Tag Archive: fire


A couple who are friends of mine had their house burn down recently. As a result, I have been flashing back to when our house burned the Friday before I began my senior year in high school on Monday.

The firemen saved a lot of things, but my room was a pile of ashes in the back yard. I came home from a night of drinking the coldest beer I’ve ever had. Ice formed in the mug of beer. When Brian and I got to my street, we couldn’t get to the house. We had to park a block over.

Mom and my brother, Dennis, stood in the yard across the street with our dog, Lady. I joined them and watched as flames tore through what had previously been my bedroom. Someone behind me asked out loud if “anyone had marshmallows.” I went ballistic and let them know what an asinine thing it was to say.

I got more clothes and things to replace things that were in my room. But there are things you cannot simply replace. To this day, I sometimes think of things as if I still have them and realize they burned in the fire.

And that was bad. I was chastised on Monday because I didn’t have a pencil. In the apartment we rented while the house was rebuilt, I heard Imagine, which was still on the charts. I heard the line, “imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can.” I suddenly realized I could.

But I got more possessions, and added to them over the years. As bad as it was, I can’t imagine it happening today. But wait, not quite true. Mike and Cindy Freiley lost everything recently. To lose everything I have now would be devastating. I would get through it. I’ve done it before. But it hurts.

If you would like to help Mike and Cindy, here is the gofundme link.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

paypal.me/danroark

 

 

 

 

Sears Store at VV

Sears Store at VV

[Read part one, part two, part three]  The Friday before the first Monday of senior year, I came back from an evening at Up Your Alley – still close to the coldest beer I’ve ever had – to find that our house was burning down.  The fireman saved a lot of our possessions. But with the fire starting in the garage and attic, it burned straight through my room next to the attic. What I was wearing was pretty much all I had left. By Monday, we were living in an apartment on Noel road near the mall. Our apartment was in the far back upstairs so we could see Alpha from the walkway.

We bought furniture for the apartment at Sears. Over the years, if it had to do with tools, yard equipment, or appliances, and furniture on occasion, we got them at Sears. When I stopped showing up at home to live “for just a little while” for the final, last time, I bought things at other places. But when Cyndy and I and the boys moved into this house eight years ago, we got appliances at Sears. Even after shopping around.

Ten years or so after we bought the furniture at Sears for the apartment, I worked at Sears as a “facilities engineer” in the morning before the sears-automotivestore opened. Besides being a cleanup person – there wasn’t a carpet I didn’t clean on the second floor facing the mall – I had two other part-time jobs. One I don’t really remember. The other was writing a music/entertainment column for the North Richland Hills News, which is long gone now.

Fast forward to last year when our youngest son, J.D., got a job at Sears while he was home from school for Christmas. We hadn’t been to the mall Sears for some time. Buying stuff while J.D. was working there brought back a lot of old memories. Which is a good thing considering its future.

Peace be with you.

scan0050 As I meet other creative types on reverbnation.com and other channels of social media, I often wonder at what point they felt they were meant to be or called to do whatever it is they do: write, paint, sing, play, or whatever the case may be.

My own story begins on the Friday before my senior year began on Monday. We had just had a new compressor installed for the air conditioner. I picked up my friend, Brian, and headed to Greenville Ave. to go to Milo Butterfingers. We had heard about Bowley and Wilson’s show and wanted to check it out.

The beer was the coldest I had ever had at the time and few times since. Bowley and Wilson was not my type of show, but they had other people playing in between sets who were more interesting to me. I was just glad that they could not see me from the stage because they made fun of everyone. I don’t remember staying all that long before we headed home, but it could have been a couple of hours. When we turned onto Snow White from Royal Lane, I saw smoke above the trees in the distance.

“That’s my house!”

Brian told me that we couldn’t tell from that distance which house it was. But I was sure it was my house. When we reached the end of my street, the police and firemen had the street blocked off and we had to park on the next street. We ran down the short street between the two in the middle of the block, relatively. When I turned the corner, the top of the house was in flames. My mom, my brother, Dennis, our dog Lady, some neighbors, and assorted onlookers were in the yard of the house across the street.

I asked mom what happened. She said that she and Dennis smelled the smoke, saw flames at the fuse box on the garage wall opposite the compressor, and got out of the house with Lady. I was standing there watching our house burn. I thought I knew which flames were coming from my guitars, but who really knows? I said something about my guitars and Brian tried to go up the firemen’s ladder to “save” my guitars. They had to hose him down and I concluded that he had a few more beers than I had. But I appreciated the effort, albeit misguided.

I heard someone watching the fire ask if anyone had any marshmallows. I did not take it well. I let them know that it was not at all funny and asked if they would think it was so funny if it was their house. Friends came over, calmed me down, and pulled me away.

After the fire.

After the fire.

My father returned from a trip about that time and had to walk up the street with his suitcase and suit bag when the taxi couldn’t get through on the street. After the fire was under control, so to speak, my parents and Dennis stayed with the couple next door. I stayed with a friend up the street.

In the days following the fire, we were going through the house, packing what was left that could go to storage. My mom, aunts, and grandmother were going through the kitchen – which was mostly intact – although the smoke had permeated what it could. Dad and my uncles were packing up the books which the firemen put on the couches they had shoved into the middle of the room and covered – during the fire. (A quick shout out to first responders!)

I was in the back yard looking at the pile of ashes that used to be my personal belongings. You would not believe how long a guitar string will stretch after it’s been through a raging inferno. Parts of items were left because the firemen had shoved everything out of my room into the yard before some of it burned completely. Talk about smoldering memories!

With older people around, I was trying to contain myself, but the tears came anyway. I felt better when I found my Neil Young songbook for the Harvest album, even though it was stiff, brittle, and burned around the edges. Then, when I spotted them, I was completely speechless. Okay, I wasn’t saying anything anyway, but if someone had said anything to me, I would have been speechless. It certainly took my breath away.

Earlier that day I had placed my stuff for school (which included a new notebook) on Monday in the center of this large table my uncle, Jack, made that I used as a desk – there was only one drawer. What I saw that took my breath away was what I had put in that notebook. There before me, burned around the edges but still intact and readable, was every poem and song I had written, except for the first page of the first song I wrote.

20140307_170525 With the exception of one book my grandmother on my mom’s side gave me and a high school annual, the poems and songs were the only thing I had left except the clothes on my back. Well, and my stereo, which I had in the bathroom so I could listen to music while I took a shower. In addition to the songs’ survival, my mother had loaned my first guitar to a friend for their son to learn to play – as you can see I still have it. I took that as a sign that writing and music was what I was meant to do. Granted, I was a teenager and thought that’s what I was meant to do anyway, but the “sign” sealed the deal. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I was right, it was a sign, and I’ve been writing ever since – whatever form life and the writing took.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your story? When did you know what you were meant to do? And I’m not asking just to get comments, clicks, or whatever. I really want to hear your story, because it’s worth hearing. And it might make a good song.

Peace be with you.

My family moved to Wichita Falls just before I started fourth grade. After we settled in, I became friends with the three boys that lived next door. The oldest of the three boys was a few years older than I, the second oldest was a year or two older, and Jeffrey, the youngest, was a year or two younger than I was. Jeffrey’s is the only name I can remember and I am not one hundred percent sure that was his name.

Be that as it may, Jeffrey and I became friends. Particularly when friends my own age were out of town or unavailable. We had several notable adventures, but one in particular comes to mind that involved matchbooks. Matchbooks were still commonplace items, more so than lighters. Disposable lighters were not yet readily available.

The two of us were in the alley behind our houses. The alley was dirt, full of ruts most of the time from the garbage truck and city vehicles. But grass grew in the four or five feet between the alley and the backyard fences. It was late fall without a lot of rain and the grass by the alley was dry, brittle, and brown in spots . And we were bored.

We thought we would experiment with the matches and fire. Holding the matchbook with the striking strip on the bottom, we held the head of a match on the strip with our index finger. Then we would light the match while flipping it toward the ground. If the grass caught fire, we would let it burn, watching the circle of fire grow for a bit, then stomp it out with our foot.

As one would imagine, we kept letting the fire get a little bigger each time. After all, it would not be a challenge otherwise. As fate would have it, and you would guess, one of the fires got out of hand. When we stomped on the fire, ashes jumped, starting another little fire that soon became part of the larger one. It was not too terribly long before we began to panic.

The faster and harder we stomped, the faster the fire spread. When the fire was about three feet across, Jeffrey took off his jacket – which as I remember was brand-new – and began trying to put the fire out with it. At first, he only succeeded in spreading the fire more. I seem to remember coughing and screaming a lot. But he could not hear me, because he was screaming and coughing, too.

We finally put the fire out. Leaving a five foot circle of burned and smoldering grass as a monument to our stupidity. That and the rather large hole of burned fabric on the inside of Jeffrey’s new jacket. He asked me to take it home so he could tell his parents he loaned it to me and buy him some time to confess.

He did not get that chance. The jacket smelled distinctly of smoke and my parents asked me why I had it. I told them he had forgotten it and I would give it back to him. I went out in the backyard and threw the jacket over the fence to Jeffrey, who was in his backyard. His parents had asked him where the jacket was and told him to go get it. Following the rendering of his punishment, his parents talked to my parents. I did not escape unpunished. It was impossible to explain the five foot circle of burnt grass without telling the truth – which was ridiculous enough.

“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9

Qohelet’s God was a vengeful God. Making a list and checking it twice, as it were. But, with the New Testament and the life of Christ, we know God as forgiving and as a God of grace. While I certainly received my comeuppance for my part in the temporary fascination with fire – giving me a lasting respect for its power – I do not think that any further punishment is forthcoming. It is not a layer in the pile of bad or stupid things I have done in my life for which I will be punished for its totality.

Free will is offset somewhat by our conscience. We may still decide to sin, but we will feel remorseful about it. Each time I have recalled our venture into stupidity, I have received sharp pangs of regret brought on by my conscience. The recurring memories along with regret and feelings of stupidity are sufficient punishment, thank you very much. I do not think I need a final hammer coming down at the end of my life to punish me further for my collective sins.

God may indeed bring us into judgement, but it will be with grace and a forgiving hand of redemption. All will be taken into account, not just our sins. Which is a wonderful thing because no one is without sin. It is easy to understand David singing praises to the Lord. We should sing our praises and thank God with our prayers for his grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Because, in my case, if I was to be held accountable for my sins, the grass fire would be the least of my worries.

Peace be with you.

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