Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dial "D" for...

Since all comedy is based on tragedy, I thought I'd regale you today with a short listing of some of the funnier things that have befallen me as a result of misfortune.

They are funny now. Some are hilarious and they are so by virtue of the fact that they were born of unfortunate events precipitated by rank and raw stupidity. Namely mine.

Some folks look back at their bad decisions and shudder that they were ever so cranially challenged. Some folks, well, my old man specifically, go looking for victims to blame it on. I try and laugh at it all because I know it was all my fault and it was an apogee of synaptic misconnection and, here's the big one; I probably haven't learned my lessons yet and there's more to come. A parade of the dumb:

Episode One
Prairie Lightning

When I was about 12, I became fascinated with matches and fire. Fire good. Moreover, fire cool.

We lived in a small town that had grown up around a series of dairy farms, one of which had refused to give in to suburban development and as such sat as an island surrounded by little capes and ranches built during the postwar boom most of North America had. There was a big red barn where hay was stored and there was a foundation where the farmhouse had stood until it had burned down before anyone of us could remember. There was a huge, ten acre field that all the houses adjoined, ours being one of them. Every year, the field would be grown for fodder and twice a year it would be cut down and baled. The hay was stored in the barn and transported to another farm, this one out in the bona fide country where the farmer now actually lived and tended cattle.

It was always fun to watch the hay being cut. It was cut in mid-summer when it was dry and yellow stubble of dry grass was left on the field. Did I mention that dry grass burns? Rather well?

I combined my natural interest in dry grass with my new enthusiasm for lit matches into an entirely new hobby of dropping lit matches into dry grass. It didn't build character but it was fun.

One day I introduced this hobby to my friend Mike who was a pretty good guy with a hell of a short attention span. Mike, being a boy, took an active interest in matches and dry grass and fired off about a half dozen flares in the dry grass oh, that abutted our houses. Then, just as quickly as he had taken to dry grass and matches, he found a new passion in trying to figure out what lived in the stone wall that marked the boundary between the dry tinder of the field and the dry tinder of the 1950's ranches and capes. He tried to get me interested too and I thought that I'd give the stone wall a go. It didn't have the allure of the fiery field though and I soon returned to my first passion.

Apparently, not soon enough. And as I had warmed to it, it had developed a burning desire for me. And most everything else combustible in it's path.

Ok, think fast. Stomp out the fire with your feet, that always worked before and would have now had the fire had the decency to stay the cute little blaze it was. It was though, now, just a little more grown up. Stomping on it only lost me my shoe.

The fire department in town used water to put out fires. So would I.

Now this is probably a good time to write the prequel to the old man. You see, he was handy but only up to a point. In his lifetime he built his own garage, put a roof on a shed, wired up a guest room and put an outside faucet on the house. It worked, mostly, but everything had it's limitations that were directly reflective of his limitations. The plexiglas windows in the garage buckled and went opaque, the shed didn't have a proper cap on its peak, the guest room sometimes blacked out the rest of the house and the faucet would turn to full blast of water and then fail to shut off if you didn't twist it just so.

This was the faucet from which I sought water.

I thought rather than get a small, portable bucket that I would surely soon tire of filling and carrying and putting out the fire a little at a time, I would be the master of efficiency and fill up one great container, something like a trash barrel, and put the fire out in one fell swoop.

I will say one thing about the old man and I. We didn't ever get along but I think you can see that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

I'll bet you didn't know how long it takes to fill a trash barrel full of water. Certainly long enough to try and figure out how to turn the faucet off "just so", such that you are not simultaneously burning the town to the ground and depriving it of it's only source of fire deterrence.

I'll bet you also didn't know just how heavy a quarter barrel full of water is. I know I didn't.

With a tenth of the city's reservoir cascading down our driveway, I got a smaller bucket and formed a bucket brigade with Mike. Two boys and and two hundred feet between water and fire make a brigade that sounds a lot like this:

"Crikey, get another bucket and hurry, it's still burning!!!!"

"The water won't turn off!!!!"

"Worry about that later!!!"

"It's still burning!!!"

I was still looking for the garden hose that was too short that I would attach to the streaming faucet and water the raspberries that were still twenty feet from the blaze with when Mike saved the day. He fell. More importantly he fell over the soaking wet doormat that lay outside our back door. It didn't take Mike long to connect a soaking wet doormat to the idea of a device with which to beat the flames down with. I connected wet back doormat to a front door mat and the Niagara Driveway Faucet and suddenly we were an extinguishing brigade again.

Amazingly, we got the fire out. It burned an area about forty feet wide and a hundred feet long. Even more amazingly, in the half hour or so it burned, no one in this pretty densely populated town noticed enough smoke, yelling or anything else to come out of their homes to check things out. This vigilance may explain why we had at least three summers of burgulary sprees that I can remember.

Moreover and still amazingly, we didn't get caught by my parents. We got the faucet off. The water bill showed up at the end of the quarter and the fun had all been forgotten. We hosed the doormats off as best we could and set them out to dry and, Dad being the outdoorsman he was, never wandered off beyond the security of that stone wall boundary.

I think the only thing I caught crap for was a dirty lost sneaker.

Oh and why the hell wasn't there anything to light advent candles with that December?? Don't we have a single match in this house????


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