From Thomas S., outside Chicago:
Many years ago, my brothers, friends and I ventured out almost every hot summer night into the wilds of Haynes Park in Wilmington, Delaware. Our mission was capturing fireflies for a neighbor, a DuPont chemist who helped crack the code of chemoluminescence that would eventually lead to glowsticks. The adults in the neighborhood affectionately called us “the firefly kids” but we considered ourselves “science adventurers” as we explored the wilds of our neighborhood city park.
The park was aglow almost every night. We came to know every square inch of it, and also managed to find every poison ivy plant, discover every knee-skinning rock and get bitten by every mosquito. But we were supremely happy and we captured lots of fireflies. Even at such a young age, we were fascinated by their cold light, and tested whether their light gave off any heat by placing the bugs on our tongues. We had no fear because those lightningbugs were our friends and companions.
When DuPont’s chemoluminescence research effort was at its peak, the chemists paid a nickel per firefly. We took our mission as young entrepreneurs seriously, and during our nightly adventures we each caught about 20 bugs.. Earning a $1.00 every night, we quickly became rich by the current 2nd or 3rd grade standard. Then, Hershey bars cost a nickel, and a hamburger, fries and a milkshake cost only 50 cents.
Now whenever I watch the fireflies from my front porch, I can still feel that sense of wonder and amazement. And I still feel guilty about all the fireflies we captured in the name of scientific progress. But I take comfort whenever I spot a glowstick or glowing necklace at a concert, and fondly remember all those hot, sticky summer nights, running wild.