Gentlemen, start your Roman candles.
You do know what today is, don't you? It's the first day here in Utah that you can legally set off fireworks in celebration of the 236th anniversary of our Founding Fathers collectively dropping trou and mooning merry old England.
That's right, today begins the first of two seven-day windows involving that time-honored tradition of showing your patriotism/pioneerism by blowing up stuff. Between now and July 7, and then again July 21-27, fireworks can legally be discharged in the state. If, that is, you can actually find a place that won't disintegrate to ash the instant you touch ignition source to fuse.
It's all thanks to a volatile combination of high temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. In fact, on the National Fire Danger Rating System's color-coded scale, Utah currently finds itself somewhere between orange ("Very high") and red ("S'mores for everyone!").
Bonnie Tyler, in her prophetic 1983 pop hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart," predicted our current situation. We are, truly, "living in a powder keg and giving off sparks."
So, just how dry is it along the Wasatch Front?
* It's so dry, if we were a sense of humor we would definitely be British.
* It's so dry, James Bond insists we be shaken, not stirred.
* It's so dry, my hottie of a spouse is prohibited by law from straying east of U.S. 89.
* It's so dry, several Utah cities are considering restrictions on breaking wind.
And yes, I did just make a juvenile fart joke. Sorry, but this heat is making me one crazy columnist.
Why, it's so dry, virtually every news outlet in the state has already made its obligatory reference to it being a tinderbox out there. Which, to be honest, I do not get at all. I mean, unless this is the 18th century, I'm just not so sure that "tinderbox" is the right metaphor for extreme fire danger. I Googled the term, and tinderbox refers to a small container holding flint, firesteel and some sort of flammable material. And according to a Wikipedia article on tinderboxes: "With skill, a fire could be started in a few minutes."
A few minutes? With skill? That hardly seems like the kind of explosively flammable image journalists are going for with their "backcountry-dry-as-a-tinderbox" headlines.
Indeed, if my fellow wordsmiths are really looking to imply a fire just waiting to happen, wouldn't a more accurate choice be something like "Scout troop with a can of white gas"?
Everything is so incredibly, unbelievably desiccated in the state right now, frankly I'm a little surprised this newspaper you're reading hasn't spontaneously combusted in your hands, leaving you wondering what my next sentence was going to be. (Hint: It was going to rhyme with "Bee seed train.")
We need rain.
Seriously, people, if any of you out there have any divine connections, we could sure use a little "moisture" coming our way. And we're not just talking about rain for frivolous things like crops or drinking water, either. We're talking about threats to our basic freedoms here. We're talking about patriotism. About America. About not being able to celebrate the Fourth in a pyrotechnically appropriate way.
You know who doesn't celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks? Russia, that's who. Still think we should restrict bottle rockets because of a little fire danger, comrade?
Of course, we do ask you to please be safe in your fireworks displays, and only ignite them in an approved, designated area. Which, currently, is pretty much limited to the ceramic-tiled shower in your bathroom. With the water running.
In response to the current conditions, Gov. Gary Herbert has called upon all Utahns to exercise caution and common sense with fireworks. Caution, common sense and fireworks -- all in the same sentence. I know, I'm still giggling about that one, too.
Because, let's be honest. We Utahns love our fireworks almost as much as we love our guns. So when you talk about fireworks restrictions, you've started down a slippery slope, my friend. Yeah, sure. First you don't want us to set off fireworks in the dry brush of Utah's foothills. Pretty soon, it's that vacant lot down the street. And then that Dumpster full of paper products in the church parking lot. And finally, faster than you can say "Well, the good news is the billboard says it's only a 17-minute wait at the emergency room right now," our fireworks have been banished to the barren moonscape of the salt flats.
Well, I'm certain that I speak for fireworks enthusiasts everywhere when I cry:
"FROM OUR COLD, DEAD HANDS THAT ARE MISSING PARTS OF FINGERS!"
And the best part is, if we somehow -- miraculously -- manage to get through the next seven days without reducing the state to a used charcoal briquette, we get to do it again in another two weeks for Pioneer Day.
Please pass the marshmallows.
Contact Mark "Bright Eyes" Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him to turn around.