Kirby: Independence Day and the boom loons

Robert Kirby

By ear, I can tell whether a distant explosion came from a professionally manufactured firework or a bootleg version put together by unsupervised kids with access to the assorted ingredients.

Sonny can do this as well, with one small difference. Even though our mutual interest in the loud arts has caused a surprising amount of deafness in both of us, we have separate fields of study.

As a former gunner’s mate in the Navy, Sonny is far better when it comes to the noise of actual military ordnance. He can, for example, tell the difference between the boom of a 40 mm round and that of a 60 mm mortar from a mile away.

How do I know this? Because I got in the car and drove over to the place where the dust was still settling and asked the people responsible. Recognizing a fellow boom loon, they showed me the proof.

My specialty is homemade ordnance. I didn’t have access to the ingredients or the influence of a mentor until we came home from Europe when I was 9 and I began following my maternal grandfather around.

Charlie did a lot of reloading. It wasn’t long before he introduced me to the mindless fun of hitting shotgun primers with a hammer. I was immediately hooked.

Note: Before automatically branding Charlie an irresponsible adult (which he, in fact, was most of the time) let me just add that he did make me wear safety glasses.

Even so, I ended up with part of a shotgun primer imbedded in my stomach. It took years to work itself to the point where it was accessible with an X-Acto knife.

This isn’t just a pointless trip down memory “lame.” I needed to get your attention about the dangers involved in blowing up stuff, whether with commercial fireworks or something concocted in a basement.

We live in dangerous times. If you are in charge of the maturity level in your home, odds are that you’re a wife and/or a mother.

If so, you probably already know that boys (including adult men) will be boys when it comes to the intoxicating lure of turning big stuff into really small stuff … in an instant.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Between now and Pioneer Day (July 24) the following cautionary points should be closely watched:

• Secure your household chemicals — drain cleaner, bleach, air freshener, etc. In fact, anything in an aerosol can.

• Install trigger locks on every firearm (including toys) in the house.

• Demand that all males immediately present themselves so that you may conduct a finger and eyeball count if you hear a loud explosion. I’m serious. My best friend in the seventh grade blew off the tip of his little finger one summer and his mom didn’t find out until Christmas. He was that afraid of getting into trouble.

• Keep track of the amount of time the idiots — and we know whom I mean — in your care are spending in the garage and/or basement. If asked what they’re doing, and they say something like “nothing” or “just cleaning up” or “pulling the transmission on my truck,” they’re lying.

• Stop-and-frisk is an absolute necessity, especially for the younger ones. This is the most important advice.

When we lived in California’s Fort Irwin, Mom once shook me down and discovered an M61 fragmentation grenade fuse in my pocket. I found it at one of the ranges. Since the Old Man was in Korea, she called the military police.

With the exception of Election Day, this is the most dangerous time of the year. We all need to be on our toes — if we want to keep them.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.