A November Fire!
Both of us enjoyed the few mile trip in the wagon. It was a beauty, and as a new driver I was jealous. It had a nice front seat and a bed in the back that could fit too comfortable adults, a load of hay, or any other gear you wanted to take to friend or field. I had finished my writing work and when I got a call around noon to come over for a cart ride I happily accepted. It was a sunny day, and as we made our way fast farm and field we waved to deer hunters by their trucks going over their game plans and stopped to chat with locals.
We were just taking in the Days of Grace. That's what this time of year is called around here. That window between the last of fall's warm foliage but before the first snowfall. It's your last chance to oil the tractor and repair fences, get in hay and feed, sight in your rifle for deer season, and get snow tires on the truck. It's both a ticking time bomb and period of repose. If you're ready for winter you can just throw some more logs in the stove, sip your tea, and wait for the snow to fall. Some of us with less experience or resources...we're working on putting walls on our horse barns yet. But either way, each team is grateful for the Days of Grace.
So you can imagine our surprise when we crested the Lake road and came into view of Patty's historic farmhouse and saw billowing clouds of smoke. At first, Patty just thought her husband was home from work and burning trash, but from the half mile away we could see if was coming from behind the house and their dog, Harley, was pacing and yelping. This was bad.
Patty had Steele speed up from his Sunday Trot into a full out canter. I was hanging on to the buckboard as she leaned forward to give him a little more chase in his reach. If you have never been on the back of a speeding wagon towards a fire with a ton of horse thundering ahead of you then you haven't known the true meaning of haste. It was wild! It seemed like seconds before we were running up Livingston Brook Farm's driveway and as we got towards the horse tack barn Patty just threw the reins in my hands and sped off the cart towards the fire.
I knew what I had to do. I had to get the horse in the cross ties, remove the cart from the harness, remove his harness, and get him away from the house and into the pasture. I didn't know what was happening so I just went into action mode, and when the cart was removed and the horse secure I ran up to the direction I saw Patty speed towards.
To my great relief, she was on the phone behind the house with a garden hose. The fire was in the woods, not the farmhouse, but it was spreading out over a 30 yard semi-circle downhill. She said that ashes were dumped in the woods in the morning and must have caught on fire. She was calling the local fire department because she didn't want the cold wind moving the foot-tall flames and burning leaves towards the house (which was 2o feet away). She seemed to be doing all she could so I decided to go take care of Steele.
I move the cart out of the driveway so the fire trucks could get up towards the flames. I undid his belly band, but the tug chains up the hooks on his spider, and was unhooking the hame's latch and removing the fifty-pound harness when Patty made her way towards me to help. Steele is 17 hands, I can't see over him when I stand next to him. Patty is nearly six feet tall and could easily remove the harness. I carried it over to the hooks on the wall. She took off the collar and felt collar pad and I put them away in their proper places too. She then lead Steele out of the commotion where he wouldn't be scared of the sirens and lights about to arrive.
The trucks arrived ten minutes later, a man named Seabass in a yellow Uniform with a huge pressure hose was on it in seconds. His one small truck was able to contain the brush fire in moments. It was quit the thing to see. It didn't take long for the response teams to tame the possible danger. By this time Mark was home from duck hunting, feeling a little sheepish about the ashes, but glad to see the house safe. He and Patty chatted with the fire squad, explaining and listening to assessments and soon Patty went inside to cut everyone out there a slice of homemade apple pie with a gingerbread cookie crust. No one turned it down. Seeing a pack of men in uniform with eagles on their helmets eating slices of apple pie was so thick with Americana I expected Harley to run around with sparkers in his teeth.
Since it wasn't lethal, everyone was in good spirits. Which was comforting and beautiful to see. Lessons were learned and neighbors called to ask about the ruckus but within an hour of a speeding wagon ride we were all around the farmhouse kitchen table enjoying adult beverages and laughing. It could have been a disaster, but instead it was a story. A story that included ice cream, horses, farm, and booze so I was grateful as a fat tabby on milk truck day.
It's a different life up here. But no matter where you live, apple pie and doused fires make for a good night's sleep.