By Joel Phelps
Call up the instigator, because there’s Something In The Air. It’s half past nine on the Fourth of July and there are fireworks exploding all around our home in Arkadelphia. Some we can see, some we cannot; but we can still hear them.
It’s twice a year we experience these nighttime displays of patriotism. I’m not complaining, I want that to be clear: I’m all for allowing folks to spend their supposedly hard-earned money at the fireworks tent to one-up me on their patriotism. Go for it, I say, so long as I can watch from afar. But once it’s nearing dawn’s early light and your rocket’s red glare hits my rooftop, that’s a different story.
Fortunately, so much has yet to happen for Yours Truly. But it could, and it could happen to any of us Arka-dwellers when an unexperienced pyromaniac lights his $10 Sky Blaster and takes cover under his own garage. The Sky Blaster, if we could imagine, is just a leaning tuft of grass away from aiming directly for our lovely abode. Just a matter of one slip from a patriotic do-gooder and someone’s home could be the next insurance claim.
The aim here is not to discourage any celebratory acts of patriotism, mind you, but rather to encourage an act of neighborly respect. Our home hasn’t come under attack — this isn’t a plea to our own careless neighbors — but we’ve watched as Roman candles explode in the trees of our neighbor’s lawn. We only cross our fingers and hope no trees or homes become the next rocket’s red glare or subject of the next Arkadelphian article.
Prior to writing this, we asked our readers their opinion on fireworks being shot in residential areas. We got a mixed bag of responses. Some said their dogs suffered trauma from fireworks (one smart-ass — and trust me, it takes one to know one — said he would never have shot fireworks had he known the negative effects it had on animals), while others said, “hey, let folks have their fun with fireworks twice a year.” Our fire chief said that, so long as residents are shooting them responsibly, to let them celebrate a day meant for shooting fireworks. I respect that.
But what, say, would be the legal consequences if I were to be caught practicing archery in my backyard in the city limits? Say I rarely missed the bullseye and had never missed the block at which I was aiming? Say a neighbor turned me in for even daring to try? I’d be cited, of course, for violating some city ordinance, even if there were a privacy fence separating my yard from my neighbor’s. I’m not suggesting that my practiced archery is any safer than a Sky Blaster, but there’s no rhyme or reason to our city ordinances.
Fireworks are shot commonly twice a year, and there’s no instruction other than “Get the hell outta the way!” once a Sky Blaster is lit; an experienced archer, on the other hand, practices his aim carefully each time he nocks an arrow in his compound or crossbow. He’s most definitely not aiming to lose an expensive arrow or bolt in his neighbor’s yard, and it would be rare that he lose a prized arrow anywhere other than his own yard (so long as he’s practicing “responsibly” as our fire chief said about fireworks).
What I’d love to see is a citywide event each Fourth of July. Have a professional fireworks display at the Youth Sports Complex or at Sturgis Field while Little League games are played. Host a midway. Maybe even let the kids chew tobacco and puke from the Tilt-a-Whirl. Seems like a scene from a classic movie I’ve seen a time or 20.