Ah, summertime. No school. Swimming. Playing all day long. And, as July 4 neared, FIRECRACKERS!
Fireworks greatly entranced me when I was a kid. When those booths would start opening up in Miami, Oklahoma in late June, I would hound my parents mercilessly to give me some money to go buy fireworks. I would come home with bottle rockets, smoke bombs, and long rows of my favorite: firecrackers.
Really, the concept of selling flammable, explosive items to minors is against everything our sadly litigious society stands for. But somehow, fireworks have survived, albeit in wimpier format than when we were kids.
I loved firecrackers. There were so many things you could do with them! My plastic army men, had they any consciousness at all, would have dreaded my coming home with a bag full of Black Cats. That’s because, in short order, they would be hurled skyward by hidden explosive charges. I would take the prone riflemen and lay them on top of firecrackers and blast them off the ground, with my screaming accompaniment. Sadistic to describe, but lots of fun. The army men didn’t seem to mind either.
Firecrackers were fun to stuff in holes in rocks, like they were sticks of dynamite. Or you could blow bark off a tree. Another fun pastime was taking empty cicada shells and attaching them to a Black Cat. The explosion would literally disintegrate them.
Of course, you also had duds. There were fun things you could do with THEM, too. You could break them in half, light the powder inside, and they would turn into sparklers. Another neat trick I learned was to stomp on the fizzing firecracker and it would explode. Or, you could painstakingly shake the silver powder out of them and make your own bomb.
I once collected the powder from a hundred or so firecrackers, bound it tightly in aluminum foil wrapped in black tape with a fuse stolen from a smoke bomb, and lit it. It blew a fist-sized hole in the dirt!
While M-80’s were available in those days, I never saw them. I think Oklahoma had banned them, but you could still find them in bordering states. I saw my first one when I was 24 years old in California, having been obtained in Tijuana. As reckless a kid as I was, it’s no doubt best that I stayed away from them.
Nowadays, they barely put any powder at all into firecrackers. If you break one open, the powder doesn’t even shake out, it’s more of a thin film painted onto its paper container. But when we were kids, firecrackers had POWER! And we loved blowing things up with them.