/University of Kansas

It happens, even as I am reaching for the phone to dial 911. The kid, with the kind of luck that makes my parents seem like lunatic worrywarts, stands there and watches a stream of fire travel up and into the can of gasoline, which he then throws, spinning flames in giant, looping arcs, into the street. A horrible, heavy-on-the-bass THUNK emerges as the vapors in the can explode, yielding a stunning fireball. The spectator teenagers, gathered around him, scream with joy.

So this year, as you are happily blowing up hundreds of dollars' worth of gunpowder and chemicals in your yard, spare just one thought for me, head in my hands, hiding in the back bedroom of my house with my dogs.

Safety first. And Happy Independence Day. No taxation without representation. One if by land, two if by sea. And give me liberty, or give me death. But keep the fireworks.

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