Tuesday, June 28, 2011

He Was a Firebug

When we were kids my brother, Billy, had a fascination with fire. He was constantly getting in trouble for playing with matches and lighters. What I find interesting looking back on it is that everybody blamed him - not my dad (who smoked) for leaving matches and lighters where a young child could get them.

When he was around 3, my dad woke up and the mattress he was napping on was burning. He had to carry the burning mattress outside before it could burn the house down. Billy got the blame for that. I have to wonder if, maybe, my dad didn't just fall asleep while smoking?

When he was around 6, my mom looked outside to see smoke coming from underneath the front porch. It was a cold, snowy January day. She ran outside to find that Billy had crawled beneath the porch so far that he could barely squeeze into the space. He had started a small fire with dry leaves and it was in the process of catching the porch floor in fire. She had to crawl under the porch as far as she could and take handfuls of dirt and throw them on the flames until she put the fire out.

Then came the deal breaker.

He and my little sister, Rhonda, were around 7 and 6, when Billy set a basket of clothes on fire in the walk-in closet. Rhonda's eyebrows were singed off her face. They were lucky that is all that happened in that crowded closet. It was piled high with stuff and clothes were hanging all around.

This was the last straw. My mom went to a local doctor and asked him what to do. He told her the next time Billy set a fire to take his hand and physically put it in the fire. She did it.

He never set another fire again.

In a related story. When we built our new house my parents put carpet in it that was fire resistant. They told us that it wouldn't burn. I decided to test it one day. I got behind a chair in the family room and tried to light the carpet on fire. It melted but it wouldn't burn. That's a good thing since I'm lucky I didn't catch the whole house on fire myself.

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