Reporting From the Land of the Free

I started to write an essay on the philosophical significance of fireworks as a form of resistance to the nanny state, but it was lousy so I trashed it. Instead, this is a straightforward account of an Independence Day spent in the land of the free–by which I mean my native state of South Dakota.

Visiting family here over the Fourth of July is a longstanding tradition. Any visit at this time of year would be incomplete without shopping at one of my home town’s warehouse-sized fireworks stores. Click to enlarge:

You need a shopping cart. Possibly two:

The fireworks generally have a theme of some sort:

The Artillery section features reloadable mortars:

For a few hundred dollars, you can buy a fireworks display like one a town would put on, and a lot of people do that. This might be the most fireworks-intensive place on Earth. In some years we have gone in for an ambitious display and lots of explosives, but this year neither we nor my younger brother, who was also visiting, had any kids along. So we settled for a few hundred firecrackers, a couple of parachutes, a rocket, and a reloadable mortar with 12 modestly priced shells:

We set off the firecrackers before it got dark:

If you don’t understand the relationship between firecrackers and green army men, all I can say is, I am sorry about your childhood!

When it started getting dark, the real fireworks began to go off. Pretty soon there was a constant rumble of explosions all around the lake where my older brother lives. Everywhere you looked, the sky was full of color. This was one of ours:

The neighbor two doors down had some more elaborate ones:

I grew up in South Dakota, but now live in Minnesota, a state where anything that sounds like fun is likely to be illegal. It was a big deal when, not many years ago, Minnesota legalized sparklers. I doubt that anyone who has not witnessed an Independence Day in my home town can imagine what it is like.

You really do feel a little freer here, and not only on account of the fireworks, near-universal firearms ownership and the 80 mph speed limit on the interstate. I’ll leave the last word to the owners of the fireworks emporium:

Happy Independence Day!