Back when England and Scotland were under a feudal government, a landholder wanting to get rid of one of the families on his land for any reason would simply go throw a torch on the straw or corn shock roof. He ‘fired’ the squatter or sitter on his property without having to murder anyone or without having to send for the sheriff and pay him to remove the family. Now that is the story the way I heard it, anyway. It is the origin of the word ‘fired.’ Most people who are let go from a job now might as well throw in the towel because they will lose everything just as effectively as if the hovel they live in had been burnt to the ground—especially if the family is in debt.
The neighbor across the street came to us last night and said that his brother had lost everything in a fire down in Clyde—close to Abilene. I remember seeing the name of the town from a trip we made for a Keep Texas Beautiful conference that we attended a couple of years ago. I thought then that it was a pretty neat name for a town or community. That’s not much different from Charlie or some of the other weird names we give our communities—Mable Dean or Dean Dale. Shaking head here…
In considering what the man must be experiencing after such a loss, I remembered talking to my great-grandmother once about the smells that we liked. I told her my favorite smells were wood smoke and pipe tobacco. She laughed at me and said that I had not ever had to be around them constantly with those smells in everything from my clothes to my hair. She said that she had cooked on a wood stove and smelled that old kind of tobacco for years. Then she went on to tell me about losing her home to a chimney fire twice. With not a clean cloth to wipe her babies face, she just sat down and cried. I could only imagine.
Losing a home to a fire or to a tornado—there isn’t that much difference—has to be heartbreaking. The neighbor’s brother didn’t have insurance, so he has nothing to use to start over. And to add insult to injury, a man came and wanted to bulldoze what was left and caved in the septic tank! That will be just one more expense to consider if he tries to rebuild. This is the same man who had to have surgery a few years ago for a cancerous tumor in his leg. This fellow doesn’t have just the best of luck.
Grass fires and tornadoes are just part of life in Texas, but a few things could make the difference if we had the will and the wherewithal to try them. In California some of the landscapers tried to get people to plant something called an ‘ice plant’ around their homes to prevent fires from going from the grass to the house. Of course, out there the trees and brush would catch a house on fire before the grass would even be touched. Even so, if we keep our grass cut close and keep bushes away from the sides of the house, it is less likely that a grass fire would burn the house.
Tornadoes have no sympathy, rhyme, nor reason. They take one house and leave the neighbor’s house. They take the roof and leave the walls. Or they take the trees and leave the cars. Caprice is the name of the game. Probably a cellar or a ‘safe room’ is about the only chance a person has of survival if a larger tornado hits like the one we had in 1979. Foundations were about all that was left of some of those places. Our bank was gone the next morning after the storm, but the vault where the cashiers had hidden was still standing. Now THAT was a safe room!
I suppose it will always be true that ‘time, chance, and circumstance’ comes to all men. But if we can see it coming, I would fight the fire and hide from the storm. Maybe it is a good thing the neighbor wasn’t at home. With his luck, he would have fought the fire and had a heart attack!