Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Fourth of July

I was a kid in the 50's, so indulge me as I comb through the past with memories of ancient 4th of July celebrations.

My index finger and the middle finger on my right hand to this day remember having a cherry bomb explode in .0003 hundredths of a second after I attempted to throw it at a kid riding down Lincoln Drive on a Schwinn bike. The pain went all the way up my arm and exploded in my head, my ears rung for a week. 5 minutes later I was lighting them again. On our nation's Birthday!

John Gault (as he used to say later in life "with a U god dammit!") and I mounted copper tubing on the handle bars of our bikes (I rode a Raleigh, just like the bikes they ride in old English movies) a tube on each side of the handlebars. We'd slide in a bottle rocket, a punk clenched in our teeth. We'd ride up behind some unsuspecting kids, light the rockets and scare the living crap out of them. I hit Jolly Lindquist square in the ass one glorius night. Leslie Letourneau, the creep who lived with with his parents and worked at the sewage treatment plant. Yelled at us, "Hey you little assholes, cut that out!" Leslie was the first adult I ever gave the finger to and I did on our Nation's Birthday!

A friend of my Dad had a Chris Craft speedboat, one of those big old mahogany monsters with a Grey Marine flat head 6 for an engine. He wore a white captain's hat and called his wife "It". That CC was the first boat I water skied behind. I recall him turning hard to port and yelling, "Here you go you little bastard!" laughing like a madman as I fell and skipped across the water at 40 mph with my bathing suit around my ankles. Fourth of July, bitches!

In the good old days, charcoal briquets were close to impossible to light (still are, kind of) probably because they were chunks of anthracite coal. Frustrated, my old man poured about 5 gallons of boat gas on them and got them going. I can still taste those oily hamburgers and hot dogs. My little sister Margo, the apple of every one's eye, had the nerve to complain. The old man, responded, "Shut up and eat!" 4th of July memories!

There were plenty of people around when I was a kid who were born in the 19th Century. I always knew who they were because they were old and they got dressed up to go to a 4th of July picnic. My parents wore shorts, short sleeved shirts and drank in front of their kids. The old ladies wore dresses and the old men wore suits in the 90 degree, humid July weather on the prairie. Every so often the old bucks would wander out to where their cars were parked, three or four of them would gather around the trunk of an old Dodge, Ford, Chevy or Plymouth and yuk it up. The word was "don't bother the men." When they left to go home the parking lot was littered with bottles. My old man would would say to his bachelor Uncle Alvin, "Al, for god sakes sit down and have a drink, if don't like what we have bring the bottle from under the seat of your car!" Old Al, drunk as a lord would just grin at dad. He'd never think of drinking in front of ladies or kids or his sisters or anyone. Except maybe the shapely widow who owned the Arvila bar. Word was Al was "tappin" her, not only on the 4th, but on most days of the year!

My Dad's pal Bert drove a 56 T-Bird. I remember the 4th of July when I was 12. Bert was drunk on his ass and I asked him if I could drive his car down the lake road and back. Bert said "sure." Virginia and I drove around for a half hour. We got back, ate a hot dog and I asked Bert if I could drive his car down the road, once again, Bert said "go ahead." Off Ginny and I went. The third time we drove all the way to Erskine and back. On the 4th of July!
Happy 4th.

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