Hardy Jackson’s Alabama: July 4 – Not a dog’s best date

Alabama Living Magazine

Picture this.

Two dogs sitting like dogs.

One turns to the other and says “My plans for the Fourth aren’t finalized yet, but I’m either cowering under the bed or digging a hole through the tub.  And you?”

Fourth of July to a dog.

I can see their point.

Every year, as June winds down, people from other states trot across the line to buy fireworks in Alabama.

Some of these establishments have long been the mecca for folks who want explosions to light up the sky to celebrate our independence from Great Britain.

So, in the days leading up to the Fourth, the fireworks outlets do a land office business.

A friend who worked in one tells of how when fireworks were illegal in Georgia, entrepreneurs would drive over and buy in bulk to sell in Atlanta neighborhoods.

Sometimes celebrities showed up. Travis Tritt made regular visits and occasionally dropped as much as $1,500 on pyrotechnic pleasures – you can buy a lot of bang for that.

Southerners have long loved fireworks.

Especially young Southerners.

Young Southerners always expect to be warned by parents, mothers mostly, to be careful or you’ll get a finger blown off. Every Southern mama knows of someone who was maimed by a firecracker.

Naturally children discounted these admonitions as old-Mama-tales, and continued to set ‘em off to terrify and delight whomever they chose.

Dogs, unfortunately, come under the “terrified” category.  For them, those firework emporiums are a house of horrors.

Firecrackers, bottle rockets, sky rockets, Roman candles, fountains, ground spinners, flying spinners, and of course, cherry bombs.

Cherry bombs are the things from which Southern legends are made.

Find any southern man of a certain age and he can come up with a story of a cherry bomb blasting a mailbox off its post or demolishing a toilet in the boy’s bathroom.  That few of these tales ever proved true only made the telling more popular. If it didn’t happen, it could have.

I wonder if these stories resonate with the youth of today, for over the years, adults have systematically taken over what was once a joy of childhood.

Recently fireworks have been less about how to scare the bejeebers out of friends and neighbors, and more about creating a spectacle.  Fireworks have been put on display.  The emphasis now is less on the boom and more on the flash, less on loud and more on lights.

Cities and towns sponsor fireworks shows. They hire pyrotechnic engineers to put on programs that are synchronized and sanitized, free from the spontaneity and watched from a safe distance.

Not that it makes any difference to a dog.

Though the boom may be distant, as soon as the sky lights up you can hear the howling. All around the neighborhood and across the town dogs that cannot find refuge from the extravaganza lift their voices in anguished protest.

Although I like to ascribe human emotions to our furry friends, and even go so far as to suggest that they are capable of reasoning much like our own, I do not think dogs can read a calendar.  The Fourth of July will catch them by surprise.

So, when you light that fuse, remember the dogs.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.


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