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Fire Thing

“Papa,” Number Five said, “we need to make a fire thing.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and looked intently into my eyes.

“What do you mean, a fire thing?” I asked. I wasn’t about to commit to anything without a few more details.

“You know,” he said, “a round thing, made of metal, put it in the ground and put wood or charcoal in it.”

“You mean like a grill?”

“Yeah, but we shouldn’t use the grill. We should make it. We could roast marshmallows in it.”

“I don’t think we have any marshmallows.”

He made a dismissive gesture. “But we could light a fire.”

It had already been a pretty good day. We’d thrown the football around, scuffling through autumn leaves, gone for a ride on the 4-wheeler, zoomed across a harvested bean field in my pickup, had a ride in a combine, and he and his sister had set up a restaurant in our house, complete with the screen removed from one of our windows so they could serve drive-up customers. All in all, a busy day.

But, he’s a busy guy, so we went out to the shop to see what we could come up with. He picked out a piece of half-inch thick plate steel and suggested we bend that into a fire thing. I’m not saying he was wrong, but it was more of a commitment than I wanted to make on a Sunday afternoon and a limit to the amount of acetylene I was willing to put into the project. I found a piece of tin that looked bendable, drilled a couple holes to bolt it together and, “Bob’s your uncle,” as the Brits say.

We took it outside to give it a whirl. Big success.

His sister, Number Four, suggested she should have a project as well. I asked what she had in mind.

“How about bunk beds for Barbies?”

Well, why not. I had all sorts of scrap wood. Really. Making big pieces of wood into scrap is kind of my superpower as a carpenter. We whacked some of it into roughly the right size pieces, and now Number Four is possibly the only nine-year old in her town who knows how to use a pneumatic nail gun. We made mattresses, which quickly turned into hammocks, from some old sheets of cork. I don’t know if that was my idea or hers, but either way, it was a sound design innovation.

We gathered around the fire, the way people have been doing for about half a million years. The wind felt Septemberish and occasional sprinkles of cold rain hit our faces. The growl of a distant combine and chattering of geese on the slough competed for my attention. We stood around the fire, taking turns admiring the fire thing and the bunk beds for Barbies.

I’d been entertaining grandchildren so our son and our oldest daughter could rehearse a song for our youngest daughter’s wedding. Earlier, in the combine, I’d taken in the bounty flowing into the hopper, the changing leaves in the grove bordering the field, and our changing world and couldn’t keep from saying out loud, “This is such a great place to live.”

My neighbor said, “I couldn’t agree more.”

As Sundays go, there was nothing fancy about it. Shoot, you can’t even see fancy from where we live.

But I enjoyed it.

Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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