Kyle Troutman: Happy birthday, America

Saturday, July 3, 2021

For the first time since 2010, Independence Day is falling on a Sunday, which will give everyone plenty of opportunities to enjoy the holiday with their family, friends, neighbors, and anyone else who loves America.

Fourth of July celebrations have changed a lot for me over the years. When I was a kid in Little Rock, Ark., the biggest display was always over the Arkansas River and the I-40 bridge. Parking downtown on those nights was absolutely non-existent, and my parents always had to get creative in finding a spot we could see the show.

From my memory, the fireworks themselves were nothing overly spectacular. However, these fireworks were some of the first I remember that were set to music.

My earliest true firework memory was sitting on the top of my dad’s 1999 Ford Expedition, watching the lights flash to the tune of classic rock on The Point, 94.1. I can’t remember if it was “Free Bird” or “Fortunate Son” playing in the background, but I do remember at the time thinking it was the coolest thing that the lights matched the music.

Other than that, most of our Independence Day celebrations, much like it should be in America, took place in our own driveway. We lived in a cul-de-sac in a rather large suburban neighborhood, and all the kids would shoot off Black Cats and Lady Fingers.

Many an action figure have been lost over the years. Extra points were given to the kids who made one look like me. It’s probably not politically correct to blow off the hands of action figures on purpose, but if you can’t blow up your own toys, what is freedom for, anyway?

A word of caution though, I was too brave one year tying fuses of the fizzbangs together, then tossing them across the street. One time, I thought I lit only one fuse of the two I tied, and I successfully tossed that firecracker, only to look back to see the other fuse nearly gone in my hand — my one good hand.

I got the Lady Finger away just in time, but my ears were a’ringin’ and my hand was a touch charred for a day. Moral of the story is, don’t take chances.

We also use to have canister wars between my cul-de-sac and the next one over. That provided plenty of bright entertainment, until the red and blue lights from Little Rock’s finest came to enforce the fireworks ordinance.

There’s a metaphor there with the danger of fireworks representing a current international health crisis and why it wasn’t safe for us to fire them in a neighborhood with so many houses so close together, but I digress.

These days, Independence Day celebrations in Barry County have been an enjoyment every year. I spend less time shooting fireworks now and much more time watching them and photographing the people enjoying summertime celebrations.

From Seligman to Wheaton, Eagle Rock to Shell Knob and Purdy to Monett, there is no shortage of places to go if you want to see a show.

Each event offers its own special features. In Monett, all the rides, booths, live music and the chicken dinner add a full day of fun to a great show at dusk.

Events in Purdy, Wheaton and Seligman offer a similar type of hours-of-fun celebrations, also offering even more of a hometown feel.

Though it does not offer the events of the day like the others, Shell Knob makes up for the absences of a festival with a unique, lake-life atmosphere. Watching the fireworks reflect off Table Rock Lake and the hundreds of boats gathered for the show is a gorgeous experience.

Wherever you find yourself Friday through Sunday, take a moment to remember the sacrifices made over the 245 years of our nation. From the Founding Fathers to the Civil War and reconstruction, and from the Greatest generation to those still serving abroad today, many lives have been given to protect our freedoms and livelihoods.

The prize on the other end of pain is that the United State of America is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs. Even when on different sides of the aisle, we must always remember that we are one people, and our love for our neighbors and countrymen is more important than any political or social squabble of the day.

Happy birthday, America — we love you!

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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