Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speaking of Fires

Of course, my thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their lives and/or houses to the recent onslaught of fires in SoCal. The smell of fire and smoke has permeated most of southern california this week, and that smell always reminds me of two things:

Wineries and campfires.

So.... on with the stories!

My senior year of high school I picked up a weekend job doing menial tasks at a local winery (for those unfamiliar to the Temecula area, there are about 15-20 wineries there, of varying quality). And by "menial" I mean really menial tasks: Watering plants, labeling wine bottles, stocking shelves, etc. It was seriously me and what I am sure were, uh, "undocumented workers" doing a bunch of random crap. One time I was asked to go out onto the property (probably around 10-15 acres, if not more) and count how many dead vines there were in each row. Like I said, menial.

Anyway, on very, very lucky days during the winter, I was in charge of The Burn Pile. So on those days instead of coming into work around 9 or 10am, I would show up around 5 or 6, and we would gather all the dead vines, grass clippings, and anything else combustible and burn them. I was in charge of maintaining a good sized bonfire. Ahh, good times. As any good Boy Scout does, I love fire and I love burning things; and I got paid to do it! Really, that's the only thing missing from my job nowadays: Burning shit.

Now, on my summer vacations in high school, I would attempt to escape the smoltering heat of the Temecula Valley by fleeing to the moutnains, where I worked at a Scout Camp in Running Springs (to see how Camp Helendade faired during these fires, go here). One thing we would do at the camp is retire flags. Most people know that to retire a flag you "burn it," but it's not quite that simple (nor is it complex, really). The idea is that, yes, you burn a flag to retire it, but you do so with respect and solemnity, remembering what the flag stands for. So, on closing nights every week, our camp would hold a small ceremony, inviting retired and active duty military persons to join us as we retired several flags on our camp fires.

The other important rule of flag retiring is that you MUST let the fire on which you retire the flag die out naturally. That means you can't just douse the flame once you are done with your ceremony. So as anyone familiar with camp fires can attest, fires can take a long time to die out. And so it was with these fires. As such, several members of the staff would sit down at the campfire until the early hours of the morning talking, laughing, drinking Jack Daniels and telling stories until the fires had finally died. Those summers were some of the best times of my life.

*sigh* Damn, I miss those days.

So those are the two memories that have been on the forefront of my mind this past week, as all these fires have been burning.

1 comment:

Reva said...

I'm waiting for your commentary!! =)