JOHN HOLYOKE

Keep the fireworks; I’ll opt for silence … and all my fingers

Posted July 06, 2011, at 12:13 p.m.
Last modified July 07, 2011, at 6:22 a.m.

A week ago, citing apple pie, grandma, freedom and the American Way (or something like that), the governor and legislators heralded the signing of a bill that will legalize fireworks in Maine.

I’d love to join in on the fireworks frenzy. I’d love to shout “Hurray!” I’d love to take off my hat and sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the top of my lungs. I would.

Instead, I’m left thinking something else.

There goes the neighborhood.

As I sat at the family camp on Monday afternoon, basking in the sun on our last Independence Day before Mainers are allowed to blow off their fingers and toes to their hearts’ content (the best part: They won’t have to lie to the docs in the emergency room any more!) I had plenty of time to consider the new era that is dawning.

The periodic blasts of not-too-distant homemade cannons waged imaginary war on each other, and claimed collateral damage in the form of those of us who would have rather listened to the loons, or, perish the thought, nothing at all.

I know. I know. This law had nothing to do with homemade cannons. It had to do with bottle rockets. And firecrackers. And all kinds of other cool pyrotechnic devices that go BOOM in the night.

Except they don’t just go BOOM in the night.

As I lounged in my chair, listening to the frequent whistling of airborne fireworks, I wondered why a person would squander perfectly good bottle rockets (that they had, I guessed, painstakingly smuggled across state lines) by shooting them off during the middle of the day. And I pictured the exchanges taking place at camps all around the lake.

“What color was that one, Bub?”

“Dunno. I was watchin’ it and I lost it in the sun.”

“Me, too.”

“Huh. Well, let’s shoot off another one. We’ll squint harder this time.”

“Sounds good. Gimme another beer.”

Now, rest assured, I’m not 100 percent grump. I enjoy a good patriotic explosion as much as the next guy. As the sun nears the horizon on July 4, I look forward to watching the amateur fireworks that precede the official, sanctioned show. We sit in chairs on the side of the lake, swat bugs, make s’mores, and point out particularly impressive displays at camps around the lake.

Alas, all that will change next year.

Up until now, only those willing to ignore Maine’s largely wink-and-a-nod fireworks law got their four-fingered hands on the real stuff.

Next year, it’ll be open season. If your town approves, you’ll be able to drive down to your local Blow-Em-Up and stock up. You won’t be bound by those silly state laws. You won’t be limited by the size of your car’s trunk when you try to make your midnight run back over the Piscataqua River Bridge into Maine.

Next year, we can buy a pickup truck full of ‘em. We’ll all be free. Grandma will be proud. We can all sit around, eat apple pie, and shoot bottle rockets into the blazing sun, not even worrying that we can’t see what color they are.

Because we’ll have more. A truckload more.

I can hardly wait.

Salmon count nears 3,000

As the weather has warmed and the Penobscot River has followed suit, the run of returning Atlantic salmon has slowed a bit, as expected.

Still, the count edges upward: Nearly 20 fish were captured at the Veazie Dam trap on Tuesday, and the overall total is now 2,864, according to the Maine Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat’s website.

To put that number in perspective, that’s more fish than have been caught at Veazie during an entire year in more than 20 years, and is among the best ever seasons since the fish trap was made operational in 1978.

Also encouraging: Salmon are showing up at some of the state’s other trap-and-count facilities. On the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield, 106 fish have been counted. At the Cararact Dam on the Saco River, 82 more Atlantic salmon have showed up. In fact, salmon have been counted at eight of the state’s 12 trapping or counting stations.

If you’ve been following salmon restoration efforts in recent years, you know that hasn’t always been the case.

And though I’m taking next week off and would certainly enjoy some balmy weather during my vacation, I’ll happily withstand some cooler weather and a few gully-washers if it helps to keep this year’s salmon run rolling.

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