A Rare Childhood Experience
The Experience of a Lifetime
First, i would like to apologize, I have searched for both photos and news articles on the internet and come up empty handed, so I am unable to post a picture with my story. However, it can be verified by calling the Holbrook, Az City of Commerce.
On Sunday, May 4th, 1986, a hot windy day in Holbrook, a fire got out of control while someone was burning weeds. I noticed a great deal of smoke and activity down by the tracks while out on a walk and decided to go see what was going on. As i approached the tracks, near a row of houses that lined them, there were two firefighters talking to a hispanic women, or attempting to across the language barrier. It was clear to see she was very distressed at the nearness of the fire just the other side of the tracks to her home. The firefighters did their best to assure her, then turned to get in their truck. I stopped them and asked them if I could help. They told me no, stay clear of the fire. Today i fully understand and agree with them...back then I thought they were foolish to turn down volunteers. Apparently the woman also thought this, because she said something to her sons, who disappeared, only to returns seconds later with shovels. She handed one of the shovels to me with a look that needed no explanations. I smiled my thanks and took it and headed over the tracks, followed by her sons.
It wasnt long before we were joined by other kids. I can't remember exactly how many of us there ended up being, or who the youngest or oldest was. We focused on putting the flames out by burying them in piles of dirt. And here the story gets interesting...I will believe to my dying day that we were being watched over. We were just a bunch of kids, we had no firefighting training or even experience...yet, somehow we knew what to do. And when we would get into dense thickets, trying to scrape enough soil from around the base of the shrub trees to smother the burning trunks, how else to explain the sudden warning I would get to get out of there, and not a vague sense of danger, but knowing the flames were about to flare up in an explosion. I would yell for everyone to clear out of the thicket, and we would run out, and the thicket would explode in flames. When it died back down a bit we would re-enter it and proceed to putting it out. This happened quite a few times.
We worked our way to the Puerco River bed. The river bed itself is wide and the banks pretty steep, but the river in 1986 could best be described as a trickling little streamlet. The meaning of Puerco is Hog...but we were always taught it meant "dirty pig" The Puerco is very muddy...I don't think it ever ran clear in it's entire history of existence. I have also heard that it is contaminated. But when you are dying of thirst so bad you are choking...Any source of water looks acceptable. When we crossed the Puerco, I will admit to scooping some of that water up to wet my tongue and throat. Once we climbed up out of the river bed, our plan was to try to find any adults on that side willing to come help us. But before we could approach the first house we saw a fire truck, so we had to wait. We watched as the firefighters sprinkled water on some burning weeds and shrubs. as soon as it was out they left. As we walked towards the first house, those weeds and shrubs burst back into flames. So we went and buried them in thick dirt. At the first house, we got glasses of cool water...That was delicious and ever so refreshing. But no matter how many people we asked, no one would agree to come help us. Looking back, I understand now...they were mostly older people we were asking.
Once we recrossed the Puerco and began working our way towards the main bulk of firefighters, we were joined by one adult male. We worked hard and it was exhausting. But i look back on that experience and i thank GOD for letting me have it. I think, if I had not become disabled, if I had been a strong healthy person, I would have gone into firefighting. I certainly have an incredible respect for firefighters and what they do and what they sacrifice. I also think kids who have been caught starting fires should be made to fight at least one fire...it might correct such aberrant behavior.
Epilogue: We made it out to where the bulk of the firefighters were. There were also police and EMS there. I really thought we would get in trouble since we had disobeyed and gone into the fire without permission. But no one showed the slightest bit anger at us. Instead, we were shown to an ice chest containing ice and cold sodas, where i smothered my face in ice...and learned the hard way not to drink an ice cold 7-UP straight down when you are hot and thirsty. I was given a ride home by a police officer, where i learned that another officer who was a friend of mine, indeed, a friend to every kid in town, had been taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. I was upset to hear this, but later learned he recovered fine. I never got the chance to learn the names of the other kids who worked with me that day...Yet 26 yrs later, on facebook no less, i finally got to meet one of them. i would give his name but i dont know if he would appreciate that or not.
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