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Nostalgia July 2017

One More Story...

Hope Springs Eternal

By Bill Vossler

What was going to happen next?  Suddenly a shadow blotted out the sun. I was roughhoused backwards. I cried out, thinking a giant bird had swooped down to haul me away.

One July 4 when I was five, Myron Wolff performed an impossible but perfect flight of a tin can. He also probably saved my hearing.

Myron, about 15, touched the flame of a farmer’s match to a black pellet on the sidewalk. I liked fire, but when a puff of gray smoke leaped into the air, and the pellet crackled, growing
ominously, snaking out, I jumped back, my mouth working.

"Never seen a black snake, have ya, kid?" 

I shook my head, trembling with excitement as the snake expanded, a live black sausage, curling, crawling down the sidewalk.

"What about fireworks? You ever seen them?"

I shook my head. He dug into his pants pocket and pulled out a cherry bomb. I glanced at the writhing black snake. The smell of magic hung in the air; if Myron had mumbled an incantation exhorting the sun to dim, I would have cricked back my head and waited for it to go black. He was a magician, a shaman, a sorcerer. He could do anything, and I wanted to be just like him.

“You’ll like this,” he said.

He placed the cherry bomb on the sidewalk and covered it with a Van Camp pork and beans can with a torn label. The fuse stuck out.

He lit the fuse. It flared and hissed, belching white smoke. He ran.

I however inched closer, squatting, my fingers against the warm rough surface of the sidewalk, my nose inches from the pungent flame. What was going to happen next?  Suddenly a shadow blotted out the sun. I was roughhoused backwards. I cried out, thinking a giant bird had swooped down to haul me away.

As I sprawled back in Myron's arms, boom! The can took wing. Like a stubby silver rocket, it shot up, up, arcing over a telephone pole. For an instant it hung in the sky, suspended from an invisible hook. Then it fell. Landed. Clang. On top of the pole. It trembled, but stayed.

My eyes were big as white dinner plates. So that's what you did with fireworks, with cherry bombs! "Damn!" Myron said admiringly.

For a few days I returned to stare at the telephone pole. In the cool shadows of a rustling cottonwood, the breeze ruffled my hair as I studied the can on the pole, replaying its silver flight.
I imagined my cherry-bomb-powered cans soaring up and landing atop telephone poles all over town, until every one was capped with Van Camps pork and beans empties.

Then the water tower; and finally blackbirds and sparrows, knocking them out of the skies, squawking furiously, tumbling in a hail of feathers. Our town's youngest artilleryman. I couldn't wait for my very own cherry bombs.

Eventually I learned that perfection is not so easily achieved, in fireworks – or in life. But there is always hope. On the occasional 4th of July, I cast a longing eye at the telephone pole at the corner, wondering how many cherry bombs it would take until I could duplicate Myron’s performance, hoisting a Van Camps pork and beans can up onto the top of that pole.


A Life columnist for the St. Cloud Times, Bill Vossler produces four daily Facebook photos, as well as discussing gondola rides, foggy trees, or turtles, among other topics. One of the Writer-in-Residence’s ebooks is Polishing Your Prose: How to Write Better, along with 15 others.

Meet Bill