Thursday, July 14, 2011

The day I burned down the teepee

One of the things I am proud about in my life to the point of irrationality is that I lived in a tee pee.  I do not mean some lame tent like thing. I mean 21' in diameter, 30' logs supporting canvas with a smoke vent at the top for the fire, serious tee pee shit here.  I think I am proud of it because it stands in such stark contrast to my current life, see my first post, Before My Last Stop, to see how boring you think my life is...

Just to make sure you know how not privileged I grew up that tee pee was in the the Ski Ranches above Telluride between 10,000 and 11,000 feet.  As kids, my brother and I loved it.  We slept in sleeping bags on sun chairs in the corner with our heads right next to each other.  I do not know what we talked about but I remember dad telling us to shut up regularly!  For kids this was a novel experience we had no electricity and my brother and I carried the water to the teepee in 5 gallon water cans every day.  We also carried firewood and emptied the night time urinal in the latrine, a hole in the ground.  The family cooked on a combination of wood stove and a Colman camp stove every meal and for x-mas we had real candles on the tree, we lit them for only 5 or 10 minutes.  The novelty wore off quickly when the snow started to fall early October.  Now we had to chip the ice off the water every morning to get a drink and going to the bathroom meant carefully navigating the lumpy, slippery snow path to the latrine.  The bloom is really came off the rose when you were using the latrine, slipped, and put your hand right in the pile.  I still have bathroom issues to this day from those mental scars.

It looked something like this with out the wood supports, those would have been handy!

You would think nothing bad could come learning all this responsibility right?  Wrong.  One night, would have been middle of November, Grant and I had come home from school and were hanging out by ourselves playing Sorry or something.  It was 1975 so this was OK then.  Of course in November it gets dark early and therefore cold so I tell Grant we are going to start a fire.  We open the pot belly stove put in paper and kindling, open the flue and strike the match.  Lots of flames but no fire.  We reload the paper and try again, no love.  Well dad always uses a little dose of diesel to get things going.  Without heat and compression diesel barely burns so its good for this.  I grab the Coleman's gas can, that is where we keep the diesel, pop the top and pour it in.  You know how when bad things happen they go in slow motion?  I saw the stream of liquid leave the can and splash on the smoldering kindling and the flames start climbing back up the stream.  Its like some Quintin Tarentino movie with the cool sound track playing as the world starts to explode in slow motion.  I realize the can is going to explode when the flame gets inside the can so I throw the can.  Miraculously the gas can lands perfectly flat on its base as the flame goes inside the spout.  The landing position causes the fuel to shoot/splash out the top and take the flames with it thus averting a very large explosion.  But it does leave large pools of burning gas all over the carpet.  Now, being the Boy Scout that I was, I learned you do not put out a gas fire with water so we grab blankets and start to try and smother them out.  Having never smothered a fire before we use a motion like we are sending smoke signals, which in fact, is actually fanning the flames and flipping burning gas all over the teepee.  After several minutes of this, my much smarter 8 year old brother, grabs the water can and douses the flames.  Whew, fire out.  So there we are sitting there, must be about 530 or 6 at night, looking at the black circles on the rugs covering the dirt floor.  What to do, what to do...  Well clearly we cannot just leave things like this or we are going to get in deep doo doo.  So Grant and I decide we are going to flip the rugs over.  Turns out this is not small feat as we have to empty most of the teepee first.  So we haul out the food, the dishes, the beds, the clothes and stack it all outside then we proceed to flip the rugs and get them smoothed back out.  Then we load it all back, the clothes, the beds, the dishes, the food and step back to look at our handy work.  It looks pretty good, you can't even tell something happened.  So we decide rather than try and start the fire again we will just go to bed.  Well, mom and dad get home, around 7 I would say, and we are pretending to sleep thinking we pulled off the perfect crime.  Of course we are forgetting that no respecting kids would be in bed at 7pm for any reason so the gig is up.  Then dad says what is that smell?  Shhh, keep pretending...  "BOYS, get up I know you are awake!"  "OK dad."  "What the hell happened, why does the place smell like gas?"

You see what had happened is, dad had 2 Colman gas cans, one for diesel and one for white gas for the Colman stove.  White gas is basically jet fuel, highly flammable.  Of course I missed the two cans detail.  Yeah, I know, deisel smells different than gas but I missed that detail too.  Well at least now I know for my fids that while 10 year olds can be dumb, when the shit hits the fan they can be pretty resourceful too.  That and all boys are pyromaniacs so keep white gas out of their reach.

Its funny, sometimes I almost feel embarrassed about my life.  People ask me how its going and I find some lame way to denigrate my current life.  Something like, "oh you know, meetings, meetings, meetings", or "just have to go home to more work", anything other than what I actually feel that my life is great.  Why wont I answer the question, How's it going? with the truth, AMAZING.  Why is it that I am proud to say I lived in a teepee, a zen commune, a van down by the river...  Is it so important that I know, that you know I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth?  That I earned everything by scraping away for 46 years?

The truth is, I am different that most people but not because I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and not because I lived in a teepee.  I am different because I am truly happy with what my life has brought me and I still love working hard every day to accomplish new and wonderful things.  In truth, I am proud of my life and if the fact I love my life makes you feel bad about yours, well I am sorry but they really are not related.  Its not that I do not have my life problems, see yesterdays post, its just that I am not going to waste a single minute in anything less that in rapture with my life.  I am going to love every minute of my life right to my dying breath and I hope you can love your life more than I love mine.