I joke that the Fourth of July in my canyon is Norman Rockwell with booze added. I am a virtual teetotaler, but by 10:30 am (the ostensible parade start time) on Independence Day, I've had at least two mimosas down at Paula and Bill's. Then we gather in front of the bird sanctuary - Rusty Richards the singing cowboy (really - he's in the Cowboy Hall of Fame) is always unofficial grand marshal, astride his big chestnut horse and carrying a big flag that for today just looks joyful, not jingoistic. Behind him the volunteer firefighters in their freshly washed and shined water tender or patrol - it's a fun time but you never know when the crazies from the flatlands might decide to lob a few fireworks into the flammable brush, so they'll be on patrol for real through the night. Then the homemade floats made from tractors and convertibles and other prized possessions, and kids wheeling on their hand-decorated bikes and ponies with honest-to-God fake posies in straw hats with their ears sticking out and little girls and older women too in layers of patriotic plumery, and dogs straining on their leashes under the weight of red, white and blue gewgaws. And somewhere in the line-up, the ladies of the canyon on the back of Ralph's battered old pick-up, perched on bales of hay and warbling and shouting "It's A Grand Old Flag" or "America the Beautiful" or "Yankee Doodle Dandy." One year during the Gulf War, we were The Ladies for Peace, dressed in suffragette style customs, and a local rowdy roared "F- the Ladies For Peace, Men for War!!" right in front of the unofficial official prime viewing spot, the firehouse, with little kids turning around to look at him slack-jawed. We just threw more lollipops off the truck and got the kids to turn right back around. Another year, a lawyer who'd moved in persuaded Ralph's wife Maureen and I that we need to decorate the back of Ralph's truck. She designed elaborate "Yacht Club" signs and buried us in piles of marine related regalia. She didn't have time to decorate it herself, she explained, or ride, but she'd be watching roadside for sure. On the eve of July 3, Mo and I struggled to staple, duct tape or otherwise attach the rigamarole. All of a sudden the nicest man, with sparkling eyes and deft hands, appeared from the house next door to Ralph and Maureen's. He spent hours wiring and rigging and making our float look rustic fantastic. The next day he hopped on behind the ladies and took a seat on a hay bale right next to me. We were strictly speaking a feminist/feminist crowd, but we let him stay considering his considerable help. He grabbed the back of my shirt when I almost tipped overboard during a particularly lusty rendition of "God Bless America" but otherwise was quiet. After it was over, he followed me home, then to my neighbors' swimming pool. We'll be married 10 years in October. Ad evacuated right after our wedding due to a wildfire. But that's a story for another day. Closer to Halloween.