Monday, May 30, 2011

News From The Fire Line.

   This is a must see video.  I still have a raging woody after seeing this!

Not sure what's on his back....but he seems pretty happy about it!
Baptism!  The colorful term for those who get sprayed with fire retardant from the air tanker, for the first time!

When he is not on the line, they stand watch looking for spot fires and waiting to be called out.  Did I say 'stand watch'?  And they get paid for this!!

As you can see, the boy is in it up to his knees!  Apparently he has loved it so far and the best times have been on the lines.  He has gotten little time off and is currently in standby mode to be taken to any incidents that spring up either by helicopter or truck, whichever gets him and his team there sooner.  Currently they are in a mop up mode so he is thinking he will be back to the Division Base sometime through the week.  He has had some pretty cool stories what couple of times we have talked with him,, and it sounds like he is looking forward to the next scene!  He is definitely living his dream!  We taught him well.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Fire On The Mountain"

It would be ironic, that as a kid, Johns favorite Grateful Dead song, being the son of two devout 'Deadheads', would be 'Fire On The Mountain'!  Who would have known that years later....

Have you ever been so excited, so pumped with anticipation...your adrenaline flooding your senses that you can't catch your breath to even talk?  This apparently has been a huge problem for John lately.  Going into his second week with the Alaska Division Of Forestry, the boy has called several times to convey unbelievable and utter joy in his new job and the tales which abound his days.  The conversation usually starts out as, "oh my God, I can't talk I am so excited....".  This was the case during his first call, back on Monday May 9th.  He was called out to a fire right off the bat and called to tell me...and believe me when I tell you... he was barely audible!  It sounded like some sound byte from an exorcism movie where the character is frantically
speaking in tongues as his head spins uncontrollably on his shoulders.  Turns out that it was just an abandoned campfire, and the caller made it sound like it was a raging wildfire.  Bummed, yes he was.  But it was priceless getting that phone call!  Since then he has had many minor calls, done numerous patrols, and has been spending time training at the Division base.  He told us today that he is actually taking college courses there at the Division, while getting well as being trained and schooled on more important tasks on his rig itself such as pump to hose ratios, pressure ect.  The kid is stoked!  Keep in mind we haven't seen much of him much less heard from him, with the exception of those uncontrollable moments of incident euphoria, as he has been working straight through since his first day.  In fact he is working at least 4 to 5 hours of overtime daily. 

The whole meatheaded idea of taking time off to go to Cali was on his mind this week.  Maryann finally told him to just can the idea, buck up and get on.  Oh, sure, he was frustrated, but again, he is jeopardizing a dream that he has worked hard towards for many years.  It's best.  Anyways, that whole thing would have blown up on him had he acted on his emotions.

Today he got the 'one hour warning'!

We got another one of those calls from him this morning.  You know, one of the breathless "I can't talk I am so excited" calls.  His commander gave him a one hour notice that they were shipping him off to the fire line on a large fire that broke out Friday near Fairbanks, in the interior.

He was to say the least, beside himself!  Apparently he was originally not  a consideration because he was pushing so many days of work.  By law, they are not allowed to work more than 21 days straight.  So when the commander asked for 3 people, he was unfortunately out of the loop to which he was just devastated.  But then, they came back and said they needed a fourth person and when asked if he was interested, what would you think he would say?!  Funny, all of a sudden a vacation in California took the back seat quick!   It came down to an old fashioned coin toss between him and two other guys, and John won.  And guess who didn't have a bag with extra clothes and underwear to last him possibly a couple of weeks?  In typical John fashion, he never stopped to think they would be sending him that far off so soon into his stint.  Mom and dad relayed his clothes and such from Jennifer and shot out to get him his clothes before they headed out.  All said, he was in good spirits and eager to roll.  They were going to stay the night up in Glennallen tonight and then off to the lines tomorrow. 

Here is the incident link for those who want to follow his adventure:

InciWeb the Incident Information System: Moose Mountain
To the right of the page you can find "Recent Articles" that will update the situation.  As well, at the top of the page are other pertinent things like photos, maps and announcements.

How do his folks feel about this?

When she was hit with the news, Maryann got a little concerned.  Me, I was excited for him!  Sure, things could go wrong, but then look at your present situation and tell me which one of you couldn't find at least 5 things that could go terribly wrong in your immediate surroundings at any given time of day!  You can't learn to ride a horse if you don't get on it.  I have incredible faith that he will be fine.  He needs the training, experience,' and frankly, the 'head on, in your face' exposure to get a taste of what it is he has signed on for.  Like he told us today when we dropped off his bag, he is on a rig with 4 really cool guys who are seriously on top of what they do.  He is not worried at all.  These guys are brethren in what they are all trained to do.  Hang in there Grandma's and Grandpa....he is going to be fine.  Be proud of him and what he is doing!  He has a 'fire' under his ass and has "one speed, one gear...GO!"

On the home front, we will be hosting a special guest this summer starting June 4th.

Many years ago, at an anniversary party for my parents, my uncle Glen, or uncle Honey to those who know him best, gave a speech.  He said that as you get older, you start to learn that if you can count on one hand the number of close friends you have, you should consider yourself lucky.  As I have gotten up there in years since this speech, I now know exactly what he spoke of so many years ago.  This past summer, I was blessed enough to have one of those best friends I have known since high school and have kept in contact with through the years, Brad, come up to Alaska to spend some time on the peninsula.  Coincidentally, it was the first time in 11 years that I have seen him.  This winter he managed to get one of his nephews a job at the fish camp that Brad stayed at last summer.  I was honored when he asked me to keep contact with his nephew while he was here this summer so that he would feel like he had someone close while so far away from family.  The kid is a nephew of Brads and is as good as family to me!

So then, after talking to Brad a couple of times about his nephew staying out at the fish camp, he mentioned his other nephew who was devastated that his cousin was going to Alaska and not him!  Fortunately, Maryann was about ready to hire a position for the lodge to do grounds maintenance, processing and other important tasks equipped to keep the lodge running efficiently.  Hands down the planets aligned!  She found her hire and we decided that he could bunk here, downstairs in the 'Redneck Hilton' or for that matter out in the sauna....when your 18 and in Alaska for the summer, the sky is the limit!  With all of the daylight and things to do it is doubtful he will be spending much time indoors with the exception for some sleep here and there.  It is already affecting us severely.  With sunrise at 5:00AM and sunset at 11:00PM, we are begining to feel the ensuing signs of becoming 'amped' from too much vitamin D!

 The Arctic Terns  arrived a few weeks back and we believe, have a nest just outside the back door at the top of a spruce along the lake.  Our favorites, the Loons, also pulled onto the lake about the same time.  I just absolutely love these two.  They return every year and remain here until fall.  They are such beautiful and majestic fowl to me.  They just hang out on the lake and float about!  It is heavenly to wake up to their beautifully odd calls throughout the night.  I often wonder just what they are saying and what provoked it....  Then yesterday, Maryann's fav's, two Tundra swans, swooned in and have been here since.  As I write, I am looking out the window watching them nest for the night across the lake along the grassy shore.  Earlier, when the one would float off too far away for the others' comfort, it would bellow out a honk or two, which was reminiscent (for those of you who are old enough to remember how young you where with those cool bicycle horns) of a bike horn from back in the day!  It is just too wild!!  Yes, at 10:10PM with the sun still up, there is a menagerie of life on the lake tonight.  We are so blessed to be a part of this and to bear witness to Gods gift! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Young And The Restless

I often wonder.  Amazingly enough, I will always wonder.

The most intensely awesome thing that could ever happen to a parent, happened to us last week.  keep in the back of your head the time table of which I am will help you to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this incredible chain of events.  We have always believed and preached to our son that it is not always "what you know", but often times "who you know" that helps you to progress in the way of finding a job.  He has bared witness to this a few times through his so far young life.  Keep in mind, the follow up to that factoid is that you do have to network and make yourself known in order to 'get in' on any position or to open doors.  This would be the same conversation we would have with him many times in the past couple of years regarding his many attempts to get on with the Alaska Division Of Forestry.  He has been ramped and ready both mentally and physically, has done his minimum training requirements yearly to be ready in a minutes notice.  Just my opinion; the one thing he has lacked, is the effort of making an impressionable presence at the main station.  He has laid the initial groundwork at the start of fire season each year, which for us begins to gear up April, for the severest period of May/June.  After being dormant and covered with ice and snow for 8 months, everything is dry and dead after the melt off, coupled with no significant rain in these few months it is usually a tinder dry time of year.  Anyways, he seems to fail to do those so important follow-ups, and showing his face so the right people get to know him.  This year seemed to start no different.  Except for two things which occurred rather quickly and sequential.

The "come to Jesus" meeting that we had with him in the kitchen several weeks back seemed to ignite something within him.  You could see it in his eyes.  You know, that look which indicates that after so many years of 'the light is on but nobody is home' scenario finally may show that 'somebody finally showed up to the lit house'!  I think it was literally like a couple days after this that Maryann asked the pertinent question to a vendor they use at the lodge, who works at the air tanker base for the Division Of Forestry, one afternoon when he walked in the office.  Simply, "how does someone get their foot in the door at the Forestry Department?"  His reply, simply, "you have to know someone".  No....ya think?  When John heard the replay of this conversation with his mom and the this other fellow, I believe that we were vindicated, as he finally saw that we didn't just fall off of the turnip truck!  We may well actually know what we are talking about all these years!!

Without skipping a beat, the boy put the prior "come to Jesus meeting" with us the other day and this newest development into immediate play.  The next day he was showing his face at the main station and making it known that he wanted in.  This coupled with the prompt recommendation to the right people, by Maryann's friend, put John in the spotlight.   A week later, when John showed up at the station, he got the chance to talk with one of the key players in operations there.  This guy introduced John to the other key figure who commented that he knew who John was because he had been in, almost everyday, bugging him for a job throughout that week!  There is that 'impression' I spoke of.  Bug them until they pay attention to you!  In that conversation with these two guys, John made humor to the subject and stated that he was ready to bring in donuts for the guys at the station everyday if that would get his foot in the door.  The guy looked at John and said, "No, don't.  We are firefighters, not cops" to which they all got a chuckle.  Yes, he pulled it off....he was in!

Two days later, this past Monday, John began his first day.  His dream for so many years, his desire to get on with the Forestry Division was coming about full face.  I have to tell you, the first day on the job, he called me about 10:00AM, just an hour after arriving for his first day at the station and was completely beside himself with utter excitement.  I don't recall such vigor and fervor in as many years as I could remember.  He was hardly audible as he described his first hour gearing up to go out for the day and patrol on the rig.  And coincidentally, every day after the first that he would talk to Maryann or myself, he glistened with the same vivacity!  He has been on many incidents so far and has become quite the little front man on his crew.  He earned himself the nickname, "the bull" by his Incident Commander and has really pulled his weight and shown his worth.  In fact, with most of the week being in a Red Flag Warning, he has put in almost a weeks worth of overtime just in the one week he has been working, so he is anticipating a nice phat paycheck.

Have you been paying attention to the time line, as I suggested earlier?

So, this past Friday, he comes out of the woodwork and tells Maryann that he really wants to go to California in two weeks to see his cousin graduate high school.  WTF!?!  As to not offend, I do understand the precept of such a desire, and feel personally that indeed this is a most important event, and I would typically emphasize the importance of of attending such a family oriented event.  However...WTF!?!

So, in summary, after years of dreaming, years of doing the best he could to achieve his goal, getting his foot in the door by the whole 'not what you know but who you know' principle, being hired only a week want to go run off for a week...right smack in the middle of fire season...and actually believe that your commander will be fine with this and your job will be waiting for you when you return???  It's no wonder some species eat their young!  His feel good logic is, that he will have a huge paycheck after this past week so he can afford it. 

We can only hope that reality and common sense will outweigh his impulsive act on emotions.  I mean, it is sad that he will miss his cousins graduation, I will give him that.  I just hope he realizes that if he blows his ride, there won't be a second chance for him.  They won't just overlook this seasons debacle and invite him back next year!  I guess we were all knuckle heads at one point in our lives, and granted that some of us are still a bit knuckle headed at times, but some of this just seems to me like he is not in touch with reality.  Save the money and go down in the fall when the season winds down and they let you go for the winter.

Will we allow him to make this potential error in judgment? 

He is almost 21.  We can only say what we feel to give him some food for thought, and it is ultimately up to him what he does.  Frankly, I know that it is not a good idea.  Right now is just the wrong time.  Take the money you would spend on an air fare and pay for your cousin to come up and stay with you for a week after he graduates!

On a lighter note, M and I where taking advantage of the beautiful day yesterday and cleaning up the yard and readying the lawns for their summer debut.  Even though it was a restricted burn day and we couldn't burn the debris pile, I did fire up the propane torch and was doing some of the weeds that grow up along the concrete pad boarders on the front patio.  Yes, I was being a scofflaw.  The hose was dawned and we are talking literally burning concrete...riiiight.  Problem occurred when dipshit me got a little too close to the dormant yellowed and dry lawn at the edge of the concrete pad.  Within a flash of a second, the dead grass ignited and began to spread at lightning speed.  I shit myself, cut the flamethrower off and jumped to the head of the small flames to try and stomp them out as I calmly and rather urgently called out to Maryann who was just yards away, "honey, honey, honey, honey, get the hose, get the hose, get the hose....".  She looked up and as well shit herself, because she couldn't figure out what in hell I was doing.  Was I on fire, or was I on top of the fire she thought while running to the hose just feet away.  Mind you, it was all very small scale since we are only talking about inch tall dead grass, and any fire wouldn't have been able to go too far with the walkway, driveway and gravel area bordering the affected area.  It just would have singed that section of my lawn that is trying to wake up and grow back after a long winter.  Nonetheless, it did make for a heightened moment, and my loving wife informing  me that I scare her sometimes.  Really!? lol  When I relayed my story to John later that night, he commented that, "This is the problem.  People, like in my situation, fail to call 911, they just try to put it out themselves and it gets out of control."  Talk about feeling a moment of pride for how you raised him and where he is in life, coupled with embarrassment from being lectured by your son, for a change, instead of being the one lecturing!! 

We'll see!  In the mean time, we will be having a guest living with us this summer and we are a bit excited about it!  Stand by as the story continues in the next post, which I promise won't be weeks away.