Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mark's Annual Fireworks Fest

Mark’s 2010 Fireworks Extravaganza:

Had to pass on Tom Lewis' festive birthday bash (didn't trust myself driving back from Shiner in the wee hours), and instead attended the 2010 edition of Mark Larkin's renowned fireworks show at his spread twixt Taylorsville and McMahan...basically due-east of Lockhart 18 miles or so, as the crow flies. Mark has been a serious fireworks freak for decades, and it's one of his guilty pleasures. Thankfully for his friends, and anyone within view of the show, he shares that pleasure.

Mark has been my mechanic and buddy for decades, and owns a shop off of South Congress, known as The Honest Mechanic. I credit Mark for singlehandedly keeping my old 1983 Nissan pickup roadworthy until its odometer reached a respectable 563,000 miles. I sold it for 600 dollars to a couple of guys from Guatemala that saw it in my driveway one day. They patched a leak in the gas line with some duct tape, popped a freshly-charged battery into it, threw all of their stuff in the back, and it cranked up the first time after sitting for a year and a half. They headed off to Guatemala, saying they were going to turn it into a pickup taxi. It’s probably still running today. Mark is automotive genius personified.

I went with my pal Art and his "Crazy" Cousin Dennis, who was visiting from Philly. Dennis has three daughters that sing and play like folksy nightingales; they are right on the cusp of breaking it big time. On the way out we got to catch a magnificent postcard sunset over a never-ending horizon, dosed with some glowing cloud banks: one of those huge shimmering golden-orange orbs that silently slips over the edge of the earth. It was a good portent of the visuals to come that night. Philly boys don't get to see sunsets like that very often.

It was dark when we finally made it to Mark's spread, which could have been 20 acres, or 100, or a 1000 for all we knew. City folks don't relate to acreage as well as country folks. Regardless, it is a big ranchette or ranch, with a very long driveway leading to his manse on the top of the hill. The caliche drive was impeccably smooth and well-maintained...not something to be taken lightly in Central Texas soil, and a sign of a rancher that takes pride in his spread. Had we been there earlier, we would have seen a huge pasture solidly covered in bluebonnets (or so we were told).

A handicapped parking space had been saved for us, right next to the curved rows on the lawn of friends and neighbors chillaxing in assorted lawn chairs. I tracked Mark down in his big detached shed-like workshop/inner sanctum, passing around a bottle of Scotch, introducing friends from different circles, and psyching himself up for the coming show.
He opined that we were in for a solid 45 minutes of continuous fireworks, and that the show was almost about to begin.

The sky was perfect: completely cloudless and almost black, under a blanket of crystalline stars, devoid of obnoxious light pollution. Austin was a dim glow over the northwestern horizon, Lockhart much, much dimmer to the west. A steady breeze from the south would keep the fireworks smoke blowing away from us. A perfect viewing setup.

Mark got up to give a brief intro and made some negative comments about some of the product he had gotten from his “fuse supplier”. We figured it must be a rarified group that can discuss problems with their fuse supplier. I didn’t know there were fuse suppliers.

The show was fantastic. Once it started, from the light given off by the sparks of ignition, you could see how the fireworks were physically laid out, and once that end fuse was lit, the show went uninterrupted for almost 25 minutes. Thirty seconds down-time to light the back row, and it went for another 20 minutes; 45 minutes of solid fireworks in all. Mark had set it up so that it ebbed and flowed perfectly, building to crescendos and then swooping back down, only to climb again. There were things in the show that we had never seen before, and it was auditory as well as visual, with those cool screaming high altitude spinners, and the thumping percussive blast of the big mortars. Cousin Dennis likened some of the blasts to looking “just like tracers”, but no ‘Nam flashbacks occurred, and a splendid time was had by all. I’ve never seen a private fireworks show as professional as Markk’s; damn glad I was invited.

Mick Vann ©

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