Fire in the Hole!

8 04 2010

When you leave two 10-year-old impish cousins at home alone you’re just asking for trouble. My cousin, Lee and I are separated by only 5 days in age. I had slept over at his house the night before and we awoke to a beautiful Saturday morning in early winter, not too cool and with a bright sunshine. At some point his mother (my aunt) and step father left the house, leaving us alone for an hour or two. Looking for something to do it wasn’t long before we turned to our favorite activity-playing army. We each had a huge collection of plastic soldiers, tanks, jeeps, army trucks and all other mechanisms for waging carpet war. Since it was such a nice day we decided to take the war outdoors.

Kids on the Prowl

We walked around the house looking for a good spot to set up our armies for the big battle. Lee’s home was heated by oil and behind the house was a 500 gallon oil tank perched upon a steel leg frame, about four feet above the ground. Underneath the oil tank was the perfect sight with several rocks ranging in size from about 3 to 12 inches in diameter. Standing amongst the rocks was tall dry grass-perfect hiding for our miniature armies.

We were having a good time but soon were trying to come up with a way to make it even more fun. Lee suddenly came up with what, at the time, sounded like a brilliant idea. You know, what seems like a brilliant idea to a mischievous 10-year-old boy usually turns out to be bad. It’s kind of like being in a class filled with little girls and putting a thumb tack in the teacher’s chair. There’s no way she’s going to suspect anyone but the only boy in the class. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then I failed to think it through. Guilty! Dumb, but guilty. But I digress!

Our grandfather had a sister, Aunt Ruth, who lived in Virginia Beach. Every year in early December granny and granddaddy would drive up and visit with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Pete, and as far back as I can remember, he would bring Lee and me a sack full of Black Cat firecrackers, silver tips, cherry bombs, and M80s-fireworks which were illegal in North Carolina. Lee still had about a dozen or so leftover firecrackers from granddaddy’s most recent visit to Virginia and ran inside to get them. What a plan!

We would bury firecrackers in the dirt. We would tape them to the backs of soldiers. We would back off and toss them into the battlefield to simulate artillery fire. What a great way to spice up this little war.

Fire in the Hole!

Of course the only way a firecracker is going to explode is to light the fuse, and the best way to light the fuse is with a match. Ten year old boys and matches, hummm. We were experienced with matches and felt confident in our abilities to handle them safely.
At some point during the heat of battle we managed to ignite the tall dry grass beneath the oil drum. I quickly began futilely swatting and stomping at the flames as Lee ran inside to get some water. The flames were stretching upward near the bottom of the oil drum as Lee came running back outside with a large pot filled with water. He dumped the water onto the flames and doused the fire. A single pot of water did the trick. The flames were out.

As we assessed the damage it didn’t appear to be all that bad. We got his mother’s scissors and clipped the remains of the charred grass, and with a few strategically placed rocks no one would know a thing.

But there was a flaw in the slaw. The next door neighbor had seen the whole thing from her bathroom window and when Lee’s parents returned home she quickly came over to enlighten them about our adventure. I was lucky. Neither my aunt nor Lee’s step father would spank me but Lee wasn’t so fortunate. We may have won the battle but we lost the war.

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