The day started just after noon as I picked up my 97 year old uncle. We headed to meet my cousins and go to the annual small town parade. I'm getting used to these celebrations. The flying candy, tractors of every color (This year there was a pink International tractor!), and local fire departments hosing down the parched children make for a homey parade. I felt cheated this year. There were no squeaky clean manure spreaders proudly rolling down main street.
The next stop was my cousin Pat's house out in the county. This is the hub of activity for the Fourth of July. A freshly washed John Deere mower with an American flag waving in the wind greeted us at the end of the driveway. The day was cloudless with a hint of warmth. It was perfect for sitting outside munching on grilled hamburgers.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "This hamburger is great. Maybe the best I've had."
Everyone peered at me and rolled their eyes. "It's not a hamburger. It's a pork burger. This is Iowa."
O.K. I've been here only three short years. I'm still learning. Besides I've never cooked a hamburger much less a pork burger in my life.
Pat's son and grandson were there with tons of fireworks. Fireworks are illegal to buy in Iowa. But we are so close to Nebraska and Missouri where one can purchase them every rural Iowan sets off some kind of boom and sparkle in celebration. I'm not sure, however, that everyone has a trunk full with enough celebration to last all day.
Pat's ten year old grandson spent the day setting off everything from poppers to magnificent light displays in the sky. The loud boomers were a favorite during the day. They could be heard for miles echoing in the hills. He then pulled out poppers. This was a new experience for me. I soon learned my uncle kept a large stash in his pockets. He handed me a pack and provided guidance on the correct way to pop poppers.
It is all in the wrist. Pull one off. Flick it with your wrist to the ground. You will be rewarded with a cap-gun like pop and a tiny bit of gunpowder smell. While the grandson set fireworks off all day, the uncle popped poppers. None of his were duds. His technique was picture perfect. I guess I need about forty more years to improve my technique. I had lots of duds lying on the ground.
A hot-air balloon-like firework was lit. Fire burned at the bottom lifting it up in the air and over the corn fields. We were having a Forth of July celebration. This balloon had jumped out of line. It was a giant jack-o-lantern laughing all the way to...I really don't know where it ended up. It didn't take but a few minutes for it to soar out of our vision.
There was something else quite peculiar going on. Most people I know ignite their fireworks with a strike of a match. Pat's grandson had larger ideas. He used a blow torch. A blow torch! My face turned a pretty shade of blue many times that day waiting for him to stop, drop, and roll. As that never happened, I'm guessing he was properly instructed in the safety of the fiery torch. Next year perhaps I should be properly instructed on how not to watch the lighting of the pretty things in the sky.
Dusk arrived. We pushed our chairs together as the grandson set the stage at the end of the driveway for the big finally of the evening. We were not disappointed. There were glittery fireworks, multicolored ones, heart shaped ones. Our ears were treated to sizzles and booms. Fifteen minutes of wonderful sensory overload.
The food was consumed, the trunk of the car was void of fireworks, it was time to head home. Everyone and everything was crammed back in the clown van. The back hatched was tied shut and the hood monkeyed with and slammed. The uncle and I cruised past the town's fireworks display. It did not compete with the show we had just witnessed. And I know the company we were in was the finest around. Thus ending another spectacular Fourth of July in the Iowa countryside.
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