This week I caught up with Son #1 at the fire station where he is one of five full-time firefighters. Since #1 was celebrating his birthday, Gramps and I shared a pan of cinnamon rolls with him, our daughter-in-law, and his two children while we talked about firefighting and rural fire departments.
Son #1 grew up on the farm and like most farm kids his talents are many and varied.
- He drove a pickup (stick shift) at age seven, restrained animals of different species for his home school teacher during operations to separate them from tails, horns, hooves, or–in the case of male animals–their “junk”. He also competed in a few jr. rodeos, goat tying, barrel racing, and mutton bustin’. (As his son, Roper, did in this post–Mutton Bustin’ In SW Oklahoma.
- He burned up his first tractor motor when he was about age twelve, rode his bike three miles before daylight all summer to work for a crop duster (aerial crop sprayer), and drove a two-ton truck hauling corn silage for a neighboring farmer.
- At age sixteen, he bashed in his first pickup chasing a crazy steer, worked at night all summer baling hay, and often spent twelve or more hours plowing with four-wheel-drive tractors (the big ones).
- At eighteen he graduated from his grim-faced, squinty-eyed, and frazzled home school teacher’s class as her most difficult student. However, his grades were good enough to launch him off to college in Kansas. He worked his way through school, earning a degree in the John Deere program at Garden City. At some point he sold his cow herd, bought a house, and came back from college to live in it as a full-fledged ag mechanic specializing in combines.
- At present, he operates his own mechanic shop and works as a full-time firefighter on a 48 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty schedule. He’s active in his church, a good dad and husband, and he’s nice to his old home school teacher.
Danni: So, why did you decide to become a firefighter?
#1: Felt like that was what God wanted me to do.
Danni: What is the first fire you remember fighting?
#1: The canoe fire.
(When he was six or seven he read a story about Indians burning the centers out of logs to make canoes. He found a log and a can of gas. You might be able to guess the rest. The incident could have been even worse if Gramps hadn’t arrived on the scene with a fire extinguisher when he did.)
Danni: How old were you when you joined the volunteer fire department where you grew up?
#1: You have to be eighteen, so…eighteen.
Danni: Why did you join?
#1: Seems like I was always the first one at the fires.
(We have big sky here in western Oklahoma and if there’s a smoke for miles around it’s clearly visible. Anyone who happens to be in a field nearby drives over to see what’s burning and call it in to the nearest fire department if needs be. Also, #1 was there first because many of the fires were his own farm accidents. I’m just sayin’.)
Danni: You were a volunteer for about five-an-a-half years and now a full-time firefighter for the past seven-and-a-half years…what do you like most about your job?
#1: Having the school kids here at the station to see the trucks and learn fire safety.
Danni: You have an alter-ego who is a clown named “Ducky”. I have seen Ducky in his rubber ducky pants, his face paint, and his wild red wig. He seemed sinister to me. Does he ever scare the kids?
#1: (grins) Sometimes.
(The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. Hey. It’s real. And real scary.)
Danni: What are some of the things Ducky and his firefighter friends teach the kids?
#1: Know how to dial 911, know their addresses, keep batteries in their homes’ smoke detectors, stop, drop, and roll, and get out, stay out. Stuff like that.
Danni: There is a lot more to the firefighter’s job description than fighting fire. What are some of your other duties?
#1: Vehicle extraction with the Jaws Of Life, body recovery for the OHP (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) and OSBI (Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation,) preserving the scenes of accidents or fires for law enforcement, search and rescue, rescue diving, storm spotting for tornados during severe weather, disaster aid, and welfare checks during disasters.
Danni: You also act as the department’s chaplain. Are you called into service much in that capacity?
#1: Not really. It mostly entails debriefing and sometimes if we’ve worked a tragedy somebody just needs to talk.
Danni: I know you firefighters see some pretty gory sights. Do y’all get desensitized to such things?
#1: I guess so. We kinda have to. Sometimes we have to be careful because we are used to it all and joke around about stuff that others…the families…find offensive.
Danni: What makes firefighters run into danger while everybody else is running out?
#1: (grins) Low IQs.
Since this interview was too long for one blog post–and too interesting to skip–I’ll try to finish it next time.
And Happy Birthday, dear #1!
Your home school teacher
Until next time, thanks for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy Third Day doing God of Wonders.
*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.