“Don’t play with matches!” I think every kid has heard that at some point. Me included. Trouble is, I always had a hard time listening to things I was told. Of course, that led to major problems - more than once.
For some reason, matches are particularly intriguing, especially to young boys. While visiting a couple of friends at their house, the three of us went outside to play. Somewhere in the shed, we found several books of matches. And apparently, we all thought it would be a good idea to go behind the shed, in the alley and burn up the matches. Not a smart plan considering it was mid-summer in a very hot and dry climate.
We were standing in dried brown grass about a foot and a half tall, striking the matches. We did know better than to purposefully set the weeds on fire - we’d strike the match, hold it while watching it burn and then toss it aside once we were sure it was out.
I still remember striking the last match that day. A tiny piece of the sulfur coating on the match head went flying to the ground and almost instantly, the weeds around my feet were burning. I stomped on the flame, which did no good, and then the other two kids tried to help. It was no use; the fire was growing way to fast, spreading to a huge circle within seconds.
Now, just because I had a hard time listening to things and wasn’t too bright about standing in a dry patch of weeds while striking matches, doesn’t mean I was entirely without brains. Although the other two kids insisted we couldn’t tell anyone, I saw three houses that were about to be burned down. I ran back to my friends’ house to tell someone to call the fire department.
By the time the fire trucks arrived, two fences had been partially burned, along with the back wall of a couple of sheds. The firemen put out the blaze rather quickly and that was the extent of the damage. Yes, I got into a little trouble - and not only from my parents. One of the firemen told me that I had almost burned down three houses.
Ever willing to argue, even as a kid, I said that actually, I had saved three houses from being burned. I don’t think the fireman agreed with my assessment. “Don’t play with matches,” he said rather sternly.
Feel free to draw your own conclusion about whether or not I listened. All I will say is that since that time, I have neither burned down (or almost burned down) any houses nor have I saved any houses from being burned.