By Wendel Sloan

Levelland can throw a hardy party


July 15, 2018

Since Clovis and Portales sometimes fall short of July 4 fundraising goals, they could take a page from Levelland, Texas — a Portales-size town 30 miles southwest of Lubbock.

In Levelland — ironically, the home of the Portales Peanut Company — Chance, my 14-year-old lethargic lab/wiener godson, lives a well-fed life despite being expelled from obedience school.

At his behest, I inquired about city-sponsored fireworks. There were none, so we resigned ourselves to televised patriotism.

As we settled in our recliners with cold ones — blueberry-infused water and leftover cereal milk — we began hearing pop-pop-pop. Having spent time in Levelland, I knew odds were even of it being a backfiring hay truck, convenience-store holdup or fireworks.

After bribing Chance with turkey jerky to stick his nose outside to ascertain the source, he raised his tail quickly then slowly lowered it to demonstrate bottle rockets.

Quickly getting dressed — I already was — the laziest dog in West Texas and I jumped in my Japanese car to celebrate America’s founding.

As we were about to pull away, Chance motioned to his empty collar to indicate he’d forgotten his driving license. As I irritatedly scooted over to the driver’s seat, he gleefully barked “shotgun” and I knew I’d been conned again.

Following the multi-hued glare of fire flowers bursting in air, we drove about two miles to an enormous church parking lot where hundreds of revelers from pre-schoolers to nursing-home escapees were living the pyromaniac dream.

After re-parking several times before Chance was satisfied with the view — of a bleached-blonde poodle hanging out the window of an F-150 and wearing a “Until They Pry It From My Cold Dead Paws” come-hither collar — we cautiously emerged.

Soon, I realized it was a dog-eat-dog world and — except for a shark-fin glow-stick from my last Jimmy Buffett concert — I was unarmed. Almost everyone was shooting, throwing or waving pyrotechnics.

Some future inmates — perhaps thinking mangled fingerprints would be advantageous in their inevitable careers — competed to explode firecrackers nearest each other’s heads.

Despite basketball bone spurs, I bravely dashed toward an old woman (about my age) in a folding chair to gather intel.

Having moved to Levelland from Crosbyton three years before, she informed me the celebratory melee tradition stretched back ad infinitum. Beaming with pride as fiery debris wafted around us, she said her brother was assistant pastor of the non-denominational South Plains Church and everyone was welcome — even Catholics I presumed — to participate as long as their ammo landed on the parking lot.

With hundreds of West Texans doing what they do best — celebrating peace-loving, God-fearing America with high explosives without government intrusion — I couldn’t have lucked into a more spectacular display of unbridled patriotism.

Since Levelland is a Libertarian paradise, and my eyes were blurry, I was about to suggest to Chance he drive back despite having “forgotten” his license.

Then I realized he was missing. With his declining 14-year-old, advanced-age reflexes, I worried he’d been wounded in the crossfire.

However, my fears were quickly assuaged when I spotted him in the bed of the F-150 with the poodle.

As I drove us home, with him reeking of Alpo, he claimed they were innocently watching the extravaganza while kicking back with a few cold milkbones.

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