Cousin Ollie was the most patriotic kid I knew.
Ollie duct-taped red, white and blue pinwheels to his bicycle handlebars. He drained a couple markers coloring an old pillow case like a flag to fly over our tree house in the apple orchard. He never wore a cap any of the million times he played the ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' on his kazoo.
So when Independence Day approached, it was no surprise that my third cousin twice removed revved up his patriotism.
''Aw, c'mon Dad, WHY can't we shoot off bottle rockets from the top of the barn? I'll make 'em myself.''
Uncle Elmer paled. ''Great balls of fire! If you think I'm letting two 9-year-old miscreants anywhere near fireworks - or my hayloft - you're crazier than I look.''
Come to think of it, Uncle Elmer looked much wilder than when my summer visit began.
On the evening of July 3, Ollie and I stood in the farm pond waving birthday cake sparklers.
''Boring,'' Ollie complained, dipping his sparkler into the pond to hear it hiss. It didn't.
''Sure, but what can we do? Your folks won't let us have firecrackers, even after we promised not to throw any more in the laundry basket.''
Ollie shook his head. ''Maw nearly hurdled the clothesline. If she'd let go of the bed sheet she was pinning up, I bet she coulda made it.''
''How about your cap guns?''
''They disappeared the last rainy day when I was stuck in the house.''
''So we're stuck without a celebration?''
Ollie rubbed his chin. ''We could join the township parade when it marches by the farm tomorrow.''
''We don't have a float.''
''Don't need one. Get that can of touch-up paint Dad used on the old tractor. I'll find the stuff Maw was using to redo the living room.''
The next morning, as we finished slathering on the last coats of paint, we heard the junior high school marching band honking its way down the road.
''Sure this will work?'' I wondered.
''I trained 'em myself.''
I placed a Farmall Red chicken atop my head. Paint dripped down my forehead. Ollie positioned a Living Room Blue one atop his. ''Flap your wings like I taught ya. We want people to see the stars we painted.''
We climbed aboard two patriotic pigs freshly painted in stripes, stars and eagles and trotted down the driveway. Seconds later, we joined the parade.
I didn't know tuba players spooked so easily. But it wasn't until ''Betsy Ross'' leaped out of her rocking chair on the flag float to shoo away the hogs with her quilt that we fell off. Paint splattered her dress as riderless pigs squealed past.
One of them snuffled a sack of candy from a parading firefighter. The other weaved through horses' legs, which was impressive considering he still wore the abandoned tuba.
The Farmall Red chicken escaped to roost on an antique tractor. She matched perfectly. The blue one pecked Uncle Sam's toes until he wobbled on his stilts.
We even succeeded in igniting fireworks. Those came courtesy of Uncle Elmer, once he caught us. They weren't the type of fireworks we had in mind.
Still, it counts as our most exciting, if not explosive, Fourth of July parade ever.
---- We suspect that Cole has been imbibing in tall tales again. For the boring real story, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.