Holy Smokes!

Do you go to bed at night, anxious about what might go wrong while you are sleeping? Do you wake from a nights sleep, anticipating what awful thing you might discover as you rise and shine to start the day? Some people do. But I’m not one of those people. I’m one of those positive people who goes through life, thinking that whatever up beat, wonderful day that I plan, is going to happen as planned.

Damn, I hate unpleasant surprises!

Guess I was thrown off from the very beginning. I was trying to get to Southern Minnesota to finalize my preparations for bow hunting. I only had a few days to spare. Boy, I got off to a bad start. It was one thing going wrong after another all morning, and into the afternoon. My hope for a noon departure soon became 4:00, then 4:30. Then after just a few miles down the road, I gave up on leaving completely—the highway was a parking lot—clearly I was better off sitting out the rush hour somewhere other than in bumper to bumper traffic. Instantly I veered onto the next available off ramp, pulled into a shopping center and made plans to visit with a friend. While it was a great decision, our visit put me at an 8:30 departure time from the cities.

Ouch.

Driving almost three hours on barren country roads in the dark is precarious at best. It also lends itself well as a time to practice for becoming the next “The Voice” contestant. I’ve often wondered why, when I’m driving long distances on country roads I don’t see more deer. Well, me singing at the top of my lungs with the windows down to stay awake may have something to do with it. Not only did I stay awake, but I’m pretty sure everything within 2 country miles of my vehicle did, too.

My sweet dogs, my captive audience, were actually trying to bury themselves under their dog blankets to escape my serenade. Finally, I turned left one last time, and slowly coasted down the long gravel driveway to where my toy hauler sat waiting for us. I made it to my friends farm by 11:30 pm.

How lucky, and grateful I am to have this wonderful opportunity to spend time down in farm country on this beautiful acreage! Although there are lights on inside the farm house, I know we are the only ones here. Tired, and ready to crash for the night, I pulled up next to my toy hauler, grabbed up the dogs and we piled into the trailer, ready to call it a long day and night. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Next thing I knew, mother nature woke me up with quite a sense of urgency…..catapulting me out of my bed, groggy and scrambling for keys to the farm house.

The sun was up.  It was somewhere around 7:30ish. Oh no, I forgot to set my alarm. Now my plan for today is off to a bad start too!

With head down, and arms folded across my chest I staggered out the trailer—gotta go, gotta go, oh my I gotta go–and made a bee line across the yard to the back door of the farm house. I detected the faint smell of bonfire in the breeze. I got to the door, put the key in the key hole, turned the knob, pressed the door open, ripping into the kitchen to get to that bathroom just around the corner before I pee my pants and:

HOLY SMOKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I felt like I’d been hit in the face with a burning cloud. I was instantly disoriented, confused, and gasping for air, choking. The kitchen was a solid mass of thick grey smoke and super-hot heat that started billowing out of the back door! I froze dead in my tracks, hot burning smoke filling my nostrils, searing my eyes, and covering me like a dark, deathly blanket. I stepped back, then forward, confused and hesitating for a second, before I snapped to real time attention:

OH SHIT! SHIT! OMG-OH SHIT! GET OUT ! I MUST GET OUT!

Hyper Speed would describe how fast I bolted back out of that house and across the yard.

I gotta call Ron—no, 911—no Ron, I gotta call Ron, no—OH SHIT THE HOUSE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN!

I dial my friend, Ron. Barely getting a connection, the phone rings and rings. OH SHIT he’s probably still sleeping, I can’t leave him a message……

I dial 911.

“Please help me, my friends farm house is on fire! Please send someone, please hurry. Address? OH MY GAWD I DON’T KNOW!!”

I run up to the road, and look at the mailbox but now they have a coordinate from my phone and have located me.

“Can you see where it’s coming from?”

“No!”

“Is anyone inside?”

“No.”

More questions that I can’t even begin to remember in my frantic panic.

“We’ve got someone on the way they will be there soon.”

“Oh please hurry!”

Now Ron is calling me back.

“Sorry, doll, I couldn’t get to the phone.” He sounds like he is still sleeping.

“Ron, um, I don’t know how to tell you this but your house is on fire.”

He’s definitely awake now.

“What do you mean it’s on fire?”

“I can’t see into the house, the kitchen is full of smoke—the house is hot, really hot and so full of smoke I can’t see!”

“Are you in there??

“No, I opened the door and there it was!”

“Is the stove on?”

“What? Why would the stove be on?”

I am now inching closer to the house, still unable to see anything inside, only smoke billowing out the door I left swinging open. I could maybe just get in there and look….real quick….

“Ron, I’m going in, I’ll see what I can see.” We get disconnected.

I gingerly step up onto the deck, then over to the open door. The heat and smoke blasting me in the face stings like a superhot sauna. With squinted eyes, and holding my breath, I step back inside the fog and two more steps toward the stove. I can barely see it—but there are heavy black streaks on the face of it, yet all the dials are turned off. I try to look deeper into the house to see if there are flames anywhere.  It’s too hot. Too smoky. I’m scared. I’ve got to get out! I start coughing and choking again, and run out the door and back across the yard.

Ron calls again. I try to tell him it seems like the stove is on, but it’s not turned on. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I feel so dreadfully helpless and afraid.

Here comes a pick-up truck with flashing lights barreling down the road. I run across the yard, flailing arms to wave him in. He’s big and tall and is the first responder to the fire call. I already feel safe, just seeing him get out of the truck.

“Oh thank you for coming so fast! I don’t know but I think it’s the kitchen–maybe the stove?”

And so it begins. Three more trucks show up, all of the community fire guys, including Gary, the farmer that keeps his cows on Ron’s place. Then three huge fire trucks pull into the driveway, the Sherriff, the local newspaper, and several hours of questions, descriptions, several more conversations with Ron, and investigating where the smoke is coming from and where the fire is.  I am convinced that the wiring in the walls is bad and there is fire everywhere up and down the walls of that old farm house.

HlySmokes3By 10:00 a.m. the experts determine that the stove malfunctioned and “turned itself on” causing a box of Cheerios and whatever else was in the oven to burn. Huh?  It seemed so unbelievable. I didn’t understand how that could happen. It shook my faith in technology altogether. HolySmokes3Three firefighters carried the unit out of the house and hosed it down. They speculated that it probably wasn’t burning long, but if I wouldn’t have discovered it, the whole house would have gone down. It was a very somber moment.

Ron had just left the farm the day before. If he would have stayed one more night, he would have been subjected to major smoke inhalation. If I wouldn’t have had my toy hauler there, I would have brought the dogs into the house that night. We discovered while there are smoke detectors throughout the house, none of them had working batteries.

Another very somber moment.

By 10:30, the firefighters gave the ‘all clear’ to enter the house. They opened all of the windows and doors to get some fresh air circulating, checked the walls, the plugs, the breakers and turned off the breaker to the stove. HolySmokes2It was safe, but stinky in the house. They did a walk through with me to make sure I felt comfortable, and then one by one they make their exit.   By 10:40 I finally got to go pee.

I stayed on the farm all day, watching the house, resting, and organizing hunting gear. Gary was kind enough to take my number and check on me throughout the day. It wasn’t until everyone left that I realized how exhausted I was from the morning. I felt like I had an elephant on my chest from the brief smoke inhalation. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I was that neither Ron, nor I were in that house last night.

But as the day wore on, I felt more and more vulnerable, fearful of things that I hadn’t ever given a thought to before. Is my toy hauler wiring safe? What if a mouse chewed into something and I don’t know? I wonder how reliable my stove is at home? What if? I wonder if? I about made myself sick with senseless worry the entire day. I needed an explanation that was believable, but didn’t get one. The stove turned itself on?  Ron’s friend Glen stopped by to see how I was doing. Gary came over just before dark to help me get all of the windows shut before the rain came. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop the feelings. That night, I woke up almost hourly, afraid. I would get up and go look out my window to see if the house was still there. Then I’d look at my little gas range, checking the knobs. Good grief, I don’t even have the propane turned on.

The next morning I packed up the family, closed up the toy hauler, and headed home. I broke down crying twice, called Ron once, and cried one more time before I pulled into my driveway, feeling vulnerable, alone, and fearful. It’s taking an enormous amount of effort to remind myself that I’m one of those positive people, and there’s no reason to be afraid. Things happen for a reason. Maybe it was a test. Maybe I was supposed to be there to save the farm. Maybe I was supposed to meet new friends. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to go to the woods that day.  As I try to pull myself out of this funk, I try to focus on the good. I am filled with gratitude, on so many levels. Life is a cherished gift. Every breath we take is a gift. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to respect, and nurture our gifts, never taking them for granted.  When I come back down next time, I’m checking those smoke detectors and bringing batteries.

Holy Smokes!

Thank you for reading my post. Was it inspiring? Scary? Funny? Unbelievable? I’d love to hear your thoughts! All comments are greatly appreciated. Life is an adventure—and it begins today! Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”. If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’.

If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me to create your own, amazing adventure. As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

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