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Happy Barn Burning
|What was left of the barn|
October second. My birthday. A time of reflection and renewal. Time to reminisce.
It was exactly 53 years ago that I made my way into the world.
I grew, healthy and strong in a loving, ordered world. My birthdays approached, were celebrated with varying degrees of success, and then left behind. First. Second. Third. For my fourth, something special was planned. Very special. And very secret. No one knew what was coming.
Early on the morning of my fourth birthday, a frantic phone call jolted my Dad out of his bed.
“There is a rather major emergency at the ranch. Would you possibly be able to come out?”
“Erm, yes. The barn is on fire.”
“On my way.”
Or at lest that is how I picture the conversation. It was probably something more in the way of . . . “EEEEEEE (high pitched screaming)!”
And Dad, “AAAAAAAAAH (Not quite so high pitched)!”
And that was the total exchange. But I digress . . .
So dad jumped into his truck and drove the twenty miles to the ranch in record time. Really record time. The only other occasion that would warrant such reckless driving and high speeds was the imminent arrival of yet another small Stringam . . . but that event was months away. He arrived just after the fire department.
By then, the barn was well on it’s way to being a memory. Flames had consumed most of it and the remainder was burning purposefully . . . and cheerfully . . . in the early morning light. Acrid smoke coiled across the barnyard, obscuring the crowd gathered to watch. Tears filled most eyes. Some because of said smoke. Others due to the fact that their most precious possessions had – literally – gone up in it.
One hired man stood there, in his longhandles, shaking his head helplessly. It took some time, and the appearance of the attractive ranch cook, for him to realize that his attire was . . . less than conventional. He beat a hasty retreat to find something a little more . . . conservative . . . to wear.
And not just the humans were concerned. The smaller denizens of the barn had been rudely awakened and forced to – quickly – find new lodgings. One mouse, intent on that very errand, scampered from the mass of smoking debris that had been his home, and into the pale morning light. He stopped. Something was very wrong. There were two humans standing directly in his path. He worked it through his little mouse brain, then darted back into the smouldering pile. Better the evil you know . . .
There was great loss. Two litters of pigs - with sows, several horses, calves. Not to mention saddles, tack and equipment. None irreplaceable, but all valuable. Oh, and my birthday. Somehow, in all the melee, that was lost as well. Not that I cared. I was happily perched on the fence, just within toasting distance of the glowing fire, watching the spectacle. Not really understanding what was going on. Knowing only that, in four years of mischief, I’d never been able to come close to this excitement. Never.
The barn was rebuilt. Bigger. Better. More modern. And my . . . birthday was never forgotten again. Every year, Dad calls on this date to wish me a . . . Happy Barn Burning.
There is a codicil. Twelve years ago, my barn burned down. Our losses were not as enormous as the ‘original’ barn fire. We lost two little pigs and some equipment. But the most important fact was the date. April first. My father’s seventieth birthday. I had to phone to wish him . . . Happy Barn Burning.
Payback is so sweet.