A quick disclaimer:
For anyone who's just come along, this blog isn't dedicated to stories about some guy growing up on a farm. It's merely a phase which should end soon and I'll return to normal and blog about things like work and people and the price of a wheel of cheese.
Until then, sit tight and embrace the hick-ness.
Fires played a pretty big role in my upbringing.
Bushfires ravaged our farm when I was 8. Killed a lot of our livestock and left charred black sheep lying around. It was a completely alien environment, smouldering black piles dotted across smoking landscape. The sky glowed a dull, eerie orange and the skeletons of trees provided a canopy of embers as they slowly burned from the top down.
As an 8 year old this was pretty scary and you'd think it would give me a bad impression of fires. Bizarrely it did the opposite and now I've ended up a bit of a closet pyromaniac. Not a hedge-burning one, but more of a 'Oooh, fireworks' one. More on that later.
Dad and I were burning off some crop stubble one afternoon when the wind suddenly picked up and began swirling like crazy. There were dust devils starting to form and as they grew they picked up all the burning stubble, so there ended up being big towering columns of fire, which are to this day one of the most frightening things I've ever seen.
Of course, things couldn't go smoothly on our farm, so rather than gradually fizzing out, one of the columns of fire blew closer and closer to our giant big hay shed. Which it then hit. And subsequently set alight.
This was bad. Tens of thousands of hay bales all aflame as though we were hosting some kind of anti-marshmallow hate rally.
What was worse was when we noticed that around the other side of the shed, we had a family of rabbits which had set up home amongst the bales.
In complete terror the rabbits, which were also aflame, were running across the track...
...into our other hay shed.
Which was subsequently set on fire.
Luckily, we were insured, but a lot of time and resources were wasted, from rebuilding two sheds, to cleaning up the debris after the fires.
So that was a bit of a setback. But not enough to deter my interest in fire.
On an infinitely more dangerous scale, I had a close call with the flames not long after.
Thinking it would be a fun experiment, a friend and I stole some bullets from our gun cabinet and rode our motorbikes off down the bush. Our plan was to light a small fire, place the bullets on top and then hide behind a tree and watch our own budget fireworks display.
Unfortunately we didn't think things through very well and our youthful boisterousness nearly got the better of us.
We stopped in what could probably be classified as dense redgum forest during what was definitely classified as a Total Fire Ban.
Lighting a small fire about the size of a saucer, we dumped the handful of bullets on top and hid behind a big solid tree.
We waited... Nothing.
We waited a little longer... Still nothing.
I stuck my head out from around the tree. Our little, saucer-sized fire had spread and was now about the size of a car tyre. This was bad. We thought we'd wait a little longer, as hopefully the bullets would go off, then we could put out the flames.
So we waited. Still no bullets.
Again, I stuck my head out from behind the tree.
By now, the fire was covering an area roughly the size of a double bed and was spreading quickly.
I was absolutely shitting myself. In my small child-mind, there were two options for us:
1) Run out and try to stomp on the fire, hoping that the bullets wouldn't go off and hit me.
2) Leave it until the bullets go off and then put it out. By which stage we'd have had a bushfire on our hands and would be responsible for burning down thousands of hectares of land and killing all manner of wildlife and quite possibly people. Sweet!
We went for option 1.
Running out from behind the tree, we started stomping on the edges of the fire. If we could stop the spread, then we'd be fine. Unfortunately, two small boys tiny stomping feet were absolutely fucking useless and by the time we'd stomped out one little section, there was another bit breaking away.
I was panicking so much I could barely breathe. We were failing, the fire was winning.
Then I spotted it. A dirty old squashed up 600ml coke bottle. And beside it a tiny puddle.
I ran over and grabbed the crushed brown plastic bottle and squeezed it back into a shape which vaguely resembled it's original form. I then plunged it into the puddle which probably contained enough water to fill the coke bottle twice.
Running back to the fire with my muddy water, I started pouring it around the edge of the ever expanding ring of fire. It was working! We were beating the fire!
And then all hell broke loose.
There were cracks and pings and bangs and whistles as the bullets reached critical heat and began exploding.
In my elation at being able to stop the fire spreading, I'd forgotten about the bullets.
And now I was no more than two metres away from them and it was like being on the front line. Bullets were whirring around in the air and shooting off in every direction.
I did my best to shield my face and head as I poured the rest of the bottle around the edge of the fire and dashed back behind the tree.
Panting, almost crying we waited until the bullets stop cracking and whizzing.
We then ran back over to the puddle, refilled the coke bottle and got back to trying to put out the fire.
Slowly we managed to contain it. We ended up taking off our shoes and socks, dipping our socks in the puddle and whacking the fire out.
By the end of it I was absolutely exhausted.
What was to be a bit of fun had turned into the biggest ordeal I'd ever had to deal with...
Worst of all, there was no way we could tell our parents what had happened, so we had to pull ourselves together and go back to the house acting as though nothing had happened. Which is difficult when you're a scared 10 year old that's wracked with guilt.
My parents still don't know about this.
Now I keep my pyromania sate by watching fireworks on TV. It's way safer and you don't end up with wet socks.