Fireworks will be legal to sell in Iowa next month, thanks to legislation passed during this year’s legislative session. That news brought back memories of a time long ago when fireworks weren’t legal to purchase here — but that didn’t really mean much.
“Ronnie just about blew his fingers off!” Mom said as she hung the phone up after a long conversation with Ronnie’s mother. She then gave me one of those stern looks that only a mother can give.
She didn’t know it, but I already knew what had happened to Kooker (that’s what we kids called Ronnie.) Truth was, I was with him at the time, and realized then that it wouldn’t be long until I would be in big trouble.
Mom tapped her foot as she wait for me to speak.
I knew if I said something like “what happened?,” she’d say, “he was throwing a firecracker and it went off in his hand,” then I’d say “that’s too bad,” and she’d ask “do you have any firecrackers?”
Yep, I was in big trouble.
It all happened so innocently. A little ad in a Red Rider comic book said it all: “Fireworks at wholesale prices. Send for a catalog — just 10¢.”
Well, it was too much for Slick and I to pass up. Within a week, we had all the information necessary to order enough firepower to start a war.
Most pages contained spectacular assortments designed for beauty and color. Skyrockets and Roman candles, buzz bombs, sparklers, sparkling fountains, colorful cones — it sounded beautiful.
But beauty and color weren’t exactly what Slick and I had in mind. We wanted NOISE! All that pretty sparkly stuff was for sissies. We were more interested in waking up the entire town.
Finally we found what we were after – “the Block Buster assortment.” Thousands of firecrackers in assorted sizes and shapes, all for just $4.95!
The description was awesome. Everything from lady finger firecrackers to cherry bombs and silver salutes. Included in the assortment were 50 packages of the best brand of firecrackers — Zebra brand.
The beauty of the deal was this. Slick and I figured we could order the Block Buster assortment, keep what we wanted, sell the rest and make a profit.
For the next couple of weeks we bugged Mr. Stigler, down at the railroad depot, waiting for our shipment to come in.
Finally the package arrived and Slick and I were in business.
Being just a week before the 4th of July, it didn’t take long to unload what we didn’t want. Back then, the possibility of most kids getting to Missouri to buy fireworks was about as remote as flying to the moon.
At a quarter a package for firecrackers, and a dime a piece for cherry bombs and silver salutes, we soon had our money back.
Kooker was one of our best customers. He must have spent a month’s allowance satisfying his appetite for making noise.
But he had a weird quirk. He liked to watch people squirm as he would light a firecracker and then wait until the fuse burned nearly down before tossing it. That practice came back to haunt him.
“Aren’t you going to ask what happened to Ronnie?” Mom finally asked.
“I know. A firecracker went off in his hand and my firecrackers are under my bed,” I said, realizing that I’d just sealed my fate.
“Well, there won’t be any fireworks for you this Fourth,” she assured me.
And there wasn’t. Slick still had all of his fireworks, but that didn’t help me. I knew about the time I got caught lighting fireworks — I’d be in as much pain as Kooker — only it wouldn’t be my fingers!
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.