Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Sept. 25, 2000

Fire, fire, fire . . . or maybe not

Bob and Ruth Rekedal came to Howard Lake in 1948. Bob bought the drug store and Ruth taught at the Howard Lake schools in the '50s and '60s. They now reside in Sun City, Ariz.

By Bob and Ruth Rekedal

Go back to September 1977, the first autumn in many years that I had not returned either to the classroom or graduate school, now permanently retired, honored, goodbye-ed. At home.

The summer had been a good one in '77, we were "out" on weekends with the fifth wheel pulled by Grandpa Bob's famous '72 Chevrolet cinnamon-colored pickup.

That pick-up had taken us on an Alaskan trip with a built-in camper on its back, was appointed with every custom detail known to man at that time, Bob's real pride and joy.

He particularly enjoyed using it to pull the Elbow Lake deer hunting trailer into the woods near Nevis, Minn.

Now that autumn was in full swing, our rather large yard needed raking and a little vegetable garden had to be cleaned up for the winter.

Since I was now at home with "nothing to do," I decided I could be a yard person, doing some simple yard work.

Packing leaves from the two front yard spreading red maples took awhile, about 30 huge trash bags full.

At the back of the lot was a little garden. Bordering Ikuyo Shin's, we shared a majestic row of pine trees, their branches spreading almost to the ground. I was cleaning up the little garden, aware that this Saturday was a "permission to burn day," one of occasional fall days set aside by the local town council allowing burning within the city limits.

So I proceeded to start a little fire of the rakings, even as a gentle breeze became a bit more aggressive, and somehow, the fire wanted to creep along the ground.

In no time, it was approaching low-hanging branches of the enormous pine trees.

Shin's guests from Minneapolis had come outside to chat a bit, so I called to them to please hurry to call the fire department while I was attempting to slow the progress of the fire with our garden hose.

Could those strangers in town with Mrs. Shin, a Japanese lady, find the right number to phone?

Bob's fish house stood on the back lot, too, half-hidden in the row of trees, but too close to be safe from flames.

Soaking down the dead-grass ground seemed to prevent the flames from spreading any farther, yet fire out in one place, it would flare up in another.

I was yanking on the garden hose, trying to reach those crisp protruding pine needles, but the hose was long enough only to sort of spray up in the air.

A few minutes seem like ages at certain events in our lives. The town fire truck came roaring down the hill, siren blaring, driving on to the narrow grassy alley between us and the neighbors, headed directly toward me and the fire.

Joe Ostgulen, Tom Main, and a crew jumped off the truck. Yet. . . by then I had to thankfully and embarrassedly admit, "Sorry, guys, but the fire looks like it's out."

I doubt that they even unhooked their hoses, but tramped around a little bit to be sure that all was well, met the neighbor's company, and were (carefully and politely) not too obviously angry with me.

It is important to note that the firemen were all volunteers, so at the first whine of the siren, some of them had to lay down their tools or take off their aprons or disconnect their machines, stopping whatever they were doing, hustling to the fire hall to climb into their fire gear and jump up on the truck as it wheeled out of the fire barn. Quickly. Not a moment to waste, not ever.

Well, the guys were nice about it, glad that Shin's and our trees had not caused a terrible fire with loss of both of our homes, and then, the firemen cordially urged us to be sure to come to the firemen's dance that night in the town hall.

A couple of them had been on their way up to the hall to do a little decorating, Saturday afternoon "off" for some of them.

I apologized profusely, complimenting them on their quick response. They jumped aboard, fire truck drove on straight ahead on the grassy strip behind Shin's house. . . but the path was a little soft. The fire truck was full of water to the brim.

It was heavy. It sank, and sank some more, into the soft ground. That big engine purred and roared, those big wheels spun mud five feet away: stuck in the mud. Right in town. On Saturday afternoon.

And there hadn't even been a real fire. Maybe it was one of the Pudlitzkes who drove the county road grader. At least the grader was sent for, or perhaps, a fireman was the operator.

At any rate, very gingerly a half hour or more later, from the other end of the little soft road behind Mrs. Banke's bordering the nursery, came the big grader, backing ever so cautiously to hook on to the beautiful new big red fire truck mired down in the mud.

I hope the firemen got full pay for that afternoon. I was too embarrassed to ask.


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