My Favorite Fourth of July Celebration

Happy Independence Day!

The temperature forecast for the Fourth in Orland, my town of 7,000 population, is 108 degrees F.  July 3rd read 106 on our front porch at 3 p.m, 112 on our back patio, and 115 on the highway sign.  Fortunately it’s a dry heat—if knowing that adds any comfort.

Every year, Orland celebrates an old-fashioned Fourth in the city park.  Speeches kick off the festivities at noon, during which important locals are honored, including veterans.  I briefly considered wearing my Army uniform, but I no longer have a complete outfit.  I hated the shirts with their nearly impossible to button collars, so I gave the shirts away, never thinking I’d want to wear the danged things years later. 

Music groups perform.  I’ve sung and sweated in our chorale group of about 40 singers.  One year a couple of elementary school boys, dressed in zoot suits and wobbly hats, danced to ‘Tequila’.  They could have passed for professional, they were that good.

Antique cars parade through, including a 1967 Ford mustang.  I used to own one, bought new—and now it’s an antique.  Or at least a classic.  Hmm.  What does that make me?

Contests follow.  Best hats, best dog costumes, egg throwing contest, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

During all this activity the food booths of local organizations–Elks, Moose, and whatever other animals form lodges, along with PTA, Scouts, VFW, and so on—are feeding the populous.  I guess there’s a reason for starting everything at noon.  Anyway, I’m glad I’m not among those sweating souls cooking ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs.  Blessed are those who dish out homemade ice cream or pour cold drinks.  It all ends at 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

Fireworks come later at the fairgrounds.  When I was a kid, my folks loaded us up and drove to the Woodson Bridge to watch the fireworks over the Sacramento River.  The display didn’t start until after 9 p.m., when the sky had darkened sufficiently.  By then we were hemmed in along the bank by other observers.  After the bursts and sizzles of the light show, we wended our way through choking smoke to our cars and patiently wheeled to the road amid the dissolving congestion.

My most enjoyable 4th of July was different.  It occurred while I picked blackberries along the irrigation ditch in the evening.  (Blackberries are always best picked in the early morning or evening when they are sweet.)  Thunderheads mounted in the west, and as they turned pink and purple with the setting sun, lightning flashed and thunder growled.  I called it nature’s celebration.  No crowds had gathered to watch.  The air had sweetened.  And I took home a bonus.  Blackberries.

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