Building Campfires

When we were kids we played outside all year round. Weather didn’t seem to be that big of a deal. When it was real cold we just carried more wood and built our campfires bigger. In the summertime a small fire was built so it wouldn’t give off much heat. But on those cold days we’d take Tar Baby the donkey and pull up cedar stumps and drag fallen trees to the clearing out from the house where we had our fires.

I don’t guess we were ever told we couldn’t build a fire. It kept us busy. Out away from house, a flat top tar and gravel roofed one down off of Spicewood Springs Road at Jollyville, the roofers had left a big block of roofing tar when the house was built years before. I was always fascinated with that black tar. I’d chop off chucks of it and pitch it in the fire to make it smoke more.

Then I graduated to putting some in a coffee can and heating it up and watching it bubble. Not sure why that fascinated me. My mother saw what I was doing and told me not to do it anymore.

Sometime later I was back at it again. I decided that I would bottle some of the hot black goo. This was in the days of women giving home permanents. I came across some of the little plastic leftover bottles. Perfect, those could hold my black bubbling substance.

I was about 8 or 9. Holding the plastic bottle with my right hand and with pliers in my left hand I carefully lifted the tin cauldron and started to pour. As soon as the hot tar hit the plastic it vaporized, leaving the boiling stuff all over my thumb and hand.

I immediately started rubbing my hand into dirt and ash left from the many fires before. With most of the black off, I went to the water trough to bathe it in cool water. Sometime later when I went in the house I stood, always holding my hand behind my back. I guess it was obvious that with a grimace on my face and my right hand behind me something was wrong. My mother finally made me tell her what had happen.

She cleaned and dressed it. It eventually healed, leaving a light scar that I’ve carried on that thumb for the rest of my life. One more time that I should have landed at the doctor, but that wasn’t something we did very often back in those days.

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