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Monke: Adulthood apparent on holidays like the Fourth

Dustin Monke

Yesterday, I drove 30 miles to my friend's recently completed home on the edge of the Badlands for an evening of fireworks, steaks and general revelry.

It's something that our group of friends has done nearly every year since the summer following our final year of high school.

One way or another, and no matter where we are all living at the time, we attempt to get together on or around the Fourth of July to have our own private fireworks show, grill some red meat, have a few adult beverages and soak in the peacefulness of western North Dakota.

Long-standing nicknames and some of our best stories have come out of these gatherings, as they do for most families or groups of friends who celebrate together regularly.

However, one change is becoming very apparent.

Not that long ago, we were the kids in the group. Now, we've (gasp!) become the responsible adults! Some have added their own children to the gatherings and others have their first new additions on the way.

Back when we began lighting off fireworks around a bonfire at my friend's parents' home just up the road from the plot of land he now calls his own, we bought our own small assortments. There were a few artillery shells, lots of Roman candles and enough squealing bottle rockets to rupture an eardrum.

None of us then spent the kind of money we do today on the 5- to 10-second colorful explosions made in China, shipped to the U.S. and then sold at borderline outrageous prices.

This weekend, my friends and I combined to spend at least $1,000 lighting up the North Dakota sky. There are still bottle rockets and sparklers for the kids. But now we bring some of the big-money packages that, at times, can rival the Roughrider Days Fourth of July show.

However, I'm not ashamed to say that I'm one who spent a small percentage of the above-mentioned amount. Instead, I decided to let my borderline-pyromaniac buddies put a dent in their bank accounts.

Call me cheap now, but when I have kids I will likely be more willing to spend a few bucks for their entertainment. For now though, I'm being frugal and letting others light their money on fire. After all, I still have to pay for the wedding before we even get to the kids part.

The Fourth of July is a good example of how we change the way we celebrate as we grow older.

As children, why do we look forward to Christmas? Because of the presents, of course.

As we age, we become more responsible for our own children or loved ones and put more care into deciding what presents to buy for them. While receiving presents are great, the older you get, the happier you are to see someone light up when they open a gift you have given them.

When I saw my fiance and my nieces and nephews enjoy the presents I gave them last Christmas, I realized that great feeling I have seen on my mom's beaming face each year when others are excited about the presents she has given them.

That's why we spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for fireworks on the Fourth of July. Not only is it fun to light a fuse, send a small ball of gunpowder in the air and watch it explode into a burst of colors, it makes others happy.

You can't put a pricetag on the sense of wonder you see on a young child's face the moment they see the fireworks start going off, or when they become old enough to light their first firecrackers, fountains or bottle rockets.

And that's why we celebrate. We love to create memories, share stories and enjoy the company of others. The older we get, the more we realize that. Even if it means we're getting a little older, it's good to know we're beginning to pass some of that tradition down to the next generation.

Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at or tweet him at monkebusiness.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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