Starting a fire on a wet morning after a night of torrential rain seems like the most foolish task, but when I set my mind to something, “struggle” doesn’t begin to describe the effort to dissuade me. Give me three dry logs, a splash of kerosene and a bundle of dried twigs. With one match on a still day and two when there’s a breeze, I can create a fire hot enough to burn freshly cut logs and smolder for two days while the next storm pours rain on it.
The trick is to remember the three dry logs, which I recently forgot. Gary brought them down to me then pronounced the conditions too wet to burn. As I wrote above, nothing can deter me when I’m set on doing something. Yes, the fire was slow to build because it was extremely wet, but I believed that with the right amount of nurturing and futzing, this fire would burn all the twigs, blackberry vines (and roots) and branches I’d stacked up during the last few weeks of summer. The area in question was part of my first-year clearing and cleaning goal of the east yard, and when the forecast indicated a day without rain, I wasn’t the least bit concerned with the previous night’s precipitation.
“This isn’t going to light. It’s pointless to be out here,” Gary said.
“Wait. Just wait,” I insisted. He didn’t. I thought he was going in the house, but a minute later he was in the car winding down the driveway to get more kerosene. I can always use more, but then something wonderful happened. The heat started building, and then I heard that high-pitched whistling combined with the crackling and splatter of wet wood drying out and steam being released. It was time to start raking the pile and grabbing from a nearby stack to get a bigger fire.
When he returned, Gary was pleased to see the fire doing its job. We were still stoking the fire six hours later, and it was so hot that we couldn’t get closer than the length of a rake handle without scorching our faces. I had a lot to burn. I had cleared a sizable patch, certainly more than our previous front and back yards combined, so burning this would take days.
Or so I thought. I had planned on four days, but the embers were glowing when I approached the area the next morning. I scattered the coals with a rake and dumped some small brush on top. Minutes later, I had flames large enough to justify my adding bigger pieces of wood. Getting the fire hot enough took no time the second day, and I was able to finish all of my piles regardless how soaked they were. The rains resumed that evening, which forced me to stop, but when I looked out from time to time, I could see a moisture-defying flame in the darkness. When the sun came up, the rains were still coming down while the circle of white continued to emit a stream of smoke throughout the day.
There has to be a lesson in all of this, and I think I understand. Most of what I get done is through persistence and a generally positive attitude. That’s not to say I’m always optimistic or Gary’s always the skeptic. He talks me off of plenty of ledges that no one ever hears about. However, that day, as I explained to him, I’m just Linus in the pumpkin patch, and though I may be on the wrong track occasionally, I’m going to persevere until it works out.
© 2016 by Patrick Brown
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