[photopress:Blowing_on_Campfire_1108.jpg,thumb,pp_style]by Dave Ellis
I love the crisp days of autumn, especially in southern Nevada. Once that temperature hits below one hundred I know we can finally move freely in the backyard without fear of spontaneous combustion. We also break out the fire pit which was useless to us all summer but the pigeons find it to be a great public restroom. After a lengthy hose down we load it up with firewood and have a fire, to bring the temperature back up.
The kids love it and I get to spend the evening yelling at them to not catch each other on fire. For some reason all kids love to swing fiery sticks around at each other. It’s so dangerous. Oh I do it too, but I’m taller so my swinging doesn’t even go near their heads.
One problem with living in the desert is that we don’t have a lot of trees. Cacti don’t burn very well and neither do rocks. So I buy firewood at a convenience store. Remember that I grew up in Alaska. I never thought I’d ever have to buy wood from a store. If we needed wood we went into the backyard and chopped some down. We also were mauled by bears; but we never had to buy wood. Six dollars later I carry my bundle of wood out to the car, scan the horizon for bears (old habit) and drive home.
Once you have firewood, you are half way there. I will walk you through building a decent fire:
1. You need to make kindling. Seriously. (Kindling = Kidding? Nevermind.) Growing up we never had to split the wood, the bear attacks normally provided ample kindling. Lucky for me, I have a hatchet that is just dull enough to glance off the wood but sharp enough to still cut flesh.
2. After applying any necessary bandages to your hands and legs, take the pile of kindling to the fire pit.
3. Start with the bigger pieces on the bottom and build until you have a tower worthy of King Benjamin. Now pull out one of the lower pieces and while the tower falls yell “JENGA!”
4. Rebuild the tower, adding a bunch of newsprint paper (not our magazine though, that’s just mean).
5. Light a match, throw it in and cough uncontrollably as the smoke follows you around the yard.
6. Watch as your children light sticks on fire and swing them at each other.
After the fire burns down to coals we break out the marshmallows. Here’s my theory on marshmallows, nobody likes them, they just like toasting them. My kids on the other hand, deliberately light theirs on fire and then run around the yard with this food grade napalm dripping everywhere.
I really don’t care for them (the marshmallows that is) and I’ve yet to see one of my kids eat one. They just burn them up and ask for another. It’s pretty cheap as far as entertainment goes, and really there isn’t much harm except they could burn down the entire house, which is insured. I love family night.
The only other food my kids want to cook over an open fire is hot dogs. But why? We have a microwave, stove and fifty percent less gnats inside. There must be some primal need to cook food over a fire.
I do note that there isn’t a primal need to clean up after the fire. Instead we spend days stepping around burnt marshmallows in the backyard. Pretty safe to say that if pigeons won’t eat something then it is definitely not food. Not that I’m anti-marshmallow: my nephew built a gun that shoots them, so they do have some value. I just find their status as a food product suspicious.
I suspect the family fire pit will be a great memory for the kids. At six dollars a night it certainly is cheaper than a movie, plus the smell lasts longer. And we are doing our part to help the environment by keeping marshmallows out of landfills.