WOSTER: Fireworks are fun, time with family is betterLast Fourth of July, with the Missouri River closed to boating between Pierre and Fort Pierre, we watched the annual post-rodeo fireworks show from the parking lot of the football field in Pierre.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Last Fourth of July, with the Missouri River closed to boating between Pierre and Fort Pierre, we watched the annual post-rodeo fireworks show from the parking lot of the football field in Pierre.
It wasn’t a terrible place to watch a fireworks display, but compared to being in a boat on the river just offshore from the rodeo grounds, it was a tad, well, distant. Our granddaughter from Brookings, who usually doesn’t say too many negative things when she’s visiting in Pierre, was disappointed. Turns out, the Fourth of July fireworks show and the night on the river is a pretty big deal to her.
Well, I suppose it would be. We’ve had that tradition for a lot of years, so she’s pretty much grown up with Fourth of July on the Missouri River. And there is something pretty breath-taking about having huge starbursts of light filling the night sky just above your head and watching the individual points of light arc and fall gently toward the water.
(As the boat driver, I’m generally too busy worrying about whether the anchor is holding and whether we’re drifting into the anchor lines of other boatloads of fireworks watchers to pay close attention to the light show, but that’s another story, and, frankly, it’s getting pretty old. One of these years I’ll actually drop anchor and swing slowly back and forth in the current instead of drifting downstream and causing a ruckus among the assembled flotilla of Fourth of July celebrants.)
When the fireworks have faded from the sky, we join a mad rush of boats back to the docks and ramps. In our case, for the past several years (excepting last year when the river was closed — and the year before when our boat was out of commission — and probably a couple of other years when one mechanical problem or another kept our craft on the trailer) we’ve overnighted after the fireworks show at our friends’ place on the canal on the Fort Pierre side of the river just upstream from the bridges. We can tie our boat beside their dock and come back for it at our leisure the next day, when the traffic generally is light.
That’s mighty handy and lets us avoid trailering our boat in the dead of night, although it means a trip upstream along the west shore of the river, and in most years, that means running a gauntlet of private fireworks enthusiasts whose output sometimes rivals the official program. Sometimes it seems as if half the young population of both river communities has gathered along the banks of the river near the bridges, and it always seems as if those folks have bought out the inventory of every fireworks stand from Minnesota to Wyoming to North Dakota to Nebraska. My word, they love their fireworks in that stretch of the Missouri River. A thick cloud of smoke hangs over the water near the shore, turning the fireworks shooters into indistinct shadows that appear long enough to ignite a fuse, and then disappear behind the trail of a rocket soaring out toward midstream. The whole area smells like sulfur, and there’s just enough chance that a stray rocket will head our way to put a little excitement into the journey.
I actually enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. I grew up lighting firecrackers, mostly Black Cats and Gorillas, but also a few pop-bottle skyrockets and a Roman candle or two. My dad always bought a handful of the actual skyrockets, things so big he pounded a piece of pipe into the ground to steady the stem so he could light the fuse. In farm country, when the only night lights were stars, the track of a rocket was spectacular, and the family sat around going “ooh” and “ahh,” and generally enjoying each other’s company.
Mostly, it was about enjoying each other’s company, as I think of it. We could do that now and then without a fireworks display, but then people might think we were getting together just because we liked each other.