Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blowing Up the Golf Course

I have seen Fourth of July fireworks in all sorts of memorable places: Displayed off of a ship in Lake Michigan, sitting in a parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Bozeman, Montana, driving to what used to be home in Orlando, Florida and seeing the amazing fireworks displays from the theme parks. However, the most memorable display I ever saw was in the Mid-West of my youth.

Back in the day -- the 1970's -- drinking was considered good, fairly clean, harmless fun. People actually smoked indoors. Nobody even thought to ask if it was O.K. to smoke -- what a silly question! A good host or hostess provided plenty of ashtrays and matches, too. All decent parties required liquor and plenty of it. My Dad actually had a friend who would trick-or-treat with a shot glass every Halloween. It was sort of a neighborhood tradition. Most of the normal neighbors considered this great sport. A couple of people may have pooh-poohed his behavior, but they were more or less considered the neighborhood cranks. Who the hell would want those fuddy duds at a party, any way? So where there was a party, there was lots and lots of drinking.

One Fourth of July in Decatur, Illinois, THE party happened to be near the golf course of the South Side Country Club. For some reason, most of the fireworks displays in the Mid-West took place at golf-courses. I don't know why -- perhaps golfers have some sort of buried, pyromaniac tendencies -- or something. Having partied for a large part of the day, the Fourth of July revelers in our particular party, hurried on foot, many still carrying a drink, to the fireworks display. The first few displays went off without a hitch, everyone "ooh...ing", "ahh...ing" and clapping as drunk people are prone to do when fireworks go off.

At the time, I was a bell-bottomed, jaded teenager, who my parents had dragged to this stupid B-O-R-I-N-G party to watch lame fireworks. (Having responsible, non-hippy parents I, of course, was not drinking.) When would this all be over? Then something unexpected happened. The jump suited dudes in charge of the fireworks had also been drinking. There were about eight large, metal barrels filled with fireworks on the green of what I believe was the third hole of that golf course. It could have been a a misguided bottle rocket, or the butt of a cigarette tossed carelessly aside by one of the drunken pyro-technic golf guys-- but something went awry and set off a chain reaction in those metal barrels. At first the jump suited fireworks guys, having realized a little too late that maybe the barrels were too close to each other frantically tried to pull them away from each other. They rapidly saw the error of that and pretty soon jump suited guys were running from the fireworks in different directions away from the explosion. You haven't seen a guy move until a Roman candle goes horizontal. It was a spectacular scene to behold. What was meant to be an evenings entertainment lasted about four minutes. But what a scene it was -- eight canisters of fireworks all going off at once. Every time one of the sonic booms ignited and exploded, the ground would shake. I had never seen anything like it.

As we walked back to the party people were still straggling in to watch the fireworks. We had to tell them for all intents and purposes, that the whole thing was pretty much over -- except for getting insurance estimates on what it would cost to repair the golf green that had been transformed into a crater. Everybody seemed to sober up pretty quickly after that. But for one brief shinning moment it had been one helluva party.

This story is a little late having experienced computer problems over the Fourth of July holiday. "Joannafesto" is now back up and running.

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