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Fun with Fireworks

June 30, 2008 - Kevin Sweeney
The Fourth of July is coming up, and various state health and public safety agencies are issuing their annual warnings about fireworks safety.

Fireworks safety: Now there is an oxymoron. If ever there was a product made to be unsafe, it is fireworks. They are designed to blow up seconds after you light a fuse.

There are things you can do to be safe when using fireworks, like "run like hell after you light the fuse." But what fun is that?

I can't say I have a lot of experience with firecrackers and such, but what experience I do have makes me wonder that I got this far with all my fingers.

Actually, my brother had more experience with fireworks than I did, and more misadventures. One time he bought a couple of small sky rockets. One was supposed to shoot up in the air and explode. The other was supposed to spit out four colored stars.

We couldn't wait until dark, of course, so we set them off in the middle of the day in our driveway. My brother set up the noisy rocket, lit the fuse and ducked into the door of the garage, a relatively sheltered spot. The rocket went up in the air and exploded, as advertised. It wasn't that loud, but what did we expect for a six-inch tall rocket?

Then he set the colored star rocket down, lit the fuse and ducked back into the garage door. The rocket shot up about stomach high, did a couple of somersaults in the air and shot through the garage door, hitting my brother in the stomach. He flew out of the garage like his pants were on fire (they weren't but he was taking no chances) while the rocket sputtered around on the driveway, finally blooping four litlle balls of fire on the ground.

The most creative thing my brother did with fireworks involved an M-80, one of the most powerful kinds of explosives you can find outside of a demolition site. A teenaged boy walking down the street in front of our house stopped, sat down on the steps leading up a bank to our yard, and lit a cigarette. We thought it was awful cheeky of him. My brother took his M-80, snuck around the side of our house, lit it and threw it in the middle of the yard. He immediately tore back through the back door of the house and ran toward the front. The M-80 exploded with a giant "KABOOM!", startling the stuffings out of the young man lounging on our steps. A second later my brother burst through the front door and yelled, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?"

The young man looked around, got up and hurried away. We never saw him again. But for the rest of the summer we had a tiny crater in the front yard, about four inches wide and two inches deep. It was a couple of years before grass grew on that spot again.

I will always remember that incident fondly, but as an adult I must add this cautionary note: Kids, don't do that.


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