I don't mean to count my chickens before they hatch, but here's a few of the things I expect my coming all-American 4th of July weekend to revolve around:

  • Possum Kingdom Lake
  • a reasonable amount of beer
  • an unreasonable  amount of BBQ
  • lighting a generous amount of fireworks
  • wearing my American flag swim trunks
  • looking at girls in American flag bikinis
  • learning how to use my new dutch oven (I would argue despite having dutch in the title, this is still pretty American)

Now here's some things I don't expect my all-American 4th of July weekend to include:

  • grass fires from fireworks in the dozens
  • being the talk of the EMS dispatch for my stupidity
  • participating in a riot and shooting fireworks at police
  • having to pull my neighbor from a burning structure
  • having to pull myself from a burning structure
  • having tea and crumpets
  • Leaving firework trash and litter everywhere for others to clean up

Interestingly, almost all of the things on the second list are from local headlines I've seen in the last few days. Now before I get into any of these stories or climb onto any sort of soap box, I'll acknowledge that the world is always getting more connected. This means that the problem might not be that people are getting dumber, we're just hearing more about the dumb things people do. None of the problems we're seeing this year with fireworks are new. I would even bargain that some of them have been worse in the past. I guess I'm just getting a little touchy at the prospect of people's lack of respect and common sense encroaching on some of my favorite holiday traditions. Also, some of these stories are down right ridiculous.

Here's a roundup of some of the headlines I ran across this Fourth of July in Wichita Falls.

I could go on, but I'm getting tired of copying links and I think you get the idea.

In a nutshell, there was a lot of mayhem out there the evening of the 4th. The last story outlines how emergency officials were faced with a riot of sorts when they tried to confront a group of people shooting artillery shells at passing vehicles on Bailey Street. Apparently paramedics arrived on scene to treat a burned child, but had to retreat after they were both hit by fireworks and unable to reach the victim. The reports detail up to 35 officers and deputies being summoned to the scene in full riot gear at one point. The story list one officer being treated at the hospital for a firework that was thrown at him and exploded behind his riot shield. Other officers deflected things as significant as artillery shells off of their shields. All of this was happening as firefighters battled a house fire on McLaughlin street that injured one and was reportedly started by fireworks in a nearby park.

The "Cleanup Begins" story makes mention of the colossal mess the owners of Texoma Speedway faced  the morning of July 5th. This is after huge crowds of people setting off huge amounts of fireworks in very close proximity answered the businesses' invitation to use their property to set off fireworks. From the personal accounts I got from people on the scene the scenario at the Speedway track was none short of chaotic either. Local TXDOT director Adele Lewis points out that the owners of Texoma Speedway weren't the only ones with a big mess on their hands the morning after the 4th celebrations. Litter crews operating on the taxpayers dime have been dispersed throughout the area to clean up the big messes at locations popular for shooting off fireworks.

In the effort of keeping this a family friendly post, I'll save most of my comments about these stories and let you fill in the profanity for yourself. With stories like the ones listed above, however, I could certainly see where local officials would have some justification in exploring harsh restrictions or bans like other states have already done, and I'm one of the many who would hate to see it have to come to that. People will be people so I won't waste too much energy making pleas, but I'd like to think we could have a little more faith in our fellow patriots than what we saw in the news this year.

In closing I'll merely say that I love the fourth of July. I love the fourth of July for what it stands for, and also for what it has always been for me personally (see list at opening of post.) In an era where the world and our country seems to be fixated and ruled by our petty differences, Independence Day is a time where we can celebrate some of the things we have in common. We can reflect on what the America means to us, and respect what it means to others. I know I'm starting to sound like Bill Pullman giving a speech in Independence Day here, but I'm trying to be ernest. Sometimes I get caught up in all of the negative news the media networks seem to wallow in, and I'll get pretty discouraged about the state of our nation. But when I turn off the television and get back to my life that I really have no reason to complain about, I remember just how great it is to be a citizen of the United States of America.

Hope you and yours have had and continue to have great 4th festivities this year.