Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Musing: Burning down the court

After cruising the blogs this morning and last night I began to realize something. This blog, right here under your mouse pointer, is pretty lame.

Not really much of substance is coming out of me these days (in written form here) and all the short stories I want posted are here in the “My Short Stories” sidebar listing.

So, what is a poor blogger to do?

Well, resort to a true story from my childhood of course. You can start yawning now if you want, but it includes the police, a fire truck and my best friend.

Intrigued?

Well, there are plenty of other places to surf if you like. But if you want to stay –

- I’ll tell you how I burnt my home town’s tennis court down.

You see, way back when (and yah, still today) I was fascinated with fire. Fireplaces, matches, bush fires, candles, BBQs, flame – flame – flame.

Okay, now you are in my pyrotechnic head-space as a twelve year old male. You may even relate. Why the fascination with fire? I can’t say. Why are some people fascinated with Paris Hilton? Find the answer to that one and you may answer the other . . .

So. . . My best friend and I were playing Tennis at the local courts, when boy-pyro (that’s me) gets a brilliant idea. Brilliant for a twelve year old, not quite at the age to know everything, but close enough to think so.

Hey, I says to my best friend, why don’t we torch some of the long dead grass beside the backboard of the Tennis court? I think he was winning more games, so I was looking to distract him – and I had a book of matches because boy-pyro can’t be without them you see. It’s like Superman without the cape – just doesn’t happen.

Now, if my best friend had known what was about to transpire, he would have soundly beat me to a pulp with his tennis racket and left me for dead but, being a twelve year old and a boy-genius himself, he agreed and I pulled out my book of matches and lovingly peeled one out.

So, I can tell right about now you are wondering how can you actually “burn down” a tennis court? It’s flat isn’t it? Well, the court itself is flat, but the structure around the court, holding up the wire, is made from wooden posts and the backboard is one big inflammable wall of fuel . . .

Out of anyone’s line of sight, we huddled down behind the solid backboard (this was actually plywood sheets, about six of them held onto the wire mess of the courts with strong bailing wire) and gathered some dead grass so we would be sure to have a decent little blaze.

I struck the match and tossed. Sure enough the little collection of dead grass caught fire quickly, and we watched in wonder as the little flames licked higher – and higher – and it took our collective genius minds about ten seconds to realize that dead grass burns very very fast, and that this little blaze we had sparked (okay – I had sparked) was spreading way quick.

So we started to stomp on it to put it out, which of course only propelled burning sparks of grass in all directions and, as I recall, there was a pretty good wind that day too. We had somehow missed factoring that into our equations.

I think about one minute had passed when we started to get that panicked – what-the-crap-are-we-going-to-do look. I was all for flight, hide, pretend it never happened. But my best friend (he was a few months older and wiser) decided we had to stay and put it out.

Now, anybody, even a six year old, could tell it wasn’t going to be “put out” by two pre-teens with no water on a windy day in an area filled with dry dead grass and desiccated plywood.

So we stayed. I remember my best friend taking his jacket, like you see in TV shows and movies, and trying to beat the flames out. All this accomplished was a quicker spread and scorching his jacket to uselessness. I was pounding some burning spots with my tennis racket to equal effect (as in none) and the fire was now burning all around us.

The rest of the next few minutes is kind of a smoke-filled blur. We tried to put it out - really we did. But the bottom line was the back board had caught fire and was doing a great imitation of “the towering inferno” and the grass for a good twenty feet around was smoking and burning like all get out.

Maybe if we had a few thousand gallons of water to throw around, things would have been different. But all we had was a jacket and a tennis racket and little to no hope.

Then, in the distance, we could hear sirens. Did we run?

No - we would be men and we would face the music.

The music came in the form of the local police and a fire truck. We were escorted out of the danger zone by the police while the fire men went about their business of undoing what I had done. We got questioned by the police (not a fun thing even if you are a man) and were taken home to our parents for a debriefing.

I think I was grounded for about a month, and so was my best friend. And every time, for the next couple months, that we went by the tennis courts we could see the blackened and almost destroyed back board – testament to our (okay – my) stupidity.

Did I learn anything from this little adventure?

Apparently not, because that was only one of many run-ins with the local authorities (all minor stuff of course) that myself and my best friend would get into. I think he was a bad influence on me . . .

But those tales I’ll save for another day.

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