Popping Pumpkins

Kain England finally gets his explosion and the timing couldn't be better. All pieces eject from their openings at the same time but with different speeds according to their weight.

Kain England finally gets his explosion and the timing couldn't be better. All pieces eject from their openings at the same time but with different speeds according to their weight. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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What’s Halloween without a few exploding pumpkins?

That’s what they figured Wednesday in Mrs. Rustagi’s chemistry class at Payson High School.

I arrived full of hope, only to discover Mrs. Rustagi and her students lugging just three pumpkins. Three pumpkins; how in the world could I get at least one shot with only three pumpkins? I wagged my head in silent disbelief.

Wandering students dropped by to find out what was going on. The crowd grew as Jonathan Savage (at left), Kain England (below) and Mrs. Rustagi poured an unknown liquid into each pumpkin and swirled it around as it coated the pumpkin wall.

The pumpkins each had faces with eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth carved into them, but the carved pieces remained in place.

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Jonathan Savage hasn't even had time to remove the lighter from his exploding pumpkin before pieces fly in all directions.

Savage and England then propped up the pumpkins, put on plastic gloves and handed out the long-stemmed lighters.

The crowd was getting restless and pushed closer to the pumpkins sitting silently on the stools. But Rustagi pushed them back as the three brave chemistry nerds checked their lighters; yep, all had flame. The crowd took up the countdown.

The crowd’s countdown reached the magic number, Mrs. Rustagi lit her pumpkin and I shot a burst of images.

The crowd renewed the count and moved on to England’s pumpkin. Another explosion sounded, with another burst of flame.

Savage’s pumpkin was last and made the biggest noise.

I rushed back to the office, downloaded the images and discovered I’d gotten something useable for each of the three blasts — the flame, the expression, the weirdly suspended pumpkin top.

Oh yeah: I am the king of explosions.

But then, as my mentor once told me: “You are only as good as your last job.”

Because taking pictures remains wonderfully strange and unpredictable — kind of like blowing up pumpkins, come to think of it.

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