The Fourth

It’s for the kids, really. Carol does it all for the kids. The American-flag decorations, the cookouts, the fireworks, and the patriotic bunting in the backyard. It’s all for them.

It’s going to be an interesting holiday. Normally, Carol’s family throws a shindig for the Fourth. But not this year.

Carol comes from a German family. Her great-grandparents came to the U.S. by boat. So all the ancient ways go unremembered. Carol’s grandkids, for instance, actually eat ketchup on their hotdogs.

My grandfather would roll in his grave.

The Fourth has always been the holiday when Carol’s family would visit. A big reunion. They would tell their children about the old days, and about baling hay on a Georgia farmstead. Kids love these stories.

But today there will be only three people at Carol’s house. One husband. An adult daughter. One grandchild.

There are summer disappointments like this happening all over the nation. Coronavirus is spreading faster than pee in a public pool, and everyone’s Fourth is affected.

In Ohio, Upper Arlington’s parade is marching a longer route so people can space themselves several miles apart. Let us pray for the tuba players.

In Texas, Willie Nelson will throw his annual picnic concert—sort of. It will be a digitized virtual concert.

In Albuquerque, fireworks will be launched from four spots throughout the city so people can watch from the safety of porches.

And Carol’s family of four will eat hotdogs and potato salad in their backyard.

“The fireworks,” says Carol. “That’s all my grandkids are worried about. This virus doesn’t scare them, these kids want fireworks.”

Who doesn’t?

There will be a display downtown that people can watch from their cars. Carol will take the grandkids. They will eat ice cream in the front seat and watch the sky light up like… Well. The Fourth of July.

It’s a strange time to be alive. From Maine to California beaches are shutting down. People are wearing surgical masks just to check their mail.

The Center for Disease Control released some suggestions for germ-safe cookouts.

They recommend letting only one person tend the grill. But beforehand, the grill-person should have his or her temperature checked to make sure that they are, in fact, still alive.

The CDC also recommends practicing patriotic social distancing. They urge partygoers to bring their own plates, silverware, packaged hotdogs, lawn chairs, American-flag decor, beer, toilet paper, bathroom reading material, etc.

People are asked to sanitize their hands after touching doorknobs, utensils, people, dogs, and various forms of uncles. And if someone accidentally sneezes on you, do not freak out. Just go home, take a deep breath, and write up a legal will.

And it’s all enough to break your heart. Mostly for the children because they are growing up in a frightening world of rubber gloves and masks. And even though it’s bizarre to us adults, it is becoming normal to children.

The only thing the CDC does not comment on is whether it is okay to eat ketchup on a hot dog this year.

The answer is no. It’s not okay. I wasn’t going to bring this up, but the CDC’s silence on the hotdog issue leaves me no choice.

I know many disagree, but I do not feel that ketchup should go on a hotdog. At least, this was a belief within the family I grew up in.

Oh, believe me, we ate ketchup. We ate it all the time. But not on franks. Ketchup on a hotdog was as blasphemous as sugar in cornbread.

Then again, just like Carol’s family, my father’s people were German. They were proud, hard people who never defiled sausages with Heinz products. They only used thick, pungent, grainy, sour, barely legal mustard.

My father’s people migrated to America long before the War Between the States, back when U.S. land was either cheap or free. And they brought their mustard with them.

My ancestors built pinelog cabins, modest barns, hog pens, and silos that dotted the American countryside. And because my ancestors were Catholic, they were fruitful and multiplied.

They made homemade sauerkraut by leaving buckets of cabbage to rot on the back porch. They ate lots of organ meat. Lots of cow tongue. And mustard made it all go down easier.

When world wars broke out, my ancestors—mere boys—traveled to the homeland of their fathers to fight the Kaiser, and Hitler for their Red-White-and-Blue ideals.

My grandfather said Europe had exquisite mustard.

They always celebrated the Fourth of July with real oomph. Because this was not just a country to them. This was a place of wild ideas, and great thinkers, and people who weren’t afraid to fail.

To them, America was a place where a man could be who he wanted, think how he wanted, love who he wanted. Their nation was far from perfect, but the mustard-eaters refused to give up on her.

You could say that my people built this place. So did yours. So have all the newcomers. Each one of our people. Men and women. Red and yellow, black and white.

And sometimes I wonder why. Why did they want to build a new country? Why not keep living in the old ones? Why go to all the trouble?

Maybe they built this place so that even in the face of horrific sadness, hard times, bloodshed, famine, and worldwide disease, their children would have a place to live, worship, and be treated like human beings.

They did it for the kids, really. Kids like you and me.

Happy Fourth of July.


  1. Sandi. - July 4, 2020 7:27 am

    Hi Sean, Happy 4th of July to you and Jamie. As Americans we have so much for which to be thankful.. God bless the USA!

  2. GaryD - July 4, 2020 11:08 am

    May the Fourth be with you. Sorry, I had to say it.

  3. Chip Aiken - July 4, 2020 11:10 am

    Well said Shaun! I hope some of the people trying to tear it down will read this blog.

  4. topdock - July 4, 2020 11:17 am

    The land of the free and the home of the brave. Happy Fourth Sean. Thank you for providing your insights every day. They are my morning therapy.

  5. Naomi - July 4, 2020 11:20 am

    Sean, I am a first-generation American; my mother was born in Russia and my father was born in Poland. My father grew up in NYC; my mother grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where my brother and I were born. They must not have had ketchup in Russia (I never asked her.) because she cooked everything with ketchup and so do I. She made delicious meatloaf with ketchup and crushed potato chips. She made pot roast with potatoes and ketchup. She put ketchup on spaghetti. In fact, that is my comfort food–noodles with butter and ketchup. I catered my daughter’s wedding reception. One dish was sliced Polish sausage cooked in ketchup and a few other ingredients. People asked me for my recipe for the sauce, but I didn’t want to tell them. One more thing that I can think of right now is liver and onions made in a skillet with ketchup. A side note: Tomorrow is my 76th birthday. I always thought it would really be cool to be a first-generation American and be born on the Forth of July. My mother went into labor on the 4th, but I wasn’t born until early in the morning on the 5th. My parents and grandparents were very patriotic; they loved the Fourth of July. We could sit on the porch and watch the fireworks from Red Mountain. My brother and I would always get sparklers. I guess you have to be born in a a country that was run by Tsars, Fachists, Nazis, or Communists to appreciate the freedoms that we have in America. God Bless America.

  6. Keloth Anne - July 4, 2020 11:45 am

    You are so right….Each one of our people worked to make this nation great….men and women. Red and yellow, black and white. As we “celebrate” this 4th of July —- I pray for Kindness, love and tolerance ♥️🙏🇺🇸
    Thank you for your wonderful words and reminding us that everyone is important 😊
    Happy 4th to you and Jamie!!

  7. Diane - July 4, 2020 12:16 pm

    Enjoy your postings everyday but this one was special. Thank you.

  8. Jo Ann - July 4, 2020 12:38 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for reminding us again about the important things. Happy 4th of July to you & your family….may the banner yet wave…

  9. Christine Washburn - July 4, 2020 12:59 pm

    Wonderful, thank you for this most patriotic writing. God Bless the USA

  10. jane davis - July 4, 2020 1:04 pm

    Gave me a little familiar lump on the throat …thank you for it. I realize there are many in America who have never had one. But I have to admit I DO love Heinz on a hot dog- but not alone- plenty of mustard and in salute to your German relatives, plenty of sauerkraut…and maybe cheese. Yessir, all the way to there for me. And that’s what makes this America…a choice of toppings. Happy freedom of eats and all the rest we enjoy today and everyday- hoping it doesn’t get snatched away by those who want to change everything about it, or to tell me I can’t have ketchup on my hot dog…🇺🇸😉🇺🇸♥️

  11. Phil S. - July 4, 2020 1:54 pm

    Thanks, Sean. We hope you and Jamie and the dogs have a happy 4th, too. Better have a hefty supply of industrial strength Tums on hand to counter all that powerful mustard.

  12. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - July 4, 2020 2:53 pm

    Slap out of the park.

  13. Bobbie - July 4, 2020 2:55 pm

    God bless you dear friend for your words of depth, truth and heartfelt feeling. Why isn’t what we have enough? What can’t those who are doing such damage and destruction just stop for a minute….read words like these, look, really look, at the beauty all around us. Seeing Air Force 1 fly over Mt Rushmore Sent chills and brought tears! What other country has what we have…the freedoms and opportunities to do and to be whatever we want.
    I pray eyes will be opened and hearts will be changed. Let our star spangled banner wave forever o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
    However you celebrate the 4th, be safe, be strong and be proud‼️🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  14. Cynthia Woods - July 4, 2020 3:10 pm

    I’m not giving up on her either!! God please keep eating America! 💙🇺🇸♥️

  15. Nena Manci - July 4, 2020 4:25 pm

    My Great Grandfather came over from Germany in 1868. The day he set foot on American soil he changed as his birth date and celebrated that proud date for rest of his life. 🇺🇸

  16. Susan - July 4, 2020 4:26 pm

    Thanks for another good reminder that we ALL built this country. Happy 4th💥💥💥!

  17. Linda Moon - July 4, 2020 4:28 pm

    I don’t know much about my family history. But I do know that mustard is my condiment of choice. This week I had potatoes smothered with Dijon mustard and olive oil for dinner, and the next day I finished them off for breakfast with sausage. My diet is richer because of mustard. And my LIFE, strange though it may be, is richer because of Sean Dietrich, his father John, and the fruitful ancestors who brought them here. Glucklicher vierter juli, Kids!

  18. Sarah Davis - July 4, 2020 4:57 pm

    Sean, long-time reader, first time commenter here. My grandmother from Illinois ate ketchup on her dogs too, that was the only thing I didn’t love about that remarkable lady. The other half of my family is German like yours, everything is always covered in mustard, the Godly way!
    To be honest, this 4th I’ve been pretty bummed. Our nation seems so torn, and most of it I don’t even understand. We’re still stuck at home here in Texas and there will be no fireworks for the kids.
    Then I read your post. My daughter’s 9th birthday is next week and amidst all the excitement we’ve been ordering all colors of Barbie. Explaining to her why her best friend’s bi-racial family were treated differently when they were pulled over recently. Reinforcing that even though their father fought in Iraq, he doesn’t hate Muslims. Talking to my teenager son whose family doesn’t agree with our views that we still love them. America is awesome, now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check our mustard levels… thanks for all your writing!

  19. Ala Red Clay Girl - July 4, 2020 5:25 pm

    We all want God to bless America so America needs to bless God! Happy Independence Day!

  20. Christina - July 4, 2020 6:01 pm

    My eleven year old daughter was missing the podcast so she did a little impersonation of Mr. Sean reading a few paragraphs of this, ending with “Keep on the sunny side of life”. Best 4th of July entertainment so far!

  21. Ann - July 4, 2020 6:11 pm


  22. Robert M Brenner - July 4, 2020 6:33 pm

    What a touching tribute! My ancestors also came from Germany 🇩🇪 mainly from around the city of Hamburg…

  23. Shannon Costello Isbell - July 4, 2020 6:48 pm

    Happy Fourth of July !!!
    Most of my ancestors are Creek Indians and Irish!
    Can you imagine comments about ‘owning’ and ‘decisions’ were great conversations to a child!!!

    But The ice cream fantastic every year from home grown peaches, apple trees, and muscadine!

    🇺🇸. ❗️.

  24. MAM - July 4, 2020 6:56 pm

    Happy Fourth of July to you, Sean, and all of you above! We’re proud to be Americans, and we’re proud to shout it from the rooftops!

  25. Steve H - July 4, 2020 8:14 pm

    Sean, Thanks for your post… especially that bit about mustard vs. ketchup on hot dogs. 🙂 I love mustard and onions in my baked beans, too, but my Dad insists on pouring tons of ketchup on his beans, too.

    I hate the heat and humidity of July, but the meaning behind the July 4th celebration makes it all worthwhile.

  26. Barbara Ames - July 4, 2020 9:29 pm

    Yes, Sean! I needed this look at Independence Day! I feel for the kids who are receiving the short end of the stick. No school. No friends. No fun things. And the adults don’t have a clue what to do. Whether it’s BLM or Corvo19. Whether it’s not having a job or being in the HealthCare industry where there is no time to catch your breath. Remember when we were worried about getting to the Year 2000? We got it wrong – we were 20 years off!

  27. Gayla Warner - July 5, 2020 1:45 am

    Omigosh! You are UNDENIABLY correct about ketchup on hotdogs! I am very happy you wrote about the travesty that is played out millions and millions of times across our great nation by those who simply are not aware of the error of their ways. Thank you, thank you for bringing the matter to The attention of all.

  28. Melissa Plumley - July 5, 2020 4:06 am

    Thank you Sean! America the beautiful!🇺🇸

  29. Ann Schaum - July 6, 2020 12:26 am

    Sean, one of your best! Completely agree, no sugar in the cornbread.

  30. Robert Chiles - July 6, 2020 12:30 am

    I always put Duke’s on hotdogs, and ketchup, too; heck, I put Duke’s on everything except ice cream. Never was much for mustard, it tastes too much like mustard.


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