Stephenville Empire-Tribune, July 2018
We have our arsenal ready. The wooden stand housing fireworks of every caliber, from glittery sparklers to atomic-bomb-like contraptions is reminiscent of a carnival booth only missing the oversize stuffed animal prizes hanging from rafters. “That will be $200.00,” the bored red, white and blue-clad salesman states. Who knew fireworks for two elementary school children could be so expensive? My husband lays the money down and we head home with a sack overflowing with patriotism.
Living outside city limits on 12 acres has its perks every Fourth of July. We have an enviable display in the sky, fired off around dusk from our gravel driveway…as long as there isn’t a “burn ban” in effect. The morning of the Fourth my husband is shirtless on the Ford tractor; a multitasker, mowing while adding more color to his naturally brown Italian skin. “I always feel slimmer with a tan,” being his mantra, while I recuperate on our covered front porch, drinking sweet tea. Weed-eating with a gasoline-powered weed-eater is hot and thirsty work. I sip and daydream, watching my husband mow and our son and daughter hover around one of our ancient pear trees. A burst of laughter from the duo causes me to look over. I spy blue smoke wafting from the tree fork, two large branches merging at the trunk to form a cocoon-like space, perfect for housing a smoke bomb.
The laughter turns to “OH NO!" and then “MOM!" as little flames appear inside the hollow, turning blue smoke to black. I frantically wave at my mowing husband and we convene at the burning branch. The fire is tiny—still manageable—as my husband runs to get the hose coiled by the back door. He turns it on full force and sprints, holding the blast of water directed at the tree located 15 feet away. He is moving fast, the fire slightly larger now. Almost there he stretches his arm, honing his aim at the blaze, when his body snaps to a stop and is pitched backward landing on the ground with a spray of water hitting him full in the face. The hose is short; the tree out of reach by a solid five feet.
I swallow a giggle, then burst into action dumping pool toys out of a nearby plastic tub and hand it over to my husband, now standing and mumbling a few choice swear words directed at the short hose. “Get water from the kitchen,” he breathlessly instructs our daughter and…tub in hand…begins running toward our kidney-shaped diving pool. I unlatch and open the narrow gate to allow him entry while our son searches for other vessels to fill with pool water.
It is a team effort now—a fireman's bucket brigade—as our son fills sand pails, storage tubs and a frog-shaped plastic planter with water from the pool; while I lift and carry meeting my husband halfway. Always a fast runner, my husband completes the chain, sprinting and dumping the water into the now blazing hollow of the pear tree. Our efforts seem fruitless as steamy smoke sizzles and new flames immediately reappear. Speeding up our brigade, our arms shaking from the weight of water-filled pails, frogs and tubs, the flames finally cease and we are left with a saturated tree spouting one last angry plume of blue smoke.
My husband and I are doubled over, hands on knees and heads low, sucking wind. A door slams. We straighten up and turn to see our daughter carrying a red solo cup filled to the brim with water. She is walking at a tortoise’s pace, determined not to spill a single drop.
“Do you still need water, Dad?” she asks, handing the cup over. We all laugh. “Thanks. I was feeling thirsty,” he says.
By Lisa H. Owens