Fireworks envy bursts forth on the Fourth of July

Rachel mug.

The problem is, I never had an uncle or a cousin who went to Wyoming.

These relatives were near-mythical figures among me and my associates at Taylor Elementary and Mount Garfield Middle schools — the original "hold my beer" types who generally were missing the tip of at least one finger and trekked to Evanston or Rock Springs each July to buy fireworks.

The good stuff, if you catch my drift.

Except, I'm not even sure I caught my own drift back then. All I had was some vague notion of bottle rockets and Roman candles and ... M82s? 81s? I'd never gotten my hands on anything even close.

The kids whose uncles or cousins procured such wonders were insufferable, full of smug tales about knocking helicopters out of the sky and displays — right there in good ol' Palisade! — that would later inspire the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies and, obviously, running from the fuzz.

"Because they're totally illegal in Colorado," this fifth grade pyrotechnician would confide, and we the audience would swoon with firework envy, shaky on the jurisprudence of it all and in unanimous agreement that Colorado is so lame.

Instead, we got the fireworks you could buy from the tent set up in the Albertsons grocery store parking lot.

You know the ones, all cheap cardboard and fuses that would eventually break your heart and incendiary power rivalled only by those toy guns with paper roll caps.

And your mom hissing the whole time to stop pouting or you wouldn't even be getting those.

In fact, let's consider a few of them:

Snakes: They begin life as a black pellet but, with a kiss of fire, writhe like a parasite in search of a small intestine to occupy.

It's horrifying, and I always wonder if I should summon a priest, but at the same time about as thrilling as watching a cigarette butt smolder on the sidewalk.

Snappers (also called Poppers and Pop-Its): Weird little onions of white paper that you have to hurl at the ground with enough force to tear every rotator cuff in a 100-mile radius.

And assuming they do anything, which they don't about 82 percent of the time, it's like ... okaaaaay. Should I be doing a tap dance routine or something?

Spinners (or Ground Bloom Flowers): If, like any red-blooded American, you ignite your boring legal fireworks on the driveway, then this is the one that ends up careening under the car while still spitting sparks.

It begins with an accelerating, Three Stooges-style whoop-whoop-whoop and spins in an unpredictable trajectory that usually ends with yelling.

Fountains: Cones of cardboard that, when lit, spew colorful sparks like a, well, fountain. They're pretty and everybody goes "Oooh," but more from not wanting to embarrass the fountain, which is trying its best.

Sparklers: Yes, excellent idea, let's grasp one end of a metal stick while holding the other end in fire. Also, I didn't really need those hairs on my wrist and forearm after all.

But you know what?

I missed them last year, when the drought led to fire restrictions and some of us learned the hard way that eating a whole bunch of Pop Rocks while sitting in the driveway just isn't the same thing.

Cheap-ola fireworks, tossed in the cart at City Market along with hot dog buns and Coke and Cool Whip, are the icing on a day that smells like Essence of Sunscreen and tastes like flag cake, that's pink-cheeked and sweaty at the hairline and likely to swat you on the butt with a hamburger flipper as you walk by.

I mean, I hardly know what to do with myself if my Fourth of July doesn't include scouring all the skin off my right thumb pad trying to make that stupid Bic lighter I found in the kitchen junk drawer catch.

If I don't try to get wet fireworks — because some of them, and I never really know how it happens, always end up wet — to do something besides hack a few consumptive coughs.   If I don't have an 11:55 p.m. get-off-my-lawn moment over neighbors who are still setting off fireworks, good grief GIVE IT A REST YOU SOCIOPATHS, I'M GONNA CALL THE COPS.

But cheap or not, I love those fireworks for the twilit moments of writing here-and-gone messages with the sparklers and the ephemeral, rainbow sprays of color that, while humble, are no less glorious than anything Wyoming can sell.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I can make it to Rock Springs by 5. Text me your orders.

Email Rachel Sauer at

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