When you hear yourself screaming, “Sherwood, grab the hose; the dog is on fire!” you know that you are—once again—the butt of some giant cosmic joke, not to mention the dog. We are country folk. We sit outside a lot. We make fires. We own dogs. We sit outside around fires with our dogs. It’s a lifestyle. You have to respect it. (If we sat outside naked, beating tom-toms while reciting cowboy poetry with our dogs you’d have to respect that too—if it’s a lifestyle. That’s what I have learned in college.) I am a lazy fire pit builder. I like to hearken back to my Native American heritage by slapping a random length of wood onto the fire, letting the ends hang over the sides. When the log burns in half, you shove the ends in. Easy, peasy. Others in my family would rather court hernias by slapping logs against trees, whacking branches on the ground, or slamming hunks of solid wood over their knees to try to produce the “correct” size. Mostly, they just look like learning-disabled Sasquatches. It’s fun to watch. The downside to my method of fire building is that blazing hunks of junk sometimes fall out of the fire pit, raining down like space junk reentering the atmosphere. Sometimes blazing hunks of junk fall into the dog’s tail. No, not sometimes—once, it happened once. What I learned when the dog’s tail caught on fire: I have the reaction time of a Navy SEAL, Sarah, my daughter-in-law who is very pregnant, does not have the reaction time of a Navy SEAL, and my husband is . . . a learning-disabled Sasquatch.
CoCo, my very hairy collie/retriever mix, had cuddled up to the fire pit when a blazing bit of junk fell out of the fire into her very hairy tail bits. Her tail fluff began to smoke. She was oblivious. I leapt out of my chair and screamed, “The dog is on fire!” Sarah screamed and tried not to wet her pants. Sherwood continued playing Angry Birds on his machine. The dog’s tail blazed up. Reacting like a ninja taking vitamin B-12, I started kicking sand onto the dog’s tail. I continued screaming, “Sherwood, get the hose—the dog is on fire!” CoCo remained oblivious. She may have been playing Angry Birds in her head. A smell straight from Dante’s Inferno rolled over me. Coughing bitter coughs, I started to stomp on the dog’s tail. She lifted her head, confused. Sarah continued screaming and doing Kegel exercises. I stomped on the dog until a giant chunk of frizzled, singed tail fuzz fell out of her tail. She got up, walked to the opposite side of the fire pit, flopped into the sand, and fell asleep—probably wondering when I’d had my stroke. Sherwood looked up from his machine, annoyed that I was yelling at him. “What did you want me to do about it?” he said. I thought about becoming an angry bird and pecking him to death. I threw more wood into the fire pit instead. CoCo snored. Sarah tried to catch her breath. Our lifestyle continued. And you have to respect that or be labeled a judgmental, diversity-hating, cowboy poetry bigot. Linda (Fire Retardant) Zern