Dwain Walden

Last night I was watching some of the old “doo wop” music on public television and there were The Platters singing, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Boy did that bring back some memories. And no, it wasn’t about being in a Volkswagen van puffing weed and pondering the lint in my navel. I’ve never touched the stuff.

You see I had just come in from a ride in the county and lots of landowners were burning off their woods. And literally, I had smoke in my eyes.  Between the song and the soot, I was forced into vivid recall.

Yep, I was taken back to my childhood when we would burn cornstalks. We don’t do that anymore because we eventually learned that it was good to turn those stalks under to add nutrients back to the soil.

We would windrow the stalks and I would run up and down those rows with a pitchfork of fire, setting them ablaze. Of course I had fun doing it. It was a time when it was okay for me to play with fire. I was an Irish warrior setting fire to the camps of English soldiers. Later I would join forces with William Wallace and his Scots and we would deliver hell to King Edward Longshanks. And if you’re trying to picture me doing this, include that I was wearing Red Camel jeans rolled up to my knees. I still have trouble imagining a bunch of brawny men charging onto the moors, waving swords and wearing skirts.

Of course this stage I played on was very versatile. I could  have been setting fire to a trestle on Wolf Creek to keep the Union troops out of Whigham.

But the whole thing was much more than just the moment. It was prelude to a new season. It meant that the red horse suckers would soon be running in Wolf and Tired Creeks just across the woods in front of my house. And I would be stringing nets to catch them.

Annually, I burn off the pasture down at the old homeplace and certainly it sparks memories.

As a youngster, the burning was a partnership involving my dad and me. For the past few years,  it’s been about me and my son and sometimes my sisters. This year, my nephew joined us for this annual rite.

Each year about this time, we hear about controlled burns that get out of hand and that perhaps someone got injured. So if there’s a novice out there who expects to do some burning, allow me to offer you some advice.

• First, get a burn permit from the forestry department. That’s a matter of law.

• Have that number in your cell phone. You never know when you will need their help. Been there, done there.

• You can’t have too much help when you start to burn.

• Cut firebreaks and have plenty of shovels on hand.

• Do a backburn at your most vulnerable spot and have all of your help at that point for control. In other words, remove the weakest link right up front.

•  Have plenty of water on hand and stay hydrated.

• Don’t embrace any false sense of security. A fire can jump a dirt road when the flames are jumping forty feet in the air.

• And don’t hesitate to run if the wind changes and is forcing the smoke back on you. It’s not really going to matter if the Union troops take your hometown. No matter your efforts, the South is still going to lose.

As a point of clarification about never having smoked any pot, don’t get the idea that I wasn’t adventurous. I did try some moonshine one time. And the next day, I would have voted to move the legal drinking age to 41.

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer. Email: dwain.walden@gaflnews.com.)

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