Don’t shoot your eye out, kid!

Santa Claus, in response to Ralphie’s request for a Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Story,” said, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think our family ever had to worry about shooting an eye out on Christmas Day.

The Fourth of July – well now, that’s another story.

Thirty years ago – back when I was a kid on the farm – the Fourth of July was more like Halloween. There were tricks (courtesy of my three brothers) and there were treats (also courtesy of my three brothers, although these were the planned night-time fireworks displays.)

Like Halloween, it was the tricks we had to watch out for!

My brothers were famous for putting a whole pack of Black Cat firecrackers under a tin coffee can, then standing back after the fuse was lit to “watch ‘er blow.” Occasionally, this was done in the early morning hours as a wake-up call – or pretty much any other time of day when we weren’t expecting a big ka-boom.

Whistling moon rockets were another good way to say rise and shine, especially when they were lit under one’s bedroom window!

When we were kids, there were none of those so-called “safe” fireworks. Oh no, we went to South Dakota like everyone else in the neighborhood to get the “good stuff.”

Roman candles, bottle rockets, Black Cat firecrackers, smoke bombs, parachutes, butterflies, spinners – the list goes on and on.

My least favorite – and I’m pretty sure they still make them – are those crackers with the strings on either ends. One too many times the boys of the family tied the strings around a door knob and a nail, and waited for some unsuspecting person (usually me) to open the door to a snap, crackle, pop (they couldn’t resist using more than one string!) The strings were probably the safest of the fireworks in the Buntjer arsenal.

As we grew older, the stunts grew more daring. We’d light bottle rockets and let them shoot from our hands instead of bottles. Firecrackers would be lit in hand and tossed to explode in mid-air and Roman candles would be held so the candles could be directed in different directions.

I should note that there was never a trip to the emergency room as a result of all of our antics. Still, boy were we stupid!

I can say that now, when I’m older and not quite as quick on my feet.

Actually, I think I was in my mid-teens when I truly realized how dangerous fireworks can be. An older cousin visiting the farm had lit a rocket inside a bottle that was laying down on our gravel driveway.

Of course I hadn’t seen him do this, so imagine my surprise when the bottle rocket rocketed right toward my feet. I jumped, the rocket bounced off my shoe and exploded a short distance away.

That pretty much ended my desire to play with fireworks.

I’m of the age now where I’m happy to simply light a good old-fashioned smoke bomb to celebrate Independence Day. I’ll leave the big stuff to the pros (and I’m not referring to my brothers!)

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