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Don't let fireworks smoke cloud meaning of Fourth of July
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Don't let fireworks smoke cloud meaning of Fourth of July

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How soon can I flee town? That’s what I asked myself Monday evening when a thunder-like sonic boom shattered my evening. Hurrying to see what it was, I glimpsed a deluge of red, white and blue sparks hurling down toward a neighbor’s garage.

Tuesday, I was taking an evening walk when the racket exploded again. I looked around, hunting for where these A-bomb-like blasts were coming from so I could stay out of the way. My mind leaped back to a late July 4 night a few years ago when I drove through a gauntlet of fireworks on both sides of the street and feared I wouldn’t make it home alive.

I can’t be the only one in town who detests this noisy nonsense that goes on for an endless week before the Fourth of July. Plenty of people grumble about it. I’ve lived here nearly 10 years since moving here from Ohio where fireworks were not legal. I still hate it.

Just when I had showered and was settling down to watch the 10 p.m. news before crawling into bed, a rocket exploded outside, then another and another, exploding like furious popcorn.

Friends who have small children and dogs get cranky about this, too. I have a friend who went to PetSmart this week to find a sedative to give her dog so he’ll quit howling and hightailing it into the basement every night. Parents of newborns and toddlers face the same dilemma.

Fourth of July in Kearney isn’t focused on the patriotic pomp of parades, flags and picnics. It’s all about fireworks.

Born and raised in Cleveland, the only fireworks I grew up with were the kind cities set off at night. Once in a while, somebody who’d traveled out of state came out with sparklers or a Roman candle, and we lit them and enjoyed them for their brief life, but then they were done. They were quiet, too.

Monday’s editorial page in the Omaha World-Herald had a sobering reminder of the true expense of fireworks. Not just the hundreds of dollars some people fork over for these toys, but the noise and aggravation. The World-Herald said there were 1,800 complaints in Omaha last year about fireworks, and about 60 fireworks-related injuries. I’m not alone, obviously, but everyone is too timid to try to do anything about it.

I also am curious about the parked semis selling fireworks this time of year, with huge “75% off” splashed across the sides. If their wares are 75% off the day the trailers open, are they really 75% off? Seventy-five percent off what?

I relish a Fourth of July that is about fun and pride in the USA. As I grew up, then had a family of my own, we had breakfast on the beaches of Lake Erie and grilled steaks in the backyard. We’d head out to patriotic concerts featuring the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center, which ended splendidly with the “1812 Overture,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and the grand finale: awe-inspiring fireworks. That was the Fourth of July.

I remember other Fourth of July fireworks. One year I sat under the Washington Monument and watched fireworks explode high over the Potomac River. The night my kids watched fireworks in Grangeville, Idaho.

On a Fourth of July at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, six of us wrapped ourselves in light green bedsheets and made crowns out of foil and, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, marched in a ranch parade. That’s what the Fourth of July is all about.

Here, a week before July 4, people bring out fireworks like they haul out their shovels after the first snow.

Thursday night, my son called from Los Angeles. As he told me excitedly about his plans to head into the mountains this weekend, an ear-shattering rocket blasted off across the street. “What was that?” he asked, alarmed.

“Fireworks,” I groaned.

I used to love July 4, but I dread it now. I’ll mark the holiday cowering under a bed like a petrified puppy.

maryjane.skala@kearneyhub.com

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