Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Brush With Fire


















   Hi- thanks for joining me here. Tonight I would like to share with you a tale. Unlike the tales of the Grimm brothers, this tale is true and involves yours truly. This tale is from a long time ago, relatively speaking, and while it could have been sad for me, fortunately it wasn't. So, sit back, grab a refreshing beverage, cold or hot and join me as I travel back in time with a story from my past. Years ago, in a simpler, happier time, there was no EPA or other government sanctioned terrorist groups. In those days, when Autumn came and the leaves began to fall, folks used to rake them up and pile them in huge stacks out on the curb. Kids used to ride their bikes through them and scatter leaves over the same areas they had just been raked away from.  Eventually, I guess in an effort to keep from having to rake the same leaves again, it was a common practice to set the leaves on fire right there on the street. Now, I have no idea how the asphalt kept from being melted into a tarry, soft mess, but perhaps the coals were unable to reach temps that would create a problem. The smell of burning leaves was just a part of the fall, at least until the late sixties or early seventies.At some point the Cuyahoga River up near Cleveland Ohio was so polluted that it actually caught fire. I think that was probably the point when the environmental movement started catching on with more than a few hippie types. That spelled the end of curbside fires, bonfires and other smoke producing pollutants.  I'm mentioning all this to say that at one point and time in America it was acceptable to have a bonfire on one's own property without even needing a permit.  Here is where the paintbrush comes in. My father was a contractor by trade. He built and remodeled houses back in Ohio. Periodically he would find himself without a job to do, so he would set his sights on something around the house. One fall day I was minding my own business, perhaps I was even taking the trash out to the burn barrel behind the garage. Had I known that dad was there, I might have waited for awhile. In any event, I drifted out back in time to see our old garage door lifted high and a hunk of building material flying out of said door and onto a pile of short lumber pieces, assorted shingles, broken, wooden ladders and assorted and sundry other flammable material. Dad spotted me and sent me inside to grab some kitchen matches. He was going to torch that pile. Being an average American boy, the thought of a fire got my blood flowing and I gladly did what I could to assist, not that I had any choice in the matter. Once the blaze was going Dad retreated to the garage and sorted through a massive pile of lumber, paint cans, hard cement bags and all manner of other tools of the  trade.At one point he exclaimed, "Hey, there that is! I wondering what happened to that!" He came out into the sunlight with a rather large paintbrush and a smile on  his face. He found a five gallon gas can and poured what was left  into a coffee can and started to swish the brush around. Apparently there wasn't enough gas to do what he wanted with the brush so he told me to watch the fire while he went up to get some more gasoline. What a mistake! He should have known that a pre-teen boy left with a can of gas and a fire would be a volatile situation to put it mildly. His truck had no sooner left the alley than I was poking around in the can with the brush. At first I was just trying to help loosen it up  a little, kind of working it like Dad did. Then somehow I got the brilliant idea of flicking it at the fire. Of course gasoline being what it is, and fire being what it is, every time I flicked it, the flames would shoot high and I would chuckle to myself. I got away with it about three or four times. The last time I sloshed the brush at the bonfire, it bit back and set the brush I was holding on fire. Holy Toledo, how did that happen? I threw it to the ground and stomped on it a number of times until the flames were extinguished and then put the brush back in the can.  Oh sure, Dad won't notice it. Dad came back a few minutes later whistling and pulled the gas can out of the bed of the truck. He pulled the can with the paint brush a fair distance from the fire and poured in some gas. He started sloshing the brush around in the gasoline and got a confused look on his face. When he pulled  the brush out the bristles were burnt and curly and there was still some gravel in the base of the brush. He let out his favorite expletive and turned to me. "What the hell happened Tom"? Of course I lied through my teeth, and gave my favorite explanation whenever I knew that trouble was brewing. " Gee, I don't know Dad. I guess it just happened." Yeah, right. He picked up the brush and proceeded to flick it at the fire. Of course the flames shot skyward just like when I did it. "Are you sure you weren't doing this?" he asked as he flicked it again. I'm sure my eyes were as big as saucers as I once again feigned having any knowledge of how such a terrible thing could have happened to his very expensive paint brush. I was fully expecting to get a well deserved spanking, but he just turned away and said, "Get the hell out of here!" I didn't need to be told twice. I fairly well ran to the house and thanked my lucky stars. As I was leaving I heard him muttering something about a twelve dollar paint brush being ruined. While I was exceeding grateful that I escaped any punishment that day, I can't help but wonder how dad was able to so quickly discern exactly what happened to the brush that day. Is it possible that at some time in his past he too might have had an encounter with a gasoline soaked paint brush and a bonfire? I'll never know.


8 comments:

  1. Oh shoot, that had me cracking up! Autumn

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  2. I'm sure he did. Circle of life. Great story, thanks!
    TDH

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  3. Hey Autumn- well, after the fact it was fun to talk about, but at the time I was sweating bullets. Twelve dollars was a lot of money for a paint brush back then- still is!

    Hey Terry- I'm glad you liked it. My life has been anything but boring for sure. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Yes it is...what were you thinking? :) Well, still makes for a good story...afterward!

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  5. What kid spends any time thinking Autumn? Major discoveries would probably been undiscovered had we thought everything through.

    Hey Camille, thanks. Love you too.

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  6. Good one, Tom! The thing is, I live with 2 adolescent male pyros who also love to dispose of old gas from lawn mowers or snowmobiles in similar fashion...thank heavens we have an old rarely-used dirt alley in back of us.

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  7. Hi Jill- there's something about fire that attracts guys like moths. I guess it's in the DNA somehow or a carryover from the days when having a fire meant the difference between eating raw meat or cooked; freezing to death in a cold cave or having enough warmth to make it through to morning. We can't really be faulted for our fascination, just for letting it get out of control sometimes.

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