Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 2: "Two Person 500-Foot Fire Bucket Relays Rarely Work"

Yesterday I started out to write a brief funny story of how I almost burned down my new town shortly after moving in. As I got into it, and finished off my second giant mug of hyper-caffinated Starbucks French Roast, I let loose almost 1700 words.

My friend FMF (Free Money Finance) mentioned once on his blog that my posts are long, but at least I only post once a day. So, I figured I would cut this story into two 800+ word posts. I hope you enjoy the conclusion.

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 2: "Two Person 500-Foot Fire Bucket Relays Rarely Work."

I looked down and to the side and noticed that the hot engine of my lawn tractor had ignited the dead grass being rolled into a giant cigar under the chassis, and flames were starting to lick up into the engine lighting the stray dead grass tucked into every nook and cranny on the mower. Then the dead grass around the front of the mower caught, and that is exactly when the panic kicked in.

I jumped off with one thought in my mind- “This mower is going to explode, and I will die.”

I ran several feet away and watched as the fire grew, engulfing the front of the mower and starting to spread in a surprisingly well-defined growing circle. Then another thought crossed my mind- “I paid $2000 for this stupid thing and I’m going to sit here and watch it burn up? No way!”

I ran back to the mower, grabbed the back-end (flames were shooting up from the ground in the cock-pit area, and sitting on the mower was not an option), and with all my strength pulled it backwards. Adrenaline kicked in, and the performance was almost super-human, though the effects of the feat were not all good. I succeeded in accomplishing two things: I pulled the mower to relative safety, and I also spread flames over another 10 feet of dead grass. I grabbed my full water bottle and half-empty beer bottle and doused the fire burning under the mower, and the now burning and melting front wheels.

The fire in the field continued to burn, and started accelerating. I screamed to my wife and kids that were in the backyard playing in our blow-up pool- “Fire! Fire!”

Looking back now, I’m not sure that was productive. I panicked Michelle, and the girls all started crying as they looked up and saw daddy awkwardly running towards them navigating foot high dead grass in flip-flops, high-stepping, and wearing a sweat-soaked Hawaiian shirt and holding an empty beer can and water bottle, set to the back drop of a smoke and fire grass inferno.

Michelle and I scrambled for ideas. She suggested we call the fire department to keep from burning down all of Leipers Fork and wouldn’t that be lovely for the new neighbors to do. I considered it for a moment, and couldn’t imagine suffering the embarrassment and humiliation of having several fire trucks in our yard with Michael, Sally, other neighbors, and the constant flow of Sunday cyclist that navigate our road stopping to watch the action. Especially after the stuck-in-the-mud fiasco.

Michelle and I grabbed anything that could hold water, dipped it into the pool, and together jogged the 500 feet to the fire site. Remember the party game where you run with a spoon full of water to see who fills up the cup first, and you spill half of it getting there? This was just like that, only with a feeling of panic and the fear of perishing in a dramatic explosion replacing fun.

After a couple of rounds of this we realized we needed something bigger. The fire was growing, now to a circle roughly 30 feet in diameter with no signs of slowing. There was enough fuel in the form of dead mounds of grass spread out over 11 acres to provide the start of another Great Chicago Fire. I grabbed a plastic storage bin and filled it with water from the pool, and then on the next round tried to lift the whole stupid pool. I had lost my mind and imagined I could somehow lift 100 gallons of water in a flexible blow-up pool.

Finally, at a point of desperation, standing on the outside of the circle trying to stomp out the fire in flip-flops, Michelle said “Do you think I should get the fire extinguisher from the kitchen?”

“OH MY GOSH YES!!!” I said, just then recalling we had bought one and placed it under the kitchen cabinet. Michelle ran to the house and fetched it while I continued to fruitlessly shuttle storage bins of water back and forth from the house. Michelle returned with the fire extinguisher, I popped the safety tab and got to work. The fire was out in another minute, leaving a black smoking circle probably visible from space.

The next few weeks kept me busy- replacing the burnt front tires, slowly and painstakingly mowing the yard with a fire-extinguisher bungee-corded to the mower, and shopping for a new mower that could handle our 11 acres without burning down our town or causing a life-long battle with hemorrhoids.

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Anonymous said...

Yes, your posts are long, but always good.

It's surprising how successful you've been in life when you tell us about situations like this. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with FMF - your posts are long, but they are always good. You're a storyteller and it's one thing to write, "dry grass got stuck under the mower and caught fire" and another to describe having grass "cigars" catch fire!

As a side note, I would probably write long posts myself. I have been using my blog as a way to force myself to edit and hopefully have stronger writing. But I also try to trust myself and enjoy myself and not worry too much about what readers are thinking.

You are creating a great set of short stories and I look forward to reading your book someday!

The Eccentric Blonde said...

I love this story! It sounds like the kind of situation that I would find myself in. :)

DigitalRich said...

Thanks Q, FMF and EB.

It is amazing when something little (like Michelle bringing the fire extinguisher to The Burning of the Christmas Tree) happens and it opens up a flood of memories not recalled for years. I love when that happens.