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Burn Pile


I grew up in the suburbs south of Chicago.  We had lots of trees so fall was a spectacular season full of beautiful leaves in bright reds, oranges and golds before they faded to browns and grays only to be covered with a soft blanket of pure white snow.  Can you tell I'm nostalgic?  I loved fall.  We don't need to go into the less wonderful aspects of winter in the north like ice and slush, etc., but regardless of all that follows, fall is beautifully wondrous.  Part of the fun of the season was to rake up all the fallen leaves and burn them.  Of course, someone was required to run through the piles of leaves and toss them to the wind just at the point where your dad had them perfectly piled up to burn.  On almost any sunny fall Saturday you could smell leaves burning all over town.  I think that's where I developed my love of fire.  No, nothing destructive like burning down a house, just having a warm fire in the fireplace or a great burn pile. We lived out in Simonton, TX for 15 years.  It was my first time living out in the country and we had lots of burn piles.

We had lots of trees that needed to be trimmed, lots of bushes to prune, newspapers to be gotten rid of.  You get the idea.  It only took one small limb on the ground and I'd be getting ready to burn it.  The soil out in Simonton is mostly black gumbo clay so grass and trees had to work hard to grow.  As a result we didn't develop a thick thatch on the ground like we do out here in Cat Spring.  We had burn piles out in the pastures, in the yard out in front of the carriage house, next to the pond, in the side yard, in the ditch.  The chances of the fire spreading were slim so you just burned what needed to be burned where it lay.  And we never had to call the fire department. Then we moved out here to Cat Spring.  We have great open pastures and some nice trees.  It's perfect geography for a burn pile.  What could go wrong?

<Note to Self - Any project that starts off with "What could go wrong?" is bound to be fraught with problems!>

My very first burn pile on this property was the summer we moved out here.  We had picked the perfect location out beyond the barn.  Peggy's middle son Robert was out helping me.  We piled up our burnables and lit the torch.  The burn pile went up like a rocket and five minutes later the fire was racing across the pasture towards the very near fence line that separated my property from 30 acres of newly baled hay.  And neighbors I had never met.  Oh, great.  I'll burn up all their hay and then introduce myself.  Not the best way to make a good impression.  Add to that the fact that we didn't have any water available.  Robert and I ran back and forth to the spigot next to the shed filling up watering cans.  And did I mention that it was horribly hot?  Maybe 95 degrees.  It didn't take long for it to sink in that the fire was out of control and I couldn't do much to stop it.  I called the fire department.

Bless the volunteers of our local fire department.  We are only 1/2 mile from the firehouse and I heard the siren go off before I had hung up the phone after calling 911.  They arrived with a big truck full of water and it took them about a minute to put out my fire.  It took them longer than that to find a chair, set it in the shade, put me on it and pump enough water into me so they could stop worrying about me falling over.  What great guys!  I was fine.  Robert was fine.  We didn't burn up the hay field next door and only had a black streak on the ground to record my bad planning and poor execution.

All of this is preamble to explain why I now have issues with burn piles.  I still love them but now they scare me.  I'm convinced every one of them will break free and dash across the pasture towards my animals or my neighbors.  My husband has been eying our burn pile for weeks now obviously wanting to burn it.  He suggested doing that very thing earlier this week but I vetoed the idea.  Too much wind.  Today was the obvious day to burn and I couldn't come up with any reasonable excuse not to.  No wind and slightly warmer and therefore more comfortable temperature.  The new rules require two people available, a hose running out to the burn pile, the mule or truck standing by and a cell phone for faster calling the fire department if needed.  I need not have worried.  Yes, the Christmas tree and cardboard boxes went up like a rocket when the flames hit them but the fire stayed exactly where it was supposed to be.
No animals or hay fields were ever in jeopardy.