A personal anecdote from living on the farm on the ‘B’ line between Kincardine and Tiverton, Ontario that was published for my parents as a gift in Rooster Showdown and Other Tales for the Farm. Request permission to reprint through the contact page.
When I was in Kindergarten our class went on a field trip to the Fire Hall in Tiverton. Of course, the purpose of the visit was not just to marvel at the massive red trucks and the neat sliding pole, but to impress upon us the importance of fire safety. I took the whole affair quite seriously and remembered many principles of fire safety, but what had the most impact on me during that visit was the folding ladder. Imagine – that they could possibly make a ladder that folds to one long pole!
Sometime after that visit to the fire hall we had a fire in the cellar of our farmhouse. There was smoke in the house and we all had to go outside until the fire department arrived. I don’t remember who called, whether my mother called before going outside or whether a neighbour called after seeing the smoke. Nevertheless, they arrived in a speedy fashion, sporting lights and sirens.
The firefighters alighted the truck quickly and ran into the house to handle the fire. It wasn’t really a very big fire and they managed to extinguish it in very little time. There was alot of smoke in the house that had to be aired, but really it was a rather exciting event to me.
It took a great deal of patience to wait for my moment to speak to the firefighter who was talking to my mother, but finally, after a whole minute there was an opportunity (or did I interrupt?).
Pulling the sleeve of fireman’s rubber jacket, I asked, “Where’s your folding ladder?”
My mother interjected, “There’s no such thing as a folding ladder.”
The firefighter turned to my mother and said, “Actually, we do have a folding ladder, but it’s back at the station. We don’t have it on the truck.”
My mother looked at me with genuine surprise at my knowledge, and I remember feeling really good. I thought that because I knew something that she didn’t, she must finally realize that I’m really quite smart!
* * *
After my extensive Kindergarten fire training, I was concerned about one thing I was told to do if there was ever a fire. The firefighter told us that as soon as you know there’s a fire, you must leave the house immediately. “Don’t try to take anything with you!” What leave behind my toys? My books? You can’t mean that I shouldn’t look for my blankie? This was too much for my little mind to handle.
Well, I have a bit of a stubborn streak and I was determined that I was not going to leave my precious valuables behind. I set to work immediately. In my closet I found a big brown paper bag with a handle. Perfect!
First, I packed my pink blankie. It was my most prized possession in the world, and there was no possible way it could be replaced – hey, I wouldn’t even let my mom wash it! Next, I packed “My Bear” (Yes, that was his name, which I christened him with when I was two). My Miss Suzie book and my In The Zoo too. Oh, and I can’t forget Snoopy, my pull-dog toy. Eventually I was satisfied that I had packed all my prized possessions, so I sat down to wait.
I waited, and I waited. After a whole two minutes I was restless. I was waiting with my bag of stuff in case there was a fire. What if a fire never happened? I wanted to test my theory that I could bring my possessions with me if there was a fire.
I knew it would be wrong to start a fire on purpose, but an accidental fire would be totally different. This got me thinking about how I could start a fire ‘accidentally’. I remembered that my mother had told me that it was dangerous to put my silk handkerchief over my bedside lamp. That would definitely work. I placed the red silk hankie over the round opening at the top of the lamp, where the heat would escape. Then I proceeded to sit and wait once again. Nothing seemed to be happening. I checked the hankie, which was quite hot but hadn’t burst into flames. Maybe if I move it so that it’s directly touching the lightbulb, I will have more success. I did this and waited again.
“Tammy! Kim! Supper’s ready,” my mom called from the kitchen. I was hungry and supper sounded good, so I pulled the hankie off the light, flicked the switch of the light off, and ran downstairs for supper. It may sound strange, but I thought, I can’t leave the hankie and light unattended or it might start a fire while I’m gone! Later on, this moment was quite forgotten.