Bosque County, Texas, USA
September 14
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AUGUST 10, 2011 12:48AM

What Scares Me

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     Out here in the wild west, we leave our car windows rolled down, especially when the temperatures reach over 100 degrees F on a daily basis. Don't leave certain items in the car, such as water, which draws ants. Ditto for food wrappers. Music CDs or sunglasses melt in the built-up heat, and even the dashboard takes a beating.

     When the wind shifts in the late afternoon or early evening, we check to see if rain may fall, and if we need to roll up the windows.

     One night, a loud WHOOOMPH rattled the doors and windows. Could it be a clap of thunder? a bolt of lightning? I looked out the front door, it was already full dark, and saw something that knocked me out. Just past the entrance into our driveway, an orange glow arched across my view. Fire!

     It was hard to control my fear when I told my mother, "We are leaving. Pack your medicine, a change of clothes, and each of us will drive out of here." I grabbed my laptop and some clothes. Because our house is at the end of the road,  I also grabbed some wire clippers. We might need them to cut fences, so we could go the back way through pastureland.

     I phoned the neighbors who live closest to us. From their house, they could see the lane, our one-way out. "The fire has crossed the road! You can't get to the highway, but you can come up the drive to our house. Come here and we can watch the fire from high ground."

     I didn't want any firefighter or EMT injured in the process of ordering an evacuation on our property. With all the house lights turned off, the porch light on, and no cars in the driveway, I had found a way to signal that we were gone. 

     Less than ten minutes had passed, and we were in our cars, hoping the lane was clear as far as the neighbor's drive. The orange glow had grown considerably, more like a wall of leaping yellow flames. We knew it was bad.  

     From the neighbors' yard, we watched six firetrucks come down the country road to our lane. We followed the journey of the police car to our front door and back out again. Good. The signal had worked. From our vantage point, we could see that the lane and the creekbed had formed a natural fire break. Within an hour, we were cleared to return home.

      The fire marshall said the blaze was started by a lightning strike. We were lucky that we heard its impact, and that we could act quickly. We were blessed by helpful neighbors, and especially by volunteer firefighters, some who had come from as far as 30 minutes away.

     The line of fire reached a spot within an eighth mile of our front door. We are grateful for being spared.



I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on my drive north of here.
Yes, this scares me from miles away.

images © diana ani stokely 2011

(click on the photo to enlarge)


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photography, dianaani, draught, fire

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That is scary. I have a small bookcase in the entry closet with the photo albums on it, you're right, you grab and run. I'm so glad you and your home were spared.
I keep things in my trunk for survival...I've had flames too darn close, and yes, fire is very frightening. Thankfully you were spared.
Bleue, maybe put all photos on a jump drive and stash it in another location? My photo albums fill a big trunk and more, and I would never be able to pick it up and run. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

Buffy! I understand birthday congratulations are in order! Did you get any birthday spankings? I keep some emergency gear in my car trunk too, lots of junk along with it, ah well, the chances of having water, gas can, change of clothes, tools and gloves, are pretty good. Anyone need a bag of books, some picture frames, a lamp?
Great description of something that scares me too. Grab and Go. I used to keep a tent in my truck. Maybe it is time to put it back in there. So many good ideas here. Thank you.
That is so scary. I've never lived in a part of the country where I've had to think about that particular danger. Incredible. ~r
You tapped a long dormant memory of the forest fire scene in Bambi with this. I was a bambi myself when my mother read the story to me - before Disney did the movie. Burned a scare scar into my hard drive. Stay cool and flame-free out there.
Very sensible fear! Blessing that you were awake when it happened--and that you were so alert (wire clippers and all--I'm impressed!). You paint the scene very vividly. Sorry you had to do so!
whoa! that is very scary.. can't imagine.. thank goodness you are alert and thoughtful. Great images here also.
Wow--I am glad it turned out well!
I have to admire the fact that, while you were scared, you retained enough self-possession to do all the right things. I'd like to hope that in the face of a similar crisis, I'd be able to display the thoughtful resilience you did, but I suspect I'd be like a free radical, desperately careening around, looking for an idea to latch onto. "That fearful sound of `Fire' and `Fire!"/Let no man know is my desire." So says Anne Bradstreet in a poem about "the Burning of Our House." That'd be my desire, too.
There was a fire--a serious one--in an office building where I worked about ten years ago. Everybody grabbed what was most important to them, family pictures, etc.

The senior partner--a very successful rainmaker--grabbed his Rolodex.
When we had a fire here there was no time to grab anything and I was hauled out in the smoke. I felt your fear as you made me remember mine.
Thank God you are safe.
Really scary! My house is 229 years old and made of wood. The next door neighbor's bbq grill, ten feet from the side of my house makes me skittery. I go out in the middle of the night and move it, he moves it back again. He has no idea.
So scary. Well told - I was holding my breath as I read! While traveling on business, I've driven through the burned areas around Midland - those fires got awfully close to some homes. We've got to get some rain....
That gives me chills and I hope you never have to experience this again. Compelling writing, D.
yikes, Diana! I have heard stories of farmers surviving by taking shelter in their old root cellars. I glad this had a positive outcome.
How cool-headed of you, and what presence of mind you showed! You might have been scared, but you acted sensibly and thoughtfully. Rated.
nothing scarier than a fire that's close. i know, too, and it makes me shake. so glad it ended ok and you're all fine. terrific writing, diana.
Vivid! You are so clear-headed, a firefighter's dream: you did everything right :) Yes, luck was involved, but so was dianaani-dna :)
Glad you're safe, and glad you had your wits about you to act quickly. And even though your response was rapid I wonder if it would be efficacious to have a couple of satchels in the front closet ready to go that would have necessary items, some in duplicate like medicines, etc. Perhaps even a back up drive if you needed to leave in such a hurry you couldn't get to the laptop. It is just so achingly dry that a lightening strike or a careless smoker or some accident is likely to cause further devastation. This graphic from NASA shows the sad tale: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=51617&src=eoa-iotd

Glad you're safe.
This IS scary! I am so glad you escaped real harm and destruction...
I am terrified of fire, too. I had to evacuate once when I lived in northern California. I grabbed my meds, my strongbox and a painting. It's amazing how unimportant most things are at at time like that.

zanelle, the tent ready-packed sounds pretty good, is there a story behind it?

Joan, It was scary to think the two of us might have to head off through the pasture to get to safety. I imagine living in a crowded apartment building with stairs would be even more scary! I hope we all outwit dangers.

Thanks Matt, fires can get out of hand very quickly, and I hope I never have to try to out-run one. That leaping glow on the horizon was pretty frightening. Sorry about your scared scars.

Pilgrim, yes, thank goodness we were awake, it moved very quickly. I have a built-in pressure valve which makes me calm in an emergency. If the danger is VERY BAD, I just sull like a 'possum. Not so helpful then, eh?

Thank you rita, I hope you never have to imagine it!

Thanks traveller! Welcome!

sophie! I miss you, and yes, thanks, I am glad it worked out safely too.

Jerry, as I told Pilgrim, my reaction to danger is to quieten to the point of catatonia, which is not always helpful! Luckily, we both acted swiftly and calmly. Thanks for coming by and sharing a poem.

Con, if fire threatened my office, I would grab two external hard drives and head out. Okay, my painted gourds too. The senior partner taking his Rolodex is a nice touch. I guess that can be stored online now, eh?

Oh Linda, that fire sounds horribly frightening. I am so glad you got out unhurt. The fear is something to keep forever though, right?

greenheron, maybe you can put a piece of metal sheeting against your wooden house, near the neighbor's bbq grill? Better than soaking with water probably. I would love to see this 229 year old place.

Blue in TX, yes, we dearly need the rain. Everywhere I go, I see some scorching by wildfires. The waterways are all dried up, where would animals run to? Be safe, girl.

Thanks, Bea! compelling chills is pretty fine praise! I hope we never get that close to fire again.

Catherine, we have no root cellars here, and jumping in a creek might have helped, but the creeks and ponds are dry. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

Susan, I was scared indeed! You know it is bad if you consider driving out by way of pastures, cutting fences along the way. I hope I was sensible, I wonder if I might have regretted using 10 minutes to get medicine and clothing and wire cutters.

Thanks, Candace! I wanted to tell the story, but thought it needed some punch! I guess the fear showed anyway.

Oh dirndl skirt, a "firefighter's dream"! You make me humble.

Hey Barry, I do keep all my documents in a portable hard drive and carry it everywhere with me. The medicines are trickier, my mother takes prescriptions which must be fresh, and cannot be duplicated. We could have gone without them, yes, and gotten new ones at the pharmacy. I looked at the surface temperature anomaly map and the brightest red is right here, isn't it? Makes me want to head to the blue areas. Thank you for your good wishes.

Linnnn, yes, we were lucky indeed!

Thanks, Christina! I love your comments!

Lezlie, I grabbed clean underwear and my briefcase and laptop. In the moment of evacuation, it would be hard to know what item would mean most for survival. The wire clippers were my commando gear. Turning the lights off, leaving the porch light on, and moving the cars were to protect others. Thanks for coming by.
So glad you and your family are fine. Living in hurricane country, I'm always thinking about what I would take and what I would leave behind, but at least we have usually have plenty of warning! Luckily we've only had to evacuate once -- unnecessarily, as it turned out -- and the only things I packed were my CPU and two 14 x 16 portraits of my children when they were little. I think I would have been okay as long as I had those.
Hey Bell! I wonder if I should take something like a survival kit: blanket, water, firestarter. Or, if I should take things which cannot be bought, like those photographs of your children. Hopefully, I will know if I am asked to evacuate.
Good grief, how can you sleep?
Well, Myriad, it is pretty hard on nights when I smell smoke. Last April, when wildfires swept across many parts of the state, I smelled smoke on the wind, every night. Good thing I am not a naturally nervous person, more naturally sluggish, really.
Scary, indeed. Glad all turned out well.
thanks, trilogy, me too!
Yikes. I'm with Matt, it's that Bambi memory, my first real terror, come back. So glad you're safe.
I am so glad you heard it and reacted and came through it safe. It sounds like you are very well adjusted to where you live.
Yes, there are few things as frightening as fire. Being close enough to feel its heat just once is enough to convince of its power to destroy.

Sounds like you dealt with it rationally, despite your fears.
Spike, I had no idea that Bambi = Fire. I must have been too old when it came out to have that same reaction. Fire fascinates me until it scares me.

LunchLady, adjusted to where I live? Huh. I hadn't thought of that. More like I am back to the life of my childhood here, minus the multiple siblings, and the desire to get outdoors. Well, and the bit about my mom and I switching roles. I am adjusting though. I noticed it when I went back to read my first post. Thanks dear.

Cranky, it sounds as though you have come close enough to wildfire to feel its heat and to know its power. I haven't come THAT close, but I have seen how fast it can move. Thanks for coming by to read.