Mitchell: The cost of independence

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Two days from now, Americans will be observing one of the most important events of their history.

Topped possibly by Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, we have so much to be grateful for on this date that it's likely we don't give the freedoms and way of life those patriots back centuries ago who provided their sacrifices the true respect due them.

While they were in the progress of declaring America's independence from England, their lives were threatened, their families separated, their land confiscated and their wealth lost. In some cases, their health was so damaged that they died.

Now, the question that might come before us is this: Would Americans today give up all this for any cause?

There are doubts

When you consider the methods some Americans go to avoid serving in the military or paying their taxes, disrespectful of the flag and the government, there is considerable doubt we have sufficient true patriots to right the ship of state should a huge disaster or a need for unity face us.

In some cases, the American people are becoming a tribe that can be led down the wrong path by even the quirkiest idea that comes down the pike. Some of this might be political or self-intended for a particular cause that could well be beyond the best interests of the USA.


A number that might be lost in history is the 25,000 casualties suffered by the emerging nation in the War of Independence in 1775-83.

And, if you have never stopped to count, this was just the first of 30 wars or conflicts in which this nation has been involved for one cause or another.

So, place the importance of Independence Day in your life and think about this often quoted statement, "Think not what your country can do for you, but for what you can do for your country." That quote came from the late president John Kennedy on his inauguration.

Such an attitude just might be more important these days than previously, at least in our recent history.

Lost observance

Blame the courts of this area for their being no July 4 celebration in many communities of the state. Years ago, an incident in McDonald County that caught the eye of an attorney quick to file legal action resulted in costs being to the point of civic organizations and small towns not having sufficient resources to cover possible fiscal losses.

Only those combined efforts that can obligate insurance coverage adequate to cover any such legal action, can provide a public display of fireworks and related activities.

In this area, Shell Knob and Eagle Rock have put together magnificent programs over the years, filling that void forced upon us by the courts.

Chipping in

Back in 1953, when I was just back in Cassville and becoming a part of the Chamber of Commerce, a first experience was to help provide financing for the local fireworks presentation. This meant going from business to business in a designated area and picking up contributions that would pay for the fireworks and watermelon for the event on the American Legion Grounds.

Here on Independence Day, volunteers would put on a very entertaining program for throngs that would cover the grounds.

Watermelon was secured early to ensure an adequate supply and Sanitary Market, owned then by Ben Salyer and Jerry Crowe, would cool and store them in the locker plant. Serving the melons was always a community project of Boy Scout Troop 76. The Scouts also got to eat all the melon they could hold in the process of the evening.


Actual firing of aerial displays once dark arrived was also a volunteer group, usually headed by then late Ray Correll, whose real job was city water superintendent, street supervisor, meter reader, line rupture repair and general overseer of city needs.

Helping him on an annual basis were the late Max Fields and another city employee at the time, Spiz Stephens. They managed the mortars placed in the ground at a safe distance from the public, never once encountering any problem with the spectators.

There could have been rainouts in the history of the event, but that's beyond my memory. Had there been such a problem, it could have been a disaster getting off the grounds as experienced in other events at that location in years that followed.

The couple of city police officers, who might have been on a roster at the time, were assisted by an American Legion member in patrolling the grounds to enforce a no-fireworks rule among the spectators. Once in a while, a person not restraining their desire to shoot a firecracker on the grounds would be escorted out of the area.

Might change

Perhaps one of these days, something will happen that will permit resumption of small town Independence Day fireworks and activities, but I thought we all needed a reminder.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.