As I write this, a hazy smoke has enveloped the Pacific Northwest and the high desert whatever the hell biosphere I live in at the moment. There may be a picture accompanying this, but if there is not allow me to describe it: Gray haze with shimmering figures in the distance that resemble mountains inhabited by old chain smoking yeti figures who have run out of shit to eat.
Yes, it is wildfire season.
I am no stranger to wildfires. Back home in the South we cut wide paths around acreage to serve as blocks for raging fires. The undergrowth in my previous subtropical climate is not often set ablaze by randomness, but sometimes you get a little bastard with a magnifying glass who just had to try or a random firework.
That reminds me of a story. I will not list the cousin's name, but for the sake of the story I will call him Firework King. The man to this day loves to light things that go high and go bang and pop and fizzle. One of his three daughters has inherited this zeal, and the little three fingered darling horrifies her mother with her daring. Her father laughs and routinely spends over a thousand dollars every New Year to blow shit up.
When we were young one crisp New Year day, Firework King found that if you lit a smoke bomb and threw it, a lovely trail of smoke much like the the Blue Angels threw out at the airshow every July.
For those of you who do not understand the last sentence, a smoke bomb is a small round firework. You light it, it shoots out a jet of flame (remember that), and pours forth a colorful smoke for about five to ten minutes.
The Blue Angels are a military strike force of fighter jets whose main target is fun.
So back to that long ago day. Firework King says "Watch this" and lights a smoke bomb. Before the fuse goes down, he throws a Joe Montana Hail Mary into the nearest field of high grass.
"Well, dang. Threw it too early," Firework King says, searching through the stuff paper bag of fireworks to find another smoke bomb.
I remember a "whoosh." My other cousins and sister do not. They remember watching Firework King pick out another smoke bomb, light it, wait until the fuse went down and the smoke start to pour, then throwing that one to sail through the air after the first one.
Right into a raging fire that enveloped the field.
Again, reports are different as to what happened next. Mostly, we scattered, that much is true. One cousin says he got the water hose on the side of the house, another says she went in get a fire extinguisher and when asked why just ran back outside.
My version is dramatic, an action movie style run down of different cousins performing feats of bravery with hoses and water buckets. Firework King rips a nearby pine tree limb down and beats at the fire until his own weapon is ablaze. A small child screams for God to save us.
Then the fire is out. Just dies, either because it ran out of fuel or was cowed by the mighty efforts of my extended family or because sometimes God answers the horrified prayers of children.
At dinner, Firework King confesses to his father. "Daddy, I set the field on fire."
"Why'd you do that, son?" my uncle asked.
"Throwing smoke bombs."
"Is it out?"
"Well then pass the corn."
Nothing more was really said about that fire. The same can be said for the fires of last year that contribute to the wildfires of this year that blot out the son. Little care seems to be given to the reasons, either, as if the government just wants everyone to pass the corn.