The Dagley Bush
Story circa July 3rd, 1994 | View Post

When I was just 14 years old and a freshman in high school, I had a friend named Ben Dagley. He was two years older than me and thus a junior at the time. I played football in high school and consequently was introduced our local version of Fellow Christian Athletes called Student Venture. This was a pretty common thing to be exposed to in the Texas high school football system; Ben was the student leader of our group.

While I'm the furthest thing from being religious today, we had a great group of guys. There were about twenty of us in total. Ben and I became very close friends, albeit this would eventually dissolve by the time I graduated from high school and moved on to my life in college. Ben had a dear friend named Brian Williams. Brian was similar to Ben in many ways, but he and I always had a great time together, namely as he enjoyed my general attitude of pranking people, hijinks, and various shenanigans. Incidentally, Brian was working on becoming a fire fighter - a field that would soon become very important to me.

In the State of Texas, at least in 1994, it was only legal for fireworks to be sold within 2 weeks of New Year's Eve and 2 weeks within the 4th of July. It was the summer time, school was out, the 4th of July was upon us, and fireworks were being readily sold.

Ben's family lived on pretty typical suburban cul-de-sac. The back of his house, however, was part of a unique system of alley ways. Unlike more traditional alley ways, there were three of them all next to one another with a large dirt field in between them. This made for a large open area that we could play in, drive our trucks in, and use for parking at his house among other things. His was the last house on the alley way before it made a sharp turn. So in essence, and even though his family didn't own the land, they had an enormous "side yard".

Immediately adjacent to this side yard was a detached garage and between the detached garage and their main house, but still on the alley itself, was a giant bush. This bush had probably been growing for a few decades. It was an ornamental style bush. Perhaps shrub is a better word for it. It was truly massive and it was a nice feature to this otherwise unusual part of their house on the alley way.

Ben, Brian, another friend of ours named Daniel, and I had all just come back from eating. Neither Daniel nor I could drive yet and so Ben and Brian drove us around. Upon arriving back at the Dagley house, we parked in the alley way, something that we commonly did. Again, there was ample parking back there. Ben went inside of his house to speak with his parents. Brian walked over to his truck to work on something or another which left Daniel and I in the dirt area of the alley way together. We had purchased a variety of fireworks and were setting off some of the BlackCats, M60s, and other similar munitions that don't fire into the air, but rather make a large boom upon exploding. We had a number of smoke bombs too.

For whatever reason, I thought it would look cool to see thick colored smoke emanating from the Dagley Bush. I lit the smoke bomb and to the best of my ability, tossed it right into the center of the bush. I will remind you, it was a good thing that Brian was eager to become a fireman.

At first, the bush smoked as I had hoped it would. As bright purple smoke filled the entirety of the bush and leaked out around all of the pointed foliage, the core of the smoke bomb was emitting a white hot flame, a flame that had no business being in the center of a bush in the middle of a Texas summer. Within seconds, the bush was fully ablaze. Flames shot out from the bush several feet high. Neither Daniel nor I could do anything. Brian saw the commotion and came running around the corner shouting orders at the two of us. "Go and grab that shovel!", "Warn the others!", "Turn on the hose while I reel it out!" were among the phrases he shouted at us. By now the flames were high enough that everyone inside of the house could see them and came running out too.

The bush sat along the Dagley's wooden fence. It took caught fire - almost as quickly as the bush did. We all did our parts to stop the blaze with Brian spraying it down with the hose. It felt like hours, but was probably only seconds; the fire was put out.

In the end, the bush was almost entirely destroyed. What remained of it were just some burnt out innards. They were probably gasping for their last bit of carbon dioxide as they choked on the less desirable carbon monoxide and simultaneously saw their brethren burned alive. The fence was far better, but certainly had a number of boards burned to a crisp.

Mr. Dagley, Ben's father, was less than thrilled. But as Ben was our religious leader, I can only imagine that he was in a pretty difficult position with me. He did have a stern talk with me and made sure I was aware of just how stupid my actions were. He noted how quickly the fire spread and how if Brian hadn't been there to help put it out, it very well may have burned down their house. He was right. The truth is that I just didn't know a giant flame would shoot out of the smoke bomb. When I'd seen them in the past, it just seemed like they got hot on the inside and released smoke. Since I'd run through that smoke before, I knew it wasn't especially hot or anything. Certainly not to the point that it would catch fire. Unfortunately, I was just a bit ignorant of how smoke bombs started their initial process - with a giant white flame shooting out of them.

I helped replace the fence and apologized to the entire family for burning down their bush. They were extremely forgiving and felt that I had learned a fairly important lesson that day. I did. It didn't stop me from playing with fireworks, but to this day, I always know where the hose is first.

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