Saturday, July 05, 2008

July the 5th

Here in Kansas, just like in any other semi-civilized state . . . fireworks cannot be sold after July 4th. Well, a long time ago, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, Dad and I were on the slow road to Topeka. To get to the Capital City, the old man would often eschew the highways and choose this tiny gravel road that snaked over, around, under, and through a remote backwoods area known on the ridges above and beyond as Dog Holler. The denizens within call it Greenwood Valley. This jumble of woods, bluffs and valleys was as close as Kansas could get to the "land that time forgot." Won't say all folks who lived in Dog Holler were bad, ignorant, poor, or vicious, but many of those I knew WERE. Some lived in trailers, shacks and cabins and at least two families allowed chickens and pigs to come and go as they pleased, courtesy of torn screen doors.

Any way, there was one family in particular living out there who met most of the above criteria. I know 'cause my Dad visited the place at least once in his duty as a moonlighting TV repairman. The issue of this crew, a bucktoothed buck of a hillbilly about my age, was big and dumb as an ox, but not without a modicum of ambition, it seems. One hot summer he got it into his thick rock that he could get rich quick by selling fireworks to other Dog Hollerites. Sounded good in theory, I suppose, but. . . .

Now, there could not have been more than ten cars pass daily on that hilly, rocky, narrow, broken down, poor excuse of a road, even on its busiest heyday. But I guess the brilliant plan went something like this: Build it . . . and they'll come. So, the family dragged an old shed or chicken coop right up to the edge of the road, knocked out a hole facing the road, put a chair inside, stocked the mess with fireworks, then sat back and waited for the crowds to arrive.

On the day in question, July the Fifth, Nineteen Fifty-something, Dad and I rattled along the dusty gravel road and approached this crew's almost-hidden cabin.
Suddenly, Dad and I were startled to see a white streak racing through the leaves and tree limbs, dashing straight for the fireworks stand. It was quite literally just a white blur. As we passed slowly by the hovel, we saw this backwoods capitalist, shoeless, shirtless, sitting with his feet propped up on the counter, arms crossed, and a satisfied smile spread across his face as though he had been there all day and business was brisk.

I guess this poor fool was so fretful about eating his loss that he was willing to risk even a state fine just to get rid of a little of it. For all I know, he's still there in his shack, trying to unload all that inventory. Even years later, at each retelling of this "July the Fifth" story, my Dad laughed till he cried.