Friday, March 30, 2007

Burning Down a Saturday Night

The softball game started back up as people returned from their cars, wiping off the benches before sitting down. The acrid smell of burnt ozone from the electrical storm still lingered in the air. But the remaining coolness with the humidity now gone made for perfect spectator weather for the all night softball tournament.

About a half hour later, another nearby spectator coming back with a hotdog said the word fired and pointed towards the southwest. Everyone nearby swiveled in their seats and looked where he had pointed. There was much speculation about where it was and we thought it was near the Smith farm that we farm for the Wells family. We were about done for the evening of softball watching and weren't scheduled to work the food stand until tomorrow morning so we decided to head home, via the Smith farm.

As we pulled down the mile long private driveway to the Smith farm and crested a low hill about a half-mile from the house, it looked as if the aliens had landed. Dozens of cars with headlights blazing were surrounding the house and in front of a huge orange background glow, little forms were seen walking this way and that. Half of the county was here to watch the fire that turned out to be the hay barn out back.

Deep inside, I was glad to see the barn burn because it always had a nest of bumblebees up in the mow which made it challenging to fill it with hay every year. I always seemed to get stung at least once a day and swell up like a balloon in that appendage. The mow floor was in poor condition and falling apart so you had to watch your step lest you fall through. It was just not my favorite place to put up hay and now it was completely engulfed in flames.

We got out of our car and joined the crowd of almost 50 people milling around the farmstead. The Smiths had retired several years ago and no longer lived on the farm so it was currently unoccupied but still, it kind of rubs you the wrong way to see so many people poking through the buildings. It didn't hit us until perhaps a minute later that out of the 50 people, there wasn't anyone here from the fire department yet. As if to punctuate that thought, the sound of an approaching siren filled the air.

The fire truck pulled up and the firemen hopped out and joined the crowd as we watched the barn collapse into a heap. One post with a burning nail tie remained in the shape of a burning cross that made me eerily feel as if I were part of a lynch mob instead of a bystander at a fire. As the fire died down, the bystanders headed back into town to watch the softball games or to go home and the firemen sprayed water around the perimeter of the fire before leaving for the station.

We stayed behind for a bit keeping an eye on things. Around midnight we too decided to go home. Behind us was a 50 by 50 square foot bed of red-hot coals as we got back into the van and turned on the headlights. Before us was the lawn of the farmhouse now trampled and rutted up from all the vehicles and people that had trespassed upon it. Such is the result if there is a fire in a small community on a Saturday night.

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