My Fireworks lessons of last night - long
Last night I set off some rather large fireworks in celebration of the July 4th holiday. You know the kind, with big bursts of color way above the trees. The kind that have names like "barely legal" and "shock and awe". This was my first try at fireworks that large however, and a few minor lessons were learned along the way. I felt it was important to share my new found knowledge with my friends so I will recount the experience here.
First step, read the directions! I did that. They call for a hard flat surface to launch them from such as pavement or concrete. I do not have either and most of my land is gently sloping. I thought "no big deal, so they go off at a slightly different angle, who cares". It turns out this is really important. The fireworks come in a large square box covered in paper with a fuse sticking out. Inside the paper are rows of tubes from which the individual fireworks launch. Now the hard flat surface comes into play because the box jumps around as each one launches. Once you light the box it does not stop until about 16 have fired and exploded.
As I said I do not have any pavement or concrete but I do have a really hard packed gravel drive way with a nice crown in it to keep the rain from washing it out. This seemed like a great place to set off the fire works. I decided to set them off in my driveway right in front of my front lawn where my family could sit in those white plastic chairs to watch and be close to the action.
One thing that is important to note here is that my lawn in front of my house sits about eight feet higher than my driveway with the help of a retaining wall made from large boulders. The retaining wall forms a nice shelf to set the unexploded fireworks, lighters and flashlight on to help me organize the great show I was about to put on for my family and my neighbors. I wondered if my neighbors realized how lucky they are to live next to me. If not I was about to make them understand how lucky they really were.
So it finally gets dark enough. I start off with some small stuff in case my neighbors had decided to go to bed instead of watching my fireworks display. This would give them time to get up and go outside on their back decks and enjoy the show. I had invited several of to come up and watch but all declined saying something about knowing me too well and thinking they will enjoy the show from the relative safety of their homes. Babies!
I was undeterred however and off I went with the little stuff in my usual always in a hurry style. This went pretty well as even the smallest stuff cleared the trees and could be seen for some distance. After about 120 of these I assumed everyone was paying attention enough to set off the big stuff. This started out pretty well. The fire works were screaming up above the trees with large explosions of beautiful color and then crackling on the way back down.
There was one problem however. After each set of 16 there would be a slight delay while I set up the next group, lit the fuse and waited for the fuse to burn down to begin launching the fireworks with at first a loud thud, second a long scream as they rose into the sky and finally the large explosion with the bright colors at the end. so I decided to set up and light the next group when the first one was about half done as this would provide a better show for those who decided to cower on their decks at home and watch the display instead of coming up to see the action first hand.
What happened next was where the lessons began. It turns out that these large fireworks jump around quite a bit. It also seems that a crowned gravel driveway is not the ideal launch pad for fireworks of this size. Apparently they can jump enough to work their way off the driveway and land on their side on lawn. The problem with this surprising development was that they do not stop firing at this point and depending on which way they are pointing they can be firing at you about four feet off the ground.
I did mention it was really dark right? Ok, so I set off one large group and almost immediately lit the second group. While the first group is firing beautiful colorful bursts into the air for all to enjoy the second group bounces on its side off the driveway and onto the lawn with top pointed slightly upward to form the perfect angel to shoot at me. I do not immediately notice this as I have my back turned while I fumble with the flashlight and lighter to find the fuse and get ready to light a third group.
I was alerted to the issue with the second group when I heard something scream in between my legs and I was immediately deafened by a loud explosion and then blinded by a very bright flash of red light. Now my survival instinct immediately took over and I took off running. Being blinded however, I ran straight in the large stone wall directly in front of me. Fortunately my body was built with an airbag like frontal section which absorbed some of the impact. Kind of like the soft wall in NASCAR. Slightly dazed by the impact with the wall I was almost immediately awaken by another loud explosion and a flash of pretty blue light which occurred slightly to right of my foot. This sent me back to running but I was right up against that damn wall (which seemed so handy a few moments earlier). My only escape was to move left sidestepping as fast as I could. I did not want to turn around and take one in the face so I was frantically sidestepping to the left and jumping with each explosion and blinding light flash. The stone wall tapers off in this direction so I knew if I could keep going along the stone wall which was blocking my retreat it would diminish enough for me to make my escape. It is at this time I regret my decision to install a small swale between the wall and the driveway to allow rain water to run off. It had been quite wet lately with many large thunderstorms keeping everything wet including the swale. This in combination with a poor choice of footwear (slippers) combined to create a situation where my left slipper was sucked off by the mud while sidestepping at an impressive pace and clawing the wall to both test it's strength and allow me to determine it's height to see if I could get over it and escape. After about six or seven explosions I had sidestepped enough to get to the point where the wall was low enough for me get over it and run to safety behind the garage. Upon arriving at the garage I was relived to see that the rest of my family (being somewhat experienced at this kind of thing) had already made it there amongst a pile of hastily thrown white plastic chairs.
My relief was short lived however when I realized that the group of fireworks had rotated in that general direction and was now firing away at the cars. There was nothing we could do but watch in shock as the small exploding missiles landed under and between the cars. The cars did not appear to take any direct hits. Bear in mind that all this was happening while the first group was still providing a great show for those lucky enough to live within several miles of me. All that was noticed was a slight delay while I inspected my body for damage, gathered up my slipper, flashlight and lighters. I also did take a few moments to find a piece of plywood to use as a launch pad for the rest of the display and the big ending.
When it was over I heard screams of enjoyment form my neighbors (at least I think that was what they were screaming) and we went inside to determine the extent of the damage to me.
To my neighbors that I invited and who all declined to attend all I can say is you only got half of the show!