Friday, July 4, 2008

Celebrate Responsibly

by Susan Seyfarth

I love the way alcohol companies always remind you to celebrate reponsibly at the end of every commerical. First there are all the golden, toned, beautiful people consuming their alcoholic beverages while having impossible amounts of good, clean fun. And then there's the reminder that you are not these people, okay? You aren't this good-looking, your friends aren't this fun, & if you think you are, well, you're probably a bit past the point of drinking responsibly anyhow. But just so we're clear: Overuse of this product will make you fat, lazy, & liable to do things that may seem like good ideas but in actual point of fact are not.

What amuses me most about these commercials, however, is not the tension between buy our product in vast quantities and don't drink it all at once for god's sake. No, what I really adore about them is the fact that most of the hairiest incidents of my life--the ones where I truly feared for my safety--are never alcohol related.

They're mostly dad related.

Yeah. My dad's one of those. What we in the writing business call a character. He's a fire starter, a misuser of power tools & a lover of high-speed anything. And he's stone-cold sober. I've seen him holding a beer once in my entire life & it was because a neighbor handed him an open can at a Fourth of July barbeque. He set it down shortly thereafter, untouched & went on to light one of the most enormous fires I've ever seen in person.

I was in eighth grade, I think. My mom was in Ireland for the first time since her family emigrated when she was nine, so my dad had full responsibility for all four of us girls, ranging in age from ten to eighteen. He figured his odds of containing us were better if we were secluded at the end of a huge peninsula, so we took off for our cottage in Northern Michigan. (Not the Upper Peninsula, just the northern bit of the mitten. We Michiganders are sticklers about such things, so get it straight, 'kay?)

Anyway, the Fourth of July, usually a big hit at the lake, was rainy & cool. And nobody can sulk like a cottage full of teenagers (plus one precocious pre-teen) whose favorite sport is slathering on the baby oil & roasting themselves until they can peel huge sheets of burnt skin off their backs at night. My father had promised us a weekend full of sunshine, fireworks & bonfires when he'd dragged us away from our friends for the holiday, but conditions weren't favorable for any of the above.

The weather was out of his hands, but by god he could light us a fire. After an hour of blowing on a grudging puff of smoke, however, Dad decided to break out the gas can. Unfortunately, he failed to first ascertain that the spark he'd been nursing for the last hour was, indeed, out cold.

It was not.

One minute Dad was dumping gas onto a pile of blackened sticks, then next we all were crouched behind the over-turned rowboat watching a gas-can-turned-Molotov-cocktail roar toward the cottage while Dad & Uncle Bill used a whole lot of words we ourselves knew but hadn't previously been aware they knew. And if you're wondering? Yes, indeed, that is the sort of spectacle that'll wipe the boredom off a sulky teenaged face.

I don't know if my dad's lucky or blessed or what, but before the can could level the cottage & blow us all to kingdom come, it suddenly & inexplicably changed course. It stopped, hung a left & rolled into the lake, where it fizzled harmlessly into a charred, twisted reminder that one should never encourage a reluctant flame with an entire can of gas.

Strangely enough, this brush with death left us euphoric rather than shaken. We'd all looked death (if not by raging flame, certainly by my mother's wrath should she ever hear of this incident) in the eye, & escaped. Plus, there was a lovely roaring fire now. Mostly in the fire pit, too. There was some char on the grass, & the birch trees were all lopsided due to twenty foot flames, but as far as marshmallow roasters go, this was a nice one.

Suffice it to say, we weren't put off giant fires the way you might expect. And just to prove it, here's a photo of us last summer at the cottage with one of my dad's tamer efforts. I wish you could see it in the picture, but there's a row of birch trees behind the fire pit that have just given up growing leaves at all on the one side. No point when my dad's still got a can of gas, some matches & a pile of brush that needs torching.

How about you? Are there any characters in your family who keep you supplied with inspiration every time the blank page dares you to fill it up with something outlandish? Any family celebrations that keep the neighbors on their toes? Let's hear it, & Happy Fourth of July!

92 comments:

terrio said...

Do I really want him?

M. said...

I have to say - I think I love your Dad. 'misuser of power tools' - hee! that's priceless! And as a mom about to try the cottage and campfire thing, with my own three plus an extra temporary 'son' (really a visiting teenaged nephew) I'm terrified of making some kind of newbie stupid mistake while innocently trying to roast marshmallows or something....

terrio said...

Susan - your dad sounds like fun. My family never camps out or does this sort of thing. But my dad is totally accident prone so that's probably good.

My childhood was peppered with my mom answer the phone and the following convo (her half) taking place.

Mom: This is she.
pause
Mom: How bad is it?
pause
Mom: Which hospital?

This happened A LOT. LOL! My uncles the firepit guy. Like most men, he thinks if you can't see the fire form outer space, it's not a real fire.

I didn't actually have plans for the 4th but the bird is tapping his toe (?) and expecting to be entertain. Oy vay!

Louisa Cornell said...

I don't know, Terrio! Keep an eye on him and don't do anything incriminating!

Now that is some fire! What a great story and yes, every family has one! My youngest brother once shot a turkey out of a turkey fryer and across two yards and a dirt road one Thanksgiving, all for the sake of "We need a bigger fire!"

I do remember one Fourth of July here on my five acres several years ago. A number of my former students got together to throw a 4th of July Barbecue for a couple of their number who had just returned from Bosnia. Lets just say much barbecue and beer was consumed by all - except yours truly who only consumed large quantities of barbecue and Milo's Iced Tea. The rule is if you drink at my house, your have a DD or you spend the night. A large number of former students and spouses, etc spent the night. After we got the beer stealing horse back in the pasture every went to bed. About 7 AM the next morning one of my students - Big Dog - (his name is Jeffrey, but only his mother and I are allowed to call him that.)came in and woke me up. "Mama H," he said solemnly. "I know where those last fireworks landed." "Jeffrey, is this really necessary? We didn't go to bed until 4." "Well, Mama H, the thing is... those fireworks aren't actually completely out." Long story short, a large portion of my woods were on fire!! Fortunately the Bosnia boys were old hands at dealing with fire. They had it contained in less than an hour, but it was definitely a great 4th of July Wake Up!

Tomorrow I have to work. So, everyone light some sparklers, drink some beer and eat all the wrong foods for me!!

Happy Fourth of July Everyone. This is STILL one of the best countries on Earth, due in large part to the people I know!

Christine Wells said...

Susan, fantastic post, as always. Loved the bit about wiping the sulky looks off teen girls' faces! Almost every member of my extended family is er, eccentric, so yes, there's plenty of inspiration for 'characters' around here.

Hey, Terrio, I hope your counter-surveillance skills are up to par cos you're gonna need 'em for the next 24 hours!

terrio said...

Christine - I work with retired Navy Seals. I may have to make a couple of calls. LOL! I'm not trained for this!

Louisa - Your woods were on fire?! We had that same policy back when I was in college, but luckily I was never awaked by a forest fire. Whew, that sounds scary.

flchen1 said...

Good luck with the GR, Terrio! He sounds like he's been a bit of a naughty bird lately...

Susan, what hilarious fun! We've never had such exciting times at our house--I think we're all way too cautious... maybe it's time to break out a little ;) Happy 4th, everyone!

Jane said...

Happy 4th of July. Nothing exciting happens with us, but I think someone would be maimed if we messed with fireworks. We just go to the East River and watch the Macy's Fireworks Spectacular. It's the best show in town. Of course some jerk has to set off a M-80 in the crowd and scare everyone.

Amy Andrews said...

Just dashing off to work but wanted to wish all you US of A'ers a very happy 4th July.

LOL Susan - is your Dad a redhead? Cos speaking from experience - PICU experience - the biggest firebugs are always redheaded boys....

What is it with flames and y chromosomes???

Oh and BTW - 14 more sleeps...

Anna Campbell said...

Terrio, he scared all of us, I think. But I'm sure a tough chick like you can straighten him out!

Hey, guys, happy 4th July! It brings back memories for me because I was in New York for the 4th July last year. I'd just got off a plane so I went to bed but at least I was THERE!

Susan, I laughed myself silly at your post. Your dad sounds like a darling. A dangerous darling, but a darling nonetheless. It's odd how there's a guardian angel for people like that, isn't it? Otherwise I don't think they'd make it past the age of six.

It's slightly different, but I was good friends with a guy at uni who lived really dangerously. I'll call him Tim (largely because that was his name). But he just liked to climb things. The Story Bridge (our equivalent of the Golden Gate and I'm not talking the legal tourist climbs they now do). Industrial chimneys. Houses. Walls. Cliffs. And we used to have these odd conversations all the time:

ME: Tim, why do you want to climb that?

TIM: I want to see if I can.

ME: But, Tim, it's dangerous and serves no useful purpose to climb it.

TIM: No answer because he was already scaling said ridiculous object.

Must have been something in the genes. He had a gorgeous brother who I had a HUGE crush on who ended up climbing Everest. I wonder if Tim still climbs things! We lost touch when I graduated. He was sweet but from a completely different species to me.

Elyssa Papa said...

Yay, Terri for nabbing the GR!!!

Great post, Susan! I'd say in my family we're all a little bit crazy.

Stop laughing, Anne Gracie, er, Anna Campbell. LOL

July Fourth plans---a lobster dinner (I don't eat seafood but lobster sounds kind of grand rather than oh, I'm going to have the "c" meal... I'm not saying c-h-i-c-k-e-n out of respect of the GR today). *g* And then fireworks on the beach!

Since Wednesday, I've been at the beach in Cape May. I love it. It's a Victorian town with shops (yay!) and lots of drinking on my end (bigger yay!).

Gannon Carr said...

Susan, your post about your dad is hilarious! Love the picture of the fire.

I'd have to say my family tree is full of eccentrics--I wouldn't know what to do with "normal" relatives. Now that my mom is getting older, she pretty much says what she thinks. My sister said her filter is gone!

Gannon Carr said...

Forgot to say Happy 4th of July to everyone!

Terrio, don't let the GR near the fireworks. ;)

Helen said...

Terrio I would just be very careful with him

Fantastic post Susan I am still laughing. My mother was the one who loved lighting fires we always had an incinerater in the back yard and she would always be burning rubbish and she would stand and watch it all burn, you could never get her away till it was all ashes of course when lighting backyard fires was banned many years ago Mum was devistated I don't think she ever got over it.
Happy 4th July to everyone

Have Fun
Helen

Buffie said...

Susan -- I bet you didn't have a dull moment at all in your childhood. As we say here in the South, your dad sounds like a hoot! I bet all your friends loved being at your house, just to see what would happen next.

My dad was not one of those "fun" dads. But I do have a great memory of one 4th of July. For half of my childhood we lived in a small town in southern Florida. I remember being outside of our house, with a bunch of neighbors and my BFF. We were probably 8 or 9. My dad had bought us a huge pack of sparklers and man did we have fun running around the yard with them, twirling them, writing our names with them. It was great fun. As darkness took over dusk, my dad (who is 6'5") had us stand on his shoulders and then climb onto the roof of the house. There my BFF and I sat and watched the fireworks show over the water of the Gulf. My dad even hoisted drinks and snacks up to us. It was a wonderful time.

As for this year, the dh, the boys, and I are heading to a family 4th party. See my MIL is one of 14 children (she is actually the oldest daughter). All of her siblings are married and most have grandchild. I'm still trying to convince myself that we will have a good time. You never know what will happen with that large group of rednecks!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Good morning, Terrio! And best of luck with the GR. He's a trifle put out after spending the night in my linen closet.

All alone, too, poor thing.

He may be a trifle, ah, feisty.

Susan Seyfarth said...

M.--Word of advice? If you need a firestarter? Dip a stick or two in the gas & put them in the fire pit. Avoid pouring directly from the can.

Just my .02. :-)

Beth said...

Susan, your dad sounds wonderful! He really knew how to entertain you and your sisters, didn't he? *g*

My son loves building a big fire as well. The bigger, the better. I think it all started because my nephews (who live two houses away) had a visible fire one evening and my son wanted to top them (and possibly impress the girls who were over) *g*

Anyway, he had flames shooting fifteen feet into the night sky handily beat out my nephews' fire :-)

As for a memorable 4th of July - I was probably 8 or 9 and my uncle was spending the weekend with us. We had bottle rockets but one wouldn't go off so my uncle lit the rocket then HELD the Pepsi bottle (you remember those 12 oz glass bottles?) in his bare hands.

Yes, the rocket went off. Yes, he ended up burning his hands (although I don't remember him going to the hospital so maybe they were 1st degree burns)

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!!

Beth said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that my husband's family is filled with...unique characters. The year our son had his 1st Holy Communion, we had both families over for brunch then headed to the church. Since we had to be there early, some of my husband's family memebers stayed at our house to clean up the kitchen.

When we got back, the kitchen was spotless. And our living room furniture was in the kitchen and the kitchen table and chairs were set up in the living room. The weirdest part though was that someone had left empty beer bottles and beer cans on every available surface - leaving me to gather them up and take them to the recycling center :-P

terrio said...

Beth - that is too weird. Did anyone say why they did that? LOL!

Bird seems to be behaving. Parakeet is playing hard to get so he's having to work harder this time. She's weakening but holding her own.

I forgot about the 4th of July when I was pregnant. Kiddo was born 10 days later so you know I was HUGE. My Chow mix was a year old and sitting under my lawn chair. I learned he didn't like fireworks when my neighbor set some off and my dog stood up and took off. With me and the chair! I had no idea he was that strong.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Terrio wrote: Mom: This is she.
pause
Mom: How bad is it?
pause
Mom: Which hospital?


Ha. This was a familiar conversation in our house, too, but usually about my sister. My dad, for all his ability to damage the world around him, has the amazing ability to escape (mostly) unscathed himself.

But my sister? If it can be broken, sprained, twisted, strained or popped out of joint, she's there.

Good luck around the firecrackers this weekend. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Louisa, that is some story about your Bosnia fire fighters & the beer stealing horse!

But me? I want to know more about the turkey shooting a couple hundred yards out of the turkey fryer. More!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christine--So glad to hear mine is not the only family chock full of characters! Every time we're all together, each one of them will find a private moment with me to ask with studied carelessness, "So, how much of real life makes it into your books, anyway? How do you come up with your characters exactly?"

Ha. I leave them guessing. I figure it'll make them nicer to me.

Or not. But you can never have too much insurance.

Susan Seyfarth said...

flchen1 wrote: We've never had such exciting times at our house--I think we're all way too cautious... maybe it's time to break out a little ;)

Do it! Break out! Just, you know, limit the flammables & you ought to be just fine.

And if my dad shows up with the gas can, be polite but firm. No, thank you. Really. We're fine.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jane wrote: Of course some jerk has to set off a M-80 in the crowd and scare everyone.

Sounds like the work of the GR to me. Terrio? Have you see him lately?

Dina said...

No specials celebrations here, just enjoy the time with my daughter and grandkids.

Have a nice 4th!!

Caren Crane said...

Terrio, you brave, brave girl. To take on the GR after yesterday seems a bit risky. Of course, after all his jetting about and pecking at the keyboard, he may need to rest until the fireworks tonight. Did you have plans to make him do housework? *g*

Terrio, I love your story about your doggie taking off with the chair and your v. pregnant self. Yes, Chows mixed with anything (or not) are real work dogs!

As to characters, my family is nothing BUT characters. "Normal" people don't last long around my family. They tend to get frightened and remember things they must urgently attend at home. *g* Of course, like Buffie, I have a mixed bag of rednecks in the family tree, so anything goes.

The biggest firebug in the family is my husband, but he has LOTS of competition. My brother and borthers-in-law all love to burn things. Usually after they've consumed lots of beer. And yes, there are usually young children around being marginally supervised. One of the guys usually notices if someone actually catches on fire, but all us womenfolk have to take turns patrolling the fire at odd times to keep an eye on what's going on and pull preschoolers away from glowing embers.

My husband, though, has done like Susan's dad and tried to light a ten-foot-high, damp pile of limbs and yard clippings with the help of a little gasonline. That time, he came back sans hair on the front his legs and with skimpy eyebrows.

Another time, he headed up a tree wearing climbing spikes and carrying a gas-powered chainsaw.

I can usually suggest reasonable alternatives, but it's tough. He doesn't usually TELL me what he's going to do. I have to make sure I'm paying attention whenever he disappears outside and watch for flames. Or listen for sirens.

We have a vindictive neighbor who has called the volunteer fire dept before. But he had the hose down there at the fire, wetting the ground around it (and, um, the trees) and swears he had it under control. The firemen spent quite a while standing around admiring his fire (which was about twice the height of the one in Susan's picture). Boys love fire.

He kind of works his guardian angels overtime.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Amy Andrews wrote: What is it with flames and y chromosomes???

I have no idea. But my all-time favorite story (aside from the one where my Uncle Bill's ex-wife burned all his belongings in the alley behind their house) is the one where he & my dad blew an equipment shed in the local park to kingdom come using all the gun powder from an entire case of my grandpa's shotgun shells.

Apparently they blew out windows for blocks around.

Good times.

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, I recommend starting small. Get some sparklers and light two or three at a time. Work up to bottle rockets. *g*

When he was little (like, 5), my brother used to take the rolls of caps for his cap gun and light them. He and Scotty, the boy nextdoor (who was a year younger than my bro) found this the best sort of entertainment. Until they discovered firecrackers.

And that you could just light the whole bundle at one time...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anna Campbell wrote: ME: Tim, why do you want to climb that?

TIM: I want to see if I can.

ME: But, Tim, it's dangerous and serves no useful purpose to climb it.

TIM: No answer because he was already scaling said ridiculous object.


I think many of us have had conversations with men that go something like this. I used to teached outdoor education & there was a stretch of beach I routinely hiked groups of kids over. It included a massive piece of driftwood. The girl would walk right on past, maybe sit on it for a rest.

The boys? They would spend at least 45 minutes trying to move it. I don't know why. Something about the Y chromosome & "it was there."

Go figure.

Susan Seyfarth said...

elyssa papa wrote: It's a Victorian town with shops (yay!) and lots of drinking on my end (bigger yay!).

I like how you roll, elyssa. Why burn things when you can shop & drink?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Gannon Carr said: Now that my mom is getting older, she pretty much says what she thinks. My sister said her filter is gone!

I live for the day when I'll be old enough to use this excuse. My foot is in my mouth so much I've just learned to talk around it.

Susan Seyfarth said...

helen wrote: My mother was the one who loved lighting fires we always had an incinerater in the back yard and she would always be burning rubbish.

Come to think of it, my mom is always lighting backyard fires. Smaller, yes. Contained, certainly. But fires nonetheless. Hmmmm. Common ground I had not previously considered between my parents, formerly considered the cautious one & the fire starter.

I'll have to ponder that...

Susan Seyfarth said...

buffie--your dad sounds like a great guy. Sparklers then a fireworks display on the roof? I love it. My dad may have put power tools in our hands but he rarely put us on the roof. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Beth wrote: We had bottle rockets but one wouldn't go off so my uncle lit the rocket then HELD the Pepsi bottle.

Hey, Beth, sounds like your uncle & my uncle would've gotten along juuuuust fine. :-)

And kudos to your son for the 15 foot fire! Though why boys think these things impress girls is beyond me. We girls know they're only impressing other boys. Somebody ought to clue the poor little fellas in.

jo robertson said...

After yesterday's riotous post, Terrio, you might want to consider harboring the rooster so close to home. Hmmmmm.

Susan, what a clever post. Your dad sounds like a pyromaniac! I don't want to joke about fires during this horrible fire season we're having in California, but there is something horrifically wonderful about watching a soaring blaze. Fire out of control takes on a life of its own and both frightens and fascinates me.

Hmmm, I have a younger brother who's the odd duck in our family. One summer, on consecutive Saturdays when he was twelve, he (a) cut his knee on his boy scout ax (b) sliced his wrist while pushing open a window and (c) fell into an open sewer.

That boy was always in trouble!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Terrio wrote: we learned he didn't like fireworks when my neighbor set some off and my dog stood up and took off. With me and the chair!

Wow! They say fear is a powerful motivator & now we know just how powerful!

Caren Crane said...

Beth, I've witnessed male members of my family holding Roman candles in their hands numerous times. We just squint and pray. *g*

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Dina! Have a great time with the grandbabies!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Caren wrote: That time, he came back sans hair on the front his legs and with skimpy eyebrows.


Oh, Caren. I can't count the number of times my dad's burnt off his eyebrows. One time we all came home to help me go wedding dress shopping. We all brought our various menfolk & left them with my dad.

Bad idea.

When we came home, nobody had eyebrows, somebody's back was out, my husband (then fiance) had a tree dropped to close to on his head that it had torn his shirt off & they were just getting ready to go to the ER with a minor chain saw injury.

Lesson? Do not leave my father unsupervised with a crew.

terrio said...

Susan - the GR did wonder off for a while. Next I saw him, his feathers looked a bit charred on the ends and I have to talk really loud or he can't hear me.

I think we have our answer.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jo wrote: I don't want to joke about fires during this horrible fire season we're having in California, but there is something horrifically wonderful about watching a soaring blaze. Fire out of control takes on a life of its own and both frightens and fascinates me.

I hear you, Jo. Have you read Nora Roberts' Blue Smoke? I just re-read it & it does a wonderfully horrible job of describing that same horror/fascination fire can provoke.

I do love me some Nora.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Okay, everybody, I'm off to play with my family for the 4th.

(No firestarting, of course. I have a box of sparklers & that's IT. I am only my father's daughter when it comes to chainsaws.)

Have fun & I'll check in later tonight!

Happy Fourth! And remember, celebrate responsibly!

Caren Crane said...

Dang, I realized we haven't bought so much as a sparkler this year. A situation that will be remedied shortly, I assure you.

My family is heading to Deb Marlowe's for our Independence Day celebration. It should be extra fun!

Especially when we show up with fireworks...

p226 said...

Hmm... I'm pretty sure that in my family, I'm that guy.

Let's ponder close calls with death a minute....

Age 10 (I think): Launched model rocket in FAA controlled airspace. Set off surface to air missile launch alarms on pair of AV8B harriers on approach. Received "the visit" from frowny faced folks in suits.

Age 11: Fell off a cliff. Because it was there.

Age 13: Made and detonated black powder "bomb" in back yard. Nearly set woods on fire.

Age 14: Crashed a bicycle at 55mph or so at the bottom of a huge hill. Remained unconscious in ditch for 45 minutes.

Age 15: Hit overhanging tree branch jumping a motorcycle over a ravine. Nearly drowned unconscious in one inch of water at bottom of ravine.

Age 17: Told a mugger pointing a gun at me that if he didn't put that thing away I was going to shove it up his #$%.

Age 21: Fired a .38 at a sheet of bullet proof lexan from the safe range of three feet. Rebounding fragments missed my ear by a quarter inch.

Age 28-ish: Crash motorcycle under bridge because, by god, I could get a knee down in that corner if I wanted to. (I did get the knee down on the road. But I didn't see the oil patch until the front end washed out and I was sliding down the road on my back)

Age 33-ish: 100mph motorcycle crash.

Last year: Black ice results in near impalement.

I think I'm kind of the opposite of your dad. When it's my safety, I tend to be a little reckless. But when someone else's safety's involved, I'm actually a really careful guy. Like these days, when I'm working with tools or power tools and my kid's watching, it's by the numbers safety. Starting fires, we use kerosene as an accelerant instead of gas. And we make sure our hose can reach the fire.

But it's just me? Sheesh. I could fill pages with near-death shenanigans. I think I get it from my dad, who once spent the night on top of a large rock in Yellowstone. Apparently throwing rocks at a buffalo sometimes annoys them. "When an animal slams it's head on the ground and you feel it shake a hundred yards away, it's impressive. Even moreso when it charges." The buffalo waited overnight on them to come down from the rock they scrambled up to escape.

Buffie said...

p226, who needs fiction when your life is full of amazing stories!

Pat Cochran said...

Congratulations on snagging the GR!
Condolences on snagging the GR!
That golden fellow is too rascally
for words, Terrio! Take care today!

Happy Fourth of July to all!

Pat Cochran

Christie Kelley said...

Happy 4th of July and a shout out to my son who turns 16 today (my little firecracker).

Susan, I loved your post. We're a little quiet over here. We did take a boat ride down the river last night for some fireworks over the water. It was a great night for it...not too hot, a nice breeze and the boaters weren't too crazy. Today's a lazy day. I have a house full of company and we're all tired from yesterday.

I'm off to frost a birthday cake.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Susan - loved your post, the fire, the lake and all.

The character in my family is my oldest brother. As the oldest, he truly believes he knows what's best for everyone - you know the type. During a family reunion, he took a bunch of the family on a fishing trip in Delaware Bay - except he forgot to check the plug in the bottom of the boat to see if it was in. It wasn't. They weren't too terribly far from shore when they discovered the extent to which the boat was taking on water - but it was a race to see if they could make it back before the boat & family went under. The rather short fishing trip still resurfaces whenever my family gets together.

MaryF said...

I've got tears rolling down my face, I'm laughing so hard!

My dh did the same thing when he was 5....and bless his heart, still has the scars to prove it.

Caren Crane said...

P226, I KNEW you would be full of near-death stories. Just knew it! I think it's part of the familial balance, though, to have at least one person (usually male) to be that one. It gives the rest of the family peace of mind knowing they could never possibly be as bad as that one.

I love the story about your dad. Who knew buffalo were so patient? He waited for them all night? That's a seriously pissed off animal right there. *g*

We're all glad (and I'm sure your wife and son are) that you haven't managed to get yourself killed. Yet. So tell me, where in the world were you that, at 17, you were being robbed at gunpoint?

jo robertson said...

Yes, Susan, I read Nora's Blue Smoke. Great!

And P226, wow, what a wild, reckless, exciting life you've led. Lots of fodder for your writing.

jo robertson said...

Happy Fourth to everyone! I'm off to play with the kiddies and keep Pops, aka Dr. Big, from throwing that illegal firecracker he's had hiding in the closet for the last 10 years.

Caren Crane said...

Mary, do you let your husband play with fire and combustibles now? *g*

Caren Crane said...

Jo, does Dr. Big think you don't know about his firecracker? I love it when my husband thinks I don't know something. All those mommy eyes aren't just for the kids, you know. *eg*

Nancy said...

Terrio--congratulations. I think. Try to keep him away from your keyboard.

Susan--what a fun post! We have no great and glorious celebratory disasters. One Christmas when I must've been about 10 (got the Barbie Dream House, which was then cardboard with cardboard, assemble-by-tab-A-slot-B-method furniture), the grownups decided to burn the used wrapping paper. Only they forgot to open the flue, so we had to evacuate for about an hour while the house aired out.

Several years later, on Christmas Eve, with my mom's siblings and their families expected the next day, we heard a crash from the back of the house. My mother called out to my father, who was back there. Just as we were about to go see what was up, he appeared in the dining room, looking aggravated and shaking his head. He refused to answer questions. So we had to go see anyway. In dumping the dog's terra cotta water bowl, which sat under the sink in the bathroom nearest the kitchen, he dropped it into the toilet. The dog's bowl won, emerging intact, while the toilet bowl broke. So we were down to 1 toilet with 10 people plus us expected the next day.

Plumbers charge a lot on Christmas Eve.

Nancy said...

BTW, Susan, I hope you've recovered from the Tim Tams/daiquiri binge. I shudder to contemplate your blood sugar level yesterday. It's a wonder you were able to function.

Terrio--your family has a real thing for fire. I used to like big ones, too, when burning leaves was okay. I sort of miss those days.

Louisa, I don't think I've ever seen a turkey projectile. The Mythbusters had a frozen chicken projectile once, but that was on purpose. I'm impressed. The woods on fire--wow! I'm glad it wasn't serious.

Anna C., loved your story about Tim! When I was in college, there were a couple of guys who liked to dress up as Captain American and his Golden Age sidekick, Bucky, and climb buildings. I was never sure why. Maybe Tim answered that.

Buffie--I like sparklers. They're pretty, and they were all my parents let us have. NC still has fairly tight restrictions on fireworks, which can be bought by the truckload across the state line in SC.

The dh grew up in Colorado. He and his brother used to shoot bottle rockets AT each other! Aack! It's a wonder either of them, let alone both, made it to adulthood.

Beth, why did they move the furniture? Did you ever find out?

Terrio, it's good if the bird can't hear you. Makes snooping harder.

p226, it's a wonder you're still alive. You've had some amazing close calls! They're really interesting, though, and I second Caren's call for the mugger story.

Christie, today is my father-in-law's birthday. He doesn't go in for cake anymore, though. Me and Stephanie Plum, though, we luuurv birthday cake. All that sugar and lard--what's not to love?

Anna Sugden said...

OMG you lot crack me up ... P226 - you owe me a new keyboard to go with the monitor that Dianna owes me!

Happy July 4th to all of you Americans - though why I'm encouraging you to celebrate an English defeat is beyond me! (It's even more beyond me why folks back home celebrate it!) I'm sure lovely hubby is muttering things like "but we sent out our reserve team", over in England.

Terrio - congrats ... see if you can get some compromising info on the GR! Pictures would be good too.

A family made up of characters? *laughs hysterically* Um yeah. Pyromaniac males? Check. Powertool crazy males? Check. Males who climb/build/fix/jump/smash things ... because they're there? Check.

Then there are the females!

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, actually on the Y chromosome thing, men love to look at other men dig holes. They were building a block of flats next door to me in Sydney (if I'd been an animal, the RSPCA would have come to rescue me for cruelty - it was a horrible experience!). Every day, whole bands of men used to line up at the holes cut in the plywood sidings and just watch. FOR HOURS! I saw women stop, have a peek, go on with what they had to do. The men were glued to that pavement.

limecello said...

Haha - What a great post, Susan! You dad sounds like a lot of fun, and someone who keeps things interesting! My friends are the same way - though thankfully, less with fire. Generally, it's them not able to start fires and postponing barbq's.
Happy 4th of July, everyone and enjoy the holiday weekend!

p226 said...

I'm not sure the mugger story's appropriate for this environment, but I'll try to ... well... I'll try to get by.

Preface time:

When I was a kid, I was a wasted rock ranger. I was stoned or drunk daily from about the age of 13 to at least 18 when I went in the corps. It really persisted a little later, but meeting my wife settled me down a little, and then eventually completely. At 17, some things had happened in my life that made me all but completely suicidal. I simply Did. Not. Care. About anything. Or anyone, really. Now back to our story.

At the time I was in military high school. A friend was in town with me on leave. And we did what we always did on leave. Find people who could legally buy alcohol and get hammered. To do this, you didn't hang out in the rich parts of town. You went to the ghetto. Well, we were in the ghetto and had recently scored a liter of George Dickel whiskey. Next stop? McDonalds. At McDonalds you could get big cups full of brown liquid. Of course, we'd replace THEIR brown liquid with our own brown liquid. That way, we could wander the streets without getting harassed by cops.

So, we had our bottle, and we had our McDonalds cups. We decided to go into the bathroom downstairs at this Mickey D's to make the "liquid exchange." On the way down, we run into this guy.

"Hey, y'all wanna buy some weed?"

"Whatcha got?"

"I got good stuff"

We start negotiating. But instead of producing the "goods" he produces a little raven .25 and demands our money. I look at my buddy who's absolutely PETRIFIED. "Paul, whaddya say we just kill this $#%^#$%^# right here." Paul just sputters. And then I look back at the guy and tell him if he doesn't put that $#%^# #$%# gun away, I'm going to shove it up his $%^. Remember. I did. Not. Care. About anything.

Surprisingly, the guy called us crazy, and went on up the stairs, leaving me standing there giggling, and Paul asking me for the bottle. I swear he drank a third of that bottle in one drink, right there on those steps.

But yeah, there's the story. I'm not proud of it. I was an idiot. But it *was* celebratory, for we were on LEAVE!

hahah.

Caren Crane said...

P226, it's amazing any of us survive youth. I'm sure you were something to behold in Don't Care mode. Aiyee! Did you ever tell your mother that story?

I've noticed, now that my son is 22, stories are emerging that I never knew. Suspected maybe, but had no proof. *sigh*

p226 said...

Did you ever tell your mother that story?

Hahaha, you're kidding right?

Rereading Susan's post reminded me of something similar that happened to a friend. Lighting a fire, can of gas... the thing took off like a rocket. Flew around his yard bouncing off trees pushing a twenty five foot blue/yellow/orange exhaust flame.

All of us standing around afterwards ... You know the expression. "Did that just happen?"

Cassondra said...

P226 wrote:

You know the expression. "Did that just happen?"

Oh yeah. I know that expression well. It often comes right on the heels of the big sh&t-eating grin and the words, "Hey, watch me do THIS!"

I'm just sayin.

I'm the fire builder at our house, but I keep the fires small--pleasant to sit around, stare into, contemplate the meaning of the universe and all that rot. Steve, when he builds a fire---he builds a freaking INFERNO. And all of his Special Forces buddies are the same way.

Now you'd think that guys specifically trained for cover, concealment, snooping and sneaking around at night without being seen would like itty bitty fires.

Nope.

IN. Fer. Nos.

20-foot flames, too hot to get near--can't enjoy it for about three hours after it's started--and even then the bed of coals is so large and so hot you can't get close enough to roast a decent marshmallow.

I DO think it has something to do with testosterone.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, I don't know Cassondra...I'm the pyro in my family and infernos are kinda fun. Limited quantity infernos. (Hey, sounds like a rock band!) Mostly I like the moderate "FLAME ON!" size for a bit that settles down nicely to marshmellow roasting, contemplative and fun. I've done a few of those on the beach, gather drift wood and burn-baby-burns though.

Hey, I'm mostly safe with it. Grins. Mostly.

Climbing. Hmmm. Maybe I was male in the last five or six lifetimes. I love to climb things - trees, rocks, planters. Ummmm, mostly because they're there.

Don't EVEN get me started on power tools. Lurve me some power tools. I asked for a hammer drill for Christmas. :>

As to characters, my family is fulllllllll of them. Every single type of character. Eccentric. Odd. A couple who are morose and suicidal. The non-stop-talker who, if you actually listen, has a lot to say and knows a heck of a lot about everyone else in the family, but no one pays much attention, so they wonder how I know all that stuff...

Fireworks are verboten in our house. Grins. I'm not to be trusted with them. Snork.

I'm not gonna get started on the "brushes with death" either because I really didn't mean to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Really.

Natalie Hatch said...

Susan did your dad and my dad meet at the same pyromaniac school of thought? Dad would have done exactly what yours did... maybe it's just boys. We once burnt down a pristine part of a national park because we started having a little campfire and a stray spark landed in the wrong place. We never admitted it... ooops.
My dad was of the opinion if you want to get a fire started pour petrol on it... yep he lost several eyebrows that way.
For all his foibles, I miss him terribly, especially his silly stunts.
Fortunately I married a man who knows how to light fires the right way (boy scout) but he doesn't know how to fix things, he pulls things apart and I'm the one that ends up fixing everything... ahhh well, I'll just write about competent heroes that can fix a car without having to take it apart three times in the process.

Nancy said...

p226, that's quite a story. I can see how you'd need to be in Do Not Care mode to try it.

Anna S.--My wonderful, too-long-ago summer studying in England started at a B&B in London. The owner, a Greek Cypriot, knew July 4 was a holiday for Americans and generously decided, since there were a number of us staying there, to have a barbecue in honor of the holiday. Some of his friends came over, and most of us students weren't about to miss free food and beer.

The evening rocked along in his rear garden with good food and lively conversation and everybody acquiring some degree of beer-enhanced happiness until he suddenly said, "Hey, what's this July 4 holiday for, anyway?"

Dead silence. Americans looked at each other. Finally one guy said, "Uh, it's our independence day, Andrew."

Andrew frowned. "Independence from who?"

More looking around ensued until someone blurted, "From you. The British."

Another silence, and then Andrew said, "And I"m feeding the whole bloody lot of you?" And then he laughed. But I really don't think he knew. We just assumed he did because he was throwing a party. I think maybe he wanted an excuse for a bash. It was nice of him, though, and I'll always remember that July 4.

Suzanne Welsh said...

LOL, Susan, I loved this post, and as scary as the fiery gas can rolling towards the cabin was at the time, it really cracked me up!

I'm afraid I'm married to a bit of a pyro-geek! When we lived in Florida, he'd stockpile fireworks from trips through Tennessee and Georgia for his annual fourth-of-July-let's-try-to-blow-off-body-parts
celebration each year. I always hated this, as I had to watch the kids, particularly the son who always helped his dad, and prayed we wouldn't make a trip to the country ER near our friends' house, (the place where he'd set off his mini-explosion-fest). UGH...In self defense, I started volunteering to work every fourth!

Thank goodness when we moved to Texas, the outlawing of said personal fireworks display in towns has curtailed his activities. And I must say, that despite my worry, hubby always remained intact!

Joan said...

Anna said: I wonder if Tim still climbs things!

Look up, Anna....maybe he'll fall on you, LOL

P226 said: Launched model rocket in FAA controlled airspace. Set off surface to air missile launch alarms on pair of AV8B harriers on approach. Received "the visit" from frowny faced folks in suits.

You did not..........

p226. I'm glad you started to care again.


As to fires, my family was never into bonfires. Nope. On 4th of July my Daddy (whose own Dad worked for the railroad) would light railroad flares for us to use to light our sparklers. I can still hear the "whooshing" noise and smell that unique flare smell.

Of course, right now I'm in the middle of my subdivisions version of "shock and awe" (shrill whistling noise) Incoming!!!!

Susan Seyfarth said...

P226:

a) these are the stories that make mothers weep.

b) I think my father would adore you.

Hope you're celebrating with the kids this year, thus saving yourself any lasting damage. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Pat Cochran wrote:
Congratulations on snagging the GR!
Condolences on snagging the GR!


Couldn't have said it better! Happy 4th of July, Pat. And I'm with you. Good luck to Terrio!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christie wrote: Today's a lazy day. I have a house full of company and we're all tired from yesterday.

I'm off to frost a birthday cake.


I envy you that lazy day with all my heart. I've been on the go since ten this morning, & I have sparklers to light before I sleep. (I promised a certain 5 year old I'd sneak her out of bed when it's completely dark to light some off. What can I say? I'm a softie.) So I'm sneaking in a few minutes to see what's been shaking on the blog.

But I wish I were having a big hunk of birthday cake on the deck with my feet up. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Nancy wrote: The dog's bowl won, emerging intact, while the toilet bowl broke. So we were down to 1 toilet with 10 people plus us expected the next day.

Plumbers charge a lot on Christmas Eve.


Oh my goodness. I'd rather face a raging inferno than the bill from a christmas eve plumber. Frightening.

We once had a furnace repair guy over on new years. He was terrifying, from his shiny bald head to the swastikas tattooed on his knuckles. We sat huddled together at the top of the basement stairs while he worked with the cordless phone in our hot little hands, the 9 & the 1 already dialed.

But we had heat by morning so okay, right?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anna S.--you're a good sport to celebrate the 4th! Do people in England really celebrate it, too? I can't imagine why, unless it's to enjoy the fact of having ridded your beloved homeland all us ill-mannered, English-language-butchering cretins. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

limoncello wrote: Generally, it's them not able to start fires and postponing barbq's.

Ready for the greatest fire starter ever? Saw dust mixed with paraffin & kerosene. Mix up a little of each in a dixie cup, toss a dixie cup or two in the logs & you're golden.

Needless to say, my father disapproves. He believes it's cheating or something if you're not putting life & limb on the line.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Donna wrote: During a family reunion, he took a bunch of the family on a fishing trip in Delaware Bay - except he forgot to check the plug in the bottom of the boat to see if it was in. It wasn't.

Oh, Donna, I'm laughing over here. My husband & I were nearly killed on one of our first dates by somebody who'd left the plug out of his boat & was racing the rising water to shore. We were canoeing along, minding our own business, when an apparently unattended boat came screaming directly toward us.

We yelled & slapped our paddles on the water like crazed beavers until the guy popped up out of the bottom of the boat where he'd been attempting to screw the plug in while flying along full tilt. He jerked the tiller, missed us by an inch & yelled, "Sorry! PLug!" & kept screaming along.

It was a hairy little incident. We pulled into the first DQ we saw & had a very life affirming blizzard.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Mary F wrote: My dh did the same thing when he was 5....and bless his heart, still has the scars to prove it.

And we love them anyway, the dear dotty things. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

P226 wrote: Surprisingly, the guy called us crazy, and went on up the stairs, leaving me standing there giggling, and Paul asking me for the bottle. I swear he drank a third of that bottle in one drink, right there on those steps.

I feel like I need a stiff drink after just having read that. Heavens. Your wife must be some woman to have settled that kind of Do. Not. Care. out of a guy. I suspect the GR would love her. You'd best keep an eye out...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Cassondra wrote: Now you'd think that guys specifically trained for cover, concealment, snooping and sneaking around at night without being seen would like itty bitty fires.

Nope.

IN. Fer. Nos.


I'm loathe to play the gender card here, but what the heck.

They're totally at the mercy of their Y chromosome, poor fellas. They might say they're trying to impress the women folk but whatever, right? It's the same way women would say they dress up to please men. Please. We dress up for other women. Men couldn't care less. They're less interested in what we have on than what we don't.

Um, that sounds bad. But you know what I mean. Do men really look at our shoes? No. Women look at our shoes. And they appreciate them. It's very satisfying.

Anna Sugden said...

Nancy - the really sad thing is how many Americans are surprised when I say we don't celebrate July 4th! Hello?

P226 - we're glad you survived!

Do you know we must have the only neighbourhood in the US where no-one barbecued!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jeanne wrote: The non-stop-talker who, if you actually listen, has a lot to say and knows a heck of a lot about everyone else in the family, but no one pays much attention, so they wonder how I know all that stuff...


Ooooh, Jeanne, I love this! I'm totally going to use this in a book sometime, & if it ever (god willing) sees publication, I'll give you a shout out on the dedication page. My family will be imminently relieved I mined somebody else's family tree for inspiration. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Natalie wrote: My dad was of the opinion if you want to get a fire started pour petrol on it... yep he lost several eyebrows that way.
For all his foibles, I miss him terribly, especially his silly stunts.


I hear you, Natalie. We wouldn't know what to do without my dad. He's a firestarter in both the literal & figurative sense. He's one of those sparkplugs that just gets people going, you know? If we lost him, I'm sure we'd spend years just sitting around modest little fires, bored out of our skulls.

And I'm sure Dad would be sitting around in heaven yelling, "Pour some damn GAS on it, you fools!"

Susan Seyfarth said...

Suz wrote: And I must say, that despite my worry, hubby always remained intact!

Somehow they usually do. I have no idea how. Maybe there's some sort of Patron Saint of Pyromaniacs?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joanie wrote: On 4th of July my Daddy (whose own Dad worked for the railroad) would light railroad flares for us to use to light our sparklers. I can still hear the "whooshing" noise and smell that unique flare smell.


You lit your sparklers with flares?? Now that my father would approve of. :-)

Carry on!

Susan Seyfarth said...

All right, boys & girls. Full dark has fallen & I'm off to treat my 5 year old to the joy & wonder of sparklers. Enjoy yourselves & celebrate responsibly!

Beth said...

You know, now that I think about it, they never did explain why they rearranged the furniture. I guess they just thoutht it would be funny *g* Luckily, I'm pretty easy going so even after hosting a brunch for over 50 people, my husband and I just shook our heads, tossed the empties into the recycling bin and moved the furniture back :-)

P226 - while I'm so glad you survived all of your close calls, I have to admit I'm thrilled my 16 yr old son is just like my cautious husband! He (the son) even asked me for permission to shoot flaming arrows into filled gasoline cans like in the Dukes of Hazzard movie *g*

Caren Crane said...

Susan, you'll be relieved to know that RAIN (of all things, in our drought-ridden state) interfered with the fire pit plans and the roasting of marshmallows at Deb Marlowe's house. It did clear up enough for sparklers and a few legal fireworks, but we got NO CAMPFIRE. It was a total ripoff!

I have always been one to sit and stare at a fire for hours. It's primeval goodness, I tell you.

Hope your daughter enjoyed her in-the-dark sparklers!

Caren Crane said...

Um...Beth, did you say yes? *g*

terrio said...

Home after a long day of shopping and watching fireworks. The GR is totally pooped. He did a great job carrying my bags and I only lost him once. But I found him again in the covert operations area of the Barnes & Noble.

I think he enjoyed the fireworks, but the one year old and two year old present - not so much. LOL!

p226 - I think you must be the long lost brother of one of my ex-boyfriends. He too is VERY lucky to be alive. His stories sounded remarkably like yours. Except his took place in Louisiana. Kudos to Mrs. p226 for bringing you around. *g*

Keira Soleore said...

Smoov, I missed your post today. Now I'm glad I didn't read it before Hubby and Miss Wee had their fireworks show in the yard. I cowered in the dining room mostly under the pretense of cleaning this or that. I'm VERY happy to report neither of them emerged with anything burnt and our yard and our house is still intact as are our neighbors'.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Well, I missed the whole post, we were fishing. All day and all evening, wet to the skin, 3 rain showers and no cover, we just kept fishing. Couldn't keep anything we caught cos, well, it was out of the Kanawha River and you just don't eat those fish. It was still fun. To the best of my knowlege I don't have any fire starters in my family that were male anyway. It was the girls you had to watch.
I hope everyone had a great 4th!

Jennie said...

OK, I was there! I saw this happen...BTW This is Jennie! You forgot to add Chad throwing the box of fireworks in the fire! Miss you girl!