For the first few years, I was content watching the older neighborhood boys shoot them off, knowing I was $50 richer.
I soon realized, though, that I could just shoot them off at my friend's house and still collect my reward. (I wasn't getting paid $50 to be honest.) In any case, like most American boys, fireworks fascinated me.
At some point, I decided I'd much rather skip the $50 and shoot off all the fireworks I wanted in my own driveway.
The novelty eventually evaporated in the brutal July sun. Even lighting up whole bags of fireworks at once lost its appeal. The next logical step in my fireworks craze meant crossing the state line for some contraband: bottle rockets.
(The final illogical step in my fireworks craze resulted in a couple felony counts of criminal use of explosives and some community service, but I'll save that for a future "Serious Lapses in Judgment" column.)
Bottle rocket wars were the true tests of the worth of fireworks. Snakes, sparklers and parachutes were no good in the heat of battle. Ironically, nor were tanks.
The weapon of choice was the two-cent bottle rocket. The larger the better. Colorful Roman candles almost looked like actual weapons.
Stealth attacks usually warranted actual firecrackers. A pack of black cats or jumping jacks in your enemy's bunker did more to frighten and upset them than any bottle rocket ever did.
The largest of these epic battles among my friends took place on an isolated sandbar in the middle of a river. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn would have fit right in. Except for the fact that every one was tripping acid, stoned and/or drunk on High Life.