An amazingly good day in the summer

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I can’t help but think about the old days when it comes to the joy of the Fourth of July.

As a kid – it was one of those amazingly good days in the summer.

Back then, we didn’t go many places and we really didn’t do too much recreational activity. In the summer time, my siblings and I were rewarded for getting our work done early by the allowance of walking down to Dorothy’s Creek where we swam in poopy water surrounded by Hereford cattle.

It doesn’t sound appealing – but to kids who didn’t know any better and had apparent super-human tolerance against disease, it was a great way to spend a hot summer day.

Otherwise, most of the time was spent weeding, butchering chickens, moving pipe, getting the cattle from the pasture to be milked, pitting cherries, husking corn and picking strawberries.

Sure, we rode our bikes (mostly back and forth on the farm), played with our cousins when they came to visit and participated in “Ghost in the Graveyard” games after the sun finally went down.

Mostly, I remember us just staying close to home.

But there was that one glorious day – the Fourth of July – when we were treated to not only a trip to town, but also food we didn’t have to make and the companionship of our father who pretty much worked all the time.

Each year on the Fourth of July, my dad would break the one stringent rule of dairy farming – he would start milking a little earlier. It’s imperative to keep cows on a tight, consistent schedule to get the most production. But on only two days a year (Fourth of July and Christmas Eve), Dad would start the process early.

We would all willingly take baths and I remember we always got new red, white and blue T-shirts to wear (those were my mother’s contribution, usually from her own sewing machine).

We’d nervously watch the sky, scared to death it was going to get dark before Dad got home. But he always seemed to fly into the yard just as our worries reached a fever pitch.

We would wait outside while he hurriedly cleaned up and grin at each other from ear to ear as we smelled the Aqua Velva coming from the driver’s seat.

We had a pact – no matter how much we itched to misbehave or even fill the vehicle with chatter, we had to stay silent. By being quiet, we sealed the deal and ensured that no way would our father become agitated and change his mind.

Once we reached the metropolis of Neligh, we’d head straight for the package store on the hill. Dad would emerge with adult beverages in a brown paper sack and other bags that were for us.

Mom would present us each with our own bottle of pop – which was extremely rare, as soda was only for special occasions and typically shared – and our own hand-bagged and stapled parcel of beer nuts (also known as Redskins).

Then my father would take us to either the park (which was usually full by then) or Bill’s OK Tire parking lot.

Bill’s OK Tire was the perfect place to spend the Fourth of July. The business was owned by my dad’s best friend, so we were sure to enjoy the night with our friends as well. The location of Bill’s OK was heaven – it was right by the park and next door to the Yum Yum Shack.

While we munched on our peanuts and situated ourselves for the big show, Mom would make a dash to the Yum Yum and come back carrying greasy white bags that held the most sinful, delicious and seriously flattened hamburgers of all time. Each would have exactly three pickles and one round slice of onion. Ketchup would run out around the edges of the oily bun when you took a bite and the napkins always smelled like some sort of cleaning solution.

As the adults drank Pabst Blue Ribbon and we relished our “town food,” the anticipation was high. Slowly, the sky grew darker and we sat on pins and needles waiting for the first burst of noise and light.

As we “oohed” and “aahed” our way through the fireworks display, necks stretched, eyes wide – we were in heaven. Each glimmer of light was better than the last and we ached for it to last forever.

Of course, it never did, and I always felt sad that we’d have to wait another year to do it again.

The interesting thing about those special summer nights was that even though fleeting and so long ago, they were so fantastic that I swear I can taste the grease on my lips, feel the beer nut salt on my fingertips, smell the gunpowder in the air and see the crush of aerial color.

Oh, that was one good day in the summer and always a night to remember.


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