I learned to handle explosives at an early age.

I was in public school, probably seven or eight. I lived in a time and place where kids in most parts of Canada could simply walk down to a local store and buy all the explosives they had money for. They may have been called firecrackers but believe me, they were just small explosives and if you put enough of them together, you could get a mighty big ka-boom.

We used to call the May long weekend Firecracker Day, although it was also called Queen Victoria’s birthday. As a kid I never understood why we were celebrating the birthday of a long dead British Queen with firecrackers, but it was an adult thing and often adult things didn’t make a whole lot of sense, rhyme or reason.

Theoretically, you were supposed to wait until May 24 before you let them off, but kids being kids started to let them off soon after buying them. Soon the neighbourhood started to sound like a war zone. It was also a time when kids were left to their own devices a lot. So, if you got the ones that just went bang, you could stick them in a pipe, but a marble or ball bearing in and create a cannon of sorts. It was all great fun, until someone got carried away and broke the window of a neighbour.

We also learned the importance of boundaries or borders because we lived near the boundary between a city and a county. When you stepped across that imaginary line you found yourself in a new land, one that had different rules and regulations. There were fireworks you could buy in the county that were banned in the city and vice versa. Why? No one really knew, it was an adult thing. All this meant to us kids was that you had to walk or bike into the other jurisdiction to buy what you wanted. Then you brought it back home and set it off even though theoretically it was banned. So, I guess we also learned how to become smugglers, rule breakers and anarchists, all at the same time.

In the area I lived, you could only buy a Moon Rocket One. Across that line, you could buy a Moon Rocket Ten. It was ten times the size and as the label said twenty times as loud and bright. Now, what kid wouldn’t want to put in the effort to go and get, a Moon Rocket Ten.

Some of older kids in the neighbourhood thought it would be splendid if they used a pipe to launch it, because that would make it go even higher. They also thought if they put a couple of Moon Rocket Ones ahead of it in the pipe, the ten would launch the Ones even higher. It was, a learn as you go type of experimental science. They had to wait until dark before they launched and a small group of kids gathered that night to see the show.

Everything seemed to be going good, until one of the Moon Rocket Ones veered off course in an arc and exploded just as it slammed into old man McGruffs’ roof. It was pretty spectacular and quickly followed by the other rockets exploding. The Moon Rocket Ten, really was twenty times a s loud and as bright.

Unfortunately, some old dry leaves in the eves of the McGruff house caught fire and soon the air was filled with yells, screams and curses as the entire neighbourhood took note. This is just one of the reasons to keep those eavestroughs clean. The kids all scattered as sirens approached. It was certainly the talk of the neighbourhood. Even made the local news. From the way some of the adults talked, you would think the kids had singled out old man McGruff and tried to burn his house down. Moon Rocket Tens got banned everywhere and we were probably the last kids in the area to see them in their full glory.

It was a different time and different era. I hope that everyone has a good long weekend and is careful, because the forest is rather dry and forest fire season is about to start. Lets not start it off with a bang or a fire.

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