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Today is May 10, 2021

Mississippi Seen

Waiting for the big boom

By Walt Grayson

Waiting for the big boom

They would let us climb up on the roof of the house the night of July 4th to watch the fireworks over Lake Ferguson from the Greenville waterfront so we wouldn’t have to go down there. We lived a mile or so away, as the crow flies. Getting to go up on the roof was an adventure for us kids.

The big fireworks show was the culmination of the 4th. It started off pretty much like any other summer morning. Help mama, take out the garbage, watch my little brother. But the day set itself apart after lunch. An ice cream freezer or two (depending on whether we had company or not) would come out and the ice around the drum was salted. By midafternoon, the cranks started getting harder to turn; a sure sign that the cream inside was just about right.

Then someone would start hauling out the watermelons that had been chilling in washtubs since midmorning. There is no sound like a ripe watermelon being stabbed with a butcher knife and then splitting open. And there is no smell like the instant sweetness in the air that follows.

Fireworks for us didn’t have to wait until dark. We’d pop our own firecrackers any time. As a matter of fact, it didn’t wait until the 4th. We would have already been popping them for days in advance.

Supper might be hamburgers or hot dogs. And then we’d hear the first “boom” from the waterfront and scamper to the roof. Some of the rockets didn’t fly too high and we’d just see a flash in the sky like heat lightning from where they had exploded below the tree line. But some of them would climb and climb and climb and then pop into a big dandelion seed puff of light way up there.

Why is that so exciting to see when you are young? And then all too soon came the fireworks. The whole sky would light up with explosions all over at once. We could hear the faint car horns of approval from the waterfront all the way to our roof.

We carried some of that over into adulthood. While the “old folks” were still here we’d go to mama and daddy’s for the 4th, sometimes. Usually, we’d all congregate at an aunt and uncle’s house down the street. There would still be ice cream — with an electric freezer by then — and watermelon. We could hear fireworks all over, from the kids in a nearby neighborhood, mostly. And then after dark, the big “boom” of the serious rockets over the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway a mile or so away from where mom and dad had moved after all of us left home.

This year? I’ll swing on the front porch after dark and listen to the small snaps and pops in the neighborhoods around. And wait for the big “boom” from the Barnett Reservoir — a mile or so away.

Happy 4th everybody.


Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at

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