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Enjoy fireworks on the fourth

The Highway 411 roadside in Tennessee was adorned last week with fireworks stands. It was like one of those multi-state yard sales along the same route but, in this instance, all the tents sold fireworks. Those I was visiting informed me that the markup on fireworks is about 700% and, by this weekend’s Independence Day celebration, all will be sold out or nearly so. For as long as I can remember, fireworks have been illegal in Georgia. For an equally long time, those same fireworks have been easily obtainable. Growing up in Savannah, all we had to do was meander across the Talmadge Bridge into South Carolina to buy all the fireworks we wanted. It was not unusual to see kids making that trek on their banana seat bicycles to score some Black Cat firecrackers with which to terrorize the neighborhood. The fact that those fireworks were illegal made lighting the fuses all the more enjoyable for the boys. Soon enough, bottle rockets were discovered. With those, we could launch a firecracker in any direction we chose. At night, we would try to hit the bats that congregated around every streetlight with them. Later, as we grew older and more daring, cherry bombs and M-80s joined our arsenal. Those were expensive, however, and were used only for big projects. They had waterproof fuses and would explode underwater which led to many experiments and blown apart five-gallon buckets. It was such delicious fun. To this day, I love fireworks – not so much setting them off but watching them. Although nearly every such explosive device is made in China, there is something about fireworks that makes them a rich part of Americana. Perhaps, they bring to mind the violent birth of this nation and make us think fleetingly of ‘˜the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air’ lyrics contained in our national anthem. I wonder what the percentage is of so-called Americans who can even sing Francis Scott Key’s masterpiece. Are the majority of them now reading their Korans or pressing two for Spanish? I was thinking of all this when I walked into a fireworks superstore Sunday morning in Copperhill, Tennessee. It was a patriotic place with surplus American tanks, ambulances and Jeeps parked out front. The emporium had the widest selection of fireworks I have ever seen. I figured that, if I could go back in time to age 12, my parents would never have gotten me out of the place without taking out a second mortgage. I bought some Black Cats to set off for the Geiger girls come Saturday and I wondered why it is fireworks are illegal in Georgia and elsewhere. I have never heard of anyone being arrested for possessing them and have never known anyone injured seriously by them. Maybe the Koran prohibits their enjoyment.

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