Tukee Talk Jason P. Skoda

A slow release was my downfall.

I wasn’t standing in the pocket waiting to deliver a pass or deep in the hole at shortstop as a baserunner beat my throw to first.

There was more of a short wick situation.

I was probably about 10 years old or so around the Fourth of July with a pack of firecrackers at my disposal. My parents were nearby, hosting family and doing their thing.

My cousins and friends and I were having a great time blowing stuff up. We took the little green Army men and played war with the firecracker serving as bombs that stopped the infiltration of the enemy.

Good, clean fun.

Until my older cousin, the one with the fast hands, decided to start testing his reflexes. He lit the wick, looked at it for a minute, let it get ever so close to the end, and then he threw it.


The smell of gunpowder was intoxicating.

I followed suit. It woke up my inner daredevil. I never had a chance.

Before I knew it instead of lighting a wick and running away, I was igniting it while still in my hand. I stared at it as it flashed, held on to it and tried to get rid of … Boom!

The ringing in my ears was the most intense, dizzying pain I ever felt. Then and now.

My fingers, luckily were still intact, but throbbed like they were smashed under an anvil.

It was the slow release.

The firecracker never got past my ear and knocked me on my butt. My ear seemed like it was between two cymbals.

My mom was tearing me a new one but I couldn’t hear a word she said, but the spit that was flying and the look she had in her eye told me all I needed to know. I just know I might have been better off if that firecracker did some real damage instead of dealing with her wrath.

I eventually recovered fully to see every Fourth of July since — even had my first date with my lovely wife 18 years ago today — but that is the one I remember the most.

The Fourth was always something special in my old neighborhood despite the near loss of hearing that one year.

My dad, a truck driver, always managed to come home with a boatload of fireworks that might have, just maybe, fallen off his truck. Bottle rockets, cone fountains, firecrackers (unfortunately) of several sizes and Roman candles.

The bigger and brighter, the better. He always wanted the best. His show lit up the neighborhood.

The intriguing part was the fact that our diagonal neighbor had a similar fireworks ego and all they wanted to do was outdo each other.

It would start off slow with some bottle rockets shot off with little to no intent, but as the night wore on that changed. Eventually, their egos would get the best of them and they would eventually start pointing the explosions closer to one another.

Before long it became an all out war as Roman candles shot over the trees and trajectory of the bottle rockets were changed to the rooftops of the house next door.

Did I mention alcohol might have been part of the equation.

So there you have it.

The memories of a dysfunctional Fourth of July family. Now, there are other memories like going to a major league baseball game from time to time for the free fireworks show that amazingly didn’t lead to a mano-a-mano shootout.

See, we didn’t have something as cool as Ahwatukee’s Red, White and Boom to help ring (oh my aching ears) for Independence Day celebrating.

My daughter does.

So you can count on us being among those attending this great event yet again.

We will take everything in, maybe I will even enter my 10-year-old nephew, Noah, in the hot dog-eating contest. Or maybe we will just take the time to bring our baseball gloves so we can have a game of catch in one of the grassy areas.

That way I can show off my slow release.

And this time it won’t be my downfall.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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