October 26th…“SHARE A MEMORY, FROM YOUR YOUNG MINNESOTA DAYS, WHEN YOU WERE VERY SCARED.”
A blood-curdling scream of imminent death exploded from my mouth as the Ferrotitanium metal fuel, coupled with Sulfur, set off the Strontium Nitrate with searing temperatures that neared 3,000 degrees……and it was all coming right at my face!!!! I was just sure I was about to die on that Independence Day evening at the home of our dear farming neighbors, Elmer and Margaret Simonson. Well, o.k., truth be known…….someone had lit a little wire device called a “Sparkler” and had innocently tried to hand it to me while I was being carried around the yard by my mother. At only two years of age, though, I had never seen such a wild fireworks device before, so it was only natural that I did some “sparking” of my own as I “lit up” and howled in terror and hugged Mom something fierce as she carried me around that evening.
Farming communities tend to be close-knit and supportive of each other. That familial support of neighbor helping neighbor ran the gamut of doing the work of a fellow farmer who was sick or injured, getting together to celebrate a newborn baby, even making meals and helping a family in mourning when a loved one died. And, yes, our community spirit even extended to inviting farm families that lived nearby to your farm to celebrate Independence Day. There came that special Independence Day of 1956 when my family was one of many who were invited to drive down the long gravel driveway that led to a sheltered grove that encased the sweet Simonson farm. In the waning hours of that sultry, Summer’s evening of July 4th, our collective area families were preparing to enjoy some fun, food and fireworks.
The freedom that we all cherish in this nation was being embellished in the wholesome setting of the Simonson’s farm that evening with the happy sounds of children’s laughter, kindly farmers sharing, under the single yard light, about the latest methods of agriculture and, in the distance of the house, one could hear ladies exchanging recipes and talking of their children.
The Minnesota sun was getting tired of shining on that long day, so it began to seek its own pillow in the thick, billowy clouds of the western horizon. While my tiny two year old body was waddling and toddling around the Simonson’s yard that evening, I noticed it was getting harder for my young eyes to track the shenanigans of the older kids as they enjoyed playing “Hide N Seek” in the ever-increasing shadows of the approaching night. In the spirit of Independence Day, some older person decided it was time to introduce one of the more docile forms of fireworks into the now dark surroundings below an ebony sky. They ignited a common “Sparkler” and began waving its fire trails in a circular fashion. To teenagers and adults, this was a very mild expression of Independence Day joys, but when someone made a “Sparkler” burst to life and brought it right AT ME, well now, THAT was a form of terror to this timid two year old. Mom surely felt my “death grip” around her neck as I tried to escape from what my little mind envisioned as pure death!!!
Trying to assuage my mortified little heart, Mrs. Simonson had empathy for me and invited my mother to carry me into the well-lit kitchen of their farm home. While in the safe abode of mother’s arms, Mrs. Simonson proceeded to show me what an UNlit “Sparkler” looked like. Seemed fairly tame to me in THAT form. She then had Mom carry me over towards her gas stove as she lit a burner and then held the “Sparkler” near the flame. In a very short while, POOF…FIZZLE…FIRE SHOW happened. This precious soul of a lady then went on to attempt to reason with this still scared widdo kid how the wire now made “pretty sparks”. Her kindness DID seem to help quell some of my fears, but “Me was’m till berry tared” said this mini version of a Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 🙂