The drive across eastern Kansas took four hours,
But time flew by as we rolled down
The narrow two-lane highway through the hills,
Stopping as always for home-made honey
From a roadside stand—
Mason jars on a table by the curb,
With an empty jar for our money.
By the time we got to Missouri,
Strip pit coal mines dominated the land,
Huge black dipper buckets and draglines
Looming over miles of waste
Like dinosaurs carved in abstract steel.
But at Liberal the coal mines faded back
Into the ground, the fields were green and flat,
The town tree-filled and quiet
To the point of moribundity.
We soon took care of that!
My uncles always made sure we
Were well supplied with fireworks for the night,
Skyrockets, cherry bombs, two-inchers
And sissy lady fingers. As soon as dark began,
Off we ran onto the big front lawn,
Careful not to trip on mole runs,
Lighting one firecracker after another,
Tossing them at each other and at the drive,
Thrilling as they banged and boomed and burst,
Echoing off the shingled walls
Of Grandpa’s house. And look out moles!
What could be more fun for boys
Than blasting holes in soft tunnel dirt,
Unless it was filling the inky sky
With flaming roman candle balls.
By ten, when all good people go to bed,
We were exhausted, half-deaf,
With maybe a minor burn or two to show,
Ready for watermelon and lemonade,
Then clambering up the steep stairs to the loft
To sleep, and dream of glorious noise.