Fire in the Forest

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was COUNTLESS BRANCHES

A forest of living, greening branches can be an inspiring sight, but here’s an account of a raging blaze started in the felled trees on a homesteader’s farm. They were set ablze by the hired man, who had good intentions, but seriously lacked common sense. The REBLOG button on his post isn’t working, so I’ve reprinted this from Flatlander Faith.com. See the original post HERE.

[This is an excerpt from a Canadian Classic, Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, first published in 1852.  At the climax of the crisis described here, she buries her head in her apron. It was her custom to  pull up her apron to cover her head for privacy when praying.]

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”

Writing Prompts & Asteroids

“Hey, Nix.” Tanner watched his brother punching the keyboard with his index fingers. “Finally working on that bestseller?”

“Nah. Just doing a bit of writing exercise…in preparation for the day. I googled ‘writing prompts’ to see if I could find one that would light my fire.”

“Well, miracles still happen, they say.”

“Talk about overload! Here are eighteen pages of writing prompts. A few sites give 365, one for every day. And here’s another with 101 writing prompts. Some are specifically for fiction, some for journal, some to use as story starters. Hey! There’s even one called ’40 really awful writing prompts that no writer should use.’

“Cool! Everybody’s gonna want to check those out. So, what do they call a really awful writing prompt?”

Nixon clicked on the site and scrolled down. “These were written by Kim Z Dale and they are…yeah…some are pretty awful.

“Like?”

“Here’s the first: Write a story set on another planet exactly like our own. Call that planet “Earth’.”

Tanner moaned. “Okay. A definite lack of imagination. But you could embellish it, right? Make it Earth, but have everyone get along, people all bubbling with goodwill. The Fountain of Youth has just been discovered and the world is full of happy, smiling faces.”

“That would be a mega-miracle. I think this is supposed to be a regular Earth with everyday people living normal lives, going to school or rushing off to work, roaring along the freeways, pushing and shoving for bargains and fast foods, eyes glued to their phones.”

“How boring is that? You need some high adventure, some major catastrophe. Hey, I know. You could have a regular Earth, with normal people doing their stuff, then they find out a giant asteroid is streaking toward the planet and it’s going to blow the world to smithereens. People all over the world stop to watch the skies.”

“Um…technically only half the world would be able to see this at any given time,” Nixon reminded him.

“Spoilsport.”

“Anyway, they wouldn’t just stand there watching the skies for months. From the time we first knew it was coming, it’d take at least half a year to get here. We’d have months to get ready.”

“But what else would we do? No point working, buying stuff, putting money in the bank. No point planting a garden or anything if the planet was going to blow up. Maybe a great time to travel. See the world while it’s still intact.” Tanner chuckled, then thought for a moment. “I suppose religious folks would spend the time praying the world would be spared.”

“Hey, I’d be joining them!”

“And some folks might decide to make peace with their relatives. Write about some guy making peace with his family because they’re all about to be wiped out.”

“That’s an idea. ‘Sorry I’ve been such a pain, everybody.’ Lots of hugs and kisses. Nah, too intense.”

“Hey, it sells. People nowadays love intense.”

 “But you know, Tanner, the government would be saying ‘Not to worry, folks. We’ve got this.’ Calming everybody down, and NASA would be figuring how much to hit it with, long before it gets here.”

“Right. Most people would expect to survive somehow, though they’d be stocking up on survival rations, just in case. That’s what I’d do, trusting this would all blow over but ready for some fallout.”

“Yeah, a lot would say ‘It’ll never happen.’ After Y2K, when all the electronic and financial systems in the world were supposed to crash and things carried on like always, people have become cynics.” Nixon shook his head melodramatically.

“So are you gonna write about all this?”

“I dunno. It’d take hours. I see the Ragtag community does a prompt and their word for today is Embellish. And the Word-of-the-Day challenge is Miracle. Maybe I’ll try one of those and keep it short.”

😉

The Abduction

This is my contribution to this week’s Creative Challenge, a weekly feature on crimsonprose’s blog. Initially 100 words too long, it took some whittling to get it down to 150 words. I’ll call my story…

Outbuildings at Hethel

The Abduction

Reice approached the building cautiously. Was she too late? Collin had sounded so broken…coming here to think, he’d said…maybe end it all. What tragedy had brought her usually upbeat friend so low?

She had to find him. Hearing sounds, she started toward the door. Now he was calling her, but something stopped her. Reice despised this paralyzing fear!

Suddenly several guys rushed from the building. Before she could react they’d grabbed her and tied her hands and feet. “Collin,” she screamed.

He stepped forward. “I knew you’d come,” he sneered. “Sucker for a sob story. Now you’re going with these chaps and…”

“No, she’s not.” They all turned toward the voice and several policemen emerged from the woods. “Anyone who moves will be shot.”

“Grandpa!” Reice gasped.

“Your Mom overheard the conversation, Reice. She didn’t trust this guy.”

Collin’s pals scowled at him. “A copper’s granddaughter. Great move!”

Fire: A Fierce Foe

Aspiring Author Sammi Cox offers her Weekend Writing Prompt HERE.

I haven’t done one of these before, but Dale’s post got me enthused. The challenge is to write a seventeen-word story using the word IGNITE.

Such a short story is the tip of an iceberg, where you know there’s a whole chunk hidden under what you see on the surface. Here’s my offering, and I hope you get a glimpse of the larger story.

“We think a tossed cigarette ignited the ditch grass.” The despondent farmer watched as his wheat blazed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is a very real threat in dry years here in the western prairies. Our son-in-law is one of the volunteer firemen and has been called out different times to crops and hay fields ablaze. One Sunday morning half a dozen of our younger men left in the middle of the church service to go fight a fire.

Not a reality: You wouldn’t see a farmer standing there watching while his crop burned. The local farmers and volunteer firemen are out with tractors and loaders, working for hours, plowing or scraping fireguards to contain the blaze to one field.

This summer was so dry our municipality put a ban on ALL fires, including all outdoor BBQ pits and such, in case a stray spark would ignite a blaze. One of the main causes of fires in our area, however, are the sparks that fly from passing trains, igniting the long, dry grass along the train tracks.

Scammers!

The phone rang yesterday morning. Since I was the only one home, I answered. The fellow at the other end — our call display showed Unknown Number — explained in a thick foreign accent that he was a VISA representative.

“There have been charges to your VISA account and I’m calling to verify that you did indeed make these purchases. The one was made at 3am this morning and the other at 6am.”

I was alarmed. “Well, we certainly never made them.”

“Did you give anyone access to your VISA card or make any purchases online with this number?”

“No.”

He went on to say more. I had a hard time understanding his speech but was beginning to catch the drift. Before he got the chance to ask for my VISA card number, I said, “Thank you for letting us know about this” and hung up.

I called my husband, who checked it out online and found no charges made to our account that morning.

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail from the manager of some financial institution in Israel, asking me to contact her ASAP on a very important matter. I wonder how many millions are waiting for me to claim over there. By the way, that ambassador from Indonesia hasn’t showed up yet with my millions in US foreign aid dollars.

For me it’s annoying, even humorous at times. Still, there are vulnerable people who get these calls and wouldn’t pick up on the clues that it’s a scam. Take care, everyone. It’s a tough old world for naive, trusting souls.

Scam Artists

cushion for old age
taken by an expert fleecer
poor sheep shiver