Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Little House On The Prairie Fire
"Ya think it's too windy to burn?" I asked Jess before he fired up his professional grade Snapper "haymaker" to do the front.
"It's pretty windy. Try to keep it small."
So I sprayed one small portion of the burn pile he, Al and I had amassed the day before, which I had added significantly to this morning, a pile probably 5 feet high of combustible trash, with lighter fluid, and lit it.
It was controlled enough, and I fed it very gradually from around the sides, careful not to get too much burning at the same time. And I was having a very pleasant afternoon of it, thinking of my dad and I burning leaves in the Fall. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in west-central Ohio.
But then when I shifted the old door that was burning well from an obtuse to an acute angle, that's when things changed fast.
The middle of the pile kind of exploded, and immediately the entire pile was roaring. And then it got bigger. Soon, the unmown and thatchy edges of the burn pile were catching. And not long after, with help from a wind out of the southwest, an army of flames were headed north-by-northeast, invading ultimately my new neighbor's harvested corn field.
I ran all around the fire; it must've been 800 degrees at least. I tried to keep it from spreading, but the more I pounded on the burning edges with my rake and my shoe, the more it seemed almost to get stronger.
Meanwhile, Jess saw what was happening, and he steered his mower around to cut the spreading fire by mowing the thatch between the burning pit and the spread. After he'd done so many times, his mower caught on fire, and he had to stop to put it out.
Oh. Did I mention that we hadn't got the well-house pump working, so we didn't have any running water?
Just to keep from having a massive panic attack, I played Bach fugues in my head.
"Just let it burn itself out," he said calmly. "The wind will change, and the fire will run out of fuel when it hits the new growth. Just keep it out of the corn field."
Which we did. And it did burn itself out.
"Man, Jess, I'm so sorry about your mower."
"It's fine. It's just a belt. It was due for service anyway. Sit down and rest, and drink your water."
I did. Then I looked down at the scorched earth, sullen, and said, "Well, this isn't exactly the beginning I had in mind. Not very auspicious, is it?"
"It's a great beginning. It's a spectacular beginning. What it shouldn't be is a terrible ending."
"You make a good point. If this is some kind of cosmic test of my resolve, I'm not giving up. Thanks."
"In a month all you'll notice is all the new growth coming up from where it burned. No big deal. I won't tell Al or Jane; they'll never know."
"You can tell 'em. I don't mind."
Then Jess, eyes squinting to look across the southeast corner of the adjoining property that holds a decent stand of trees in a wetland area with a small creek, which I'm gonna try to buy as well, and because we were both obviously thinking of him, inadvertently channeled our dad and said, "You know, come to think of it, it just might be too windy to burn after all."
We both just laughed. And he did tell Al. And Jane.
What is this? Am I home? Again? I didn't think we could go home again. Maybe we can? My stomach hurts. I think I'm gonna throw up. Again.