Ready, Fire . . . Aim!


By Diane Haynes Woodburn

Publisher 20 years agoThis year we are celebrating our twentieth anniversary, and looking back at the past.

Twenty years . . . back then, my husband Jamie and I were still dating. We each had two sons, ages seven to fifteen. So, what to do with four boys and limited resources? We camped, a lot.

Our favorite spot was Kaupo, a little more than an hour’s drive from my home in Kula, and a world away. The road itself was an adventure, pocked with ruts and holes and populated with roaming cattle. As the dusty road climbed up and over the ridged edge of paradise, serpentine curves narrowed to a single car width. On the ocean side, sheer drops to certain death elicited white knuckles.

Eventually, the winding road, with its heart-stopping views of black lava and cobalt-blue ocean, gave way to the welcoming green of Kaupo. Just past the church, Jamie’s truck trundled down a sandy path to our oasis near the Manawainui stream and the rock-strewn shore.

We swam, hiked, fished, laughed, played games and ate till our bellies could hold no more. Afternoons, we gathered driftwood for the huge bonfire that Jamie and the boys would light after dinner. At night, with the Milky Way over our heads, we fell asleep to the crashing waves and rhythmic tumble of rocks. We had little money, but the most gorgeous playground.

One summer, Jamie was given a suitcase full of fireworks. Of course, we brought the contents to Kaupo. What happens when you combine five boys, ages seven to forty-seven, and fireworks? Testosterone mania. Or, as I recall it, “Ready, fire, aim!”

Jamie and the boys began lighting them — literally throwing caution to the wind. Cones, sparklers, aerials or screamers, it didn’t matter; as long as there was a bang or a flame, it was the best thing since Pac-Man.

After the firestorm, I counted my blessings on the kids’ eighty fingers and toes, then we all went off to search for Jamie. The smoke lifted, and there was my macho boyfriend, standing triumphant, a lit bottle rocket in each hand. Funny how quickly thoughts run through your mind when what you see doesn’t make sense. Is he going to throw them? Is there some receptacle I can’t see that’s holding the rockets? Is he . . . nuts? Even I deduced that something called a bottle rocket was supposed to be launched from . . . hmm . . . a bottle?

“How do these things work?” he yelled, as the rockets smoked and sizzled. Drop them!” I yelled back.


“LET GO!” I screamed, careful enunciation masking hysteria. Four boys stood open-mouthed as they watched Jamie register the significance of his error — then drop the rockets and run like hell. Moments later, sand rained every which way as the rockets exploded in varying projections. Luckily, Jamie survived with both hands and all fingers accounted for.

Twenty years later, this is still our kids’ favorite “Jamie” story — although, if you’ve been following my column, you know he’s given me a great deal of fodder for laughter. Twenty years is a long time . . . but some things never change.

Mahalo, Maui, for continuing to provide my family and me with beauty and laughter to last a lifetime.


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