Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 22, 2001

Of crispy critters and burning houses


I got the chance to suit up inside a fire fighter's suit a week ago Saturday when the Howard Lake fire department invited me to watch a controlled burn, from the inside of the house.

When Joe Drusch first suggested it to me, I thought he was kidding. But then he told me that Andrea, the former editor here, did it.

Andrea has more moxy than I do, but darn it, if Andrea did it, then so can I. I've got guts, I think? So I said OK.

In the short year I've been here, I've climbed, wriggled, and done a lot of things to take a picture. Nothing illegal, of course. Cough, cough.

There's only one time I've been scared - really scared. This was when I walked out on Howard Lake during winter to take a picture of ice fishermen there.

I remember walking across this black ice, looking into what seemed like the bottom of the world.

Giant cracks in the ice didn't comfort me a bit.

I envisioned the fire department in their gumby suits, pulling me out of the lake, and me being in ICU for six months.

So, I tried to stay by the white ice, since it seemed safer to me, taking little steps. Later, someone told me the white ice is actually less safe than the clear, black ice.

I had to talk myself into every single step, and finally made it.

This winter, I will take another picture on the ice. I'll be less scared this time.

Well, back to the controlled burn.

If you define courage as people who take personal risks despite known dangers, then I would say that I was not courageous. It never really occurred to me that I would die there.

Standing amid what must have been 50 firemen practicing on this house, I was willing to bet that they would die trying to get me out of that burning house rather than die of embarrassment at having a civilian - namely myself - become a crispy critter.

They stationed me on the second floor with one fireman right beside me, just in case I wigged out.

About five of us climbed up the Smallest, Windiest Staircase in the Universe.

Remember that we are all about five feet wide, wearing this gear. I crouched outside the bedroom where they were going to light the fire.

I could see the firemen who followed me up had placed themselves along the top of the staircase, which meant that I would have to fly over them to get out, since the banister area was too narrow for me to pass.

My luck, I would trip, and they would all fall on top me at the bottom of the staircase.

Since each guy weighed about 250 pounds with all this gear on, I figured about four or five broken ribs for me and definitely a broken leg. Hmmm.

Oh, what the heck. I decided that if things got bad, I would jump out the window if I had to.

So, I busied myself with taking pictures and fiddling with my stupid camera. Apparently, it didn't like lots of smoke, heat and moisture.

(To this day, my camera smells like an ashtray.)

There was so much smoke inside that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.

There was a time of about 10 seconds when I wondered when the guy in front of me was going to use his hose. I waited for him to put it out.

But I told myself he would use it when he needed to and to trust the guy. We have a good fire department.

Later, when we were outside the house, one of the firemen told me "Yeah, that's the first time that guy used a hose inside a house."

I said "WHAT! You could have told me that before I went in the house with him!"

It was exciting and interesting!

Take a lesson from my younger brother

Here is a pearl of wisdom from my younger (and only) brother; given to me when I was young.

My parents assigned my brother to clean the garage every so often, while us three girls got stuck with dishes, laundry, etc. for a family of six. I never saw our garage clean in my life.

During the one time he was given a legitimate chore to do - laundry - he washed all the clothes together in one batch.

We had pink socks, bluish long johns, and grey underwear. He never "got" to do laundry again.

My brother's lesson? If you really don't want to do something, don't do it very well. Ha ha. I'm kidding.

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