(When you consider that we once carried embers around in hollowed out animal skulls for fear of losing the potential to make fire, it seems we’ve come a long way as a species. Then, again, I’ve seen chimps driving motorcycles — it doesn’t mean they’re in line at the DMV.
Case in point: Some of you know, in addition to being a columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. I generally try to keep those parts of my life separate because, more often than not, the experiences in my firefighting life have no place on a humor blog.
However, there are exceptions.
What follows is a re-enactment of sorts, pieced together from personal observations and details noted during an incident at a local campground this past Mother’s Day weekend…)
“You kids stay away from the grill! It’s gonna get very hot!” Mr. Kingsford said, ripping open a bag of briquettes labeled “easy starting.” Over his Bermuda shorts and a 49ers T-shirt, he wore a red and white striped apron with the words “It Ain’t Ready Yet” emblazoned on the front.
A prophecy, really.
After stacking the charcoal into a pyramid, he grabbed a quart of lighter fluid and proceeded to empty half of it over the briquettes, one hand patting his pockets. “I need matches!” he hollered, then pinched the cigarette from his lips. “No I don’t — never mind!”
Crouching, he extended the red tip toward the vapory charcoals, holding as much of his body away from the grill as possible.
On the steps of the family RV, his son and daughter sat riveted, elbows on their knees and hands clasped in anticipation, watching as Dad summoned the fire god.
And kept summoning.
Then summoned some more.
“Where’s those matches I asked for?!” he bellowed, and rose to his feet.
From the living area, a window slid open, and from painted fingertips was tossed a small box of matches.
“Thanks — ”
The window slid shut.
“ — honey,” finished Mr. Kingsford.
Scratching the comb-over beneath his “Just Do It” hat, he examined the briquettes and decided the gods needed something more.
Eyes widening, his children watched as he opened a compartment near the rear of the mobile home and removed a red, plastic canister.
“But Dad, Mom said…”
He scowled, index finger pressing his lips.
“You want to eat or not?” he hissed at the top of his voice, then proceeded to douse the grill with gasoline.
Slowly, the children backed along the mobile home and away from the epicenter as Dad slid a sulfur-tipped stick from the matchbox and pressed it against the gritty side panel.
He stood, poised for the sprint, one leg dug into the ground for traction, the other angled for speed — like a relay runner waiting for the baton. Trembling slightly, Mr. Kingsford smiled reassuringly at his huddled children, then struck the match to life and tossed it into the face of the grill.
In that instant, the lid blew shut, which caused the dog to bark, bringing Mom to the door just in time to see the kids cover their ears as Dad pushed off for the sprint while the split-level grill lifted off like an early 1960s NASA rocket, rising about six feet before angling left, then exploding into a ball of flames.
As the firemen put the last of the flames out, and the surrounding campers returned to their sites, Mr. Kingsford shoved a copy of his citation into an apron pocket and nursed a minor head injury with ice.
From the small kitchen, the sizzle of skillet burgers made its way outside as Mom cooked over butane fire.
When you consider that we once carried embers around in a hollowed out skull for fear of losing the potential to make fire, it seems we’ve come a long way as a species.