Lord of the Cluster-Flies Part 2 


We went to a hotel that night. Had to get out of the house. Had a swim and a hot-tub. My four year old Kein began copying our repeated lamentations about “needing to close on the dang house”. We considered alternatives, renting, starting the process on a new place. None of it sounded great. We swam and surrendered ourselves to the Fates. We just kept on, smiling, midair trapeze artists. Grab that bar or kiss the concrete. 

We couldn’t help but be suspicious. And with not allot of expertise being demonstrated, who knew how this was going to end. And the final bill was steep enough, with no bedroom, no kitchen, none functioning washer and dryer and the dishwasher looks like it’s been leaking for a decade.

Then we close, the 23rd. I said the whole time, that the paradox that lets it rock, was the beauty of the deal, and by beauty I mean, the twisted, hard case type energy I get about things I’m passionate about, is that the hardest part hadn’t even started yet. That after this sketchy real estate deal and move, the almost impossible task of renovation would begin. 

Way later, 2-28-17. I got lost there. Feels weird trying to get this down. Such a haze of events. I’m trying to write more. Don’t really have the energy for it. Same time I feel it bubbling up, the urge. The need to write it all up, while it’s there. 

Two weeks ago I started the Fire. An appropriate place to begin again. It was looking to be a perfect new normal Saturday, unexpectedly warm, high sixties. The flu bug remained, but positioned a retreat. As a result, I was trying to take it slow. I ripped out a closet in what is now known as the Lego Room, its existential fulfillment, things were going smooth. I took a break, had some boxes, be nice to get them burned up, I reflected. I spied a tipped over barrel on the back of the property. 

What’s happens next is the climax of the Great Holiday Squat of 2016-2017. Ancient and historic I felt the madness descend and was powerless to stop it. I locked on to the burn barrel, disdainful of the designated and tried burn pit. The barrel was full of refuse and muck from the previous renovation, including an inordinate amount of white electrical covers. I strongarmed it into the wheelbarrow and pushed it to the dumpster. With admirable brute strength I got it dumped and rolled back to the previous spot. Here is the scene of my supremely stupid (yet oddly beneficial) decision. 

The barrel was now at the border of my two acres, the back acre being mostly overgrown weeds and the like, which is now dead after a full winter. It also had not rained or snowed for a month, and so it was very dry. As I stood there taking it in, Brit advised I dont to it there, but delusional ceremony rebuffed the advice with archetypal ease.

My fire came and grew easily. It was a terrifying, dramatic, and unfortunately comic event. The spell came over in ever escalating wave. On autopilot, my detached self could sense the problem, even asI took  handfuls of the dried weeds and tossed it into the roaring barrel and admired how well it burned, but then here on the ground, hastily crimped weeds, out of place, was bits of dancing fire, and as I began to move, another and another. And before I could kick it into gear, it was really going. 

Stupid mistake two. I got the basics of controlled burning, but still I had made no preparations. No hose, nor trenches, nor plan. I began to try stomping it out, to no success. As I did, the family began to swirl and agitate realizing the train was off the tracks. Then we were sprinting for hoses in the garage and buckets, and then Brit and I took turns, wind sprinting back and forth to the fire and spout. A couple of times we got it down to a ten foot board of fire, but then it would hit a willing patch of downed sticks and would rage on. Down, down, down into a burning ring of fire…

There’s a tractor shed right next to our property, and along the north-western boundary there were a number of tanks, and tractor attachments. We were very worried about these things, but the living, breathing fire monster confused and dazzled us. Should we or shouldn’t, call the fire department, that was the critical and persistent question in the crisis. In such an active situation, it was hard to know what was best. 

It went on for hours. Brit and I took turns running buckets, and hitting it with the broad back of the shovel. We inhaled loads of smoke from the swirling monster. Sometimes it smelled good, some wild aromatic. Other times it was harsh and acrid. I would smell it in my breath for the next day and a half. 

Image the sight. Thick black smoke, a sooty sign in the sky. Here, watch the ape man dance! At some point I had to pee so bad, madness told me to go for it. Hell, it couldn’t hurt anything, right? So there I jumped about, letting it go, to little consequence to the fire. 

Right as things were getting really hairy, hitting that western line of neighbor stuff, the Good (Gandalf the White) arrived. Wordlessly the three leapt from the golf cart and began to help. The two older men grabbed a tractor and moved the equipment. The woman joined me in paddling the fire. 

We worked silently for forty-five minutes. Britney was able to take the gang in and recuperate, while we finished. The neighbors couldn’t have been calmer or friendlier. Britney had introduced herself earlier, when we got here. They told me it happens to everyone. Nothing to worry about. 

I made self-deprecating jokes about wanting to make a proper introduction. Fire did reach the neighbor’s post and fields. They didn’t seem to care. We stopped it at the edge of their ditch and let it burn the rest of the way through mine. We laughed about how this was what we all had wanted to do with our section. It being the right thing to do. They demonstrated back burning to me. Started some more fires moving in the opposite direction. We hooked up our hoses and sprayed a healthy boundary around it. They left me the hose, dripping , dirty, and in shock. 

 Physically and spiritually, I was crushed. As I lay there that night I thought about why it happened. How stupid and dangerous it was. In this whole moving, farm house renovation mode I’ve been in, I’ve had to face so many fears and just keep moving forward. In that process I had grown numb to real dangers. Over confident I thought I could handle any situation. And of course I walked right into it. 

I gave up all projects for the foreseeable future. Smoke inhalation brought the cough back. My lungs ached and hacked. There were so many positives though, staring at me shaken and crispy. First and foremost everyone made it out alive. The neighbors had been extremely helpful and that area did look great cleared out. Maybe more than all of that though was I got the warm, smoky message that I needed to slow down.

Later 3-4-17, morning, 6:30ish, wanted to sneak down to Lego room have a glass of water, read a little. On the Stephen King, Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I’m feeling very accomplished in the new house. Last night removed a piece of drywall which had been haphazardly placed to block an interior door. There was a three foot long mess on the drywall, a perplexing yet appropriate yellow-green, hopefully a candle, maybe pea-soup, likely vomit. First thought was remove it later, to keep the barrier for the dogs, but then we decided to get another prep table and the best spot for it was in front of that door. In all this, thirteen (now 12) chickens joined the team, and became part of all considerations. New table in place we realized it was a sufficient deterrent. Then it came to me to add two shelves on the upper portions of the doors expanse.

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5 thoughts on “Lord of the Cluster-Flies Part 2 

  1. Good god, there’s a reason for all that of course. You burning waste in that barrel reminds me of my somewhat red-neck dear friend Chris Wayne, from Indiana (who moved out here to Oregon), how he hauled around with him in his pickup an old inside of a washing machine drum, and we burned trees and shit in that, and drank a whole hell of a lot in the process, and well, there you go. Not your story, but glad you made it out OK and didn’t anger the neighbors too much. Your voice sounds good, maybe the smoke? Or the flu?

    1. Yeah it’s funny how immediate and overwhelming the influence of the country becomes. Starts like all great things, imitation and awkwardness, but if you keep at it you’ll be starting forest fires in no time. Walking in mud boots has elongated my stride, and I’m starting to do the one finger off the wheel salute! Thanks for sharing.

      1. In the genetics to enjoy a glass of whiskey when the mood hits. Make my own, that sounds about right! Real goal is food independence. Already got berry bushes and apple trees and a peach tree going in he ground, all with asparagus patch strutted and rhubarb, and everything else we can. Should be fun sharing this adventure on here. It’s currently been raining for like three days and I’m just dying to till the potato patch. Got to get them in by Good Friday.

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