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Light up the Night

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Last Monday it happened, and it was one of the biggest things I’d ever seen in the night sky – except of course when Bubba Hanks let us catapult him off the top of Cliff Condos. It was a Double Dog Dare, and he was the only one brave enough to actually go through with it. Luckily for Bubba, he landed in a giant mound of loose dirt from our three-year dig. If he’d gotten hurt, his dad would’ve throw us all off the cliff.

A Super Moon, it just hung there in the night sky. Not Bubba – the moon from Monday. Bubba didn’t hang in the night sky; he just fell like a ton of bricks. I have to admit seeing the Super Moon was almost as cool as seeing Bubba Hanks fly and then plummet into that mound of dirt.

After an hour or so, The Wife and I went back inside, but I kept gazing out the windows until we went to bed. It was still almost daylight outside. My fascination with things that light up the night sky actually isn’t new. It started way back when I shared a small room with Twin Brother Mark growing up at an old familiar location – 110 Flamingo Street.

One of the best things about having a swamp in your backyard while growing up (other than having a swamp in your backyard) was what happened after sunset.

It came up out of the swamp each night and flooded our backyard with a light display unique to all of Flamingo Street. No, it wasn’t swamp gas.

The horrible smell that flooded our bedroom most every night came from Mark. What flooded our backyard was hundreds upon hundreds of lightning bugs.

At an early age there were three things I learned about lightning bugs. First, catch about twenty of those luminescent flying insects, place them in a Mason jar secured tightly with metal lid, and they’ll light up an entire bedroom as if the moon was still shining through the windows. The second thing I learned was what happens when you seal twenty lightning bugs in a small Mason jar overnight. Come to find out even lightning bugs need fresh air to live.

Trust me, I know how they felt. Sleeping in the same room with Mark for over eight years, it’s a miracle I didn’t suffer the same fate.

My fascination for nightlights didn’t wane just because we eventually moved away from Flamingo Street. Imagine my delight many years later after joining the fire department when I discovered they had all kinds of illumination equipment.

There was even an entire truck dedicated just to lights. The remote-controlled towers on top of the truck could rise up, extend over twenty feet, and then rotate and pan in any direction while bathing even the darkest street, culvert, or woods with a sea of instant light.

But those weren’t the only cool lights the fire department had – there’re many more.

Fire fighters are all equipped with smoke-eater flashlights - special lights that penetrate rooms full of even the darkest smoke. All helmets are equipped with flashing red lights on the back and white spotlights on the front.

We even catapult light bombs through windows to illuminate rooms before attempting interior search and rescue.

But as cool as these lights are, they pale in comparison to the gift The Wife just bought me – an official Safari Light!

About six inches long with a diameter about the size of a first grade starter pencil, the Safari Light easily clips on a shirt or waistband. Lined with twenty LED bulbs, it lights up the night almost as bright as that Super Moon.

Plus it comes with a money back guarantee to ward off any lions. I kid you not, it says that right on the package. It was such a great gift, I asked The Wife to order another. We live in the sleepy town of Senoia, Georgia.

Never know when you may need a spare light to ward off a Zombie attack. They’re everywhere around here.

Finally, what was the third and most important thing I learned about lightning bugs?

If you’re gonna collect a jar full of the flying nightlights and seal them in with a metal lid equipped with air holes so they won’t die overnight, make sure said air holes are smaller than the collected lightning bugs, otherwise you will spend the entire next day trying to catch them as they fly around inside your house all because one landed and got caught in your mom’s hair while she was fixing breakfast.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is storiesbyrick@gmail.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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