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Taken from Twenty-Five Selected Stories of O. O. McIntyre, 1930,
Cosmopolitan Magazine and transcribed by Neil Elvick  


by Oscar Odd McIntyre

    It is the morning of July 5, 1898. The scene is Gallipolis, Ohio. Our little hero sat in grandma’s rocker on the front porch. A bandaged foot rested on the carpet stool that Aunt Soph made for grandpa.
    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.
     It had been placed under his bench by revelers from Varney’s saloon. Uncle Enoch always expected it every Fourth of July, but he just couldn’t keep awake.
     Harry Maddy, who never missed running to a fire, didn’t work on the Fourth. He was kept too busy. Sometimes he would have a record of three awnings, two barns and a henhouse before noon.
     Along maple-lined Third Street timid little girls were being chased by their braver brothers with fizzlers.
     Down in the Third Ward Bill Geppert and his gang were building a monster bonfire to be touched off at dusk.
     Now and then Doctor Parker and Doctor Cromley could be seen racing through town in their buggies. Excitement everywhere. A report that the bridge had been dynamited near Harrington’s Mill, east of town.
     Jud Harkness on a hell-roaring drunk had fired three shots through the bar mirror in Archibald’s saloon. Some one had tossed a can of powder in the base-burner stove in the Riverview hotel—then touched it off.
     Constable Jack Durfour’s dog with fire-crackers to his tail had gone mad and bitten a little Lasley boy. Blooey! Blooey! Shotguns firing from Alum Rock across the river. A delirious madness everywhere. America on a bust.
     The noonday dinner lull. Harried mothers. And feverish sons. In the afternoon the patriotic speech from the band-stand in the public square by Attorney Bob Switzer—lanky Bob the boy orator of the Chicamaugua who later went to Congress.
     The band concert afterward with Pawsey Lawson playing “The Star-
Spangled Banner” for a solo on his slip-horn.
     “Somebody stop her!” A rush to the street. Kent Thivener clinging to the back of a runaway horse and yelling for help as it lickety-splits down the main street.
     In Aleshire’s Hall the fife and drum corps is collecting—Pete Uhrig, the twin Jenny boys and Phister Martin with “Tough” Gillespie in charge of the baton.
     The march over Court to Second, up Second to Pine, over Pine to Third and down Third to the free bean supper at Red Kraus’s. Sim Purday, who never missed following a parade, was in the rear, his patched coat over his shoulder, grinning from ear to ear and bowing low to the tittering ladies.

    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.
     Pinwheels, snakes in the grass, nigger-chasers, red, green and blue fire, skyrockets with their bursting sprays, varicolored Roman candles and a set piece imported from Cincinnati.
     That little boy who sat on grandma’s front porch July 5, 1898, with a bandaged foot is a little boy no longer. His hair is graying and thinning on top. Telltale little crow’s-feet are sprouting at his temples.
     The little girls who watched him “show off” with the giant fire-cracker are now mothers of half grown children. Fireworks no longer sputter. The sane Fourth comes to Gallipolis.
     And just as he sentimentalized then over that sore toe, he is sentimentalizing now over vanished youth. Old scenes, old faces, old friends tumble pell-mell about him.

    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.
     How consoling are those memories! What wouldn’t he give to turn back the years and hear grandma call from the kitchen just once again, “You move off that porch and you’ll get a dose of birch tea you’ll remember!”
     Dear old grandma! She was always promising punishment she never gave. Life, too, is a little like that.