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In search of the greatest fireworks ever

The Bright Side: Joe Bushue


Never judge a book by its cover: I learned that valuable lesson back when I was about 10. Basically I learned never to base my opinion of the value of books, products, or even people, on their packaging, regardless of how drab or uninteresting. I trace this lesson and its usefulness back to one particular holiday.

It was almost the Fourth of July, and as always I was in search of the loudest, showiest, most awe-inspiring fireworks I could find. Somehow it seemed that it was my responsibility (I think I brought it on myself), but in looking back, I can easily trace why.

Nothing can turn an otherwise responsible, mature, even serious adult male of almost any age back into a 10-to-12-year-old child faster than the chance to set off some good or even semi-illegal explosions. And usually the higher the danger, the cooler. It must be a gender thing, because even my father would turn into a kid when we could obtain some good fireworks in a state where ones that were illegal in Oregon were available. We always bought them when we could on our annual summer vacation to use on the next Fourth. They never made it past New Year’s Eve.

With all of this in mind, I took my two nephews (who were 10 and 12) with me to continue the tradition of finding the ever-illusive “big bang” to cap off our annual July 4 celebration. We headed up north where the available legal fireworks were more varied. We kept our eyes peeled as we drove past the myriad of the countless stands. Suddenly there it was. A skyrocket the size of a large oatmeal box, stuck in the ground! I immediately planted my brakes and pulled in to inspect it. I don’t know who was more excited, me or my young nephew.

It was called “The Big Bear.” It looked fantastic, just like the ones in the Road Runner cartoons. It must be something great because it cost $50. Now all lessons learned, not to mention common sense, go out the window when it comes to potentially great, cool, and semi-dangerous fireworks. Of course I bought it.

My nephews and I envisioned this impressive rocket screaming across the sky in blazing glory, resulting in a fantastic peony-shaped explosion of colors and sounds. The closer to home we got, the more excited we got. This would be a great finale to the celebration.

When the barbecue was over and it grew dark, everyone there started to light the fireworks they had brought. There were some really great ones too. As it got close to the end, we were beside ourselves with excitement knowing we were about to light the greatest one ever!

Finally, it was our turn to amaze the crowd with our find. As my nephews stuck it in the ground and lit the fuse, the excitement built. We couldn’t wait! They backed away and watched the fuse burn toward what was going to be an absolute magical display!

With all eyes upon it, the burning fuse disappeared into the giant rocket. There was a sound equal to about three firecrackers twisted together, a puff of blue smoke, and kind of weak wheeze. Then it fell over. A sad and pathetic display.

The people to whom we had bragged about how great this pyrotechnic was going to be just thought it was a dud. They even seemed to feel bad for us. It was then that I realized that not judging something by its cover can work the other way too. Unfortunately, it cost me $50.

I can excuse that expensive lack of good sense. After all, it was potentially cool fireworks, and I know in the future I’ll probably do it all again in search of the ultimate “big bang.”

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at joebushue@live.com.