Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July! Today is the day we celebrate our independence on the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, but to me, the Fourth of July also represents a time to reflect on all those men and women who put their lives on the line each day to protect that independence. Thank you to our soldiers and your families. Thank your for your sacrifice, your service, your dedication. As our county employees and volunteers struggle in the 104 degree Central Texas heat to prepare for tonight’s spectacular show, I am grateful that they are the ones sweating their fannies off and not me! But I am also very much aware of the fact that without our soldiers, we would not have the freedom to celebrate—or not celebrate--as we choose.

The Fourth of July fireworks have always been one of my favorite ways to celebrate. I remember a time when I was a child and my parents dragged my bratty little brother and two fighting sisters up the side of the mountain to an isolated camping spot on the fourth of July. We walked at least half an hour at dusk to find “the special rock” a friend of the family had told us about, a place to perch and watch the fireworks display. I grumbled as much as my sisters, wondering how on earth we would possibly be able to see anything shooting off into the night sky when we were surrounded by towering pine trees and disgusting little biting bugs. When we finally reached the rock and situated ourselves, and I took the time to look out over the valley, I realized why my parents had struggled so hard to drag their four children up a mountain in the heat of summer. I could literally see for hundreds of miles. I swear I could see as far as the Wyoming border. I could see Kansas, New Mexico, even Texas—and I was just a tiny little girl on a rock in Colorado! There’s nothing like the American West to warm the heart and soul and remind you of the beauty of our world.

The fireworks in Denver were truly amazing that year. Moments I will never forget. According to the July 6, 1876 issue of the Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado held its first public celebration that same year. There were speeches and music provided by the Council Bluffs Band at a picnic held in a grove near the mouth of the Cherry Creek River, which is where the City of Denver also got its start so many years ago. Lawrence, Kansas held its first Fourth of July celebration in 1855 with a crowd of 1500. Helena, Montana held its first public Fourth of July celebration in 1865 at Owyece Park with a speech given by George M. Pinney.

When I was a child, I remember a few Fourths spent listening to speeches and music, but most of our celebrations involved lots of hot dogs, fresh fruit and lemonade, baseball games with the neighbors and swimming in kiddy pools. The Fourth of July to me is a time to celebrate with family, celebrate the beauty of our country, and celebrate our right to celebrate for any reason we choose. May you all have a happy Fourth of July!

Christmas dinner for a family, from a series of photos documenting Gen. John J. Pershing's 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico. ...