fireworks

It was in the middle of World War I, on the 4th of July, 1917. The citizens of Colby, Wisconsin were busy celebrating Independence Day. Colby was originally famous for the making of Colby cheese, but it was about to be famous for something else entirely. Around 6:30, the people were setting of fireworks and everyone was having a great time, when suddenly, there was a louder-than-it-should-have-been explosion. The people were startled and began to speculate as to the origin. Some thought it was dynamite set off by some over-zealous celebrators. Then, they dismissed that thought, and some of the townspeople were concerned that when the went outside, they might see a Zeppelin dropping German bombs on the little town. In the end it turned out to be something form much further away…outer space to be exact.

The streak through the sky could have been missed because of the fireworks, but the explosion was another thing entirely. The meteorite hit just west of the Zion Lutheran Church, which is still there on the corner of West Jefferson Street and North 2nd Street in Colby, Wisconsin. When the townspeople located it easily, due to the smoke trail in the sky. They found that it had broken into two pieces, with the smaller piece landing just a short distance from the church, imbedded to a depth of one foot. It weighed about 75 pounds, and was said the be intensely cold, forming frost on it when it was uncovered. The larger piece landed in Joseph Jordan’s field, imbedding itself to a depth of five feet. The depth made it difficult to dig up, so it was not unearthed until the next morning when Professor Williams secured it for a school exhibit. That piece weighed about 300 pounds, and was apparently not as cold, probably due to the time spent in the ground.

It was said that another piece had landed in Cornell, Wisconsin, which is about 60 miles away from Colby. Amazingly, none of the other small towns in the area were hit. The principal of the Colby High School assumed, correctly as it turns out that there were likely to be other fragments too. He did some digging in the area, and is said to have found a sizeable collection of fragments. Of course, that makes sense, because as a meteor streaks through our atmosphere, the intense heat, impacting the intense cold usually causes them to break up long before they impact the Earth’s surface. Still, every so often, a particularly sturdy meteor slips through without being totally obliterated, and then we have a strike, such as the one in Colby, Wisconsin in 1917.

According to the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, there have been 13 documented meteorite strikes in Wisconsin since 1860. The latest one was in April 2010. Often, the way that meteorites are discovered is that someone finds a rare mineral rock, and when checked, the chemical makeup of the stone indicates that it may have originated in outer space. Of course, that doesn’t document when it happened, or if it was actually part of a documented strike. We always have been and probably always will be fascinated by the extraterrestrial.

As we head into Independence Day 2020, many of us have begun to realize that this year, it’s different. Everything is different. The year, Independence Day has taken on a whole new meaning for me and so many others. For the first time in our nations history, almost everything was shut down. People were quarantined…leaving only the essential workers going to work, and the rest of us staying home, except for food, medicine, and doctor visits. Covid 19 had changed everything.

Spring Break for the schools brought the quarantine, and even if we had no children in school, we felt that change deeply. Everything just…stopped. Restaurants were closed, movies were out, bowling leagues ended early, as did all sports. Once the warmer weather hit, it felt like summer, but it was only May. This would prove to be the longest summer ever…I’m not complaining, mind you. Summer is my favorite time of year. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been, if the quarantine had happened in the Winter, when I wouldn’t have been able to get outside and walk on the trail near my home…especially since I am not into winter sports, and those places would have been closed anyway.

Finally after more than three months of quarantine, the states were allowed to begin reopening. Still, we did not know what the summer would look like. Sports were up in the air, contemplating a shortened season, or as in the case of some, cancelling the 2020 season altogether. Graduations, funerals, birthday gatherings, and holidays were uncertain. Finally, as campgrounds and hotels began to reopen, it looked like summer might be salvaged. Still, several fairs and some 4th of July fireworks thought about, or did cancel. My husband, Bob and I usually go to the Black Hills over the 4th of July, to do some hiking, so this was a concern to us. Finally, word came down that the fireworks display we loved would indeed be held, and that after a 9 year span without fireworks at Mount Rushmore, that display would also take place this year. We were so happy, and booked our motel right away.

As we prepare to watch the fireworks on Independence Day 2020, it comes to mind that Independence Day has taken on a whole new meaning. For a time, we lost our independence, and now we have it back. The feeling reminds me of how the early settlers felt, when England finally gave up and we had won our independence from them. Yes, we still have a ways to go before we will have our country back to normal. During the lock-down, some bad things happened and some people are in an outraged state, but I believe that we will be able to get back to normal through the love of God being shown in our nation. There are those who want to change the root of our nation, but they will not succeed. We are and always will be “One Nation, Under God” and we will have victory over the anarchists. Today, we celebrate the birth of our great nation, the United States of America. It is with a whole new meaning…Freedom Again!! Happy Independence Day everyone, God bless you all, and God bless America!!

For many years, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have gone to the Black Hills to celebrate Independence Day. It has been our tradition for about 30 years. This year, things got changed up a bit. Our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband Travis invited us to come to Washington to spend the holiday with them. We will be watching the fireworks display at Semiahmoo Bay on the 4th. Bob and I went there a couple of years ago when we spent Thanksgiving with Amy’s family. The bay is beautiful, and I’m sure it will be even more fun in the summertime warmth…although it wasn’t very cold in November. We have never seen fireworks set off over water, so that will definitely be something new, and something about which we are very excited.

Celebrating our nation’s independence has always been a favorite holiday for Bob and me. We love everything about it. The fireworks take my thoughts back to history lessons, of the Revolutionary War. The rockets shot at ships, and the fighting that took place because we were a nation ready to be our own country. The fighting was sometimes brutal, but it was necessary. The patriots willingly gave their lives for the cause of independence. The fighting took place on land and water, and yet we have never seen fireworks over the water…until now. In my mind, I can see the ships from the Revolutionary War out in the bay. I can imagine the fireworks are the rockets, and the war is real. Nevertheless, I am glad that it isn’t really real, because I would not want our soldiers to have to relive that, but I can feel like a mouse in the corner, watching as history unfolds in front of my eyes…at least I can imagine it.

Of course, the fireworks aren’t the real thing, but rather just reminder of what our nation and the soldiers who fought for our independence, went through. My imagination of happened is just that…a figment of my imagination, because those events are long in the past. Still, I don’t believe that we should ever forget the lessons of war. There is always a reason we go to war…a wrong that must be made right, tyranny that must be stopped, killing that must be squashed, and slaves who must be made free. Good nations don’t go to war for evil purposes. I believe that the most important lesson to be taken away from any war, is that we must never trust our enemies, and even more importantly, we must never allow the enemy to infiltrate our nation and our government. Happy Independence Day to our great nation…the United States of America. Forever may our flag fly and forever may our nation stand.

If you ask my nephew, Rob Masterson, about his daughter Audrianna, he will tell you that she is a joy to be around, and like his other children, she is the joy of his life. i believe that is true of all his kids. As to Audrianna, casually known as Anna, she is a soft-spoken girl, who makes friends easily. This 4th of July, at the fireworks display in Casper, Wyoming, while viewing them with the daughter of a co-workers of her dad’s, Anna met a girl named Aurora, casually known as Rory. You might think that Aurora is a unusual name, but not in our family, because Anna also has a second cousin named Aurora. Be that as it may, Anna and her new friend, Aurora quickly became good friends. in fact, Aurora spent the night if the 4th with Anna, and the next day, she got to go to Thermopolis with her friend as a part of Anna’s birthday celebration. Most of the swimmers came back sunburned, but not Anna or her brother Matthew, who both tan easily. A great time was had by all, and the summer looks to be going great for the new friends.

Anna is a smart girl, who loves school. She is very inquisitive, and gets almost straight As as a student. This is something I have noticed in Anna as well. She is a concentrator,much like her Great Aunt Caryn, and will think on a problem until she has a solution to it. That makes her a great student. She just doesn’t give up. Anna is also very loving, very protective of her sister, Raelynn and her brother, Matthew. Eve though they are both older than Anna, she can be fierce if anyone is picking on them. People don’t and really, shouldn’t mess with Anna when she has her mother bear instincts working. Nevertheless, most of the time it is Anna’s loving nature you see. She is quick to hug and to let her friends and family know that she loves them.

Anna loves to play Minecraft on the family Xbox. Again, I find myself looking to see what Minecraft is all about, because I get it mixed up with Minesweeper. Minesweeper is about sweeping an area for landmines, while Minecraft is about building things with blocks. Somehow the name doesn’t fit my idea of what it is. What do mines have to do with building blocks, anyway? Nevertheless, the game looks interesting, and it might be something I would like…if I were into games. Anna, however, is into games, and very into Minecraft…as are her siblings and just about every other kid I know. It is just what the kids do these days, I guess. Today is Anna’s birthday.I can’t believe she is already 11 years old. Where has the time gone. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I think that one of the things most people look forward to in mid-summer is Independence Day. Of course, the normal holiday for many people is filled with picnics, fireworks, and celebration of our freedom. Many of us consider the price that was paid in the Revolutionary War to win our freedom from England, and then our thoughts move on to the many wars the United Stares has fought into keep our freedoms, and to win freedom for oppressed nations around the world. It’s a noble thing our soldiers do, often with little thanks from those they help. And all too often, their work is quickly forgotten or even protested by those who do not understand how important it is not to give away our freedoms to those who do not share our values.

Whatever a person’s politics are, or even if they don’t participate at all, pretty much everyone celebrates Independence Day. It is a beloved holiday in this country. It’s a day to celebrate who we are as a nation….the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The fireworks are to remember the rockets that were used in the battle for our independence. The patriot soldiers fought hard against the British, never giving up, even if they lost their lives in the battle. The danger was worth the risk. They could no longer be slaves to the British. They were being taxed without representation, and unmercifully. It was time for the United States to become it’s own nation. I don’t think the British have any inkling that they would lose the Revolutionary War. It was like being beaten by your child. How could that “kid” actually have grown enough to beat them…and yet, the “kid” had not only fought against the “parent” country, but they won. They fought and now we’re free!!

Since they won, we have something wonderful to celebrate on July 4th…our independence. When I think of the alternative, I cringe. It’s not that I hate England, because, in fact, I don’t. I have relatives there, including in the royal family, so I don’t hate England, but we were just different. Our values and ideals were different. We could not peacefully co-exist the way we were, And yet, now that we are two separate nations, we are allies. We had to be equals in order to be allies. We had to have their respect, as a free nation, and we got it. We have been a respected, free nation since that day…July 4, 1776. And that is why we still celebrate our independence. Happy Independence Day everyone!!

Mount RushmoreFor me, there is no more perfect way to celebrate Independence Day that to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can’t think of a more patriotic place that is close enough to my home in Wyoming to be able to go to each year. The Black Hills is a shrine to patriotism. Mount Rushmore…home to the faces of four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln…brings home that spirit of patriotism that lives inside me. I love going to Mount Rushmore, and every time I go, I feel a sense of awe. These great men did the things necessary to make our country great. We don’t often think about the sacrifice a president made, but George Washington was a great soldier before he was president. He, along with the help of an ancestor of my husband, Bob’s, Henry Knox worked out a strategy to win the Revolutionary War, thereby winning our independence. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln was the American Flagsman responsible for ending slavery in the United States, and Teddy Roosevelt was chosen because of his contributions to business, conservation and the creation of the Panama Canal. These were four men who saw just how great this nation could be, and who worked to make sure that it always would be a great Constitutional Republic.

For most of us, the Independence Day celebration would not be complete without a grand fireworks display. I have been to a lot of fireworks displays in my lifetime, but few can match the display that takes place every year in Custer, South Dakota. They start by doing the roll call of the states. I have been amazed over the years that almost every state is represented. Then the fireworks begin, with synchronized music, that is the best mix I have ever heard. Of course, every patriotic song in existence is sung, and the display seems to go on for hours. By the time the evening is over, you truly feel like you have celebrated our nation’s birth. I always walk away feeling more patriotic than when I arrived…if that’s possible.
Fireworks
I believe that the United States of America is one of the greatest countries on earth, and in the past few years, people have been trying to tear it down, and make us believe that we are not a great nation with great people. I don’t like that. I don’t like that our government tries to take away our rights, and tries to change the fabric of this nation into a nation of whiney babies that I hardly recognize. I hate to make Independence Day a story about the election, but it’s time to “Make America Great Again.” It’s time to fight for our Constitution, and the freedoms it provides. If we don’t fight for those rights now, they will be gone forever, and with them would go the nation we love. I pray that you all have a very safe and happy Independence Day!!

Around the CampfireCampingMy memories of the Black Hills date back to my childhood, when our parents would take us there. We learned to love the area because of them. Then as adults, we began coming over as a bunch of families. We did everything from the fireworks to shopping to sitting around the campfire at night. I have so many memories of this area, and mom and dad’s echo lives here. It is in the trees, the monuments, and along the roads. I hear them pointing things out to us. They knew all the points of interest. The echo of their words and stories lives on in my mind whenever I’m in the Black Hills, and it doesn’t matter if we are hiking, touring, or in the towns. I can still hear them telling us about the area and their favorite places.

Mom and Dad loved coming here, to the Black Hills, and they spent a lot of time showing us all there was to see. Of course, with the hiking Bob and I do, we have found a few things to see that they have never seen, except when they looked at our many pictures. Nevertheless, we still go and see the things they always loved, and of course, we go to their favorite fireworks display in the world. The fireworks in Custer are amazing, and it’s a display that Bob and I haven’t missed in years either, except the year they were cancelled because the fire danger was too great. Even then, we didn’t mind it, because we would never want fire to destroy such a beautiful area, and having the display then, could have.

While we love coming to the Black Hills, it still felt strange to be here without either of them. I know it was especially hard on my sister, Cheryl Masterson, who always shared a room with them and later with Mom. I think for Cheryl, it felt a little bit like being at loose ends. She was in the place they had stayed for years, but she was there alone. She came over with her kids, so the trip wasn’t alone, but it was just that she was in the Mount RushmoreAt Harney Peakmotel room alone. It just felt strange, and empty. In fact, she found it so empty that she chose to stay with her daughter Liz Masterson at her friend’s house the last night. I can certainly understand how she felt, because coming into the Black Hills, I felt exactly the same way. It was more than a little disconcerting. Then, at the fireworks, when all the family that had made the trip were together the subject turned to Mom and Dad. It was bittersweet, because we knew that they would be glad that we came, but we were sad that they couldn’t. A ton of bricks moment for sure…being there without them.

FireworksWhen we think of Independence Day, most of us think of fireworks, picnics, and a day off from work. What I wonder about though, is if most of us know why we shoot off fireworks on this day. The answer may surprise you, because many people did not know this. Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams had a vision of a huge celebration taking place in the city square. He wrote a letter to Abigail Adams on July3, 1776. It said that our Declaration of Independence should be commemorated with “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” The first Independence Day holiday was celebrated on July 4, 1777. On that day, at that time in history, the city was beautifully illuminated. That day felt to him like a day that should be filled with patriotism from a grateful nation to its freedom fighters. And, I believe that is what many people think today, but I also think many people forget about the sacrifice that was made so long ago.

According to some historians, the first fireworks were invented in India, but the first fireworks came to the West by way of China. Most if the early fireworks were simply repurposed military munitions, used to entertain rather than to frighten or kill the enemy, which is fitting in a way, because it was those same military munitions that brought about our freedom from England. From those ancient beginnings, came rockets, by stuffing a container with gunpowder and leaving a hole in one end for propulsion. These were called “ground-rats” or “fire rats” and they were highly unpredictable. That made them somewhat less effective, but as anyone who has ever watch a modern day display go a little haywire, they were also pretty entertaining.

So, why do most people love the fireworks today? Is it because of the great technology that American Flagsallows it to be synchronized with the music, thereby adding to the festive feel? Is it the continuing patriotism in this country? Or is it simply the splendor of the display…the bright colors and the flashing light show? Well, I suppose it is really a combination if all three of those things. We are a people who love our traditions, and I believe that we are still a very patriotic nation. And, I think we love the tradition that was started by John Adams in 1777. It make us feel patriotic and allows us to honor all our military men and women who have fought through the years to keep our nation free. And really, being a free nation is still what it’s all about. That is the thing we must not forget. Happy Independence Day America!!!

There is a country music song by Brad Paisley, called “He Didn’t Have To Be” about a step-dad who was more of a dad than a real dad ever was. After talking with my cousin, JeanAnn, I am convinced that those words describe my cousin Elmer, JeanAnn’s uncle very well too. JeanAnn was a little girl with a need, and Elmer became the dad to JeanAnn, that he didn’t have to be…he chose to be. JeanAnn tells me that Elmer raised her, like she was his own daughter, stepping in to fill a void that desperately needed filling, and not only helped a little girl who needed it, but filled her heart with so much joy and pride, that when she speaks of him, it all comes flowing out like a beautiful waterfall.

When JeanAnn was a very little girl, Elmer bought her a Tweety Bird that said “Hello Buddy!” He and JeanAnn always used to say that to each other, but JeanAnn was to little to say it right, so it came out “Hello Bud!” The name stuck, and Elmer became forever Uncle Bud, and I have a feeling he didn’t mind that, because his very special little niece gave that name to him. Rewards just don’t come sweeter than that!

Some of her fondest memories happened in the month of July. She tells me that she can’t remember one year, except the few that she didn’t live in Casper, that she didn’t spend July 4th with her uncle. Back when you could set off fireworks on your own, they shot off fireworks in Glenrock, along with the occasional hillside fire, of course. Sometimes, they watched the fireworks displays from Elmer’s shop, where she got to play with the various gadgets he had made or bought. Later, when he got a boat, they often spent July 4th at the lake, watching the displays, boating and playing in the water. JeanAnn never had to worry about missing out on the festivities, because she had an uncle who was so good to her, even though he didn’t have to be. When the fair rolled around, JeanAnn always got to go. At the fair, she and her Uncle Bud would ride all the rides. One year he had hurt his back, so JeanAnn was worried that he might not be able to go, but he still took her, and rode the rides with her. She was a teenager by then, and his giving nature meant so much to her. Elmer was always there when she needed him.

Now JeanAnn is grown, with children of her own, who need a man in their lives too. Uncle Bud stepped right in, without ever being asked, and did the same things for Mykenzie and Ethan. He took Kenzie to her first father/daughter dance, and was there for Ethan’s first play. He spent 2 hours last Christmas putting a Lego toy together for Ethan. He has done so many things for JeanAnn, Kenzie, and Ethan, that there simply isn’t enough room here. Just suffice it to say that when other men wouldn’t do for their children, Uncle Bud came to the rescue for at least 3 of them, and became the surrogate dad…he didn’t have to be.

For years now, Bob and I have been coming to Custer, South Dakota in the Black Hills, for our Independence Day celebration. This year is no different…or is it? The heatwave that is hitting our nation right now, the droughts, and the wildfires that are the result of the droughts, are changing the face of Independence Day as we know it. For the first time in all the years we have been coming here, the 4th of July fireworks displays have been cancelled. Of course, we are disappointed, but we fully understand the reasoning behind it, and absolutely support the City of Custer, South Dakota, and their fire department in the decision they have made. The Black Hills have taken such a beating in recent years with wildfires and Pine Beetles, and we don’t want to see any more trees destroyed.

So, what will we do to celebrate our nations independence? We will go out to dinner, and then probably watch some of the fireworks displays in areas of our country who can safely have the shows. Yes, we enjoy the displays, and it doesn’t seem like it can be the 4th of July without them, but as with other things in my life lately, I am finding that sometimes you have to set aside things that you thought were the most important, for things that simply are more important.

As with my mom and my in-laws, whose health is not the best right now, the health of these areas of our nation is far more important than the fireworks celebrations that we all love. I seriously doubt if the people of Colorado Springs are thinking much about fireworks, as they worry about whether or not they will have a home to come home to. So, I will continue in prayer for my fellow Americans whose homes are in the path of the multiple fires in our nation.

Today is Independence Day, whether we have fireworks or not. It is our nation’s birthday, and as a proud American, I will celebrate our nation’s birthday with a heart that is filled with gladness…gladness that I am a citizen of this great nation. I will honor those great men and women who have fought and died to give me the freedoms that I am so grateful for and that we Americans sometimes take for granted. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them. Yes, I will celebrate Independence Day…our nation’s birthday…even if it is without the rocket’s red glare.

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