Pop (my father) was a volunteer fireman for Diamond Springs. As an electrician, it was his job to show up at burning houses and shut off the electricity. When the siren wailed, he was off and running, as were all the other volunteer firemen in town. It was serious business.
For Mother, and for us, it was a break in small-town routine and, I hate to use this word, entertainment. We also took off at the sound of the siren, jumped in whatever old car we had, and sped along behind the fire truck. The time of day and activity of the moment didn’t matter. If it were three in the morning, we would jump out of bed and throw on our clothes; if we were eating, the meal would be abandoned; if we were playing, the toys would be dropped. Nothing could compete with a fire. Our devotion to disaster was right up there in the same league as it is with today’s television crews.
The star performer was someone’s house. There was excitement, danger and pathos. Firemen blasted away with their hoses in a desperate attempt to save the home while the unfortunate family looked on in dismay. But the climax, the Fourth of July finale, was when the roof and walls would crash down and shoot sparks and fire high into the sky. I did keep my oohs and aahs to myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind a small voice whispered that our family outing was not totally appropriate.
“Your mother chases fire trucks,” one of my little buddies jeered at me in an argument.
My response at the time had been, “So…” But later in life I would ponder what the towns-people thought about Mother, two or three kids, and a dog always showing up when the flames were high. Pop must have been embarrassed. I remember him telling Mother once to stay far behind the fire engine and far away from the fire. He did it under the guise of being concerned for our safety and our need to stay out of the way. I now suspect he hoped we wouldn’t be recognized. But he never did have much success in telling Mother what to do. The siren’s call was not to be denied.
Bob Bray Shoots Out a Window
I grew out of my mischief causing phase but I was able to pull off one final coup and live up to Bertha Bray’s expectations. Remember, she wouldn’t let her son play with me because she was afraid I would corrupt him.
For some unfathomable reason, Bob’s parents bought him a Wham-O Slingshot. I mean, how in the world can you expect a kid to be good when he starts playing with his Wham-O? The fact that I owned a Wham-O as well, almost guaranteed trouble.
Bob and I agreed to meet for a clandestine hunting expedition. It had to be clandestine because I was still on Bertha Bray’s ‘do not invite’ list. Our only rule for the adventure was that anything that moved or didn’t move was a valid target. Things were going great until we came upon the old abandoned bum’s shack that was just off the Southern Pacific railroad track about a quarter of a mile away from Bob’s home. Typical of such structures, it had been created out of anything that was available for free: old aluminum roofing, miscellaneous boards, an occasional nail, a thrown away mattress, etc. It had one crowning glory, a window. Bob and I looked at each other and had a simultaneous thought. Out came the ammo for the Wham-Os, a shiny new marble for Bob and several BBs for me. We took careful aim, counted down, and let fly.
To this day, Bob claims he saw his marble harmlessly strike the windowsill while my BBs were smashing the glass to smithereens. I of course saw Bob’s marble hit the window dead on while my BBs formed a neat pattern around the edges. The current occupant of the not abandoned home, who was washing dishes behind a willow bush in a small stream, saw something entirely different: two little boys smashing his pride and joy. He let out a bellow and came charging up the trail. As he should have. Once again the Mekemson Gang, along with its newest recruit, was on the run. The good news is that we escaped. The bad news was that the bum/hobo/homeless person who lost his window, recognized Bob. He went straight to his house. Mrs. Bray’s worst fears had been realized.
Monday’s Post: We are getting close to the end of our trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I even get to row a bit and take on a couple of death-defying rapids. (True… except for the death-defying.)
Wednesday’s Post: Big brown bears!
Friday’s Post: I wrap up the Mekemson Kids Did It.
22 thoughts on ““Your Mother Chases Fire Trucks” … The Mekemson Kids Did It”
I think maybe David brought down Goliath with a ‘Wham-O Slingshot’.
We called them catapults and after several hours of practice they were a fairly serious weapon!
Could be Andrew! And you are right about serious weapons. Not toy for sure. –Curt
Did you ever ask your Mom about the fire truck adventures when you were a bit older? It does sound exciting I have to say. Very generous of your Dad to be a volunteer too.
She died relatively young, Sue, at 50, which was the year I graduated from college. So I never asked her the question. My dad made it to 87, however, so we had plenty of time to discuss things like chasing firetrucks. 🙂 –Curt
I’m rather happy I didn’t grow up next door to you. I would have gotten into a lot of trouble, I think.
Laughing, Yvonne. Possibly so… 🙂 –Curt
Your parents probably wouldn’t have liked me saying this, but – it seems you got your daring and active lifestyle from their example!!
My dad was a born wanderer, G. And both sides were wanderers as far back in time as I have been able to trace. Genes are a factor! –Curt
Curt – This made me laugh. I can understand the allure of a house fire. Not for me personally, but for the American Red Cross volunteers who I used to manage. They’d go out no matter what the hour and provide support to the firefighters and family affected. Maybe your mom should have just volunteered… it would have been a good cover. 😉
Good point, Juliann. We might have had a whole different type of reputation! 🙂 –Curt
Oh, the hijinks of youth!
Like if we could only can it and save for more staid times, Cynthia. (grin) –Curt
I appreciate your honesty in recounting the entertainment factor of a disaster! Of course they are no laughing matter, and even the child version of me understood that something bad was happening to people in those circumstances, yet there was something so compelling about watching a conflagration or a whirling eddy of water or an exploding transformer or …
There’s no doubt of the human attraction to disaster, Lexi. This past summer, Peggy and I followed evacuation orders as fires threatened our home. We had neighbors, however, who sat out in camp chairs and watched the fire as it roared over the mountain and down to the point where the fire crews were taking their stand. They would have had to hightail it under a possibly dangerous situation had the firefighters failed. And yet, there they were. –Curt
I loved my slingshot…for the two days I had it. Purchased on the Ocean City Boardwalk with my own money on a family holiday, I must have been about ten years old. The days experiment was to see if it would work underwater. In that moment I realized that I’d lost sight of the big tommy cats eye and it was gone…a wave came and snatched the slingshot too. Where does one get such ideas? And if not for reading this fun piece of writing by you, well I would have never thought of that day again. A day which was otherwise simply marvelous beach adventure.
A most excellent day to you and Peggy.
Did you ‘wave’ goodby as it floated off into the ocean? 🙂 I introduced my grandkids to slingshots, assuming it was a grandfather’s responsibility and I took my youngest on a bear hunt. It wen quite well until Cody determined that there might actually be bears out there. 🙂
“I wrap up the Mekemson Kids Did It”… oh NO! I’ve truly loved this series!
Plenty of adventures to come, Gunta, just from a different angle. 🙂
Oh well, Mel’s slingshot was for shooting the birds who kept squatting over the windows or ledges and making a racket. On occasion the sling shot went off “tangent” and went to the house below… heheh… something don’t differ that much around the world.
Lot of temptation went with those slingshots! 🙂