The Fourth of July is the quintessential American holiday. We are reminded of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Britain. Most of us enjoy fireworks displays. It’s a special time to get together with extended family. Many of us enjoy picnics on the Fourth. The holiday often makes us feel nostalgic for the past.
Although I do not harbor “Norman Rockwell” visions of some sort of perfect America of the past, I do have one or two fuzzy memories of Independence Days from childhood that come close. All I have are some scattered, random memory bits.
One Independence Day in particular usually comes to mind. I don’t remember the exact year. I think it was in the early 1960s. The family spent the entire day at the farm owned by my maternal grandparents. It was near Tilden, Nebraska (L. Ron Hubbard’s hometown). The weather gave us a typically hot, humid Nebraska summer day. We kids didn’t have the energy for strenuous play.
I probably watched grandpa W take care of the livestock or grandma gathering eggs from the hen house. Then again, maybe I watched grandpa process the morning milking chores in a “milk separator” inside a small shed near the windmill tower.
Much to my everlasting disappointment, I have no memories of windmill blades on top of that tower, just a TV antenna mounted on an antenna aiming rotor. The antenna wires that connected the antenna to the farmhouse were kept separate by small, plastic, “o” shaped spacers that resembled Cheerios that had been dipped in red paint. Those wire spacers were fascinating because the only place I’ve ever seen examples of them was at the grandparents’ farm.
I sometimes entertained myself by striking the clothesline wires with sticks or a plastic wiffle-ball bat. I pressed an ear to the metal post in order to enjoy the resulting “spacy” sounds. As a small boy, I did this whenever I was bored, so I probably made those sounds on that particular Fourth of July, too.
If memory serves correctly, my grandparents, my uncle, and our family of five enjoyed a farm-style dinner at noon–all of the dishes made from scratch. Afterwards, everyone lazily relaxed through the afternoon. Mom and grandma liked to share family gossip in the kitchen. Dad, my uncle, and grandpa discussed car engines and farm equipment while seated in the shade of the east side of the house. I don’t remember much about what sister, brother, or I did aside from being scolded for playing on the angled door to the storm cellar.
After supper, everyone eagerly waited for dark because grandpa and dad had purchased the safe-types of fireworks typical during the 1960s. Some lawn chairs were set up in the wide area between the house and the barn so the grownups could comfortably view the display.
Grandpa and dad ignited fuses to bottle rockets, roman candles, and “fountains”. We children waved sparklers. We were cautioned to not touch the wires after the sparklers died out.
After the last of the little rockets and roman candles were finished. Everyone relaxed in the total darkness. I hoped the yard-light would remain off. It didn’t. We all went back to the house because it was past our bedtime.
Happy Fourth of July.