TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Oh, Say, Can You See?

You’re never too old to learn! I’m no history buff, but it came as a surprise to learn the significance of July 2, while we Americans celebrate the Fourth of July as a national holiday.

Here’s either what I never knew, or had forgotten: During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the 13 colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June 1776. It declared that the United States were independent from the rule of Great Britain. (“were” is grammatically correct because at the time the colonies were still a group of separate entities.)

After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to a statement explaining its decision. It debated it, revised some wording and finally approved it two days later … on July 4.

So, there you have it. Without July 2, 1776, there would have been no July 4 celebration.

* * *

We had a lot of family at our cottage last weekend. I’m glad they brought their dogs with them —  glad because I learned about dogs’ reaction to loud explosions and noise. I found it somewhat similar to humans like me, who jump up, down and sideways when there is a loud noise.

One dog quietly went into the small bathroom and simply slept. Another dog simply stood at attention and looked around — I believe he may have been thinking how to kill the SOBs using the howitzer for fun — but showed little reaction. These two belong to my daughter, Diane.

Then there’s my wife’s dog. (At one time, I’d thought she was my dog, but the dog thought differently.) She and daughter Lisa’s dog had similar reactions. At each boom … abject terror. Ears down, crouched low to the ground, they’d just about crawl looking for a place to hide. Both usually turned to the bedrooms to temporarily find solitude.

Exit the ladies, who went outside to further damage their eardrums. At that point, the real war began. Damned explosions rocked the cottage. The two dogs who’d been in hiding bolted from their bedrooms right across and over the chair and couch and landed on me. On my right was Lisa’s dog, shaking like a leaf. On the left was my (oops — my wife’s) dog, who cuddled next to me with head on my leg.

Violent outbursts like those scare the bejeezus out of animals, as well as some humans. I can’t imagine how some of our military who have experienced combat deal with the explosions in a supposed peacetime setting.

We should be way past explosive celebrations. The Fourth can be fun without explosions. Aerial displays are both beautiful and not so noisy. Those damned cannons, or whatever you call those ear-shattering, close-to-the-ground explosions, just aren’t needed.

* * *

Fourth of July in years gone by, however, had their moments. My brother, Tim, had a way of rigging up fireworks explosives that were louder and more powerful than anything on the market today. I really think it may have been World War II surplus munitions. Unfortunately for some, he also knew how to aim.

Well, as the warfare began in the early afternoon one year at his lake cottage, one of the county’s finest (a cop) drove up and stopped. Like a startled deer, I grabbed my family and went into hiding, along with most of Tim’s family.

My dad, the federal judge, said he’d handle it. He promptly extended his 5-foot-1-inch frame and stepped up to the 6-foot-plus deputy. With a smile on his face, he said something like, “I’m Federal Judge Ronald Davies and we’re in the same business -— how can I help you?”

Not to be outdone, the deputy responded, “I’m in law enforcement so you judges have a job. You can do your job after I’ve done mine.” Rarely did I see my dad without a response, but he had none to that.

The deputy asked the judge if he could quiet things down. Dad’s  response was truly “judgely” -— you better believe he would — and so he did. (I know “judgely” isn’t a word, but neither are “yuuuuuge” or “bigly,” if you get my drift.)

* * *

The Fourth of July also reminds me of my first horse, Silver, who was gentle enough but had no braking system. If you let her run, you couldn’t stop her because she had a hard mouth. Horse folks know what that means.

One fine day, I looked kind of cowboyish, dressed to a T in western garb with a .22 pistol and holster, along with a belt full of .22 shells. I’d seen so many western movies in my younger days that it’s a wonder I ever found time to sleep. In all those movies, the cowboys and Indians were shooting pistols and rifles on horseback from a stop to the walk and the run. And in all those movies, their horses were well-behaved.

Well, my damned horse had never been to the movies. Without giving that a thought, I rode out into the pasture, drew my pistol and fired a shot into the air.

Now, if you’d seen Silver, you’d know that jumping was not that little porker’s forte. But when my pistol fired, all I can remember is that she went forward, up, down, sideways … and somewhere in between her jumps, I became airborne and landed in a heap. I was shaken, not stirred, but still alive. I never fired a weapon around a horse again.

I have wondered ever since what would have happened had someone dropped a firecracker in front of her while I was on board. Methinks the results would have been the same, if not even worse.

* * *

My dad was a judge, but he was also an entertainer.

One year, when we rented our first cottage on Big Detroit, we decided to go for a ride around the lake, with me driving the boat. For some strange reason, on this particular Fourth of July, everyone on shore and on the lake seemed to be waving at us. I thought it strange but kept waving back. Then my little son, Greg, tugged at my arm with a little boyish grin and pointed behind me.

I twisted around to see what he was pointing at. There was Dad in shirt, slacks and a captain’s cap, standing on the back seat saluting everyone he could see.

It was fun at the time. When I think back to that day, I remember that I hadn’t known he was standing up. He could swim essentially like a rock, and I myself swim like a sack of rocks. If I’d hit the gas, it would have made for an interesting scene. Or not.

Hope you’ve had a safe and healthy Fourth of July this year! Amen.

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