Building Campfires

When we were kids we played outside all year round. In those years we lived down in the Bull Creek area, just out of Jollyville. We grew up getting most of our heat from wood, be it in indoors with a fireplace or outdoors by a fire.

Weather didn’t seem to be that big of a deal. We played outside regardless of how cold or hot it was. 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. 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 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. Not sure why that was important to me. May be for the same reason that I’d stand close to the exhaust on a diesel truck or tractor. I wasn’t all that bright. There was something about the smell that I took to.

After awhile of watching the roofing tar burn, 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. I guess she didn’t see a benefit in me doing it.

Sometime later I was back at it again. I decided that I would bottle up some of the hot black bubbling goo. This was back in the days of women giving home permanents. I came across some of the little plastic leftover bottles. Perfect, those could hold my black melted scalding hot substance. Now I don’t know exactly why I thought it needed to be bottled up, but I’m sure I had something figured out.

I was about 8 or 9 years old. While holding the plastic bottle with my right hand and with pliers in my left hand I carefully lifted the tin coffee can cauldron and started to pour. As soon as the hot tar hit the plastic it vaporized, leaving the boiling hot tar 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. This is 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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