Dad didn’t like us lighting fireworks because we were surrounded by fields of dry grass. He had seen enough of his children start 4th of July fires to know that it’s just not worth it. So when he left to go shopping and on his ride, we knew we had about 2 hours free to light bottle rockets.
Instead of shooting the rockets out of a PVC pipe straight into the sky like we normally did, we decided to mix things up and launch them off a 35 degree-angled ramp. We stood and watched as my brother lit the first one. The fuse sizzled to the end and then silence.
“Must be a dud,” my brother said as he bent over to grab it. Just then, like a prowling cheetah darting for its prey, the rocket hissed and flew off the ramp. It hovered at a steady 4 feet above the ground and headed straight for the field. My brother immediately bolted in that direction and it wasn’t until I heard the crackling of grass burning before I realized why.
Everything moved so quickly and there wasn’t much time for discussing options. One of us ran for the garden hose and yanked it over to the edge of the field where my brother’s construction truck was parked. Fearing that a fire under the truck would cause an explosion, we watered the grass around it. On the back of the truck were heavy, diesel soaked panels. The neighbor boy pulled one off and started using it to smother the flames. He’d flinch and yell as they wrapped around the panel and into his face.
By then Mom, who was inside reading, had heard the chaos and looked out the window to see us dancing around flames taller than our heads. She let out a sigh then calmly and routinely walked to the phone and dialed 9-1-1.
By the time the fire department came roaring up the drive-way we had contained the fire. Our faces were covered in black ash and the neighbor boy no longer had eyebrows. As we stood in the middle of the charcoaled field surveying our work, Dad pulled in the driveway. He slowly crept up the road and without stopping turned his head in our direction, stared for a minute, then looked straight ahead and continued driving. He parked the car and walked inside as though it was just another day.