“Stamp it out J! Quick! Stomp on it! Stomp on it!”
With a flurry of feet I stomped all over the glowing sparks that had burst and scattered across the ground. We were gathered around the burn pile, a giant bonfire, watching to be sure things didn’t get out of control. That is how it was done when I was a kid growing up on our farm. Once a week, maybe more frequently, we had burning day where we would burn our garbage. As kids we enjoyed it and occasionally would whoop around it in a big circle doing our version of Indian dances. We always had at least one person on fire duty to keep an eye on things to be sure that things didn’t get out of control. One night, it was my turn. . .
The wind came up unexpectedly, ruffling my short blondish hair. I didn’t think much of it until I saw the first few sparks fly into the dry grass. With a crackle the grass immediately burst into flame, the wind carrying it further in the direction of our neighbor. With a shout of alarm I raced as fast as my short little legs could carry me. I burst through the back door of the farm house, “The fire is spreading! The fire is spreading!” I heard the sound of feet hitting the floor as everyone charged for their shoes, a bucket and a burlap sack. I didn’t wait. Charging on I ran to the neighbor’s house, pounding on their front door. “We need your help! The fire is spreading!” The neighbors were out the door in seconds and running after me.
As I approached the fire I could see our family lined up, stretching from the nearby pond to the fire, silhouetted against an eerie orange glow passing buckets and wet burlap sacks down the line to where my dad and oldest sister were battling the fire. The wind had died back down, but the damage was already done. The fire wasn’t big, but it had fuel now as it chomped hungrily at the parched grass. It was beatable if we worked quickly. Dad had worked on the lookout towers in the mountains of the Cascades for a number of years, spotting fires, and on seldom occasions even putting out small ones. He was a machine, beating away ceaselessly at the licking flames. I took my place in line as the neighbors began helping Dad stamp out the flames. Bucket after bucket passed through my tired arms sloshing across my arms and chest, as the fire shrank, smaller and smaller. Soon it was just a pile of embers and charred grass. We all began to soak burlap sacks and fling them on the embers, stamping across them to be sure the fire was out. We continued to beat the ground with a fury long after the red glow had diminished from the embers, smothering the heat. We could still here the hiss of steam rising into the air as our sacks whacked the ground.
Finally the hiss and the steam stopped, the ground was soaked, and the fire was out. We looked around at each other, our faces, hands, and clothes muddied with soot and water. We clapped each other on the back, congratulating each other for a job well done, shaking hands with our neighbors and thanking them for their help. There was a feeling of camaraderie, no one felt like bickering and squabbling, we had joined our forces, even if only temporarily (as siblings often do, heh) to battle something greater. I have seen that happen many times, not just in our back yard battling a spreading fire; uniting together to battle many things, standing up for each other. I learned many lessons that night as we strove together to stamp out the flames.