When I was in 5th or 6th grade, in La Junta just off of Highway 350, Dad was always big on burning the ditches and fence lines. Of course, being two impressionable boys, Cully and I couldn’t wait for the time of year for this to happen. It meant we could play with fire and not get into trouble. Play with fire…there’s a statement that can only lead to trouble.
To preface this a little, I was the kid who always wanted to burn something. Playing with the wax, in candles, was a lot of fun. I still get into trouble now at 43, for playing with candles. Sometimes, I think it’s a wonder I didn’t burn down the house! Once I poured a gallon coffee can about half full of gas, while standing in the garage, and lit it on fire. It was pretty cool, got the big whoosh…watched it burn for a while…pretty cool! Then my brain power kicked in. I knew I would get into trouble for playing with fire (never crossed my mind it was even worse if you start fires in the house!), so I leaned over the top of the can (about 6-8 inches away), took a deep breath and tried to blow it out. Funny how a little oxygen in a fire makes the flames leap up around your head! I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t take long to look at a can full of gas! After running in the house to see if I still had eyebrows and hair (I did, thankfully! I knew I couldn’t hide the fact I was playing with fire if I didn’t have any hair!), I ran back to the garage where I had left the can burning (duh, fire in the house…) and tried to think of a way to put it out! The fire was just sitting there, cheerily burning what little gas remained in the can…stupid fire. It finally dawned on me that if I put another can over the top of this one, it would smother the fire out. Bingo…hair on the face and head, fire out and no one the wiser! At least that is what I choose to believe, until now when I have confessed on my own terms.
I really think I got this love of burning things from my Dad, as I said we were always burning ditches, fence lines and any trash we could pile up. I remember the time we burned the railroad right-of-way by our house (if this is still on the books as illegal, then I have totally made all of this up!). We were supposed to be burning down the driveway, which we did very successfully and without incident! The trouble is when we got to the top of the driveway; it was right next to the railroad right-of-way. The right-of-way had about 8-10 inches of dried grass, so you can imagine. It was just sitting there waiting for us to light it on fire. To be honest, I don’t think Dad intended for it to catch on fire. The wind gusted up and a most inopportune moment and the next thing we knew….we had a roaring inferno! We rushed over and started fighting fire in the right-of-way. It got pretty exciting as we fought fire with shovels and rake for what seemed like a mile…well maybe not…it was only about a mile into town and we did not get to town. I can honestly say, part of me wanted to stand back and watch the burn and the other part could only think “ooooohhhh, we are going to be in trouble!”. We finally got it put out and the fire department showed up (Mom had called them; I guess she didn’t think we could get it put out! What did she think she was dealing with, a bunch of rookies?), and all they had to do was spray down some fence posts!
Mom called us “Flame and his Two Torches” for a very long time, but what is even funnier is that she is the one who wants to burn everything now! The girls and I were just in Utopia (they are under a burn ban….no rain) and Dad was just saying that Mom wanted to start a fire! AND there are a lot more trees to catch on fire up there than there ever was stuff to burn in the flatlands of La Junta!