July 4, 2001, Highmore SD.
I arrived at my domicile wherein the rockets and cannons were stored against that magic moment when we would light up the sky, On the phone there was a message. My cousin had, it seemed, decided to go that prairie metropolis, that urban complex nearest to the geographical center of the United States, Pierre, South Dakota, to watch that quintessential expression of cowboy machismo, a rodeo. I was told not to worry, that he would be back for the loosing of colored lights into the sky.
The sun set as it so often does in these parts and the sky dimmed. No cousin appeared at my door, not even one. I stepped outside and stood in my driveway and watched the lights of Highmore in the distance. Against the backdrop of city lights and a darkened sky I watched as the residents of the fair city of Highmore (population 852) cast fireworks into the sky. Still no cousin.
Finally, when I had quite given up and had retreated to watching a movie on the idiot box, said cousin and his wife appeared at my doorstep at 11:15. It seems that the good folk of Pierre had had a fireworks display after the rodeo. Naturally, perhaps even obligatorily, they stayed to watch the display. It being well over a half an hour from Pierre to Highmore even at the speeds that South Dakota drivers are wont to travel, they were understandably late.
Some might have let it go at that - the fireworks could be fired off at some other time and day. Not us - we Dakotans are a hardy breed who will not be balked in our determination to display our patriotism. We forthwith (such a good word, "forthwith") set out to the Highmore ball field to do our patriotic duty.
This, perhaps, needs some explanation. The Harter residence is surrounded by trees - it really is quite scenic, particularly for South Dakota which in these parts imports its scenery from Iowa. One doesn't want to run the risk of setting trees, let alone the family house, on fire by a stray rocket. The besides of which there isn't any flat pavement about. The Highmore ball field, on the other hand, is a quite convenient setting. It is flat - an important consideration - and there are no nearby buildings. Even more importantly, nobody plays ball in the middle of the night.
So there we were in the waning hour of the fourth of July, having staked out a spot on the ballfield (more precisely just outside the field), happily firing off fireworks, making loud noises and lights in the sky that were not stars. At the stroke of midnight a vehicle appeared, a vehicle we recognized, the official vehicle of chief of police aka the police department.
He quite respectfully informed us, "That's it folks. The fourth is over and we've had complaints from two little old ladies about the noise." I claimed that according to my watch it was only eleven o'clock. This ploy was met by a moderate sized horse laugh.
We weren't actually busted of course. Law enforcement officers in small towns serves at the pleasure of the community. They understand that it is not wise to be officious when a word to the wise is sufficient. The besides of which he and my cousin are good friends.
Still, there we were with a large stock of unexploded fireworks. Undaunted we set out for the Highmore golf course, it being a mile from town and in the middle of uninhabited countryside. We have quite a surplus of uninhabited countryside in these parts. What is more we were reasonably certain that there would be nobody playing golf and no little old ladies in the middle of the course trying to get a good night's sleep.
We arrived and forthwith (there's that word again) began scattering light into the sky just as though there weren't several thousand stars and the moon already taking care of lighting up the sky, thank you. It was a lonely vigil. There were no cattle about to take in the display but I am sure we woke up a few deer and rabbits who must have wondered what all of the racket was about. Our patriotic duty we gathered up the blackened remnants of our pyrotechnics and wended our way homewards to our beds where we slept soundly knowing that we had celebrated the Fourth of July.
This page was last updated July 6, 2001.