My first Public Radio interview aired and I heard about it first from my good friend Craig. I’d been interviewed because my memoir, Ahead of the Flaming Front: A Life on Fire, won the North American Book Award. Craig and I were rookies on the Krassel Heli-Rappellers together and the oldest two on the crew. What can you say? Old Men in Fire. But we kept our own with the younger crew members. No one could out run Craig and no one out drank me. Well, maybe once, but I had a cold. So it was fun to hear from Craig first that morning.
After Craig, others contacted me and I felt these cool feelings that go along with recognition after so much work. Seemed like another world or some other guy had lived that life. After all, I gave this interview via Skype from an oilfield in the front of a pick-up using an iPhone with a hotspot for a wireless signal to my laptop, during a lunch break. So crazy. I hadn’t fought a fire in three years. Not that I didn’t miss it or still feel the desire to go.
I live not to far from a helicopter rappel base at Keene, California, so everyday I am reminded of it. But it’s all good, to quote the late great Chad Howard. I have other things I need to do. Maybe one day, after the girls leave home, I’ll get one of those flying squirrel suits.
I landed the year round job with health insurance for the girl posse and I am with the girls all the time, which is good because like I said, I’m who takes care of their needs whether it’s giving them a ride to the library or fetching a Capri Sun out of the fridge (another fire memory trigger along with Skittles) or eating half baked cupcakes or rushing to the emergency room. Kids, am I right? See. Like I never left a fire crew in some respects.
As a single dad it’s pretty much impossible to be a fire bum, and I wouldn’t trade it for any amount of fires or helicopters. Maybe that’s why it seemed so remote. I’ve been at this other life so long it’s almost like it’s all I’ve ever done. That and stay up too late writing. But the same trick of memory making that part of my life so remote also made it immediate again. Once I started talking to the interviewer, Samantha Wright, it was like I was talking about the day before or the month before. Like I’d just seen all those people or worked with them. Time compressed in the front seat of the truck, so it was like I’d never left and my girls were still little running loose through the woods around the fire camp at Krassel or the Musselshell. Oh the sounds of helicopters and the laughter of girls. And it felt wonderful.