Monday, November 7, 2011

A Lesson Burned

I’m from Oregon, central Oregon, and the arid climate of the high dessert. But, I did spend some time in Wisconsin, which I shall forever refer to as “doing time.” Actually, it wasn’t all bad and I did learn some things there, like; never eat lutefisk, how to pronounce uff-da, and that gasoline is highly explosive. All right, I already knew the last one, but let’s just say I learned it again.

It started one late August, with two dead elm trees that needed to be cut down, a task that involved some redneck friends, ropes, and pickups driving at high speeds down the alley. Surprisingly, that part all went well! After another friend had taken most of the wood, I cleaned up the yard and made a huge pile of limbs and leaves intending to burn it. Now, where I’m from, that would be unthinkable, especially in the dead of summer, but in Wisconsin, with the humidity and thick, lush, green grass, it’s the norm.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get the brush pile burning, I opted for every man’s fire-starter fuel of choice – gasoline! Circling the perimeter of the twelve-foot high pile of tree branches, I emptied a gallon can and found a match. Standing back a good five or six yards, in expectation of a quick ignition, I “shot” a match toward the pile – a technique I’d learned as a kid that could send a lit match up to 20 feet, sometimes farther. Turns out the match didn’t need to travel nearly that far. In fact, it didn’t need to go any distance at all. Due to the combination of high humidity and gas vapors, the moment the sulfur tip burst into a flame, so did the gasoline, and with a terrific sound. It was a deafening roar that’s best described as a cross between a boom and a swoosh. Later, I was told the blast had rattled the windows two blocks away – like a jet breaking the sound barrier.

For me, the deafening sound wasn’t the only thing of concern. A wall of flame rushed toward me and somehow I managed to close my eyes. I suddenly noticed that the already 100-degree temperature had increased dramatically. I didn’t know it could get that hot outside!

After the initial shock of the explosion, and once the fire had settle down to a slow burn, I made my way into the house. My wife, who had been watching the commotion with a why-did-I-marry-this-guy look, informed me that I no longer had eyebrows and the front portion of my hair was visibly missing. My mustache too, was gone. Some time later, I discovered the hair on both arms had been burned off as well.

The good news is my brush pile was burning nicely! My hearing gradually returned and eventually so did my hair. It’s been years now since I lived in Wisconsin, but I still remember the things I learned there. I don’t eat Lutefisk – rotten fish, uff-da - a Norwegian word, pronounced f´- duh, is a mild expression of disgruntlement or surprise, and to this day, I never start fires with gasoline!

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, his latest ebook, is available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®. For more information, visit or

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