The Attic Fire
It was a sweltering hot summer’s day that was made even hotter because my grandmother and my aunt were baking bread. They had been baking for the most of the afternoon. When my uncle Charles walked in to the kitchen, he said, “Becky, you two have the stove pipe cherry red. One of these days you two are going to burn this place down.” My grandmother still used a coal cook stove to do her baking and cooking.The stove’s pipe ran up through the first floor ceiling and then through the second floor ceiling to join the chimney in the attic.
The pipe from the kitchen was indeed glowing red hot from the heat of their baking. “I’m going upstairs to check it out.” My uncle called over his shoulder as he left the kitchen.
He walked through the dining room and up the stairs to the hall way. Looking into a bedroom where the pipe from below emerged, he could see the pipe and how hot it was even at this level. Above in the attic, he could hear clumping sounds almost as if someone walking up there.
He ran to the opposite end of the hall and could see a flickering light shining out from under the door. Spinning around he ran back to the stairway. Leaping down the stairs two steps at a time, he hollered, “My God Becky, the house is on fire!” He was going so fast, that he flew through the screen door at the bottom of the stairs. Just like on the television cartoons, he left a silhouette of himself in the screen.
“Get buckets and water. The attic is on fire.” Every container that could hold water and they could lay hands on went into the spring that day. Each of the kids and the adults formed a bucket brigade. They hurried back and forth to supply the water to try and extinguish the fire.
It was a time before the area had a fire department and some neighbors ame to join them. Buckets were filled in the spring and ran or passed to the next person along the line. The people in the attic would throw it on the fire and pass the empty container back to be refilled.
Smoke and now steam billowed from the opened attic window. Oot through the window, using a pitchfork, they tossed some of the burning toys, school papers, and dolls outside to be doused with water. They slowly gained on the fire. After what seemed like hours, the last of the hot embers were extinguished. The men kept a vigil throughout the night with buckets of water at hand, to squelch any rekindling of the fire.
The house had minimal damage, but all of the kid’s childhood memories were lost. Either burned up, or damaged beyond saving by the smoke and water.
I always loved it when my uncle would retell the story. His voice would become animated and it almost seemed as though I was there. My favorite line in the story was always the same, “That night scrub buckets, dishpans, and piss pots went into the spring.”