Our Nearest Neighbors
The Prodigal Me


This is as good a time as any to talk about gunpowder. I confess, as a kid I loved it. One early memory is of igniting caps by banging them with a hammer in my driveway, or lighting a string of them with matches. Then, I graduated to firecrackers, about which there was a significant black market on our street. One kid always had M-80s (big firecrackers), and for the right price you could trade up, you know, like ten regular firecrackers for one whoppin’ big one. I guess he was kind of like a pusher, a drug dealer, except he peddled illegal fireworks, and we were moving up the chain to the big pops. His name was. . . well. . . let’s call him Big Eric. That fits.

We put firecrackers everywhere. In sidewalk cracks. Anthills (I’m sorry.) Under cars, in the house (seriously), in drainage pipes, down manholes, up gutters. Bottle rockets we held in our hand, lit and tossed in the air. Put them in soda bottles and fired them at each other. Shot them up drainage pipes under homes. Tied them to our bikes. In my neighborhood, it was like the 4th of July all summer long. Until the gunpowder gave out.

Once, following instructions from Big Eric, I emptied several firecrackers of their powder, enough to fill an ink cap, put a fuse in it, and sealed it with paraffin wax. I lit it. In the house. That cured me. I no longer love gunpowder. I still have all ten digits, but I don’t recommend it.

Big Eric moved away after third grade. I bet he joined the Army and worked in munitions.

Happy 4th. Be careful out there.