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The biggest, scariest backyard fireworks ever (it was great)

The Bright Side


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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The last hamburger and hotdog had been barbecued; the potato salad and watermelon were almost gone. Dusk was approaching, and we were getting ready. It was our annual family Fourth of July celebration.

It had become an almost unspoken game of one-upmanship between us brothers-in-law as to who would have the most impressive (usually borderline illegal) fireworks display to shoot of at my father-in-law's cul-de-sac in Washington. Like every other year, we were looking forward to the challenge.

As we were getting our holiday displays together, my father-in-law said, "Oh, by the way, a friend gave me this. It's a M-1000. It's supposed to be the equivalent to one-quarter of a stick of dynamite, so be careful."

It was about as big around as a roll of a paper towel, 2 inches long, with a short fuse. It looked like something straight out of a Bugs Bunny or Road Runner cartoon. It might've even been from the Acme Company. When he showed us that, I think we all started to drool. We gently passed it around like it was the Holy Grail or something. Compared to what we had, it kind of was.

We decided that it couldn't be set off on the street pavement, so we decided we would wait until dark and light it at a big field at a grade school about 8 blocks from the house. We waited for it to become totally dark, like a bunch of 6-year-olds waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Since it had a pretty short fuse, we had to figure out which one of us was going to light it. This was one time when walking with a cane came in handy - I didn't have to come up with some lame excuse as to why I shouldn't. After one of the guys said he had a supposed sprained ankle, another a bad back, and so on, the youngest brother-in-law finally said he would light it. He always considered himself to be kind of a living action figure anyway, so we quickly said OK.

It finally got dark, so six of us climbed into a cargo van and headed off to the school. When we got there, filled with excitement and anticipation, we parked by the big open field. The self-elected brother-in-law took the valued cargo and disappeared into the dark, out of our sight. Soon we saw him appear from the pitch black at a full run. A few seconds later, we saw a bright flash. After a millisecond of what seemed like vacuumed silence, there was a loud concussion of an explosion. From a good 50 yards away we felt the ground shake and the windows of the school even farther away rattle.

Now I would never condone doing something so flagrantly illegal, potentially so dangerous as to be life-threatening, against all common sense and just kind of overall stupid. Having said that, and having done it anyway, all I can say is that we were lucky to not get caught, or worse yet hurt. And also ... it was GREAT!!

We were paranoid there might be police out looking for illegal fireworks, and if there were, no way could they have not heard that. We all piled into the van and got away from there like a bunch of 12-year-olds afraid of being caught with a Playboy and a pack of cigarettes. We drove straight into the garage and shut the door behind us.

We celebrated for a few more years with the obligatory fireworks, but they paled in comparison. After all our years of fireworks, we have never have been able to match that one. I'm sure that if I were ever able to find another M-1000, somewhere on it would appear these words: "Use only under strict adult supervision, and keep out of reach of children, especially those age 30-40."

Happy Fourth of July.