Independence Day

Bozeman sounds like a suburb of Baghdad this evening, with the reports of the fireworks echoing through the neighborhood. Big bangs, little pops, single and in bunches. There are bigger fireworks on the way – a thunder storm is heading this way. The air is chilling and the wind is freshening; the lights dim occasionally as lightning strikes in the distance. The thunder is getting closer and sharper.

And now the rain. The civilian fireworks continue, however, a testament to just how drunk some of the celebrants are. If you don’t catch pneumonia while looking for the fingers you blew off, the terrorists have won. They do love their explosions around here. The pops and bangs have been reverberating through the night with increasing frequency over the last few days. I guess you have to go to Wyoming to get the really good stuff.

It takes me back to when I was young and stupid, running around with many of you, with a downright silly amount of bottle rockets (thanks to Pat). Something like 19 gross. Shooting them up in the air got old pretty fast, so it wasn’t long before we were divided into teams, dashing between trees and shooting them at each other. It wasn’t nearly as dangerous as we hoped, unfortunately.

At one point we had a length of PVC to use as a launcher, and we were driving around in The Heap shooting rockets out the window. Good times, at least until someone in the back seat found himself with the exhaust end of the launcher pointed directly at his face. “Point it out!” he called, only to have the person holding the tube point the front end farther out, so the back end pointed even farther into the car. Who was that? Jess, maybe? My memory is getting fuzzy. Was it even The Heap? I think I was driving, but the more I think about it the less sure I am. It’s funny now how I can rearrange the people in the car and make a memory of it. Maybe I was holding the launcher tube. Maybe I was driving. Maybe I was in the back seat, next to whoever it was looking down the wrong end of the tube.

I’m losing my mind. Now I think I was holding the tube. Anyone have a better handle on that story? Did anyone notice where I left my brain?

12 thoughts on “Independence Day

  1. I think you must have multiple occasions confused. The time Pat provided the bottle rockets, it was only one gross, plus some skyrockets, and we didn’t waste time sending them up one by one — we shot them all at once. We also didn’t send them from a car, we shot them off on North Mesa, near what is now Tsikumu Village.

  2. Well, in a sense you’re right, and maybe I’m getting Pat busted right now. Memory is certainly a slippery thing. The Heap was out of the picture by then. I still had a few dozen rockets in the glove compartment when I got pulled over in the Alpha later that year. We did do at least one mass launching, but there were many other disappointingly non-dangerous escapades as well.

    That Pat was our rocket pimp there is no doubt. It’s funny how small a gross can turn out to be. It sounds so… fat. The 6 and 8 oz skyrockets were definitely much more exciting. We hardly shot any of those at other people at all.

    The M80’s came from Bob whose last name I cannot recall.

    George, who’s last name I will not reveal, was the most sophisticated among us in do-it-yourself recreational explosives. He’s probably dead now, or working for the CIA. I never got into that scene myself.

  3. I don’t believe it was the heap, but I can’t honestly remember who was driving what. I do remember that both brothers were there, and you me an’ John. I was in the back with little brother, and Big brother was in the front aiming the tube. I think. Details are important, but pale next to the detail of just how soul-bondingly good fun it was. Young, free, in-charge-of-the-world, and, perhaps most importantly, in possession of fireworks. Remember the temporarily blinding M80 we dropped in front of traffic? The larger bottle rockets we shot off the end of north mesa?

  4. I almost added the “Oh, Grand” story to the episode, but I changed my mind. It will have to wait for another day.

  5. Pat’s most spectacular fireworks achievement was at college. Since he grew up on the Mexican border, he had a good channel to lots of great stuff at bargain prices. His residential hall was putting on a party, the theme of which was that oil had been struck on campus. He and some of his buddies erected a mock oil derrick on the roof of the building, and they set it up so that, at the stroke of midnight, thousands of bottle rockets would go off, plus probably some skyrockets.

    Of course, this was in Houston, where things are much wetter and less prone to catch fire than in New Mexico.

  6. I think it was the ‘stang with Bill in the back seat (looking at the tail end of the PVC). If it was the stang, then I was likely to have been driving. Having me be the driver and the shooter sounds unsafe, even for us.

    Still, that’s my guess (in the game of Memory Clue): Bob in the front seat “aiming” the tail end of the PVC at Bill (absolutely inadvertantly) while driving in the stang.

  7. To my sketchy memory, the best M-80 incident was went we walked up to a certain nearby grassy field, found a puddle, lit the M-80 and threw it in. (We had heard that the fuse would burn under water, but the scientific process demanded that we confirm it through experimentation.)

    The sound of the detonation was definitely muffled and we looked at each other for several seconds each thinking that it wasn’t as impressive as we had hoped. Then, the puddle returned to earth as rain and drenched us. Of course, we concluded were we the gods of the elements.

  8. Bob’s recollection makes sense to me. I think it was poor Bill with the tail in his face.

    On a par with the fireworks was running around barranca in a battle involving ornamental, green peaches.

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