When you grow up as a feral poor kid in the country you learn some things.
You learn how to clean out a chicken coop without disturbing the roost, how to make a fallen oak a majestic fortress and how to build just about anything from the scrap pile that collects in most country backyards.
You also learn a healthy respect for things
You learn how to respect the occasional pack of roaming wild dogs, an Alabama spring tornado and an angry grandmother who has been standing on the porch for an hour calling into the woods for you to come to dinner.
I remember, early on, learning a healthy respect for another formidable force; fire. Fire is a tricky thing. It can be one of the most difficult things to get going but once it does, with the right external forces, it can be one of the most terrifying and violent of nature’s tools.
I think I was around 10, it was late summer and we were wanting to clear some land. In the country when you want to clear some land you do not bring in a bulldozer or a survey crew. You get a few guys, some hoses and some twisted up news paper. you would set the perimeter with the hose before hand and start spraying the area you wanted to keep untouched. Then, when everyone is ready, you begin to light the underbrush. Usually it is an uneventful afternoon, the fire line creeps slowly across the plot of land like black paint being spilt across a piece of paper until it reaches the edge where others are waiting with the hoses to protect the border.
That is when it goes as planned.
Here is the problem with fire; it does not necessarily care what you plan or where you want it to burn, it does whatever it damn well pleases. Continue Reading…