As I sit and think about how this week is Fire Prevention Week an' all, it occurs to me that I'm lucky to be alive.
I don't mean just because I have a beautiful wife, kids and dogs who love me, a fair-to-middling garden in which to relax and enjoy the reasonably fine weather we've been experiencing this fall.
All those things and many more make me feel thankful to be alive (which is kind of fits nicely with Thanksgiving Day just past, too).
But I'm not just "thankful" that I'm alive. I really am lucky to have survived my childhood.
I know practically every kid with any gumption at all has managed to squeeze out of one or two self-inflicted tight spots on the road to adulthood.
Doing stupid things - and hopefully, learning something from them - is part of being a juvenile member of any species.
If you get a chance to watch a baby crow tool around in your backyard, or just watch kittens and puppies at play, you'll know what I mean. It's been posited that risk-play is part of developing intelligence, and the smarter a species is, the more risk the youngsters will indulge in at play.
Consequently, human kids can get extremely risky when they exercise their stupidity on the way to greater intelligence. So when I think back on some of things I did as a juvenile human being, I feel particularly intelligent!
One of my especially brainless moments has a direct bearing on Fire Prevention Week.
Firefighters want you to ensure that, in the event a fire ever breaks out, you always have at least two escape routes.
To engage children actively, fire officials are invoking the phrase "rabbit ready," an allusion to the way rabbits always have at least two exits from their burrows, to ensure that they can always escape predators.
Now, rabbits are nowhere near as smart as people, so conventional wisdom would have it that their kits (the little ones) don't engage in excessively risky play, so one can only assume that their survival strategy is instinctual.
Being a particularly intelligent human child, I apparently had no such instincts - and consequently had to rely entirely on my aforementioned luck.
I tell the following fire-related story on the basis that, not only do smart kids learn from their own stupidity, but the really smart ones can also learn from the stupidity of others.
I grew up on a farm with lots of wide-open spaces - and that's probably the only reason I didn't burn down several buildings while experiencing a quantum leap in my intelligence quotient.
At this point, I would advise my 98-year-old Dad to turn away and stop reading, as I would really love for him to make it to 99 and beyond.
I took a tin can of gasoline behind the barn, and standing back at what I thought was a reasonable distance, threw a lit match at it.
I was quite surprised at the size of the fire that spewed out of that can, and fearful that someone might see those flames shooting over the top of our (very large!) barn, I took immediate action.
I had prepared myself for this eventuality - I had a pail of water at my side.
Remembering the explosion makes my heart quake to this day. I was surrounded by fire.
Fire was everywhere, except - to my continued amazement - on me.
Kids! Don't throw water on a gasoline fire! Better still, try to learn that lesson without being as stupid as I was. There is no second way out of that.
Fire isn't a toy, in any context.
I don't want to have to write about you on the front page.
@ Copyright 2013