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August 9, 2013

On The Rebound: This column could be flammable

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — When I saw the flashing blue lights, I ran inside the house to peek through the kitchen window. Outside the flames danced dangerously close to the power lines. How could I be so foolish? It’s not like this was my first run-in with fire.

Before I reached double figures in age, a friend and I found a can of lighter fluid. I’m not sure what magic trick or mischievous prank we were attempting when we took the lighter fluid to the barn loft. We didn’t think the fluid was coming out when it was actually seeping through the cracks to build a combustible pool under the old planks. When we struck the match it looked like we had summoned a fire-breathing dragon from below. We slid down the ladder in tandem with me on his shoulders. The flame burned out quickly with no one aware of that event until now.

Then there was the time in our youthful ignorance we built a campfire inside a cave. This was also the night we fired our guns inside the cave. Smoke has nowhere to go inside a cave except your lungs. The sound of pistols has nowhere to go but echo off the cavern walls, slapping you in the ears until they buzz.

Then there was the time the ignition button went out on my gas grill, or so I thought. I also thought I had turned the gas off after a failed attempt to light. I was wrong on both counts and when I pushed the ignitor button the lid flew off and hit the house. It sounded like a Buick had been dropped on the house. Although the force did not move me, all the wind was forced from my body.

There are various other events with candles, lanterns, and campfires. Just last month someone forced me to light fireworks because I looked responsible. I lit the fuse and dropped the mortar into the tube. I knew I should not look at the fireworks given my resume. This rocket decided it did not want to fly.  I walked slowly away in my boots and jeans, silhouetted by flames as sparks bounced off my back. I did not flinch. The children said it looked like a scene from a movie, which made me feel like a super hero.

That brings us to Tuesday night. I had a pile of brush in the yard higher than the top of my 6-foot head. I tried to light it previously with gas and lighter fluid because I don’t learn lessons easily. The constant rainfall of this spring and summer made the pile look like a bowl of soggy corn flakes.

I really didn’t have much faith the pile would light when I stuck some loose paper under the bottom branches. There was no gas, lighter fluid, Coleman Fuel, or corn liquor used. Just junk mail and cereal boxes. I lit the paper and walked inside for just a few minutes. When I stepped back outside I saw a 30-foot flame with smoke billowing across the property boundary to surround the home of a neighbor that moved in last week. The calm wind became a fanning gust that flung ashes into the highest branches of the boundary tree line. I tried to tame the flame with a hose. This only led to more smoke as the fire was so hot the water became steam before it hit the flames.

When I saw the blue lights I ran inside the house. Turns out it was only a motorcycle with neon strobes. I watched our dog try to dig its way under the dog house. The chickens came of the roost and stood in a single-file line memorized by the fire.

Not knowing what else to do, I made cookies and watched an episode of Longmire. This morning a 10-foot barren circle in the back yard still smolders.

mhoward@sentinel-echo.com

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
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