Heat All Around

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Not many people know that the apartment complex where I live decided a few years back to paint all of our fire hydrants. (They’ve since gone back to the “average”.)  It was a bit of a shock when I stepped out the first time…see there’s a fire hydrant about THIS far from my entrance door…so it wasn’t like the fire hydrant could hide its new persona. Seeing the fire hydrant bedecked as a

Dalmatian fire dog made me think about my Dad…and boy do I have stories to tell you all about my Dad.
I grew up with my Dad active in the volunteer fire company…he was…and boy are you going to love this…the FIRE POLICE CHIEF! Why are you going to love this? Well, Dad was not the most…uhm…obedient, I suppose would be the best description of fire safety codes that the rest of us have to adhere to during emergencies. Dad was following the fire engine to a three alarm blaze about a mile and a half from our home…I was about eight, maybe nine at the time.

Dad used his own car. I’m not sure exactly what Dad was doing…some suspected he hadn’t pushed the connection for his fire-lights into the cigarette lighter socket so was jiggling it and looking down when it happened while driving one handed…or maybe with his knees.
At the end of the road we live on, is…surprise, surprise, a stop sign. Even with the whirly lights and the siren woof woofing, they DO stop to make sure the rest of you do what the law requires of you…So picture, a fire engine, men in their heavy fire gear clinging to the back of the truck, the stop sign, and my Dad coming up behind them, the FIRE POLICE CHIEF, his attention not up there, but down there.
Dad drove his car right on up the back side of the fire truck so his
Mercury hood ornament was kissing the dancing emergency lights for all it was worth. For those of you who never saw the hood ornament on older Mercury cars picture the Roman god Mercury who used to be the Greek god Hermes. With Mercury’s winged sandals dancing a merry jig with the flashing fire lights, my Dad, his nose plastered to his dashboard and eyes peeking, sheepishly at his newest creation, THAT’S the picture that made the
daily newspaper and it WAS a classic. For all I know, it may still be hanging in the back room at the firehouse.
I’d like to say that was the ONLY questionable adventure my Dad had with his pyromania, but like
George Washington and his cherry tree decapitation, I cannot tell a lie.
My Dad was one of those Jack of all trades who thought he’d mastered them all…unfortunately reality differed with him.
Let me share the time my Dad decided to…uhm…dispose of a hornets nest. The nest was growing, quite spectacularly, from the eaves under the porch portico that led off the laundry room doorway. Everyone knows that you do not dispose of hornets nests before twilight because the
buzzers are out inserting their stingers into anyone who gets on their bad side up until some inner clock tells them it’s time to return to the nest and resurface those stingers for the next day.
Twilight, when the day meets on the horizon with the night that is about to send everyone into starlight time…and of course the best time to exterminate an entire nest of nasty stingers; I DO include Dad in that.
Armed with a can of gasoline and a spray nozzle, Dad soaks that sucker until it is absolutely drenched.
The scritch of the match was quiet compared to the WHOOSH that exploded the second the match hit the nest…oh…and the portico along with the porch. See you’re supposed to knock the nest from the house before igniting it.

I watched the entire porch and a good three quarters of the back wall feed the flames before the fire company…yep the very same one…arrived to put out the damage my jack of all trades and master of none FIRE POLICE CHIEF DAD gave birth to.

In Dad’s “real” job, the one he did when not strutting his FIRE POLICE CHIEF badge around, he serviced and repaired oil burners, commercial and residential. Every year as the fall approached, Dad went around the neighborhood, reminding everyone to schedule having their
oil burners cleaned and made ready. It was a religion to him.

I don’t actually remember which month it was, although it WAS cold. Later I would be told it happened at
the stroke of , but I was still a kid, and had been sleeping quite soundly when the
front chimney, the one only this far from my bed blew up taking a good chuck of the house’s innards with it.

I shared my room with my Grandmother who quickly got us both out of there, down the stairs and out the door. My Dad was already out on the stone driveway , his boxers at half mast, looking up at his creation with a somber look upon his face, that turned to something else…embarrassed bluster?...when the fire engine pulled into our driveway and once more put out the flames spewing from the house of the FIRE POLICE CHIEF. (Not sure if the bluster was because of another fire at our house, or because he was out there in his boxer shorts…I know for me…THAT was more traumatizing than the explosion.)

Looking back, I cannot help wondering why they did not retire my Dad…the only excuse I can come up with is it was an ALL volunteer fire company…any volunteer, even one as creatively incompetent as my Dad was better than NO volunteer.

One of these days, I am going to have to write a book about Dad. I KNOW you’d love hearing about Dad deciding
to cut his own asbestos siding and then attaching it to the house so crookedly a lightning bolt could get beneath it and set fire to that whole side of the house…and there’s the bag of oil dry in the garage attic that another hornets nest claimed ownership of…oh and the BATS and when Dad decided he could install
central air conditioning all by himself…BIG holes…measuring was for amateurs, Dad determined, quite sagely.

We had creatures visiting inside from those big holes that don’t usually have access to your house’s innards…but then Dad was quite content to make entryways large enough to welcome them without any problems…for them
...at least now you know why I have this permanent tic in my left eye.


Anonymous said...

Lin - you're as creative as your dad...only in a different way. Your stories make me smile. Kind of like Erma Bombeck - do remember her Bowl Full of Cherries?
Thanks for sharing - this was a nice 'smile time' break for me.

Roseanne Dowell said...

You definitely havea knack for turning what was a serious situation into something to make us laugh.

Lin said...

Thank you both. My father gave me a lot of material to exercize my funny bone with.

zxcvbnm said...

... you mean he NEVER tried to set fire to the insecticide from a can of Shelltox? Well,I think he made up for that, truly...