Our county contains a number of small towns. Some of those towns have a great civic pride, and their people work very hard to promote the place that they live.
Tim's a preacher's son, and when he was growing up, the church moved the ministers every couple of years, so Tim has lived around the western part of Pennsylvania, but the place that he calls home is the last place he lived as a boy. Sheffield is about 20 minutes from us, and it is one of those towns whose citizens are very proud to live where they live. It is a small town, and they graduate maybe 40 kids from their highschool every year. It is a place where people seem to have lived for years.
One of the biggest events that they do is a benefit for the fireman. This thing has grown through the years getting bigger and bigger every year. The culmination of this benefit is a fireworks display that knocks the socks off of anything that I have ever seen in my life. We live in Warren, and they have a good July 4th display, but this show goes well beyond that.
Tim and I rarely miss this, and this year we got there a bit later than usual. We still had time to sit on our blanket and people watch.
I watched a rough looking tattooed biker guy carrying a huge ice cream in the semidark, his head turning this way and that in a confused way. He seemed to get his bearings, and strode off purposefully, his long hair flying behind him, to give that cone to a hugely pregnant woman sitting uncomfortably in a lawn chair. She smiled at him as she took it, and he knelt in front of her as she ate it, and they talked, and there was no one else there.
I saw two men, Native American, probably brothers, sitting by each other, and they talked non-stop. I watched their long pony tails swish back and forth as their heads inclined to each other again and again. Never knew that men had so much to talk about.
I saw an old bearded fellow asleep on a blanket, and his wife sat patiently, cross legged on the blanket. He woke up when the fireworks started, and their teenage boy came, and the three of them sat close.
I saw a woman who used to come into the Tractor Supply all the time. She'd come in a hour before we closed, and then proceed to try on every John Deere tee-shirt we had, asking our opinion on how she looked, how it fit her. We'd have to tell her, every single visit, "We closed 15 minutes ago..." and every single visit she'd answer..."Oh. I did not know you closed at 8," and then head to the register, taking her time, stopping to peruse the items on the promo table on her way. She sailed past carrying a blanket, with a man that I also saw regularly at the store, although I never saw the two of them together. He was carrying two lawn chairs and struggling a bit in the dark, stumbling. She stopped and looked back at him, and under her white cowboy hat, I could see that she was not happy. Her tone was sharp although I could not hear the words.
Small children cried in frustration, tired from a long day of carnival rides, up past their bedtimes.
Big children ran through the crowd. They'd taken two or three of those glow in the dark necklaces and linked them together to make great big glow in the dark hoops that they were throwing like frisbees, trying to 'ring' each other.
There was the fireworks display, and once again, it was the best display I'd ever seen, once again surpassing the fireworks display that I'd seen the year before. The crowd applauded and whistled and cheered their appreciation.
When it was done, Tim and I walked back to our car hand in hand so as not to lose each other in the crowd, and we watched a fellow on a motorized mobility scooter for the handicapped. He darted in and out of the heavy traffic. He had no lights, although Tim said he saw some small flash lights on the front. He managed to not get himself hit (we'd have read about it in the paper.)
Around us, up in the mountains and in town too, illegal fireworks continued to go off sporatically. People knew that the police were too preoccupied with traffic control right that very minute to do anything about them, and so they took full advantage.
The crowd began to thin out the farther we got from the fireworks site, and by the time we reached our car, we could, once again, notice the friendly flickering of the fireflies in the tall grass.
We did not get home until after midnight, and when I got up to go to work less than five hours later, I was a tired puppy. But it was totally worth it.