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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Burning piles (No, not that kind…)

Woke up about 4 AM- convenient on a workday, not so much when we don’t have the work.  Not that I mind  not working this morning, mind you.  There’s a good quarter inch of ice on the car, and the street is, shall we say, reflective.  Charly Butcher on WOWO said he was puzzled on the way into the studio by lights above the road until he realized it was his own headlights bouncing off the road and into the trees.

So like I said, I woke up at 4 and immediately two trains of thought were chugging through the railroad station of my mind.  The first involved Catherine’s last episode on CSI last night, along with various other show memories.  While once I was an addict, I lost the desire after Grissom left and hadn’t watched this season before last night.  The other thought revolved around the house I grew up at, and my very early days.

We lived in rural Allen County, Indiana, in a flyspot on the map called Besancon.  Our house was nestled in between the old two-lane US 30 on the south; the Frontier Court motel on the west (where you took your mistress on Friday and Saturday nights for years); 40 acres of Al Lomont’s fields on the north; and a small hay field on the east.  We had 3/4ths of an acre with a one story house and half-basement, with a detached garage.  I’ll get to them later, as I foresee this being a multi post tour of the old place and the memories therein, before I forget any more of it.

So, I’m going to start in the northeast corner.  At the very corner of the property, we had a burning barrel.  See, back in those days, one burned their garbage.  Usually without incident, though I do remember one day the fire jumped the barrel and got into the corn.  I was too little to do anything back then but sound the alarm, so the next thing I knew I was at the kitchen window watching my parents and my sister Pete running out to the field with a garden hose.

I guess before I get too far ahead, I should give you the family structure.  I came along late; Mom was 40 and Dad was 46.  I had two older brothers, both married by the time I was around.  I was an uncle 5 months after birth, and by the time I was five, I had a 5-yo niece, a 4-yo niece, a 3-yo nephew, a 2 yo nephew, and another couple nieces on the way.  I had two older sisters; Sue, who got married and moved out when I was 3, and Pete, who moved out when I was 8.

Anyhow, back to the corner.  By the time I was six or so, that barrel was on its last gasps.  Dad built a burner out of cinder block, brick, and slopped on cement, with fence across the front to hold debris in.  All the old burned stuff, he dug a pit beside it and buried it.  We had clay, so you could only dig about 2 feet without machinery, so this was a broad, shallow pit, and it became the home of the year’s yard debris until it was burned as well.  I’m not talking grass here:  we had a lot of trees, including a tremendous Burr Oak that covered two third of the back yard.  A pair of just as tall but not as big pin oaks flanked it, and the three of them joyously shed branches and twigs all year, particularly during Ice storms like last night.  With a stash of combustibles like this, it was inevitable that we’d have some kind of pile-burning affair, but we’ll get to that later.

My earliest memories show that the area that became a burning pit once was the home of one of our three dogs.  Queenie was the non-hunting dog of the three.  She was just this little mutt, I think a beagle-chihuahua mix.  All of them were permanent outdoor dogs, but I visited Queenie and Spike all the time. I couldn’t have been too old when we got rid of Queenie, but I don’t remember the circumstances.  I think Sparky wasn’t long after.  She was an old beagle-basset and right around that time she had a big litter, and I think Dad sold her and the pups to some guy.  All except one who of course got named Reject.  Something was wrong with him- he ran at the end of his chain and barked almost all the time.  I think he ended up having a “hunting accident” eventually.  The one thing I do know for sure was that the morning after the pups got sold, I was crawling around the living room (because that’s what 3-4 yo s do) and crawled behind Mom’s chair to find myself face to “face” with a turd, deposited that night by one of the pups.  One “Mom, what’s this” later, the incident was blamed on Reject, adding to his bad rep.

One last thing for today on the subject of burning piles and the celebration thereof.  We were much further along one year after the “weenie roast” when one of my nephews and I were playing with the smoldering remains- you know, kicking out little fires, encouraging others, that sort of thing.  I guess we never noticed that the adults had a habit of flinging beer caps into the fire.  We figured it out when my nephew found something was amiss, only to discover that said beer caps, still nice’n hot, had melted into his brand new cowboy boots. In 3 or four spots each.  My sister Sue, his mom, was less than pleased with us.  And no, that didn’t teach us not to muck with fire, but that is also a story for another day.

The boys of Lokomotiv chalked up another win, this time before 9,046 at home.  They faced an old rival, Lada Togliatti- a team booted from the KHL 2 seasons ago because their arena is, politely, below league standards, and the new one won’t be ready till sometime next year.  Didn’t look good at first.  The kids were feeling the effects of 8 days off, and 18 seconds in, a freak hop around the net got deflected in by Lada’s Igor Shastov to put the visitors up 1-0.  But Lada had troubles of it’s own, and not long after getting whistled for a penalty, they gave up Dmitry Maltsev’s drive from the blue line that tied the game at 7:18 of the first.  Emil Galimov came in on a two-man break to score his 7th at 15:12, and we had the lead.  Six minutes into the second, Lada got whistled again; and this time it was Yegor Yakolev ( who himself missed the second half of period one with a 10-minute misconduct) made them pay with his 3rd of the campaign.  At this point, Lada’s coach pulled their goalie to try and spark his team.  It almost worked- minutes later, they beat Pavel Shegala but not the post- and after that, Shegala took over.  He stopped 28 of 29 and we had a 3-1 win.

Next up is a home game Friday against Kristall Saratov, a team really struggling at 6-27-7.  We are 6-3-2; and with our short season, we will be placed according to the percentage of possible points we get, after the two division winners.  That puts us third in the conference, with 60.6 percent of possible points earned.

Okay, I’m done, the complex has salted both street and sidewalk as I typed (these guys are good!), and I believe I shall go doze off to school delays.


Ooops, one more thing, happy Aussie day!


  1. I really enjoyed your trip down memory lane. So glad you shared it.

  2. Ditto on CSI. Haven't watched it in a long time till last night. Loved your stories.

  3. I remember my dad having an incinerator in the back yard to burn rubbish. Now days there are huge fines for back yard burning

  4. CWM:
    That was a wonderful reflective memory of those bygone this city boy a real sense of the Heartland (yeah, even the bottle caps/melting

    Well done.

    Stay safe up there.