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blizzard warnings - 13:52 , 03 October 2013

heelerless - 21:32 , 18 August 2013

Red Coat Inn in Fort McLeod - 11:38 , 23 June 2013

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choosing a spot - 17:43 , 27 April 2013

05 July 2004 - 23:56


Youngest son started pestering about going into town for the fireworks show just after eight o'clock.

They've almost never started the launch before nine-thirty.

But he wanted good parking spaces, preferably on Tin Can Hill. This is just off the shoulder of the main drag on the east end of town, and overlooks the alkali flat where the firemen will be shooting off the town's pyrotechnics. It's the place you go to ride dirt bikes up and down dirt humps and steep banks, and the place you park the vehicles you don't want anymore with a "For Sale" sign in the windows.

Have no idea who actually owns Tin Can Hill, but obviously, they don't care.

So, a little after nine o'clock, we head out the door. Probably the earliest we've ever left for the show. And I mentioned to the wife, it would probably be starting later than ever before, too. Always in the past, the firemen started lighting fuses when it got dark.

Period. That was their only criterion. "When it got dark." Which, depending upon the clouds, has been anywhen from 09:25 to 09:55.

But the minor change in the launching site made front page news again on Friday, and somewhere in the article, someone from the Fire Department mentioned the show "usually starts around ten PM."

As soon as I read that, I knew. Now that it was in print, the show would never again start before ten o'clock. So much for starting at "dark."

I like the idea of something be attuned to the environment, instead a clock.

So anyway, we head out almost an hour before the show. Us in the Explorer, and youngest son tailing us in his little red Subaru.

Yes, he is much too cool to be seen riding with us, his family. Would rather spend the gas to drive himself, and listen to his own tunes at maximum volume ('course I have borrowed his vehicle upon occasion, and find I like his German music, although not at max).

So, we arrive earlier than we ever have before, and what do we find?

Tin Can Hill is full. Which is understandable, since the firemen will now be launching from the base of the hill itself. And our normal, favored spot, by the tiny trailer court of six or eight trailers that juts into the empty greasewood fields around the marshes, is full and blocked off.

By firemen.

And another crew with a couple firetrucks are on stand-by in the motel parking lot next to the empty field, our second choice. Wife slips into a vacant front row parking spot, two slots down from the folks having a tailgate party with a propane barbecue with flames roaring over the top.

Youngest son pulls into row two, in the spot behind us. And comes trotting over to complain.

He wanted to park beside us.


With a disappointed voice, he explained "So we can do something as a family."

Well, then, why didn't you ride into town with us?

That got me the "How can you be so dumb?" look, as he explained he wanted to listen to his tunes.

Okay. He's heading off to college this fall, and who knows if we'll ever share a Fourth of July with him again. We move back into row two, sliding both our vehicles down a couple slots to get distance and a pickup or two between us and the tailgaters' propane bomb/steak fry. Youngest son leaps out onto his hood, with dents showing this is a regular habit, I set down in a lawn chair between our vehicles, and the wife and eldest son stay safe in the front seat of the SUV.

I whip out my new Reader's Digest, brought for this occasion, and we wait. And actually have some conversation between the two vehicles.

Just like a family.

Until youngest son jumps up to answer his vibrating cell phone. Then relays data on where he is.

Less than five minutes later, another vehicle pulls into row three behind youngest son's car, and he is gone, chattering away with his friends on their car hood.

So much for family.

It got dark around 09:45. A few people got brave honking their horns to get the show started, but nothing happened on the empty field. The unofficial and illegal fireworks shows had started shortly after we arrived, and provided a little entertainment after it got too dark to read.

Especially when the Roman candles started up off the edge of Tin Can Hill, not twenty seconds after the cop car up there pulled out and headed away down the street. Cop car turned around, but the candle was out before they got back.

As soon as they left again, a second candle went off, shooting sideways off the hill.

Told the wife it reminded me of holding Roman candles in our hands and launching fire bursts down the street (Narragansett, if you must know) and under cars in Chicago.

Hmmm. I must have neglected to tell her that story. Maybe because it involved a female who wasn't her...


Now, illegal fireworks were going off on all three sides of the empty field (which is about a quarter-section, or so). None on the fourth side, our side, 'cause that's where all the emergency fire equipment and crews were parked. But it occurred to me, it wouldn't be hard at all to nab the folks who were setting these things off.

Which means, the cops weren't really trying.

And no, I'm sure they're not intentionally showing disrespect for the county law. I'll have to ask one of 'em some time, but I'm pretty sure they have decided that we're all better off having these illegal launches here and now, while the fire crews are standing by, than out in the neighborhoods, or somewhere in the flammable countryside.

Not twenty seconds after ten o'clock, the first volley of the real show went off. The wind was from the west, so most got carried our way, exploding at 45-60 degrees up. Booms that shook through your bones. About halfway through the show, the wind shifted just a tad, and brought the smoke right down on us.

Which was wonderful.

And debris. Pieces of exploded pyrotechnics, some three inches across.

And yeah, that was wonderful, too. Even the pieces that were still flaring as they settled in between our row and the front row.

Now, I hadn't mentioned this yet, but my digital camera is messed up. Won't read memory cards at all. So it, and the previous camera which lost a lens falling on a highway, are currently en route to California for repairs. Had to scrounge around to find my old Minolta, and lo and behold, it still had half a roll of film in it.

No idea how old that roll is, or what is on it, but it's all shot now. But being limited to only a dozen frames, I was able to lean back and savor a fireworks show for once. Near the end, the cloud of smoke from the launch site finally got across the marshes (as every year, the killdeer and avocets had boogied after the first few blasts, crying out as they flew past our rows of vehicles), and immersed us in the aroma of black powder.

Mmmmm, lots of good memories with that smell.

Folks on Tin Can Hill probably had a nice view, as did the lone vehicle on top of the hill above town, but they never get the smoke or debris. Neither did the trailer court people. Although, the Tin Can folks were probably looking down on the one rocket that didn't get up like it should.

After the grand finale, eldest son and I wandered the parking lot, looking for chunks of fireworks. Each finding a handful, most like pieces of coconut shell. Did find half a bomblet. And a two-inch piece on top of the little red Subaru.

Youngest son finally left his friends to return to his car, and I had to ask...

What happened to us doing this as a family?

"That was just in case nobody else showed up." he replied, smiling as he jumped in and headed out to follow his friends (didn't see him again until almost eight o'clock this morning, and no, we don't worry much).

We were among the last to leave, except the firemen who still had to patrol the area. As we passed three of them and their truck, I shouted out a "Thanks!"

Wife said they looked stunned. Guess they've never heard that before.

A little before eleven, I was in bed and the wife had just slipped on her nightgown.

"Do you smell that?" she asked. And I had, a moment before.


Wafting in through the open west window.

Now, nobody's been setting off fireworks in our little town. If they had, the heelers would be in a panic, and we would know. It's only six miles to where the fireworks show had been. And we're straight downwind.

I suppose the cloud of powder smoke from that show may have chased us home. Giving us a second chance to savor the memories.

I suppose.

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