Dad was tough as a pine knot, and brave as a bear.
We grew up in a very rural setting. Dad felt the need to build a ballpark in the spacious meadow that was our front yard. This would afford the neighborhood kids something to do during our rare time-off from chores. We could invite our buddies and spend a Saturday afternoon profitably engaged in a game of baseball.
First, however, came the clearing of brush. I recall a monstrous pile which Dad, brother Denny, and I accumulated over two full days. Then came ‘burning day’ [there was no brush pickup in those days; you wanted to be rid of brush, you burned it.]
Dad told Denny and I to stand back, poured some gasoline on the fire, moved the can a safe distance away, then moved back to the pile to light it. With a mighty ‘whoosh’ the pile went up ablaze.
So did Dad’s arm. Unnoticed, some gasoline had splashed onto his sleeve.
It was surreal seeing my father standing there with his arm on fire before he dropped and rolled, extinguishing the flames. He stood up and calmly watched the blisters forming along the length of his arm. “Lucky, head up to the house, and ask your mom for a tablespoon or two of butter.” [To coat his skin, and deny air to the injured skin.] He told me later the coating was to help with the pain.
“Does it work?” said I watching the blisters enlarge.
He grunted, “Not so you’d notice. But we’ll tend this fire for now. Later, I’ll get some Tylenol…”
“And wash it down with bourbon?”
As Denny and I moved back to tend the fire, Dad called out, “Boys, you remember what I told you. You catch on fire, you drop and roll! Got it!?”
“Yessir!” we chorused.
And this I have remembered – though I fervently hope I’ll never have need of said advice!