At least one Founding Father suggested we celebrate independence outdoors. But some activities are better left to the past.
Even though he didn’t know at the time whether the United States of America was going to take root, John Adams, one of the rebels who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, had a great vision for the Fourth of July.
He wrote, “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations. ... It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
Adams would be pretty happy to see the goings-on on the Fourth of July weekend. Had he known about boating, water skiing, sport fishing, trail rides, camping out (when you didn’t have to), baseball and burgoo, he might have also included those in his vision of America’s celebration.
If you’re eyeing a real old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration, it may be tougher than you think.
In Honest Abe’s New Salem days, July 4 was a bigger deal than Christmas.
Rail-splitting contests and wrestling matches were part of the fun (no eye-gouging, head-butting or biting was allowed). Just try to go down to the county building to get a permit to launch an anvil or have a horse race through the middle of town. Finding a competitive jumping frog could take several trips up and down the crick. And the cannon in the small town square is plugged up for a reason.
Three-legged races were a lot of fun before ACLs were invented. Not many of us have enough space for a turkey shoot or a hatchet-throwing match.
On the other hand, the long-winded orators who frequently took the stump on Independence Day to take advantage of a captive audience waiting for the hog to roast are probably best left in the past. When was the last time you heard a really captivating 2 1/2-hour speech?
Maybe it’s best, this side of attending a frontier festival, to dial back expectations and go with what is traditional now.
In addition to being the only “real summer” holiday, the Fourth of July is a day for all of us to step back, relax and be proud of who we are. It’s a day to go have some fun on the water, the biking and hiking trails, then get everybody together around a shady picnic table.
In addition to burgers, chicken and barbecued ribs, Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day — enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles five times. And that doesn’t include the ones that fall off the grill, giving dogs everywhere cause for celebration.
Whatever you do on Monday, be grateful that you live in a country that affords you the freedom to do it. Nobel prize winner Albert Camus wrote, “Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.”
Have a safe and happy Fourth, enjoy your cookout, ooh and ah at the fireworks and be better for having done it.
Contact George Little at email@example.com.