For as long as I can remember, there has been a fireworks display every July 4 at Ault Park. The park was about a mile away from my childhood home and we would walk up to it every year. It was great, because we could leave the house about an hour before the big event and not have to worry about finding a good spot to park or have to stake out an area on the field. And, even better than that, we never had to worry about fighting the traffic after the event was over.
In 1980, when I was 10 years old, I was invited to go with a classmate, Barbara, and her family. They lived further away and had planned on making a day of it. We left their house at 3pm, drove up to the general area, and parked about a quarter of a mile away. I remember walking, each of us carrying an aluminum folding lawn chair and her parents carrying the blue plastic cooler between them.
I don’t remember actually arriving at and staking out our position on the lawn in the mall of the park. I *do* remember being kind of upset because we couldn’t get to the playground because that portion of the park was blocked off for firework setup. Barbara and I had to make our own fun.
We walked around other areas of the park and explored a little bit of the woods. But the coolest thing, by far, was climbing the big wall of rock. Barbara was too afraid to climb it so she stayed up at the top of the wall at the end of the mall and looked down at me as I climbed up. I must’ve climbed that wall 7 or 8 times that day. Until I fell off.
I had reached the summit and reached over the top of the wall to help pull myself up. I must have grabbed a patch of moss or something because my hand slipped and I fell backward. I landed on my feet and crouched into a summersault to roll with the impact. Unfortunately, I smacked my face into my knees and cut my left thigh on a piece of broken glass that littered the ground at the base of the wall.
So there I was with a nose bleed and a two-inch cut on my thigh with a small part of muscle protruding out of it. Barbara and I walked back to our spot in the mall on the lawn and her dad took one look at it and said, “You’re going to need stitches. Let’s go find the police.” We left Barbara and her mom and went in search of civil servants, which did not take long at all.
Apparently, the cut on my left was bad enough for the police to offer us a ride to the hospital, as the surrounding streets were closed off and we would be unable to drive the car even if we went to it. So, Barbara’s dad and I were loaded into the back of a police cruiser and we were taken to a hospital. On the way there, the police called dispatch who in turn, called my parents and told them which hospital I was going to.
I don’t remember how long it took to get there or even arriving at the hospital. My next clear memory is sitting on a table getting a local anesthetic injected into my leg for the stitching. My dad arrived and he came back to the room and talked with Barbara’s dad while the doctor stitched up my leg. After everything was taken care of, we gave Barbara’s dad a ride back to the park. We got him as close as we could before letting him out to walk the rest of the way. My dad and I stopped at United Dairy Farmers for a chocolate ice cream in a sugar cone before heading home.
I didn’t get to see the fireworks that night. And, to be honest, I wasn’t upset by that. I was more worried about Barbara’s dad getting back to his family in time so they could all see the fireworks together. I felt absolutely terrible inside. Thankfully, after they had gotten home from the fireworks, Barbara’s mom called to see how I was and I learned that her dad made it back just in time.
Every time I pass that wall in Ault Park, I’m rocketed back to the moment where I got up off the ground and look down to see a part of my thigh muscle sticking out of my leg. And I remember, clear as day, the sickness I felt while worrying that Barbara’s dad wouldn’t make it back in time.