Taken from Twenty-Five Selected
Stories of O. O. McIntyre, 1930,
Our hero was pale. But his was not the pallor of pain. It was the paleness of the conqueror who had dared and won. He feigned a sad and forlorn look for grandma’s watchful eyes. Grandma was not in the best of humor. And she was making sugar cookies that day.
Our hero tingled with a certain strange joyousness. He had plumbed the depths of sentimentality and was rhapsodizing over a sore toe. The night before this intrepid soul had lighted a Little Giant, No. 2, cannon cracker, calmly placed his foot on the unlighted end and stood, in a Napoleonic pose, until it exploded.
Six little girls in ginghams and bright hair ribbons had watched him, screamed their warnings, then turned and hid their faces in their arms as the fuse spluttered. And the hero—for it was none other than myself—turned away with a benumbed and blistered foot and whistled his quixotic way over Court Street to his home.
That had been the end of a glee-or-ious day! How feeble seemed his other daring exploits. He smiled rather pityingly at his skinning-the-cat from the second branch of Maxon’s cherry tree, at his parachute drop with an umbrella from Carl’s hayloft, and he even smiled at that magnificent hour when he rode with the calliope player at the tail end of a circus parade. For this indeed was the top-side of his hour.
Grandma applied the arnica to his benumbed foot and the hair-brush some place else—making two numbnesses whereas there had been only one before.
He stirred rather restlessly in his rocker. It was time for the twelve-fifteen Hocking Valley. He wanted to limp up Second Street and past the post-office corner where all the little girls came for the noonday mail.
“You move off that porch and you’ll get a dose of birch tea you’ll remember,” called grandma from the kitchen.
Our hero—always the little gentleman—merely replied in a very tired voice, “Yessum.”
So the invalid sat and watched the passers-by—General George House, the men from the spoke factory going to midday dinner, McCormack’s railroad hack drawn by a white horse and a black mule, Aaron Frank in his phaeton and little Archibald Bradshaw, aged thirteen, immaculate in his starched white collar and velvet suit. What did Archibald know of life?
Gone are those glorious, reckless Fourths of July! No longer do triple sets of Jackson crackers sputter in the Presbyterian church belfry. Little boys do not appear at breakfast the following morning with powder-speckled faces and drenched with witch-hazel and arnica.
Sanity and sanitation—twin sisters of youthful despair—have robbed Boyville of its most enduring glamour. We who are galloping toward the fifties can truthfully say, “The Fourth isn’t what it used to be!”
The Fourth dawned auspiciously in our town. At
sun-up the cannon boomed in the public square. Uncle Enoch, the old
darkey with frizzed white hair, who sunned and dozed on a bench on
the north end of the square, had been jostled out of his dreams by
a giant explosion.
What pyrotechnic displays lighted up the heavens!
The best on Banker Henking’s expansive lawn on Fourth Avenue—known
as Back Street until he moved there.
He wonders if Bud Thompson ever achieved his ambition
to become a circus acrobat. If One-Eyed Cooper ever caught the ghost
that haunted the ice pier. If Eli Evans Klinger still drives the big
furniture wagon. If captain Barrows pilots the Neva to the mouth of the
Kanawha. If the drummers still sit out along the curb in front of the
Park Central at dusk. If the mysterious old lady on Grape Street lives
up-stairs over the ice-house and if the rusty tin cup hangs to the same
old brass chain at the pump in the public square.