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Doug Clark: Siss, boom, aah! Let’s get pyrotechnical

I was driving through Spokane Valley the other day when this large, hand-painted sign hanging on a parked truck almost blew me off the road.

“Fireworks. Rockets. Firecrackers,” it declared.

“All the good stuff at Ford …”


The words carried me back to the incendiary days of my misspent youth. The Fourth of July signaled the beginning of “Cracker Season,” and I don’t mean the kind parrots eat.

There was an element of danger involved, sure, but nobody worried about childhood obesity.

Light the fuse. Hurl the cracker.

Run like hell.


See? Playing with firecrackers is an aerobic activity.

“I’m going to Ford,” I told an editor later. “It has all the good stuff.”

Fifty-some miles of scenic Friday motoring in my old Jaguar took me to the dusty parking lot of Little Falls Fireworks, a modest clapboard affair on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

This boom shack is a few miles shy of Ford, which is a bustling hub of reservation fireworks entrepreneurship.

(Head west on Highway 2 to Reardan; then north to Ford on Highway 231.)

I wasn’t the only fish lured to these waters.

Jim and Bob were ogling the wares like Lindsay Lohan in a liquor store. The middle-aged men wouldn’t give me their last names because they drove their truck all the way from Oregon.

Bob told me his state was a star-spangled buzzkill when it comes to a citizen’s right to bear bombs a-burstin’ in midair.

Sounds like Spokane, I told the guys.

“When we were young we used to have fun with this stuff,” Bob said. “Now that’s looked ill upon.”

Do-gooders have turned the Fourth of July into a joyless dud.

It’s all part of the wimpification of America.

Ah, I know the drill. Many communities have put the kibosh on the good ol’-fashioned explosive fireworks for all sorts of sound reasons.

They start fires. They scare pets.

They cause injuries.

They disgruntle the crotchety …

Yeah. Yeah.

On the other hand, “Four Fingers” Willy is a pretty darned colorful nickname.

Although not as colorful as the moniker tagged on the fireworks stand’s manager.

“I’m Skidmark,” said Skidmark Stearns.

Part of the mystique of fireworks shopping is enjoying the names emblazoned on the boxes of pyrotechnics. Skidmark was only too happy to show me the goods.

Tomb Raider. Brawl of the Wild.

Battle of New Orleans.

Night of the Grizzly, for example, features “84 shells.”

If the name doesn’t scare you, the $275 price tag should.

Of course, if a bang for your buck is your aim, the “Heavy Bastard” assortment stands tall.

Five feet tall to be exact.

This is the Hulk of larger-than-life personal fireworks. It should be, at $590.

“It’s not too heavy,” claims the writing on the box. “You’re too weak.”

No. This yankee doodle’s driving a Jag. The SWAT forces would be called out if I drove back to Spokane with the HB tied to my roof.

I found the Navy Seal Crackers more to my liking. I’m pretty sure that’s what they used to nail bin Laden.

Er, maybe not. They’re made in China.

The Power Snaps were a most intriguing item, too. They’re similar to those harmless little poppers that you can buy in grocery stores. But these babies contain more contact explosive.

A lot more contact explosive.

Skidmark let me toss one onto the dirt.


Sweet muffins. The report is quite close to a firecracker’s.

This really is the good stuff.

I’ve always been a sucker for Roman candles. Two of the stand’s young workers, Sophia and Deviney, showed me this clear plastic tote bag crammed with Roman candles.

A steal at 40 bucks.

Plus it comes with a convenient shoulder strap so you can tote your arsenal like a man purse to work or church.

Now I’m not suggesting that any of you break the law.

Always check first to find out what your community’s code is regarding fireworks.

Or light, hurl and run like hell.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at