The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Beyond The Picket Fence

Sherryanne De La Boise
(her great grandparents were life-long residents of Stronghurst)

Flags, Parade and the Election

Earlier this month, flags were flying at half-mast flags. Scanning the weekly COVID obit page of the NY Times, didn't see anyone worthy of public flags lowered and shrugged it off as a political statement. > The rainbow flags have faded, supplanted by a more fashionable BLM and Biden yard signs. It's a very liberal neighborhood.

Just realized, weeks later, the lowering was for 9-11. How patriotism soared, we were united, after the attack. Many installed flagpoles.

In 1928, my grandfather secured a 70' wooden ship mast with a gold ball atop, into a concrete base. It would be shortened a few feet (and painted) every decade, as it rotted, until 1994, when it was no more. Once, the fire department painted it, after a false alarm at a neighbor's. Their ladder stretched from their truck, across 25' of front lawn, up to that gold ball. A line of children watched and commented, as the fireman traversed it. Funny how children magically appear.

Grandmother missed having a flag, but none of us had the resources to acquire a new wooden mast with gold ball atop. For $100, I got two 8" diameter, 10' plastic plumbing pipes, a coupling and a white cap, along with stainless pulley hardware, rope and a cleat.

The flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol was raised using Yankee ingenuity (and thrift).

By July 2002, flag flying had lagged, so we did a float of "Don't Put you Patriotism to Bed." Our family tradition is have a float in the July 4th parade. From honoring the D.A.R.'s Betsy Ross sewing awards, to the year we could not think of anything and filled a float with children in Halloween costumes (Barney, princesses, witches, ghosts, and Power Rangers).

One year, we hired ponies to ride. Behind us, the poor Klezmer marching band was dodging dung the entire route.

From the Scottish Home, I acquired two hospital bedframes. Put down the top of my Mercury convertible. Stuck one upright in the backseat. The other was lashed and hanging off the trunk. Drove right down the interstate and did not get stopped. The plan was to tow them behind my convertible, loaded with kids in flag tunics. But, we needed a practice run. Don't want to have a wardrobe failure or float disintegrate.

Tied ropes from the car to the bed, loaded a couple of children on for the ride: Well, it was like a very slow water skier: first swinging alongside the car on one side, then as it crossed to the other, SMACK! Took out the neighbor's rubber trash receptacle, spewing trash all over their yard. Cheers emanated from the bed, "Let's hit another one, Mom."

On the return trip, Officer-not-so-friendly pulled me over. He started citing, "Unlicensed trailer, no rear lights, child endangerment:"

"Why does that truck's trailer stay behind it, while mine is skiing?" ignoring the impending ticket.

He repeated, "Unlicensed trailer, no rear lights, child endangerment:"

"Yes, but I have to get this right for the July 4th parade. Wonder if I tied it off in two places?" and started to move the ropes.

He was looking perplexed, "Unlicensed trailer, no rear lights, child endangerment: Where do you live?"

"Two blocks away. Don't want the bed too close to the car's exhaust pipe. And, I'm going to have to stop very slowly to keep it from crashing the car."

"Look lady, take this thing home and never drive this in the street again."

"Oh, I can't promise that. I have to drive it to the start of the parade."

He sighs. He escorts the future float to the garage, a pile of children in his squad car. Sirens and lights blaring. Of course, the gossipy neighbor was home.

July 4th, we start off early, pulling only one of the beds. Halfway to the start point, we hit a pothole that sheers the hard rubber wheels. The first bed is abandoned, roadside. A neighbor loads the second bed from my basement, into their mini-van and takes it to the parade start. Why did I not think of that before?

Now, I have to deal with the Fire Chief. I show him that I have two fire extinguishers. Two strong men will be holding spring lines from the back of the bed, to keep it in line with the car. Knots are appropriately tied. Children are going to be in the convertible. Everyone is wearing an American Flag tunic. Only one adult will be on the bed.

If the wheels fail, our emergency plan is to cut the lines and quickly ditch the bed onto a side street. The Fire Chief has a hearty laugh that breaks the tension. All is going to be well.

Driving very slowly, avoiding potholes, the bed makes the entire parade route! The children are laughing and yelling at friends who are watching the parade, who are yelling greetings right back.

Parading is worth all of the effort.

Only when we turn off to the parking lot do all four tires blow.

FlFlags are again at half-mast, and I'm thinking about the upcoming election. If we ditch our chosen candidate and pull the other, once election day has passed, I'm afraid all four tires of our America will blow.