Only You Can Cause Forest Fires

Out by the back fence of my childhood home in New Jersey, there were some large trees that hung over a small cement patio. This secluded spot was the perfect location for my brother Rob and I to hold top secret meetings (at least after we got too big to assemble under the dining room table). Due to the classified nature of our discussions (including such important topics as, "Which came first, Transformers or GoBots?"), we found it necessary to protect our turf with a booby trap. We dug a large pit in the dirt—a few feet wide and maybe a foot deep—then camouflaged it with sticks and leaves.

I'm not sure who or what we were hoping to ensnare in this pit of ours. A prowler perhaps, or better yet, a tiger like on Swiss Family Robinson. I think the only victim was our mom, who unwittingly stepped in it while trying to tend the adjacent garden. Eventually the pit fell into disrepair, but there it remained for months and eventually years. Now, as Bill Cosby used to say, I told you that story to tell you this one.

One lazy Sunday morning, Rob and I were lounging around in our karate pajamas waiting for afternoon church to roll around. In our boredom we did something all young boys do while trying to entertain themselves—get the matches. We adjourned to the back patio and started making small piles of sticks to ignite. The longer we were out there, the bigger the fire got. Soon we were seeking more aggressive expansion, and our mischievous eyes turned to that old pit we had dug. It was already filled with sticks and leaves, so all we had to do was add the match.

Even junior pyromaniacs like us were surprised how quickly the fire blossomed. In no time it got bigger than the two of us could manage. So we did what any reasonable person would do in that situation—we covered the blazing fire with a piece of sheet metal (previously acquired from the garage) then went in the house, hoping no one would catch the hint of smoke on our pajamas.

Adding potentially serious danger to our foolishness was the fact that just past our back fence was several acres of undeveloped forest, or what we had simply come to call "the woods." Luckily, one of our sisters noticed the smoke before too long. Dad was at church meetings, so Mom ran outside in her strawberry print breakfast coat to douse the flames before the whole forest burned down.

I have little recollection of the aftermath of this incident, if we were even punished and how severely. All I do know is that even after all those public service announcements, we let Smokey the Bear down, and that's really all the punishment a young boy needs.


Christie said...

I thought it was a little metal folding chair that you tried to use to put out the fire.. I miss that backyard..

ScottBoomer said...

It's people like you that keep my people like me in a job. I say, "Thank you Dave and can I get you some matches or anything?"

Cheeseboy said...

This story made too much sense. It's exactly what I would have done. Funny though. Very funny.

GoBots. It was the GoBots.

Dave said...

If Rob and I had Wikipedia back in the day, we would have known that Transformers actually premiered a month before the GoBots back in the fall of 1984.

Another fun Wiki fact: Transformers aired in Japan under the moniker "Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transformer."

Jessica said...

this is a fantastic story. i set my fair share of fires in my back yard much to my mothers dismay. Where in JErsey did you live again?

Dave said...

We lived in a little place in northern NJ called Succasunna, about an hour west of NYC.

Jessica said...

yes i know where that is!

robmba said...

We did start by covering it up with the metal folding chair, and when that wasn't enough, the big metal sheet went on top of that, so that's two, count 'em two, layers of metal. It should have been plenty to snuff out the fire.

I recall being upset about having to shower again. I already showered, so why do I need to again. Nobody will be able to smell the smoke.