Monday, March 08, 2010


I work in a facility that manufactures evaporator coils for home air conditioning units. I'm a brazer there, which means I use an acetylene torch to join copper components into pre-specified assemblies. I don't know at what temperature our flames burn, but I do know that the brazing rod we use melts at 1499'. Working with such a flame every day, one comes to accept two certainties--besides death and taxes. 1) You will get burned, and 2) you will catch something on fire. Once you've accepted this reality, and have actually done these two things a few times, the flame no longer holds any fear for you. Respect, yes, but not fear.

When Cody was in Cub Scouts, every spring, we would have this big campout down at Camp McCain. Scout troops and Cub Scout packs would come from all over North Mississippi to attend Spring Camporee. The army guys from Camp McCain were very much involved in planning, and carrying out Camporee. Back in the old days, before the war, they would have tanks and helicopters--all sorts of army equipment for the kids to see, climb on, and go inside. Since the war, though, they've needed that equipment for other things, so the kids have to make do with dump trucks and bulldozers.

Every year at Camporee, on Saturday night, they would have an assembly, give out awards, cross over the second year Webelos to Boy Scouts, things like that. Part of this assembly was a huge bonfire. Every year, they would light this bonfire, and every year the grass around the bonfire would catch on fire. And every year people would snatch up their lawn chairs, scream and flee in terror. And every year, the colonel, without missing a beat in his speech, would say, "Some of you fellows go stomp out that fire." And every year the soldiers would stomp out the fire, and the assembly would continue, and all would be right with the world.

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Usually, the fire was put out long before it got to where I typically sat, but Cody's last year of Cub Scouts it actually got that far. I saw the fire advancing, and as everyone around me was screaming, snatching up lawn chairs, and fleeing in a panic, I decided I just wasn't going to go there.

Now, let me just say that the grass in the assembly area was kept well trimmed, so it wasn't like I had an 8 foot high wall of raging flames racing towards me. It was more like an inch high line of tea lights creeping along the ground.

As everyone around me was screaming and running, I just sat calmly. When the fire got close enough, I reached out with my shoes--without even getting out of my chair--nonchalantly stomped the flames out. One lady, as she returned to her sitting place beside me said, "Well, if you'd ever been burned, you might be afraid of fire, too." It took everything I had, but I was nice. I refrained from showing her all of my burn scars.

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Cody outgrew Cub Scouts long ago, but I'm sure every year they still have Camporee. And every year they still have the assembly and the bonfire. And every year the grass still catches on fire. And every year people still scream, snatch up lawn chairs, and flee in terror before the ever advancing line of creeping tealights.

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