Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blazes and Bravery

We need rain. The grass in my yard feels and sounds like Shredded Wheat cereal when I walk on it.

It has been so dry here that there has been grass fires in the area. The other day it was so smoky that it looked like the smog of Los Angeles had transplanted itself here.

The area grass fires got me to thinking about something that happened to me and my sisters, Lori and Jennifer when we were young. Lori was about 6, I was about 5 and Jennifer was about 4 at the time.

It was mid 1960 and my family lived in a developing neighborhood in the suburbs. The houses had big yards and there were large empty lots between some of the houses. We called these empty lots, fields.

Our house had a field to the left and right of it. If you traversed the right field you would arrive at the Muller's yard.

In the Muller's yard there was a huge sand box (a huge pile of sand, really and no box to speak of) and a swing set.

The Mullers didn't mind us playing in their yard. The youngest Muller boy, Johnny, was my little brother Andrew's friend. We never called him just Johnny, it was always Johnny Muller. The middle Muller boy, Tom, was my oldest sister's age. Every girl in the neighborhood had a crush on Tom. The oldest Muller boy, Vic, wasn't really a boy at all, he was much older than the rest of us and we never saw him much. I remember him being somewhat of a hippie (it was the 60's after all).

My sisters and I wanted to play on the Muller's swing set. We walked along the narrow foot path in the field between our house and the Muller's. The crushed grass was dry and straw like under our bare feet.

Lori, Jennifer and I soon emerged from the waist-high, grassy field into the Muller's yard.

We walked up to the swing set and we each picked out the swing we wanted to play on.

We sat upon the white plastic seats and the chains jangled as we grabbed hold of them to steady ourselves. Our little legs pushed against the rutted ground beneath the swings and propelled us higher into the air. The wind rushed past our bodies as we swung faster and faster.

We were lost in our swinging reverie, enjoying the giddiness that swinging higher and higher gave us.

"Fire!" Lori yelled.

Jennifer and I looked to where Lori was pointing. The field between our house and the Muller's was ablaze.

"How will be get back home?" Jennifer and I asked Lori fearfully as we all jumped off the swings.

"Follow me", Lori said, grabbing Jennifer's hand.

I grabbed Jennifer's other hand. I would bring up the rear of our sisterly chain.

"Don't let go!" yelled Lori.

Lori bravely entered the burning field, leading us along the narrow foot path through the blazing field.

Sparks flew into the air and smoke was wispy around us as we ran along the path towards the safety of home.

The path seemed much longer with the field ablaze as we ran hand-in-hand, scared.

Finally, we emerged from the fiery field safely.

Out of breath and full of adrenaline, we ran into the house to tell our mother about the fire.

I don't recall what happened after we told our mom about the fire. Did she chastise us for running through a burning field? When did the fire truck arrive? How much of the field was burned?

I just remember the fear we all felt and the bravery of my sister Lori as she led Jennifer and I to safety.

I think back on that day and wonder how the fire began. Perhaps it was the neighbor boy down the street who was famous for playing with fire (this was not the first field fire) and teasing the dogs of others, causing them to become biters and a liability to the owners. That boy was always in trouble (in and out of school). I wonder whatever became of him (I probably don't want to know)?

Thank you Lori, for being a brave big sister to Jennifer and I when we needed it most.


  1. I remember field fires, too, and all the dads going out the the edge of the field where the backyards ended and field began, some spraying with hoses and others beating the fires back with brooms!

  2. I remember the fire, what was I 2 or 3? I remember the small Carmel fire truck and all the men with shovels. Yes those fields were fantastic areas of wilderness to explore and battle. Remember the complex maze of paths we would create by crawling through the tall grass. How many ticks did we feed. Maybe that is where I eventually picked up my allergies. I don't remember having them then.

  3. I owe my life to Lori! She was such a brave soul. I was sandwiched between two brave souls. The Muller's had a great swing set. Ours usually tipped if you swung higher than a grasshopper. Really!. When the dump truck dumped a new pile of sand at the Muller's, that was way cool! Or should I say "neat-to" being it was the 60s? Great blog, Sis!