Some people should have to earn the right to use fire

image (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.

Then, again…


(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

39 thoughts on “Some people should have to earn the right to use fire”

  1. You’ve got to be kidding! Crazy people. On a positive note I thought his clothes would also catch fire given he rubbed his hands on his pants. It’s good that didn’t happen.
    It would have been good however if he singed off the comb over..

  2. One of my favourite movies is “Quest for Fire” because in so many ways, it reminds me of summer nights building a campfire and the napalm qualities of flaming marshmallow, the Timothy Leary-like qualities of BBQ starter fluid, and that one night we learned why the cardboard box of tar-soaked coals really should ONLY be used to start a fireplace fire and not simply add a little va-va-boom to a pre-existing fire.

    That we did not eliminate our species in a massive conflagration is only testament to the degree to which sheer, blind, stupid luck played in our evolution to global superiority.

  3. Doesn’t blowing up your BBQ qualify as grounds to revoke your man card on site and get immediate notification to present yourself and all offspring, at the nearest vasectomy clinic?

    1. Lol! This guy almost got the vasectomy wthout the clinic.
      And yes, his Man Card has officially been revoked. There was a ceremony and everything.

  4. This is your usual genius, but just a tad less than your note I saw on Melanie’s page. I wish to upgrade my comment made to you the other day in this fashion: You’re so Ned, and I LOVE it.

    1. I don’t usually use the word “jackass,” but I couldn’t help it 😉

      And thanks for the upgrade, Robyn. I can’t even get one from my phone company…

  5. Oh boy, what a drongo! An arsonist in the making or just an arse. I hope the citation includes an order that he cannot go within 30 feet of a burning or non-burning fire – of any kind – forever. So glad that the fire didn’t cause any serious damage.

    1. “Drongo”
      I LOVE that word! It actually sounds like what you’re trying to convey! It is now part of my vocabulary — Thank You 😉

      And yeah, he was lucky he didn’t blow up his RV. Some men just don’t have the “fire” gene.

      1. Oh, it’s great that you like the term. You may also like these:
        Plonker: as in “He’s (or she’s) a right plonker”,
        Dropkick: As in, “That bloke’s so slow he couldn’t catch a cold. A total drop kick”
        Dipstick: a loser, an idiot.
        Dag: a person with little or no dress sense, uncouth. Your description of the bloke’s attire is the epitome of dagginess.
        Mad as a cut snake: crazy.
        Nong: a fool, an idiot.
        Wally: someone who keeps making mistakes.
        Wanker: a person who is full of himself, egotistical or one who masturbates.
        Wombat: a simple-minded person.

        Gawd, I love my adoptive home, its irreverence, its humour and the Aussie accent that I envy so much. Hope you enjoy the slang too.

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