Remember the old joke, "Do they have a Fourth of July in England?"
The automatic response is usually, "No," leading to the punchline, "Then what comes between the 3rd and the 5th?"
Ha, ha. Get it?
So, Independence Day is on the horizon -- and will surely be celebrated with fireworks and barbecue and all sorts of festivities. I can't wait. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite days of the year. I love dressing up in my red, white and blue and listening to patriotic music and shooting off bottle rockets and Roman candles late into the night.
My day always starts with me getting up and watching the stragglers crossing the finish line at the Peachtree Road Race and vowing to get in good enough shape to run "next year." I try to catch a few innings of whatever baseball game is airing and a few selections from the U.S. Army band on the Capitol Fourth. For one day a year I am proud to admit to being a Yankee Doodle Dandy. I always read the Declaration of Independence aloud, too.
Honesty compels me to admit that some July 4th celebrations are more memorable than others. One year we were in Wyoming on Independence Day. That was a year I will never forget. We floated down the Shoshone River that morning and were chased by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park that night. The raft trip was more pleasant, but the terror of the bear stayed with us longer.
I have only spent one Independence Day out of the country. We were in Calgary, Canada -- and yes, they have a 4th between their 3rd and 5th -- but they didn't celebrate like we do on this side of the border. The year we were there, they were having a Testicle Festival and most of the downtown bars and restaurants were participating. They offered prairie oysters and mountain oysters, and if you don't know what those delicacies are, don't order them.
One year my buddy Gary, my lovely wife, Lisa, and I went to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to watch the Braves play the Mets. The weather was iffy and there were several rain delays. Being great with child, Lisa put her foot down around midnight and insisted that we leave. Four hours later, the recently deceased Rick Camp -- worst-hitting pitcher in baseball history -- shocked the world by hitting a home run, extending an already unbelievably long contest.
When the game finally ended, the Braves went ahead with their plan to launch the giant fireworks display they had promised and people all along Hill Street and Capitol Avenue thought World War III was underway.
Another year, we were at church on the weekend of the Fourth -- at Conyers First United Methodist -- and the choir was doing a patriotic concert. The Rev. Dan Brokaw was leading a splendid rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and my daughter Jamie, who was not quite 3 at the time -- stood up on her pew during the great crescendo following "Glory, glory Hallelujah!" and screamed "and to hell with Georgia Tech!"
We had to change churches for about 25 years, but they let us back in last year.
One year I got a wild hair and decided we would rent a cabin in an isolated part of the North Georgia mountains -- a cabin that did not have a television or any other electronic device -- far from civilization. We were going to celebrate the day reading and playing games and doing quiet family stuff. We were all miserable so we packed up and left shortly after our noon hot dog cookout and drove home -- just in time for the old-fashioned street festival and fireworks display. Small town celebrations beat rural isolation on July 4.
The past few years we have spent the Fourth at an undisclosed location with some close friends who live in a house at a nearby lake. There is swimming and laughter and storytelling -- not to mention pork ribs and barbecue and watermelon and all sorts of good food.
I don't know where you might be this year when the calendar reads July 4 or how you will celebrate, but I pray it will be something other than a date to fill the space between the 3rd and 5th, and I hope you will pause to remember the men who pledged their "lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors," so that our nation would become free. They followed up on that pledge. I hope we'll never let them down.
May God bless America and, more importantly, may America once again bless God.
Darrell Huckaby is a Rockdale educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.