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Saturday, March 28, 2009


When you’re running down the street, and your
hair is on fire… people get out of your WAY!”
— Richard Pryor

As I was shoveling down a bowl of cereal this morning, Mrs. Fetched asked me, “Do you want to help me with the chickens?”

“Sure,” I said, “as long as I can get to a junkyard by noon to get a jack and fake spare for the Civic.”

“Oh yeah.” I mentioned this need somewhat earlier in the week. I once had these things, but Daughter Dearest’s Civic did not and I’d rather have me stranded than her. While I have new tires on the Civic at the moment, that doesn’t mean I won’t catch a nail or just wear ’em out later on.

So while she was getting ready, I called a junkyard about a half-hour from the manor, and got no answer. Their Yellow Pages ad included a website, so I pulled that up… and found they’re not even open on Saturday. (That would explain their not answering the phone.) “Try the mechanic,” Mrs. Fetched suggested. “He might have some in his bonepile.” I have that number in my phone already, so I tried it and got the same no-answer. Having struck out, I went with Mrs. Fetched.

While we were there, she tried unsuccessfully to start the incinerator. This is a normal occurrence when it has been raining, especially as much as it has this week. “Do we have any gas?” she asked. We did, since I’d filled a pair of 1-gallon cans last weekend; one had 2-stroke mix in it, but the other was straight gas. She sent me home to get the gas while she raised a curtain that had many gallons of rainwater trapped in the folds.

When I returned, she had me pour about half the gallon into the incinerator (which is nearly full of dead chickens). “Did you bring a match?”

“I didn’t think we’d need one,” I said. “You can just hit the igniter and it should get it going.” She hit the switch…

FOOM!!! Fire belched out the smokestack and blew the access hatch off the front (the latch has been broken for a long time). I found this highly entertaining, really the high point of a morning that involved dealing with both heavy rain and stinky chicken houses, and vocalized my appreciation. “I’m glad you enjoyed that,” she groused. “It scared me.” Well, sure… but nothing happened we weren’t expecting. By this time, the rain was slacking off.

After finishing the last chicken house, we came outside to find Mrs. Fetched’s mom. Suddenly, the “we don’t have to take hay to the cows” became “we have to take hay to the cows.” Grumble. At least it had stopped raining. But the 12:30 ending became a 2:30 ending, involving me locking the keys in the truck and having to go to the in-laws to get the spare (at least Mrs. Fetched now had something to be amused about). So we went back to the incinerator and Mrs. Fetched again tried to get it going, with no success.

“Do you think we can pour some more gas in there?” she asked. There was a little smoke coming out of the stack, but no obvious fire.

“I suppose.”

“Well, be careful!”

I obliged, splashing some gas into the main opening. With no bark-back, I commenced to pour some more in. With about a quart left, I was thinking “that should be enough—”

FOOM!!! For a moment, all I saw was flame, then the normal picture returned. I’d jumped about three feet to the left; Mrs. Fetched squawked and got out of her jacket (one sleeve was on fire); the gas can was lying on its side, also burning at the nozzle end. She put out her jacket, and I slapped my head to make sure I wasn’t doing a Richard Pryor, then grabbed the can and flung it into the gravel where it continued to burn. With the immediate danger past, I started laughing — I’m sure if we’d gotten video, it would have been worthy of Jackass.

“That wasn’t funny!” Mrs Fetched said, then started laughing too.

I felt my hair. “It’s singed!” which, somehow, made things even funnier. “I guess I’ll have to get another haircut.”

“Nah, it doesn’t look too bad.” My hands both had all the hair singed off them as well, and there were tender spots on my left hand and on my forehead above my right eye. (Good thing I wear glasses all the time.) Mrs. Fetched’s jacket didn’t even look singed; I think maybe a little gas splashed on it and she put out the fire before it scorched the material.

Meanwhile, the gas can continued to burn in the gravel. “Do you think it will blow up too?”

“I don’t think so,” but all the same we backed the truck up and watched it finish burning up from a few dozen yards away. Once the flames mostly died down, I grabbed a shovel and put out the molten remains before dousing it in a convenient mud puddle and then carrying it to the dumpster.

And we never did get the incinerator started, although we tried for nearly half an hour afterwards.

I suppose you could say we were very lucky. On the other hand, if we actually were lucky, we wouldn’t be dealing with chicken houses. :-P


  1. Yikes! Glad everyone is okay!

    Reminds me of my own fireball story... I was teaching at a day care, and we were having a Halloween party. It was pretty warm for the time, as we were grilling and parading around in the yard in our costumes.

    I'm not sure how I was the one tasked to light the grill, but I was. Something about letting the gas build up too much or lighting it too soon... I opened the lid and a big rolling flame went whoosh, or FOOM, right into my face. Luckily, my reflexes were good and I was able to back away mostly in time. A bit of singing on my bangs, eyebrows and eyelashes, but nothing serious.

    What particularly amuses me about this is that I was dressed as Mickey Mouse at the time... mouse ears, painted nose, yellow mouse slippers, and just a wee bit smoky! :)

  2. Hey Sherm — that's pretty funny, Scorched Mickey! I've had the wood stove bark some flame at me when I opened it, but unless you left the gas on too long before igniting it, I'm not sure how that would have got you like that…

  3. Far, glad to hear you and the missus are OK. I've done enough camping to have similar experiences with recalcitrant campfires and minor amounts of regular unleaded. A note to the wise: kerosene is a bit more mellow.

  4. Hey Nudge… I've always been a firm believer in camp stoves for important stuff (like making coffee). A campfire is nice to sit around on a cool night, but isn't completely necessary.

    I'll keep the kerosene in mind, although Mrs. Fetched is talking about getting the installers over here to make sure the incinerator fires up even when it's been raining.

  5. Left the gas on too long... I'm pretty sure that's what I did. Live and learn, right? :)

  6. Yup… as long as you live TO learn! LOL

    I didn't mention the singed eyebrows… I hope they're not as wayward when they grow back.

  7. Wow FAR,
    The fun never stops down there does it? You had me laughing out loud reading this, all the while I read on aghast at the repeated fireballs...

    I'm glad our Sunday was much less eventful, but we have had some close calls with lighter fluid and charcoal in the grill, but nothing on the scale of the Homer Simpson atomic style blasts!

  8. Yeah, IVG, it wouldn't have been funny if either of us had been hurt. A little singed hair doesn't count as "hurt," so we all might as well enjoy the results of my not-so-bright decision there…

    I have a gas grill; when we deal with charcoal, we're usually on vacation. In that case, we use those Match Light things that have the lighter fluid already soaked in… one less thing to carry around and they seem to be well-behaved.

  9. Fire pretty...except when it's on you. Glad to hear you're all right.

  10. Hey Kelly, good to see you out & about again. I agree… an explosion is much more fun to watch when you're outside the blast radius. :-P


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