Friday, August 1, 2014

Out Of The Blue




   Odd memory kind of popped into my mind. Watching the news about the wildfires up here and remembered how they used to let us out of school to go fight the grass fires down home. Which led to this one.

   I was living with my dad and his wife one time (I didn't like it but that's a different story). We lived right across the street from the school in a house with a big yard half of which Dad didn't mow. Next to the house was a big field, not sure how big it was or who owned it. The main thing I can remember about it was the pond about half way across it, great place to catch frogs and snakes. The piece of yard that wasn't mowed was next to that field with nothing between them but a barbed wire fence. For those of you who are from Schulter, you'll know where I'm talking about. There were houses on two sides of the field and pastures on the other two sides. Just picture in your mind about 200 hundred acres of open land covered in about 2 feet of dry grass.

   My Dad decided one day that he was going to burn the part of the yard that he didn't mow. I think his idea was that after he got it burned off he could plant real grass in it and add it to his yard. Wait, just had a thought, a lot of my stories revolve around the fact that I tend to do things without thinking them through. I just realized where I got that! Anyway, his plan is for him and me (keep in mind that I was about 11 at this time) to have buckets of water and a couple of tow sacks ready so we could beat the flames down and keep them from spreading (sure is beginning to sound like something Stanley and I would have thought of). He figured that if he started the fire next to the fence we'd be able to wet the ground next to the fence and then use the wet sacks to keep it out of the big field. I was really wondering if this was going to work but I was a kid and he was my Dad so what did I know?

   We got everything ready, stood in the middle of the area he was going to burn and he lit the fire. The first thing that surprised me (and I'm pretty sure it surprised him also) was how fast that grass burned and the size of flames it makes. I swear the flames were taller than I was! I just stood there staring at the flames until I realized that dad was hollering at me to wack the burning grass with my sack and telling me to be sure and hit it at the bottom on the grass so we wouldn't spread the flames. I did my best but number one them tow sacks are heavy when their soaked in water and number two the fire was so hot I couldn't get close enough to hit it.

   We were both running around like chickens with our heads cut off but even as young as I was I could tell we were fighting a losing battle. I was trying to do what dad told me but was having a lot of trouble and looked over at him to ask what else I could do. He must have been even more excited than I was because just as I looked over I saw him smack his sack right down in the middle of a huge clump of burning grass. I may have been doing the same thing with knowing it but as soon as he hit the grass I watched a bunch of sparks and burning grass explode into the air and I watched them as the blew over his head and landed in the big field behind us. Every place the sparks or a piece of burning grass hit it was like dropping a match into a pool of gas! I yelled at dad several times before I could get his attention and just pointed behind us when he looked up. He told me to keep trying to beat down the fire and took off for the house. You might say I was a little confused at that point. I have fire in front, fire in back, I'm standing there holding a wet sack and my Dad just ran off and left me!

   I wasn't alone very long before he came back, along with most of the neighbors. The yard area burnt out pretty quick being the smallest area. The big field was another matter. By the time it was out over half the town was involved in fighting it and there was a pretty tense time when the wind changed and it was heading toward the Stidman place and the rest of the houses on that hill. Thankfully they got it put out before it got to the houses.

   I don't think the old man ever owned up to the fact that he started it. I know he told me not to say a word about it to anyone and I heard him tell at least two people that he didn't know how it started. I do know that we started mowing ALL the yard and never let any grass grow like that for as long as I lived with them.

   There might be a few people reading this that were the same ones out fighting that fire and if there are, Thanks, and if you didn't know before now you know who started it.