July 4 Hasn’t Changed Much Over the Years

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comMy earliest memories of Independence Day go back to when I was probably 6 years old.

In the town where I grew up, one of the men’s civic groups would raise money each Fourth of July by barbecuing and selling pork next door to the town softball field. Daddy and I would always go down there on the evening of the 3rd. He would sit around and talk with some of the men while I watched the meat cook.

I remember being mesmerized by their setup, which consisted of a couple of long rows of metal grates held up by concrete blocks spaced every six feet or so. Some of the men would tend the fire that burned below, and the others would work their way up and down the rows basting and turning the pork shoulders so they wouldn’t burn.

The smell was almost too good to be true.

After hanging out there for a while, we would buy a pound of pork and head over to a fireworks stand where I would get a pack of firecrackers and a dozen bottle rockets. The whole transaction probably cost about a quarter.

On the Fourth, we would get together with family and eat barbecue outside on a redwood picnic table under a shade tree. I don’t recall it being as hot then as it is now. I don’t think it was.

Later in the afternoon, we would bring out the White Mountain ice cream freezer, and Mama would pour the delectable vanilla ice cream mixture into it.

The grown-ups would let me struggle to turn the crank for about 15 seconds until they got a big laugh and took over, thank goodness.

I suppose they sat around in those old aluminum lawn chairs with the green woven nylon straps and talked about Watergate or Vietnam. There was probably a rant or two about how long hair and rock and roll were going to be America’s undoing.

I don’t really remember the conversation, though. I was too busy holding on to that little brown paper sack with the firecrackers and bottle rockets, and praying for darkness to come.

When you’re 6, waiting for darkness to fall on Independence Day is almost as unbearable as waiting for Christmas morning. At least I had ice cream to ease the pain.

We would always make a few family pictures, but not too many. That roll of film had to last all summer.

In many ways, Independence Day celebrations haven’t differed that much over the years. Sometimes, it really is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Even in our 21st-Century, post-modern society, we still celebrate with family and shoot fireworks. We still sit outside (if we can stand it). Somebody in the group is still convinced that some political or social issue is going to be the undoing of America.

We still make pictures — thousands now it seems.

However, we don’t freeze homemade ice cream as often as we should anymore. And, that’s a shame. On the other hand, more comfortable tables and chairs have eclipsed the picnic table, which is progress I can embrace.

I inherited that White Mountain freezer and redwood picnic table. The table sits under a shade tree in the backyard, and the freezer sits in a corner of the kitchen. It cost $13.95 new. I know this because $13.95 is still written in ink on the side of it.

Who knows, I may bring it out of retirement tomorrow for another go around.

Of course, we will probably make pork barbecue. I bought an electric smoker a couple of years ago — which does a better job and spares me from having to keep a fire burning in the wood smoker overnight. This is another example of progress I don’t complain about.

The smell will be almost too good to be true. And, that will never change.

Happy Independence Day.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com


  1. Zach Clayton says:

    Great read. I want some of that ice cream.

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