We sat slightly reclined in our car’s bucket seats and listened to some old-time radio shows while we waited for Pleasantville’s fireworks display to start the other night.
The Fourth of July had taken its toll on us, so we decided to relax in the vehicle to watch the community’s population swell far beyond its capacity as the annual celebration was carried into dusk, and then to use the car’s vantage point to watch the fireworks.
Sitting in the car that way to watch fireworks usually doesn’t cross the minds of most people from birth through their child-rearing years. But, there apparently comes a time in a person’s life when it’s OK to put away the lawn chairs and blankets and sit back in the solitude of your car. That night I looked to our left and then to the right to see folks a bit older than us doing exactly as we were, occasionally getting out to grab popcorn or other goodies from the park’s concession stand and then return to their cars.
I quickly realized the car was a great place to have an overview of a community’s entire celebration, the windshield and windows providing a muted snow-globe look at the scene and its events.
Softball teams’ players moved in sporadic darts.
The crowd moved with collective inhales and exhales around the concession stand and shelter.
Parents carried their smallest children to and from their cars, cat-herding their toddlers along the way.
Young men showed off their mechanical strength by revving loud-mufflered vehicles while moving slowly between people walking on the county highway’s fog-lines.
Hormone-dazed teenagers roamed the road hand-in-hand, not knowing whether they should be walking to the north, south, east or west — knowing they eventually should be walking in some direction but, in the moment, direction not mattering.
All celebrated in their own ways, but the coming fireworks were the only things that mattered to any of them. No matter how any among those couple-thousand people might disagree, the fireworks were what that night was all about.
Fireworks on or about the Fourth of July are part of our small-town DNA, firing our rural-community synapse as surely as freshly-cut hayfields and noon fire sirens.
From our vantage point we saw flashes echoing across the sky from other area communities’ fireworks and from some of the area’s farmyard fireworks that started ahead of Pleasantville’s display. And, of course, there were the always-expected occasional whistles, sizzles and bangs produced by small-scale explosives and pyrotechnics produced on the park’s perimeters by the neighborhood BYOF (bring your own fireworks) people.
The night dampness settling in, I had to start the car a couple times to run the defroster to assure we could see out the windows. It was reminiscent of youthful moments watching star-studded blockbusters on drive-in theaters’ big screens. That night’s feature, “Pleasantville Fourth of July Fireworks,” was played on the big screen of rural life and starred Trempealeau County’s people of the soil.
The day’s last softball game ended, and the park darkened. Within moments of the softball field’s last flickering light, a stream of colors poured skyward and then burst into an oblong pattern of red, white and blue to relight the park.
The fireworks show was on.
Most of us have seen big-city fireworks in our time, a constant pour of colors and shapes filling the sky and the sounds arriving so quickly they become a constant rumble. But the Pleasantville fireworks, as a rural community’s fireworks should be, were fed to us in savory sips instead of drunken gulps.
The display was paced correctly to allow the proper reactions of oooos and aaaaaahs reflexively emitted from our inner beings. When fireworks are spaced correctly, even the hardest of souls can’t fight the involuntary eruption of youthfulness the booming colors pull from within us.
At Pleasantville, we had that rural fireworks display moment when we uttered, “What, that’s the end?” — only to be surprised by the sudden eruption of a quick-hitting orgy of colors. Within moments, as though scripted, we were returned to the pace to allow the properly-paced oooos and aaaaaahs.
And then, they were finished, us heading into those few minutes of guiding our car among other cars making their ways into the countryside’s darkness, and being vigilant for young parents bent on getting overtired children into vehicles.
Finding our space along county Highway E and then county Highway EE, we agreed that Pleasantville’s fireworks was worthy of praise as rural communities’ fireworks go. Our sporadic conversation occasionally broken by deer-sightings, we also agreed that we’d return during coming years – along with some of those displays offered by our county’s other communities.
We might even watch more while sitting in our car and listening to old-time radio shows.