I can recall many things from my past adventures from the scars and creaks of my body. Some were great times, that over time have left a lasting impression. Some are marks of how dumb and maybe even crazy I was in my youth. We all have our scars both mentally and physically that we live with and remind us of our past.
I look at the scar on my right forearm and it tells the story of one such time. This was caused by not only my teenage super genius but also a double barrel wood stove. Alas, the wood stove proved to be as intelligent, if not more so, then I was with all my brain power at work.
It was a very cold winter’s day with snow and some ice packed ground as far as the eye could see. This was a typical winter’s day for Missouri. I wanted to get as much heat out of that stove that was possible. As a teenager and indestructible as I thought I was, the thought never crossed my mind of the dangers I was putting myself, my dad’s garage/mechanic’s business in. With the proper dried wood inserted, that stove would put out enough heat for three times the size of the shop. I wanted to get the stove going quickly because it was as cold inside as it was out. This would become a difficult task since I had been lazy the last few days, and not brought in the wood from the outside to dry out. I now found myself with wet wood to burn.
My teenage genius kicked in and I knew what to do. Being that this was an auto shop, motor oil was readily available! Instead of putting in some smaller kindling and then working my way up to larger sticks of wood, I thought better of taking a little extra time and muscle to split the bigger logs. I stuffed that bottom barrel as full as I could with the whole logs. I also took smaller sticks and filled in alot of the cracks between the logs. Not quite sure why I did this last part with the small sticks but it felt right at the time. I left just as much room as I needed at the top to get my hand and a quart of motor oil above the wood and poured it evenly all over the wood. I took some news paper and stuffed it in, then lit the newspaper with a lighter.
Won’t be long now I thought. The newspaper quickly burned up but, the wood did not. Well crap, what do I do now? Putting my super teenage brain back to work, it came to me. We had a parts washing station that used diesel fuel and solvent to clean engine parts with. Ahh, a cup of this should do the trick! A can that used to contain green beans in it was just what the doctor ordered. I filled up the can and once again reached in the barrel above the wood and poured the contents evenly ( it never crossed my mind that a small ember could ignite, from where I had lit the newspaper earlier and my whole arm would be there for the burning inside the stove! ). This, thank the Lord above did not happen. Once again, I stuffed some newspaper in and lit my masterpiece. The newspaper burned quickly and went out. Now my friends, I’m thinking, maybe I’m not quite as bright as I thought I was. No, that can’t be true, I am a teenager, the smartest person on the face of the planet! I just need a new plan, is all.
I sat down across from the opening of this stupid stove and once again put my genius to work. I have to come up with a solution and have the wood stove lit and shop getting warm before my dad got up and reminded me how lazy I had been for not bringing in wood the last few days to dry out. Geez, parents can be such a pain! They think they are so smart just cause they are old. That’s exactly what I was thinking at the time. Not too long after that, my thoughts would change dramatically.
I got up and walked around the shop, letting my great teenage brain do its work. My dad had told me diesel fuel was safer than gasoline because it didn’t have the explosive properties like gasoline. Actually he said the fumes of gasoline are what are so explosive but, I only remembered what I wanted to, don’t want to give the old man too much credit. So what I need is something that has that quick heat rate to get my conglomeration started!
Looking around, I couldn’t seem to find that gas can but, here’s a can of WD-40 and some paint remover. Still looking for the gasoline, I walk by the stove and sprayed some of that stuff in. Couldn’t hurt I thought. Meanwhile, all of the stuff I have put on my wood is soaking in and creating a great time bomb but I didn’t know that then, even though I was the smartest person on the planet at the time.
Low and behold, there’s that can of gas! Since I was so smart, I knew not to use to much. I don’t want to lose my eyebrows today. Keeping in this frame of mind, I got that green beans can again. How much should I use? I would use half a can but, the wood is wet, better use a whole can to be safe.
Once again I reached my hand into to stove and poured the contents in, not knowing that this is even more dangerous than before, if the smallest ember were to be present. With the gasoline added, I know that this will burn and I won’t need paper to start it. Once again my brain went to work and I decided not to put the lighter to it with the door of the stove open. I knew there would be a quick flash and as I said, I don’t want to lose any eyebrows! I closed the door and opened up the small vent in the door to be able to lite it from. I have now created even a bigger bomb because of the closure of the door!
I made sure the flu was all the way opened on the chimney pipe between the top barrel and the ceiling. I got a long stick, lit it and slowly led it to the small opening in the door. Baaboom!!! Not only did it ignite but it shook the whole building and moved the stove six inches to the right. I wish I could have seen the explosion from the chimney stack out of the top of the roof. I bet flames shot ten feet in the air! The heat was almost unbearable but the worst was yet to materialize.
As the heat began to build, there was a red glow coming from the top barrel and creeping on up the chimney pipe. I watched in awe and fear as my superior genius showed its effects. Oh Lord, let this thing calm down before my dad gets here. I will never hear the end of this if it doesn’t! As the super heat grew farther up the pipe, the tar that was put around the pipe on the steal roof was starting to liquefy. How do I know this? Simple deduction since the tar that was meant to keep rain out of the building, was now raining down the pipe!
I have to slow this down somehow. My thoughts were racing and so was I. Running around like a crazed maniac, yelling and screaming like a little girl. How do I cool this thing off? I grabbed some welders gloves and reached down and opened the door on the bottom barrel. What did this do to help? Well nothing except letting some pressure escape and filling the shop with black smoke. Running around some more and wondering where was my super genius brain now. My brain had gone on vacation and left me on my own. This was a good and bad thing. Even though my teenage brain had shut down and allowed full spread panic to set in, at least it wouldn’t come up with anymore stupid ideas. I can come up with just as much damaging ideas without the use of my brain anyway.
Showing how the teenager thinks, I wasn’t panicking because of the possible life and death situation I had put myself in. I was panicking because of what my dad would say, think, do or whatever that crazy old man might have in store for me. I knew I had to do something and quickly but what? Looking back, I could’ve just let it calm itself down. It was contained, no fire had come out of the stove and it would’ve slowed down given enough time. But, Dad could be here anytime now. Come on Billy, think!
I guess my brain had decided to return which was not a good thing for me. I slowed down a little caught my breath, between coughs of smoke that was filling my lungs, and seen a steal bucket of water, which we used in case of burns or whatnot, sitting in the corner of the building. I ran over and grabbed it. I decided I didn’t want to throw it in the opening of the stove because, this might cause the smoke and burning wood to come out towards me. I decided to throw the water on the side of the barrel. This was one of the greatest mistakes I have ever made in my life!
As the water from my bucket hit this glowing red hot stove, it turned immediately to super heated steam that blasted me in the face which made me fall down. I was fortunate not to get major burns from this blast. I truly believe, by this time, God was feeling sorry for me and my stupidity. He would however allow me to take something away from this disaster to remind me for the rest of my life.
Something else happened when that water hit. It created my final bomb like effect. From cool meeting hot, an explosion erupted threw the stove and up the pipe with a huge bang, sounding like a cannon being shot, right there in the shop! With the tar melting and rolling down the chimney pipe, the thunderous shake from this final explosion was enough to once again move the stove farther out of place and send showers of tar flying this way and that. A chunk of this tar, approximately six inches in length an about one inch wide, landed on my right forearm continuing to burn and now adding my flesh to the substance that it could devour in its path.
Lying on the concrete floor now with my ears ringing from the blast, choking from the smoke in my lungs and cringing in pain from the hot tar on my arm, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer the smartest person on the planet. Actually I could think of plant life that had more intelligence then me.
My dad showed up shortly after this picked me up, carrying me outside, where he dumped me on the ground. He quickly checked me over and then went and opened up the big doors on the shop to let the smoke clear out. He checked to make sure the stove was cooling down and that there was nothing flammable close to it. Returning to me, he asked what happened. I explained what I could and showed him my arm. He said, “Bet that hurts, huh?” “Yes sir.” I said choking down the pain. “I guess from now on you will bring the wood in to dry like I told you too.” I groaned, waiting for the lecture, “Yes sir,” That was it, no lecture. He told me to go put some ice on my burn and get my a$$ back here and clean up my mess.
Nowadays, I would have probably been going to the emergency room but, back then, it just wasn’t necessary unless there was a broken bone, a lot of blood or alot more flesh burning, especially with a father that had been a Marine in the Vietnam War. It may not have been considered the smartest thing, according to today’s standards but, it did make me alot tougher then today’s teens.
The burning lasted for days and it was months before all of the tar disappeared from my arm. This left me with a scar and a memory of times gone by.
I have many stories of my youth and I’m sure you do as well. Slowly but surely, I will post these stories and the lessons learned from them. We make many mistakes growing up and depending how we react to each of these situations, will depend how much of a well rounded person we grow up to be. I hope you have enjoyed a small look into my past and will share this post with your teenagers. Maybe, just maybe, they will learn something from it.
I always welcome your thoughts and you are more then welcome to share my post. Take care, God bless and Remember, we are all in this together.