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What were the odds the cherry would ‘blow up’ the toilet before it was flushed?
Dennis Wyatt new mug
Dennis Wyatt

I do not like fireworks — at least the ones you buy and set off.

My mom viewed them as a waste of hard-earned cash.

She used to say you might as well as go ahead and burn a 20 dollar bill. Today, of course, that would have to be changed to “go ahead and burn a hundred dollar bill.”

That said if we earned the money for fireworks from paper routes, doing yard work for neighbors or in later years working shifts at our family’s drive-on frosty dubbed “The Squirrel Cage”, she would take us to the Lions fireworks stand in Lincoln and buy them for us as long as we could cover the bill.

A few instances of one of my brothers running after me with a sparkler and then throwing it at me cured me of any desire to have anything to do with buying or lighting off fireworks after I was 8 years old.

But what really sold me on the concept of it being crazy to mix any type of fireworks — legal or otherwise — with unsupervised boys were three consecutive Fourth of Julys.

The first involved an incident with an illegal cherry bomb.

How my brother got a hold of it I do not know.

 It ended up with Ronnie down the street with a bunch of friends at Don Noyes’ house. It was one of the few homes in Lincoln at the time with a swimming pool.

It was — I believe— the only one with a bath house outside for those using the swimming pool. In it was a commode.

Somehow Ronnie — he was in the eighth grade at the time — got into a bet whether he could flush a cherry bomb down the toilet before it went off.

Ronnie lost the bet and ended up having to pay to replace the toilet.

Next up was the Fourth of July that Ronnie and his friends were hanging out at McBean Park during Lincoln’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

 A young police officer had pulled up in the department’s 1968 Ford Galaxy squad car and left the air conditioning on and motor running as he made his rounds.

 He happened to have parked next to the location of the fire bucket brigade competition between the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department and California Division of Forestry and a hose they were using to fill the buckets.

At one point someone among Ronnie’s buddies without warning took out a smoke bomb, lit it and rolled it under the front of the police car.

Within seconds some lady yelled “fire”. The officer turned around, saw the smoke coming from under the car and grabbed the hose without thinking.

 At the same time a loud chorus of “no”s was shouted by several firefighters.

You could hear the engine block cracking clear across the park.

The piece de resistance happened the next Fourth of July.

My cousin Lyle — who was a year older than me— was always bugging Ronnie and his friends to let him hang with them on the Fourth of July.

I tried to convince Lyle to stop pushing his luck.

The reason was simple.

They always ended up doing something to Lyle that today would trigger a global outcry against torture.

Of course, from Lyle’s perspective Ronnie and his friends were cool given their earned reputation.

This particular Fourth of July it was 100 degrees by 2 p.m.

Lyle kept pestering them so they finally agreed and lured him into my mom’s two-car garage on the alley to see something “real cool.”

When they got him inside, they shoved him to the ground, retreated and then locked the door behind them.  

They had already paddle locked the garage door from the outside. There were two windows that opened to the patio. They had secured both with locks.

After Lyle shouted for maybe a few minutes or so, they quickly opened the door and tossed in a lighted smoke bomb.

That only caused Lyle to shout more.

 That prompted them to toss in another smoke bomb.

They then repeated the process eight times before relenting and letting Lyle out.

To say Lyle was a bit mad was an understatement.

But then again, he was happy when they decided he had been a good sport and let him walk with them to McMean Park for the Fourth of July celebration.

It was 45 minutes later when Lincoln’s fire siren summoning volunteers went off.

It was three long whistles.

My mom’s garage was burning down.

Lyle, in trying to breathe, had tried to shove four of the smoke bombs under the wooden garage door.

Neighbors had called mom at work.

 She got there about 30 seconds behind the police and firefighters.

When she demanded to know what happened, Ronnie said it was all Lyle’s fault because he had pushed the smoke bombs under the door.

Although my mom didn’t buy it, it was the first indication that Ronnie could have had a promising career as a politician.

I shudder to think what Ronne, if he were a teen today, would do.

It’s not because fireworks are more dangerous.

The temptation thanks to YouTube and TikTok is there for teens not only to act impulsively but to garner attention by uploading videos.

But then again there was a time when teens did questionable things but were smart enough not to let their parents or even authorities find out.

Good luck doing that today with all of your friends having video cameras in their pockets.

They can all whip out smartphones to record you doing stupid things and then post to the Internet for the entire world to see.

 Talk about deadly concoctions.

Devices that can burn hotter than 1,000 degrees, impulsive behavior, and a desire to get “likes”.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ask a teen in England a few years back that decided to drop his pants and underwear, have a fireworks rocket clenched between his cheeks and then have a friend light it while another buddy got it all on his cellphone.

No, it wasn’t an experiment in natural selection but it came pretty darned close.