My Firepit

valessiobrito-Fire-June-holiday-sThere is something about autumn that invites a backyard fire. The bugs are finally gone and the scent of dying leaves reminds us how few are the nights like this that we have left.

But then there is also something about the fire itself.

Something that is – that makes you want to poke at it.

“Good Grief!!! What in the world are you doing?”

“I’m just trying to adjust this log…”

“Leave it alone…”

“Okay, I will.”

“You can’t leave it alone, can you?”

“The fire is going out. If I only move…”

“Now you did it.”

It is a squabble as old as humanity.

I will bet that on the first night mankind harnessed fire, one spouse wanted only to enjoy the flames while the other felt compelled to endlessly fiddle with it. It is an ancient conflict, one that was to portend the modern struggle over the remote control.

Some things never change.

But a television you can click on with a switch. A fire, you must build and there are two schools as to how to do that: skill and gasoline.

Let me be clear: one should never, ever start a backyard fire with gasoline. I say this to the half of humanity that would not dream of doing it any other way.

“You smothered the fire.”

“I guess I did.”

“Now what are you going to do?”


“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’ll check the recycling for something easy to burn.”

“The recycling went out Tuesday.”

“Well, what do we need to get rid of?”

It is a question we keep asking ourselves.

The first thing that comes to mind is all the stuff that fills our mailbox that we can’t recycle.

  • Our banks gleefully send us unrequested checks. They print our name and account number on them without the slightest concern for why that might be a problem, but then concern is the last thing one would expect from an invitation to incur debt.
  • Our clinic blows a blizzard of paperwork into our mailbox every time we even think of them. The services they list are indecipherable, and the charges are inscrutable.
  • Various solicitations bear the most personal of information that we never ever give out. Yet everyone has.

All of these things we shred and as a bonus, shredded paper makes for wonderful tinder.

So I head for the shredder, only to find it empty.

What to do?

What fills the bill of what do we need to get rid of?

In the file cabinet, I find a prime candidate.

My twenty year old divorce papers.

The folder is scuffed with age, and the binding is cracked and frayed, barely able to keep the yellowing papers intact. I don’t bother to open it because I have done that too many times over the years. What I do – is weigh the paper in my hand. The heft of it is not nearly what it once was.

“What have you got there?”

“Just some papers to restart the fire.”

“You should have burned them long ago.”

“Late is better than never.”

“It is.”

Author: Almost Iowa

47 thoughts on “My Firepit”

  1. My husband is a superb fire builder, as well as poker… (wait, was that too personal?) and I wouldn’t dream of interfering. I know this makes me a rarity of my gender, but as long as those coals are hot enough for marshmallows I’m not going to quibble over ownership or technique.

  2. It’s been such a dry summer we haven’t sat around our fire pit yet this year. But when we do we compete for the optimal poking angle. As for burning divorce papers, mine were so hard won I don’t believe I could do it. And I’d be concerned about toxic emissions when they went up in flames. A better choice would be tax records – keeping the last seven years of course!

  3. It’s a male thing. I remember the time I looked out my window and saw my 12-year old son and his friend burning a year’s worth of old school papers in the BBQ pit. When I asked him about it (none too politely) he reminded me that I had told him to get rid of all those old papers on the last day of school. And so he was.

  4. Okay, I admit, I’m a fiddler. I keep trying to line the logs up just right, but no gasoline. About five years ago, the neighbors across the street had sold their house and were getting ready for the moving van. They piled all the yard debris right off their back patio. They put gasoline on the pile and lit it. The sound and vibration almost threw us out of our chairs. I think every neighbor called 911 at the same time. Twenty year old divorce papers sound like a much better choice. 🙂

    1. I once burned an old box spring in a backyard firepit. The conflagration melted the metal grate. Even though I don’t smoke and most certainly wouldn’t smoke in bed, I resolved never to even think about it.

    1. “What are you doing?”
      “Building a wigwam out of little sticks.”
      “You have been at it for an hour.”
      “Just doing it right.”
      “You know my views on gasoline?”
      “Today is an exception.”

    1. And throwing things in it too like acorns and marshmallows.

      Having a marshmallow fall into the flame is the surest way to ignite a meltdown in a child. Some adults too!

  5. Great story. I was a Girl Scout all the way through High School. When my husband decided to start a fire with gasoline, I threw a fit that the neighbors recorded. Well, the end of the story was a trip to the emergency room and treatments for weeks. Luckily, he didn’t have scars, but he also stopped lighting fires with gasoline.

  6. I’m at the other spectrum, hoping for COLD weather this winter. 24/7 with the heat and humidity is getting too much – I’m too old for this sh*t.

    1. In the summer, I think longingly on winter. In the winter, I think longingly on summer. I wish there were two other seasons but we have not seen them for years. 🙂

  7. Starting a fire with gasoline? Unthinkable. I’d have to give up my boy scout badge (if I’d have ever been a boy scout). Of course, there is butane in the lighter I use…

    And of memories of past life, past its use by date? Bring on the matches.

    1. Stan insists that arc welders are the best tool for starting backyard fires. Unfortunately, he borrowed all my heavy extension cords, so we haven’t tried it.

      1. No half measures for Stan. Kind of reminds me of a dive trip I went on where we got off the liveaboard and tried to do a campfire on the beach. All the wood was wet. The way we got the fire going was using a tank of air that had a 32% oxygen mix rather than the usual 21% – blow that on the fire and it gets rather excited.

  8. I had a Yosemite bear and cub once that insisted on coming into my camp, over and over. She was obnoxious, and a bit dangerous. I finally gathered some wood together into a campfire configuration and got out my container of white gas that I used for my stove. Then I waited for the bear. When she reappeared again, I tossed white gas onto the wood and tossed a match after it. Poof! Instant flame and instant bear hightailing it. She didn’t come back. It wasn’t quite poking the bear or the fire, but it worked. –Curt

    1. I’ll have to try that on the old sow bear (or her daughter) who patrols the campsites on Agnes Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Of course, she is one experienced bear. She probably won’t even flinch.

      1. Would be worth a try. This old gal was also a long time veteran of the steal food from backpacker wars. The trees around the area where backpackers hang their food were totally denuded by her claws. –Curt

    1. Whenever guilt and silence go together, you can assume the offender is not my wife. Whenever guilt is justly assigned to her, I make sure people know that – with trumpets.

  9. “It is an ancient conflict, one that was to portend the modern struggle over the remote control.”
    Nailed it: Your work here is done.
    Except for that final observation about the lessened weight of the divorce papers–kinda poignant, there!

  10. “Let me be clear: one should never, ever start a backyard fire with gasoline. I say this to the half of humanity that would not dream of doing it any other way.”

    Nicely done. I’m pretty sure you’re right about the first fire. And for weeks after that, Grog was getting cold meat and a healthy dose of “if you hadn’t snuffed out the fire…”

    1. What you say is true, which leads us to suspect that the invention of gasoline came immediately on the heels of the discovery of fire. I think there is a Paleolithic cave painting somewhere in France that depicts a man running from a mushroom cloud of flame.

    1. Every once in a while my wife asks the same question. I am not sure why she does this, but the next thing I know, pot and pans are flying in my direction. One of these days, I will get it figured out.

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