When I was a boy I came within a nickel of burning down our house.
We lived on a farm near Gadsden, Alabama, and Brother Dave and I went through a fire phase, setting them, playing with them. I was about eight, he was two and a half years older.
This particular fire, which I unwittingly built near an underground oil tank, was mine alone. When my little stick fire got into the grass it began to spread and when it reached the oil-soaked ground over the tank it quickly became a big fire.
I ran into the house, to the kitchen, pushed past my brothers and sisters, filled a frying pan with water, rushed back outside, and threw it on the fire. And then I ran back inside and got another frying pan full of water. I never believed it, but a man who worked for Dad and lived in a tenant house nearby, said the flames were taller than our three-story house.
When I ran back inside to get another a third frying pan of water one of my sisters asked me, “What are you doing, Pat?”
I told her.
My brothers and sisters who were home –I had six– rushed outside and the fight was on to keep the fire from spreading to our house. Somebody called the fire department, but we had it out before the firemen arrived.
When Dad got home from Altoona, Alabama, where he mined coal, Marge, my oldest sister, ordered me: “Go tell Daddy what you did!”
So I went to him, stood by his chair, and confessed.
He asked me one question, “Did you help put it out?”
“Yes sir,” I said.
That was all. I was dismissed and he went back to reading his newspaper.
NOTE: One day, when no one else was home, one of Dave’s fires got out of hand and burned up near the house, the syrup factory, and the barn before he and I corralled it. It was touch and go for a while there. Finally, there was only one small flame left.
“Who started this fire?” Dave asked.
“You did,” I said.
And then he swept his broom across the last bit of fire and asked, “Who put it out?”
Coming Monday: Typhoon!