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The Devil Is Not Fire’s Only Friend

The Devil Is Not Fire’s Only Friend

I’m sure there are a dozen reason humans are fascinated with fire, I just don’t know what they are.  I’m sure it’s primal and speaks to our primitive selves.  Or maybe, to quote a famous character who really had the pieces of his life stitched together:

“Fire, good!”

The following events all took place in Pennsylvania, which is not meant to reflect poorly on the state.  The fact that these events all happened on family-owned property (affectionately known as ‘The Compound’), tells you all you need to know about my family.

On Christmas Day this year, somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania, my family gathering for the holiday.  The house was filled with adults and, a population that seems to increase exponential each year, children.  The home was warm and inviting, leaving no reason to step out into the frigid night.

One nephew brought along some papers he needed to get rid of (never ask questions).  A few minutes later, he and I stood outside in the cold, around the aforementioned burn barrel, as he fed fuel to the fire he just ignited.

One by one, moths to a porch light, every man inside the party emerged, drawn to the flames.  As if a cartoon hand risen from the smoke, grabbed them by the nostrils, and pulled them outside.

A few minutes after that, a small mountain of cardboard was extracted from the house (it was Christmas, after all) to keep the fire going.  Along with a few packs of firecrackers, and a large bottle rocket that exploded but never took flight.

As I type this, I can still taste the smoke in the back of my throat; a smoked ham without the deliciousness.

A few years back, at The Compound, I attended an in-law’s party.  Besides the usual family members, a neighbor wandered over, and joined the crowd.  He was an aggressive close-talker. My nephew, Joe, and I stood on the side of the house, that’s where the neighbor found us.  In just a few minutes, the neighbor had his finger in my nephew’s face, challenging him about something.  This went on for several minutes before the neighbor switched over to me.  As I was being chastised for one-thing-or-another, I looked at my nephew.  He moved sideways, like a remorseful crab, as he mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ and disappeared into the night.

There was a fire pit near the deck that someone, naturally, placed an upright wooden chair.  My nephew, sensing the neighbor make the rounds back to him, preemptively said, “I’ll give you five dollars if you sit in that chair”.  Of course, he meant the one that was currently engulfed by flames.

With a shrug of the shoulders, as if someone asked him to grab them a beer, he walked over and sat in what was literally  ‘the hot seat’.

He didn’t budge; he sat until the chair collapsed under his weight and he fell into the flames.  Miraculously, he did not get hurt.  Ironically, my nephew never gave him the five dollars.

Before ‘The Compound’ became ‘The Compound’, it was a farm house with a lot of undeveloped property (where my brother’s house would one day stand).

If nature abhors a vacuum, then drunks abhors open spaces. 

“This may be the greatest thing we’ve ever done”

They might have said, ‘nothing could possible go wrong’ before doing what they were about to do.

Oh, what did they do?

Lit a hot tub on fire and rolled it down a hill.

“This didn’t work at all”

There first attempt was somewhat of a failure.  The hot tub was on fire, but not engulfed.  It journeyed a few feet, wobbled like a drunk asked to walk the line during a sobriety test, then smashed into a tree (like a drunk asked to walk the line during a sobriety test).

“I put a lot of gas on there”

A perfect example of America’s stick-to-itiveness, they rolled it back up the hill to do it again.  With more (much more) gasoline now on the doomed hot tub, they flicked match after match, but nothing happened.  Eventually, they soaked the ground around the tub, lit that on fire, and in seconds a ball of flames began its descent into history.

It’s hard to tell, but I think someone tossed more gasoline on the wheel of fire as it passed.  Footprints of fire followed the tub as it rolled into the darkness.  With all that, it’s the maniacal laughter throughout that disturbs me the most.

“It’s going for the trampoline!”

If you were just lit on fire and pushed down a hill, wouldn’t you take out the prized trampoline of you assailant?  I know I would.  But, unfortunately, it rolled right passed it.

Scroll down to the bottom to watch the video. It’s like watching a ‘found footage’ horror movie.  Just amazed that no one got hurt.

A hot tub engulfed in flames rolling down hill; my nomination to replace the Yule Log for Christmas.

Maybe next time, I’ll write about the gas can, the chair, and the kid, or what I will call, ‘The Bonfires of the Insanities’.


Photo Above Title by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash





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