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Don't blow yourself up
Staff column
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is editor of Bryan County News. - photo by File photo

We’re all more or less adults here, right?


That means you don’t need me to tell you the July 4 holiday is right around the corner. You already know that.

You also don’t need me or some hack with the insurance commissioner’s office to ask you to please refrain from burning down half of Georgia with firecrackers this holiday weekend, or sending yourself to the emergency room with a terminal blister from an M80.

You already know that, too.

But what you probably didn’t know is that about 30 years ago I blew my lip off with a firecracker, right here in Richmond Hill.

Well, not really. The lip never came off.

What happened was this. It was 1986. I was stationed at Fort Bragg in the 5th Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, but made frequent trips south to visit my folks in Hinesville and a girl from Richmond Hill I was seeing at the time.

One such trip occurred on a July 4 weekend, when I and a sergeant buddy of mine and his girlfriend Roxy came down to hang out and go to the beach and be young and stupid and full of beans, as we were prone to do back then.

At some point the day after we got down here and the day before our planned beach trip, after about that much beer, we wound up at my girlfriend’s house in Richmond Hill for a big July 4 cookout in her backyard. And more beer. And firecrackers we’d bought in my home state of South Carolina.

And it being July 4 and us being us, the sergeant and I started throwing bottle rockets at each other, despite the advice of our better halves at the time.

Now, I’m talking bottle rockets we lit with burning cigarettes — cigarettes because everybody smoked back then, even infants.

And we didn’t try to throw them like paper airplanes or darts, we grabbed ‘em by the stick and flung them as hard as we could.

The thing about throwing a bottle rocket after you light it is that once it ignites, it’s going to go in whatever direction it’s pointed in.

So it was that at some point that bright sunlit humid day I flung a bottle rocket and it made a splendid slow-motion U-turn and came right back at me. It was weirdly comic, I suppose. I still recall watching this tiny rocket trailing a shower of sparks as it came at my face, then a bang and I was sitting on my rear end, seeing stars and saying "ouch."

It had hit me right under my nose, right in that weird part of the upper lip I have learned is the philtrum, or medial cleft. The impact made a pretty good hole. I had a scar for a long time, probably still do, it’s just covered with beard-moustache.

I was doctored, of course, and oohed over by my girlfriend, and got to spend the rest of the July 4 weekend on the beach with a big black scab right under my nose that looked, I was told, a bit like Hitler’s moustache. I have not, however, thrown a bottle rocket since. I urge you to refrain from such activities as well. But if you must, video it and stick it on youtube.

Go America. Happy July 4.

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