Lower Lot Fire
The property at 421 Oak Street consists of three lots. The house stood on one lot. The playground and on back to the alley was another lot. On north stood the third; "The Lower Lot."
This area remained for the most part, totally untended. Here we find several apple trees and the plum tree. Dad spent time cutting down the wild grasses and weeds that flourished in this area. He was very proficient with the scythe and was able to make the area look presentable in short matter. The apple trees did not bear the type of fruit to be eaten directly off the tree. The ripened fruit was gathered and brought to the house for Mom to turn into pies and jellies. The plums were for the most part ignored.
Before the city sewer lines were laid, the septic system from the house would end up as a raw stream flowing in the perimeter ditch of the lot until it at last was absorbed and overgrown. The ashes from the furnace were also deposited here and an area was designated for burning of trash and garbage.
As you can see, the lower lot did not contribute to the positive nature of the rest of the property. In the fall, when the grass and weeds had reached their limit of growth; turned brown and dry, it was time to cleanse the landscape. Controlled fires were set and while everyone stood by with rakes the sky turned white with smoke, until the land was turned black and the tangle was gone.
One typical fall day, I determined to do the burn by myself, and set the match to the tinder. I miscalculated the speed and direction of the wind and soon was faced with a raging inferno. Try as I would, I could not control the advance of the fire towards the east and soon it had spread to the Fred Mills garden plot next door.
Let me explain one item for you. Fred Mills created no small garden when he planted. Through an enormous amount of labor he laid out a small farm complete with all sorts of crops. There were rows upon rows of corn and some of it was pop corn! You can imagine my horror when the fire began to race through the pop corn. Well, help arrived. The fire was brought under control. I don't remember, (the mind can forget the embarrassing moments), if the volunteer fire department was a part of the containment effort or not. I do remember that it was a real struggle to apologize to Fred Mills that day.
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