Surviving the great Christmas fire

As many of you know, I grew up on our family farm in Northeastern Ohio. It was part of a land grant in payment to my grandfather seven generations back for fighting in the Revolutionary War. At the time my grandfather sent two of his sons to claim the land, it was wilderness, the most western part of the new America, and most certainly Indian country. They had to carve out their inheritance while defending themselves and learning how to farm fertile, but rather low land. The house they built was a sturdy two room structure with a loft above, with two inch planks pegged together as walls and large beams, also pegged together, held the house up over the crude cellar. The house was added on to in 1840.

The entire farm was handed down from Wilson to Wilson from around 1800 till even today, when my son will take over the property. We all were raised on this farm since then. When my father went on to be with the Lord in 1989, my mother continued living at the farm until she was unable to do so and moved in to our Maryland home. During those times before, we would pack up the family and “go home” for Christmas. Sometimes, my mother didn’t make the best decisions at Christmas time, especially since it was my dad’s birthday, and the anniversary of his death was just a few days after my mother’s birthday, also in December. Mother, however, never wanted to admit that her decisions might not be the best.

We were finished opening presents and all the paper from the gifts was stuffed into a couple of trash bags. There was no garbage pick up at the farm. We burned everything in an old sawed-off 50 gallon drum out about 30 feet from the milk house. Now this drum was old and had charred and rusted down to about half its height. On this Christmas morning, the wind was blowing pretty hard and there was no snow on the ground. I protested that it was not a good idea to burn these wrappings, but mom insisted–she was a neat-kin to the max and didn’t want the trash in her house another second. So I reluctantly complied. I set the wrappings on fire and soon they blew all over the pasture, setting tiny fires as they landed.

These tiny fires grew into bigger fires and soon about half an acre of pasture was on fire with the wind shifting toward the barns. I was fighting the fire with a shovel and an old gunny sack while everyone else was in the house enjoying the morning, unaware of the fiasco outside. I finally prevailed over the fire. I came in the house with smoky clothes, smudges on my face, arms and hands, and my eyebrows were singed. My mother calmly sat across the kitchen table and without any hesitation said, “You shouldn’t have burned that trash with that wind blowing like it was.” Ephesians 6:2,3 says, “Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” You can, if you survive the fires <wink>.

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Bill Wilson

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