There are dozens of reasons why humans are so fascinated with fire; I just don’t know what they are. Perhaps, it is its primal, elemental nature that 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 somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania, which should not reflect, poorly, on the state. Even more important for you to know is that they all happened on family-owned property (affectionately referred to by me and mine as “The Compound”). Basically, that should tell you all you need to know about my family.
This past Christmas Day, my family gathered to celebrate the holidays. Adults and an ever-increasing population of children that seems to grow, exponentially, each year packed the house. The home was warm and inviting, offering no real reason to step out into the frigid night air.
A nephew of mine brought along some papers he needed to get rid of (I have learned never to ask questions). At some point, he and I found ourselves standing outside in the cold in front of a lit burn barrel, while he added fuel to the fire. As a result, men from inside the house emerged–one-by-one–abandoning the comfort of the party, drawn to the flames like moths to a porch light. Thinking back, the whole thing seemed cartoonish, as if a smoky hand had risen from the fire, grabbed them by the nostrils, and pulled them outside.
Since it was Christmas, a small mountain of cardboard boxes eventually found its way outside to keep the fire going. Little-by-little, others brought out more fodder for the flames, including 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 (sort of like eating smoked ham but without the deliciousness).
A few years back at The Compound, I attended a party for one of my in-laws. All the usual family members were there, along with a neighbor, who had wandered over and joined the crowd. He was an aggressive close-talker. My nephew, Joe, and I stood beside the house, where the neighbor found us. Within a few minutes, he already had his finger in Joe’s face, challenging him about something. Then, after several minutes of this, it was my turn. As he chastised me about something or other, I looked over at my nephew. Like a remorseful crab, he slowly made a sideways exit from the scene, mouthed “I’m sorry,” and disappeared into the night.
Near the house’s deck, there was a fire pit, where someone (naturally) had placed an upright, wooden chair. At some point, Joe sensed the neighbor would round back to him, again. In a preemptive attempt to avoid more drama, he stated, “I’ll give you five dollars if you sit in that chair,” pointing towards the fiery pit (of course).
With a cavalier shrug of the shoulders, as if asked to grab a beer for someone from the fridge, the neighbor walked over and sat in what was—literally— “the hot seat.” Amazingly, he did not budge. He just sat there (at least until the chair collapsed under his own weight into the flames). By some miracle, he walked away, unscathed. Ironically, my nephew never gave him the five dollars.
Before The Compound became The Compound it was just a farm house. It was surrounded by a lot of undeveloped property, where my brother’s house would, eventually, stand one day.
Just like nature abhors a vacuum, the drunk abhor open spaces. “This may be the greatest thing we’ve ever done. Nothing could possibly go wrong,” they might have said, before doing what they were about to do. What did they do, you ask?
Lit a hot tub on fire and rolled it down a hill.
“This didn’t work at all!”
Their initial attempt was somewhat of a failure. While the hot tub was on fire, it did not completely catch ablaze. Moreover, it sadly journeyed only a few feet, wobbling like a drunk driver asked to walk the line during a sobriety test, before crashing–head-on–into a tree.
“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. This time, they drenched the doomed hot tub with more (much more) gasoline and flicked lit-match after lit-match onto it. Nothing happened. Next, they soaked the ground around the tub and lit that on fire. In a matter of seconds and a ball of flame, the hot tub began its descent into history.
It is hard to tell, but I think someone tossed more gasoline on the wheel of fire, as it passed. Flames followed the tub like footprints, as it rolled away into the dark night. After all that, it was really the maniacal laughter, throughout, that disturbed me the most.
“It’s going for the trampoline!”
If you were just unceremoniously lit on fire and pushed down a hill, wouldn’t you want to take out the prized trampoline of your assailant? I know I would. Unfortunately, the hot tub had other ideas and rolled-on past without giving it a second thought.
Click here to watch the full video…
It is like watching the “found footage” of a horror movie, isn’t it?
Luckily, no one hurt themselves during that evening’s shenanigans. As a result, however, I do find myself beginning to question the relevance of traditionally burning Yule logs for Christmas. Maybe next time, I’ll write about the gas can, the chair, and the kid and call it “The Bonfires of the Insanities.”
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