Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Matches, Gas, Fire, and Other Wonderful Elements!

I don't remember when my fascination with all things combustible came into being but, almost 36 years into this mortality thing, I am still intrigued by burning stuff. I think I am more rational about it now than I was earlier in life, but I sure had a lot of fun with it before I became rational.

Learning how to burn oleander bushes
My first experience with matches outside of the home came as my brother DK and I walked home from Alta Vista Elementary School in Phoenix. Just a few feet from school there was an alley with tall oleander bushes lining one side. As DK and I walked by the alley this afternoon there was a group of about three other boys huddled around a rock looking at something. They invited my brother and I to join them and showed us a book of matches that one of the boys had brought to school with him. They were trying to strike the matches on the rock without success. I had watched my Dad light the BBQ with these types of matches so I showed them how to light them on the book. I lit my match, showed them, and then put it out. Everybody got a match from the book and waited their turn to light it. DK lit his and put it out and then the rocket scientist that had been trying to light paper matches on the rock lit his and threw it into a pile of dead oleander leaves at our feet. They caught fire and everybody started throwing more leaves on the fire to put it out. That didn't turn out so well. Pretty soon the oleander bushes caught fire and five little boys came out of the alley at a dead run. We didn't stop till we got home and as we ran we could hear the fire trucks come to douse our experiment.
A letter was sent home with us from school the following day, but DK and I tore it up and didn't tell our parents about it until about three years later. (And then only after our Dad promised he wouldn't spank us.)

Matches + Gasoline Makes a Bigger Fire

Soon after the incident with the oleander bushes, my family moved to Mexico. This not only saved me from prosecution for the wanton murder of innocent oleander bushes, it also gave me a much larger "field of fire" to play with. Soon after arriving, my Primo H. introduced me to the absolute wonder of gasoline. Not only did you get a much bigger fire, it created a real cool whooshing sound as it exploded. As an added bonus, if you added enough of this magical stuff, debris would fly into the air when you lit the pile. I was hooked!

Road Blocks

Our home was at the edge of town, and trucks were constantly speeding by our house on the way to their orchards. Dad was always worried that someone would run over one of his daughters, so he hauled in some dirt and made a speed bump or tope on the dirt road. (For the gringos reading this post - tope is pronounced "topeh") All this seemed to do was encourage younger drivers to hit the gas as they approached the tope so they could catch some air as they went over. Dad dug a small ditch on one side of the tope to remedy this new behavior, and this time his system had the desired effect. Once that was in, any driver who took the tope too fast would lose teeth when their wheels hit the ditch.

Dad was pretty satisfied with this arrangement, but the neighborhood boys (me, DK, Primo H, Primo R, L. and E.) felt that we could improve on the concept.

We filled the ditch with gasoline and waited for the next speeding truck to come along.

We were sure that the resulting fireball would stop the speeder dead in his tracks. After all, we had been watching the A-Team for some time now and that was how they did it.

To our great dissapointment, no trucks came for awhile and our gasoline soaked into the ground. We decided to test the ditch and were rewarded with a very brief and very nonspectacular "poof". (If we had done it at night it would have rocked)

We knew that we needed more gasoline for this to work, but we also knew we didn't have enough money between the six of us to get what we needed, so we gave up the project.

Instead, we took the gasoline over to our wall and filled up one of the pipe/posts that were used to shut the gate. We lit that up and got a great explosion.

Being the careful pyros we were, we had a hose handy to take care of things if the fire got too big. We had just filled up the pipe again and were lighting it when Grandma came around the corner and asked us what we were doing. (ALL of our parents were out of town and Grandma was riding herd on us)

We called out in chorus "Nothing Grandma" just as I aimed a strong burst of water into the pipe full of burning gasoline to put it out. Instead, the water flushed all of the gas out of the pipe, into the air, and onto our front porch with the spectacular fireball we had hoped to have over at the ditch. Grandma about had a stroke and we all scrambled around trying to figure out why water wouldn't put out burning gas and was instead pushing the fire closer to the house.

Fortunately the gas gave out before our stupidity did, and the house didn't catch fire. Grandma promptly confiscated our stash of matches and gasoline and made us do something productive.
I don't remember getting in any serious trouble when all of our parents got back, so Grandma obviously didn't tell our parents. She was pretty cool even though we all deserved a good cowhiding.
To be continued...


RhondaLue said...

Oy Vay. I am sort of freaking out because I have a little "scientific kid" that always wants to figure out how things work by DOING IT. I'm scared Ben won't be a careful pyro like you. ha ha

That's hilarious NOW hearing about what happened with your grandma. She was nice not to whoop all your little backsides!

You really are lucky to still be around. If only I could decode your cousin's initials. I'll ask Jed to figure it out and tell me who else was guilty. ;)

Salsa Mama said...

Man, you are so cute when you talk about burning stuff! heehee I just hope our son didn't get ALL your genes... Maybe we should up our home insurance.

Melinda said...

You are so nice to use initials to protect the other partis involved...funny but I knowing exactly who you were talking about..makes it even funnier. Man those sound like the good old day. Good stories.