Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4, 1966

It was a Monday. I was 9 years old and it was the 4th of July. I was where I had always been on the 4th; with my best buddy, my friend, my caretaker when Dennis and Laurie weren't there. I was with Grandpa.

Lloyd Brady was an interesting man. He was a Christian, a husband, a farmer, a church elder, a parent and a grandparent. He was a Republican and a trustee in Four Mile Township. He was also a bit of a child at heart which made him the perfect grandfather.

Every year he would take me to the 4th of July parade in Altoona, Iowa. Just me and Gramps. We would park and then walk what seemed like miles and then stand on the street in beautiful downtown Altoona as the flags, bands, American Legionnaires and Shriner's passed by. Candy would be handed out and the Shriners would arrive, befezed and in cars of the same make and color, normally convertibles. One year they all rode minibikes. Some on foot would have a small wagon in tow that had a cannon in it firing pop corn into the crowds. I always backed up on the sidewalk when that happened because the old maids would smart like a bee sting when they hit you. It was all controlled pandemonium. A good time was generally had by all.

After the parade, there was the picnic in the park. Hotdogs would be consumed. There would be much talking. Lloyd would talk to anybody and then talk about them afterward. It was always humorous. Once lunch was processed, we would head to the battleground. The fight was always interesting. Two fire departments (always Altoona and Mitchellville) would gather on the field of engagement; pumpers at the ready. A cable would be stretched between two poles diagonally across the field with a beer keg on a pulley suspended from it. Fire hoses would be connected to the pumpers and dragged out across the open lawnscape. The opposing firemen would man their hoses and then it would begin.

Using their hoses, they would aim the water spray at the beer keg in attempt to drive the keg into their opponent's territory and the end of the cable. This was an art form in many ways. A pumper truck would only hold so much water, so you had to control the spray and still achieve your goal before you ran out of water. Sometimes Altoona won. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes the firemen would get pissed off at each other. If your team was not winning, many times it would be necessary to hose down you opponents. All was fair in the battle of the keg. Even so, I don't think there was ever a fist fight. And the contents of the keg was later enjoyed by both teams.

After the keg wars, I would go back to the farm with Lloyd. There would be naps and supper (heavy on the sweetcorn) and then some fireworks. This last item was illegal in Iowa, but Gramps was regularly in Missouri and he would always pick some up at one of the border stores. There were never any big display items, but there were always bottle rockets and M-80's (which seemed more like dynamite) as well as the smaller firecrackers. It was fun. Lloyd knew how to entertain a grandchild. He also taught me much in regard to life in general. He taught me how to work, which might explain why I have never been unemployed. He was, to me, what the 4th of July is all about, being a free Christian, American in a dangerous world. I miss him.                

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