A holiday to celebrate
By Clif Knight
Our nation will observe its 242nd birthday July 4. The day is a patriotic observance that has touched the lives of millions of Americans with grilled hot dogs, hand-squeezed lemonade, backyard ball games and fireworks.
Fireworks are one activity that remains alive and well despite a monumental effort to keep them silenced. Keep your ears open and eyes focused on the sky around midnight July 3 and you won’t have to guess what holiday is about to happen. The sounds you hear and the bright flashes of colors you’ll see will be touched off from the ground in Hartselle, where the sale and shooting of fireworks has been outlawed for as long as I can remember. The fact that they’re illegal doesn’t mean they don’t exist here. It simply means they’re not sold at any store within the city’s corporate limits. They are sold at three locations in the county but not in the city.
Fireworks couldn’t be sold in Alabama when I was a kid growing up in a different part of the state in the 1940s and 1950s. They were sold in Georgia, however, and we lived only 40 miles from the state line. We’d pool our gas money and hire a licensed driver to take us to a fireworks store.
The holiday was also tailor-made for a farm family. It separated the growing of a crop from harvesting a crop. Our goal was to have all of the work in our cotton and corn crops finished by the Fourth of July. Thus, we could devote one day solely for rest and relaxation, playing fun games and eating the best food rural living could offer.
The holiday actually began the day before when three of my five male siblings and me piled into the back of the pickup truck for a trip to the ice plant in Lineville that was five miles away. It was our job to bring home a 100-lb. block of ice for the next day’s activities.
We were treated to slivers of ice that lay on the dock’s floor and cooled off by taking turns sitting on the ice as we returned home.
The ice was immediately taken to the barn and placed deep inside a bin of cottonseed to be preserved overnight. It was used the next morning to cool off a washtub of hand-squeezed lemonade and make a freezer of vanilla ice cream.
Under the shade of two giant oak trees in the front yard, we enjoyed playing games of horseshoes, marbles, hop scotch and swinging in a rubber tire suspended from a tree limb.
At lunchtime, we shared in a special meal prepared by our mom. It featured fried chicken with extra pieces of white meat and included cream style field corn, fried okra, green beans and sliced tomatoes. Topping off the meal were dried fruit pies and a layered chocolate cake.
A fun time resumed under the old oak trees after lunch. Ice cream was made and served around mid-afternoon. It was followed by the cutting of the season’s first ripe watermelon.
A special family day was spent wisely and enjoyed by everyone. There was no TV, no flag flying, no fireworks display. Not a whimper was heard when the call was made to get busy with our daily chores.