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First Fourth
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[Here's another guest blog. Mary, who you may recognize as the co-author of our Byzantine mysteries, writes about her first Fourth of July after arriving here from the UK.]

On my first July 4th in this country I was living in a small township in Florida, one of a number forming a necklace strung out along Highway A1A to the south of Cape Canaveral, lying between the ocean and the Banana River. It was small enough so that by standing by its name sign -- necessary because one township merged into the next along the highway and there was no way to distinguish them otherwise -- a person with good eyesight could make out the name sign at the other end of town.

It was a parade in keeping with the town. It was led by the local mayor in an open car, waving to the crowds lining the short route, and a police car came next, followed by a fire engine. The occasional oooOOOooo of the police siren interspersed with the woot woot woot of the fire engine announced several pompom waving cheerleaders behind them. Virtually clones of each other with shapely tanned legs under short pleated skirts, they all seemed to be possessed of beautiful white teeth well displayed as they smiled, somersaulted, and strutted to cheers and whistles from the flag waving crowd. A drum majorette preceded them, twirling a baton and flinging it with wild abandon into the air, catching it one handed and yet somehow never dropping it.

Right behind the squad the high school band whose uniforms provided a bright splash of colour as they marched along playing a lively Sousa melody. The youthful players looked uncomfortable in the heat, but valiantly kept step, even unto the big bass drum player at the rear. A small group from the local VFW, one carrying the flag, followed and was greeted with roars of approval and more cheering, and then came a few flatbed lorries carrying displays created by local businessmen, from which candies or pennies or trinkets for the children in the front rank of spectators were thrown. And finally another police car came into view, escorting the end of the parade, adding a few oooOOOooos as it went past.

The crowd then dispersed to picnics and barbecues, to reassemble after darkness fell and the little municipality put on a fireworks display above the sea. Standing on the sand dunes, I could see several such shows up and down the coast, their multiple golden chrysanthemums and red and white star bursts lighting up the night sky and reflected in the water below.

When I stood in the crowd earlier that day I had thought, as I do now, it is these small town 4th of July parades that can best represent America to the world. A day celebrated with pride and featuring family gatherings and fireworks must surely strike a common chord of sympathy with those who live in other nations

--Mary Reed

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