Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Attic Fire

It was a hot summer’s day and 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 into 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 bake and cook her food. The stove's pipe ran up through the first floor ceiling and 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. “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 hallway. Looking into a bedroom where the pipe from below, he could see the pipe and how hot it was. Above in the attic, he could hear clumping almost like someone walking.
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 stairs. 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 cartoons, his silhouette was left in the screen.
“Get buckets and water. The attic is on fire.” Every container that they could lay hands on went into the spring and each of the kids and adults formed a bucket brigade. They hurried back and forth to supply the water to try and suppress the fire.
This was a time before the area had a fire department. Some neighbors came to join them. Buckets were filled in the spring and ran or passed to the next person. The people in the attic would throw it on the fire and pass the empty ones back to be refilled.
Opening a window and using a pitchfork, they tossed some of the burning toys, school papers, and dolls outside to be doused with water. They gained on the fire. After what seemed like hours, the last embers were extinguished. The men kept a vigil through 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 became animated and it almost seemed that 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.”

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