Saturday, August 28, 2010

VERBOTEN! smoothie

For those of you who have watched Hogan's Heroes, you will know that certain things are VERBOTEN!, according to Hans. One thing that probably was not specifically VERBOTEN! was smoothie-making. Of course, not all smoothie-making is VERBOTEN! If, hypothetically, one wanted to break the rules by making a smoothie, it could be done this way. In theory.

After installing a non-hypothetical sink in my apartment, I felt the need for a celebratory smoothie because I had over-ripe fruit and was hungry. I may have allegedly gathered my hypothetical ingredients:

Two small very-overripe plums
One middlin'-size slightly overripe nectarine
Two scoops of Blue Bunny Double Strawberry ice cream that Travis forgot in my freezer and told me to keep
A generous slice of Jamie's Ninja Cake (which is a normal slice for any other cake, due to opulent richness)
A hypothetical three-quarters scoop of coffee-toffee frappe mix that we're not going to restock anyway
A hypothetical splash of skim milk from the café fridge because we don't use skim before it expires
400ml of a mix between almond and non-almond Honey Bunches of Oats (on sale at Kent's last week) 
Two handfuls of ice cubes after hypothetically realizing that the hypothetical smoothie is too thin

Hypothetically blend with the smoothie button on the café's Blendtec Total Home Blender. You're done!

*If this actually did happen, the hypothetical smoothie-operator would realize that he'd succumbed to the Smoothie Greatness Postulate, which states that 

When making a Smoothie, any given operator will add too much of every ingredient, because all of the ingredients are Great, and the operator will inevitably think that "a little extra of this would be good". The effect is that the resultant smoothie is of unintentionally Great volume due to the additional portions of each ingredient. However, because the portion of each ingredient was increased, the proportions of ingredients remains largely unchanged, which leaves the net result as an unintentionally large smoothie, the largeness of which could be argued to be a expression of Greatness itself. 

The Smoothie Greatness Postulate is analogous to the Taco Overfilling Theorem with the exception that the overfilling of a Taco does not always result in arguably increased Greatness. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I bought mayonnaise and a crotch rocket, and survived a wreck

How do you like that juxtaposition? Believe it or not, each of the title items are significant. No, the wreck wasn't on my crotch rocket- read on, friend; all will become clear. I'll explain the mayonnaise now, stick around for the rest. I bought a jar of mayonnaise at the beginning of the summer and for the past few weeks it's been at the level of lowness where one makes a mental note to get more. I never did follow up on that mental note, though, because before I made my decision, I didn't know if I'd be staying around to consume the mayonnaise, which I would not need if I were returning to LETU. So I let my mayo get super low while I waited on the decision. If I wasn't staying, there's no sense in buying mayo I'm going to waste. I was nearly out by the time I made the decision, and yesterday I bought another jar of mayo. I wouldn't argue that it was significant, but it was something I noticed as a real change in my life which was dependent on the decision to stay or go. I bought a jar of mayo. I'm staying around to use it.

I'm using this.

I had a birthday last Sunday- thanks to everyone who sent me gifts! It was a great birthday. I decided to make it just a little bit greater on Monday, though, by buying myself a birthday motorcycle. I've been aching to own a motorcycle for about a year now and have gone through all the prerequisites- I took the safety course, got my license, got protective gear, etc. I've been prowling used-bike ads for a while now, but not very seriously. I wouldn't have bought a bike if I were returning to LETU, but now that I'm staying that option opened up. I saw an ad for a steal on a sportbike on the same day I was accompanying Tanner (fellow intern) up north to check out some trucks. We checked out the bike, too, and came home with this:

My sweet new ride.

It is a 1988 Suzuki Katana 600 / GSX600F. It, like any bike in my price range, has some issues to work out. Like most things I buy, it's now disassembled for work. I need to clean out the carbs, fix a starter issue, and put new tires on it- but otherwise it is ridable. I look forward to carving the canyons around here! I got an absolute steal at $500.

I'd like to make a quick note about my finances. As most of you know, I raise support to pay my way to be out here in Utah. Not every hour is spent doing direct ministry work, though, nor is every dollar- therefore I keep a to-the-cent record of all my ministry-related expenses. I judge this based on what I really need to be out here in the ministry, with the guidance of the senior leadership here. Expenses like food, gas, and rent I consider to be valid uses for God's money that others direct to me. Other things like discretionary purchases, expenses incurred during non-ministry related outings, motorcycles, and generally things not required for me to be here come out of my own pocket. Most of the ministry expenses come out of my own pocket, too- so you needn't worry about me buying motorcycles with other people's tithes. 

I count the motorcycle as another benefit of staying here in Utah as well. Because I'll be working while I'm here in Utah to save up to go back to school next year, I'm generating an income, which, over the course of a year, will be enough to rationalize justify the motorcycle. I look at motorcycle ownership as something I could either do now, or kick myself for having not done when I'm middle-aged.

Of course, everybody will want to know about the wreck. Well, it's not that long of a story, and not super dramatic, but here goes: After bible study last night (we're studying the Trinity), the college group went up the mountain to Skyline to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The shower was cool, but we didn't stay up there late enough to see the real cool part. Most of the group took off before midnight, but Zach, Kylee, and myself stuck around to watch longer. It was cold so we cozied up under a blanket to keep warm. When things got just too cold to justify the not-as-frequent-as-we-would-like shooting stars, we decided to pack it up and head home. We took off down the road in Kylee's 4WD blazer, with her at the wheel, Zach riding shotgun, and myself in the back. The road up the mountain isn't very treacherous, if some of you are imaging us rambling through the forest on a road that was last traveled by an expeditionary party in the 1920s riding horses. It is an improved gravel road, fairly wide- but very, very twisty.

The Blazer had slid a few times, but more in the category of weee-fun rather than ohhh-crap. I'm one who likes to rally-style drift around corners with the e-brake, but then again I'm a practiced driver. We were about halfway down the mountain when we started to slide again. I wasn't too worried, because sliding is fun- but then the slide didn't stop, and Kylee over-corrected and stomped on the brakes. We were now coming through a turn sideways and careening towards the edge of the road, and too fast. When the truck's driver-side wheels dipped down at the edge of the road, I knew we were going over. I started to pray and put my arms out to keep from bouncing around the cabin like a rag doll. To be honest I don't remember the actual roll all that well. I remember coming to a stop with the car on the driver's side and me probably sitting/crouched in a weird position.

"Are you alright? Is everyone alright? I asked.
A little bit of silence was eerie.
"I am alright. Are you okay? Is anyone hurt?"
"Yeah, I'm okay." answered the two up front (or some semblance thereof)

Zach and Kylee exited the car through the broken driver's side window, now facing up. I had a little of a harder time getting out because of the crunched-in nature of the roof and being in the backseat. I extricated myself as well, lifting myself out of the window and sit-sliding over what I realized was the broken windshield onto the ground. After reconfirming that Zach and Kylee were physically okay, I did a walk-around of the car and realized there was a fuel leak, and worse, right onto the catalytic converter (which gets really hot). I urged Zach and Kylee, who had settled down in the middle of the road and illuminated by the still-on headlights to move farther away and out of the road, which they both simultaneously realized was a bad place to be.

Once the scene of the accident was safe, I determined that we didn't need an ambulance and that rousing a tow truck in the middle of the night was probably an unnecessary measure. I called Shane to have him come up and check us out, plus give us a ride back to Ephraim. Kylee was in a bit of shock about the whole ordeal, and sadly barefoot on the rough ground as her flipflops hadn't stayed on her feet in the accident. She was mostly worried about her mother killing her, which I tried to reassure her was unlikely and pointed out that we were all alive and unhurt except for a few scratches, which was something to thanks God for. Consoling young women isn't exactly something I'm practiced up for so I just tried to be nice and gently remind her that God is always in control.

A family in a pickup came around the bend and stopped to see if we were alright, which Zach and I assured them that we were. After checking us out for a few minutes, they were satisfied that we were fine and had help on the way and left us. Shane arrived not long thereafter, which I realized might have been quicker if I had told him that we had lights on still and he didn't need to search for us in the shadows. The predictable Shane response, after satisfying himself that we were unharmed, was the perennial 'Dadgum!'. A little bit of the familiar to reassure us after an eventful evening.

We reapproached the car (which I was satisfied was not going to catch fire) to extricate Kylee's wallet and cell phone, which was accomplished with some difficulty due to the on-its-side nature of the car. We weren't sure if it was required to call 911 since we had the situation under control, but we erred on the side of caution and I called it in anyway. The dispatcher took a description of the accident and car, and seemed satisfied that we would call a wrecker in the morning to take care of the car and let me go. We rambled back down the mountain (cautiously) and got into bed late- my phone showed my first call to Shane was at 1:49AM.

It turned out that the Sheriff wasn't happy about the way the incident unfolded and I got to tell my account of the incident to a deputy the next day. Apparently the dispatcher should have sent responders out regardless of my statement that we were fine, and because there weren't any officials there that night, it is difficult for them to confirm what really happened, we could have been hurt and not realized it, etc- the presence of a beer can near the car (littered by a good old boy rambling up the mountain in his pickup, I'm sure) added an unneeded layer of confusion to the incident, which isn't entirely wrapped up yet to my knowledge.

I think it is miraculous that we all came out unscathed. I don't have a picture of the car handy but it's fairly well crunched up. (I may get a picture at some point). I know that we were praying as the car went over, and I know that there are definitely a lot worse ways that a rollover accident on the mountain could have ended up. I won't know in this life if God intervened supernaturally, but I do know that I was in a car that rolled once and a quarter over on a treacherous mountain road and came away with only a single piece of glass in my hair to show for it.

Things have otherwise been standard fare- working on cafe stuff. One thing we did this week was to take a day and re-do all the cafe landscape stuff. The cafe looks much, much better now with its freshly-stained decks and re-mulched and manicured flower beds:

Cafe looking good!

There's also the run-of-the-mill errands and moving furniture and all sorts of other stuff that gets taken care of every day. Lawns mowed, garage door openers getting fixed, motorcycle carbs waiting to be cleaned... any plenty to take care of. Whether it holds sobering adventure or opportunities to diligently serve through labor, I count myself blessed to experience every new day. 

Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again.
 Jesus Christ, Light of the World, burning bright within our hearts forever. 
Freedom means love without condition, without beginning or an end. 
Here's my heart, let it be forever Yours
 Only You can make every new day seem so new. 

Every New Day / On Distant Shores by Five Iron Frenzy

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And now, for the moment we've all been waiting for...

The past weeks, and even months, have flown by pretty quickly. There was one thing, though, that couldn't have come soon enough, both for me and for many of you: the decision about whether to stay here in Utah or return to LETU this fall. I covered my dilemma in a previous post. This was a decision that I took none too lightly- I regarded it as having more significance than just what I am doing with the next year of my life. I saw it as a fork in the road which would affect the shape of my life far beyond the next year, perhaps even influencing where my career goes.

I've long told people that I don't wish to live a typical white-collar life- to be educated, work for forty or fifty years, then retire and buy a big yacht. Honestly that kind of lifestyle just doesn't appeal to me. Not only would I not honestly enjoy the kind of opulent lifestyle that that would bring, but I crave the adventure and risk of a life lived outside the sterile white-collar bubble. More important than either of those, though- which are simply my preferences- I think that God can do much more with my life than just a career and maybe being active in the church during the evenings and weekends. Please don't think that I'm condemning white-collar life as an invalid choice for some to make. God probably calls many people to that and I hope that they take their calling seriously. It's just not what I feel called to.

Shane and Kim, the ministry assistant directors here, have told me about a retirement village in Florida which is specifically for retired missionaries. When I think about an community filled entirely of missionaries, what comes to mind is the wealth of amazing life stories that is represented there. Each of the missionaries, I am sure, could tell you of many times in their lives where they were in some sort of peril and God delivered them, or how God provided some immense need right on time, or how once they had no idea what do do next or where to go but then God opened a door. Those are the stories I want to tell my grandkids, not about this one time I got a great deal on a sports car that I bought with my stellar engineering salary.

So I saw these two options for my life, and I saw the choice ahead of me. Sure, the decision was only for a year, but it was also a symbol- the decision declares what is most important to me, what I want to do with my life, what path I want to take a step on.

I tried to make this choice not a choice, but a matter of following God wherever he wanted me to go. That is valid- if it were not in fact a choice I would be doing wrong by trying to go somewhere other than where God was leading me. But I feel now that it was a choice. The litmus tests I tried to set up didn't work- I tried to automate the decision by stating that it'd be miraculous if I got enough financial aid to go back to school and it'd be a sign from God that he wanted me to return to LETU if that happened. In the end, the financial aid I got was not insignificant, but placed me right on a line where I could do it but only with some real but doable sacrifices. That brought it down to a choice again.

I had been telling everyone who was waiting on my decision that financial aid was the thing I was waiting for, and now that I knew how that chip had fallen I still wasn't decided. I felt I needed more information to go on- so I contacted my preferred potential future employer and asked what a delay of a year would mean. The answer came back neutral, that a delay of a year wouldn't prevent them from being interested in hiring me, but that there were not guarantees. Still, it was a decision.

God's greatest gift to us is the free gift of salvation. After that, I feel, the next best thing he gave us is free will. After all, the gift of salvation wouldn't be a gift if we weren't free to choose or reject it. Many argue about what free will really is if God is all-knowing and all-powerful- whatever the ultimate truth of free will is, I feel sure that God was offering me a choice here. As if he were saying "You are free to go either way. I will be with you at LETU if you go back there, and I can do good in you and through you there. I will be with you here in Utah if you stay- no matter where you choose to go, I will be there, and my power is vast enough to be unaffected by the decision you make."

So it really was a choice. Even with all the information I could need in front of me, I was still indeterminate. I usually am not indecisive- when I made the choice to go to Iowa, it was almost a snap decision- I got the info I needed, decided it would be cool adventure, and so I pulled the trigger. Perhaps it is the significance of this decision that gave me such pause. This really could affect the rest of my life.

A few nights ago, as a stand-in for a real Bible study, we watched a DVD called Furious Love. It was about a real and proverbial journey that a filmographer took to try to understand how God's love penetrates even the darkest parts of our spiritual world. It showed many things that the church in America doesn't encounter very often, or like to think about: demon possession, witchcraft, satanism, destitute drug addicts living in a dump, prostitutes trapped in their lives in Thailand. All these dark things have been overcome not by God's might or power, but by his love. It is an amazing film that I encourage everyone to go out of their way to watch.

It did have the proscribed effect on me- I was awed by what God's love was and how the filmographer had experienced it and shown it to us. There was something else, though, that it did for me- it presented me with all the things that God is doing all over the world- all the things that those retired missionaries could be talking about, all the things that God might do with me if I chose to abstain from the white-collar option and step out into the unknown. Am I ready for that? Can I really be the one that God uses to cast a demon out of a convulsing woman in Tanzania? Do I even want that?

I don't think anyone wants to hang out with the demon-possessed because of the merit of the situation. People choose to put themselves in situations like that- to pursue lives that take them to those places- because they want to be the hands and feet of God's unquenchable love to his children, and they won't let something petty like their own carnal comfort get in the way of what God can do through them. They are looking at the higher goal- the glory of God and the building of his kingdom- over their own desires.

No, I didn't make a snap decision as I sat and watched Furious Love. That experience was only fuel for the fire. It was still up to me to decide. Sure, God can use me to cast out demons- but he can also use me to encourage kids in VBS and to fund those who go to the dark places. He needs all sorts of people in his kingdom. He let me decide where I wanted to be.

I can't say that there was a moment when the decision felt right to me. If I went only by the facts, I would have decided to stay in Utah long ago. I never did feel a peace about doing that, though- somehow I felt it would have been presumptive, that in a way I really didn't understand the gravity of my decision and that I need to wait until God revealed more to me. This entire decision was a process.

Yet, it was in a fact-gathering way that the decision was made. I was standing in the basement room where the in-construction men's apartment was, the room I'd be moving into if I decided to stay. The weight of the decision was bearing on my shoulders, and I knew I would need to have this all sorted out sooner rather than later. And then I decided. I would stay here. I would go down the path that may someday take me to casting out demons, because that is what I want in my life. I don't know my future any better than I know yours, anonymous reader; I can't tell you if the decision I made is really going to send me into situations like that. What I know is that I've taken the opportunity presented to me this summer to make my intentions clear- God, if you will send me, I want to go.

Well, now that all that serious business is sorted, who wants to see my new apartment? It's so sweet! I'm not completely moved in yet, but it's going to be the ultimate bachelor pad. I'll post more pics when it's done.

A view from the door into my bedroom. They assured me they'd take the loft out but I assured them that they certainly would NOT. Lofts own. The ultimate plan is to put a couch under the loft, a sweet one that was donated to the ministry this summer. It is super comfy and I campaigned for it to be placed in the guy's dorm. I'm taking it downstairs with me, since I'm the only one who sits on it anyway. If Shane disagrees with me he can feel my wrath. Once I get back from TX I'm going to set up my projector up over the couch to project onto the opposite wall. Sweet!

Looking into the other corner- I have significant hanging closet space for the first time ever. I think I'm going to try hanging my t-shirts.

My new deer buddy. I feel, the highlight of the room. I haven't named him yet. Any suggestions?

My desk area. No the deer doesn't have a massive third antler growing out of its face- there's another antler sitting on top of the desk. Classy!

This is what will be my new personal kitchen- it's not completed yet. Doesn't it look great so far? Chip's dad is a super handyman and this is all his work.

Finally, the bathroom. Again, a personal luxury I get to enjoy. The mirror is, unfortunately, low enough that I have to stoop to see myself in it. The light fixture there is pretty, but it may have to go so I can raise the mirror. If I'm going to stay in this apartment for a year, I'm going to take the hour or so to raise the mirror so I can see myself. I already mangled the ceiling fan to raise it 2" so I wouldn't walk into it all the time. Whoever has to remove that fan next: I'm sorry, it's going to be impossible. Just tear down the building around the fan, because there's no way it's ever coming down again after I shortened the mounting hardware. 

So there you have it- decision made, future determined for at least the next year. I'm sure roughing it in that apartment after having made the 'hard choice' huh? The next year will be interesting. I'm now on the job hunt and I'm sure that God will provide something. I'm also going to start raising support and enroll in a class at Snow College. My immediate plans are to take a road trip to TX Aug 16-24 to collect the remainder of my belongings. After that, the real work begins. 

The long term future is not entirely unclear either. I may have left you with the impression that I'm forsaking my  engineering career for some idea of going to weird places and doing weird things. I'm not, at least not entirely. I will be returning to LETU in the Fall of 2011 to finish my last semester. That is set in stone because the classes I need to graduate are fall-only classes, and if I stay away from LETU longer than two semesters, then  I have to come in as a new student under the new catalog and take a bunch of new classes- very disadvantageous. I really don't think that God brought me (at great effort) to within one semester of graduating  LETU to not let me finish. Furthermore, I have a large amount of student debt to pay off and I think that an engineering career is a good way to pay that off and make myself more available for God. If I had to guess I'd say that I'll graduate December of 2011 and go work in engineering for some years until debt is paid off (and maybe even the family I may have is ready for a more adventurous lifestyle) and from there I'll go wherever. I'm also not ruling out that God will use engineering in the adventurous lifestyle I'm aiming for- there is certainly a lot of adventure to be had in engineering (international contracts- yes please) and like I said before, God can use me wherever.

Thanks for tuning in- don't forget to name my deer in the comments.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Dog Named Turbo and the Ant Fire

I like to think of this blog as a record of my doings and happenings in the world, and generally I like for those to be services of benefit to others and epic adventures with a moral at the end. However, I am afraid that this latest entry is not going to really fit either of those categories. I'm afraid that today I did the world a bit of a disservice.

I started a brush fire.

Well, not me, really, but I was involved and I certainly didn't stop the stupid plan of lighting a fire in dry dry central Utah from going forward. Let me rewind a little bit before I start justifying (or rationalizing) too much. It all started with helping the college house's newest resident, Jamie (AKA Kentucky) move in.

Kentucky was living in a terrible little apartment with no stove or cooling before he heard of the college house. He would have moved in straight away if he had known of it before coming here, but we didn't connect with 'tucky until Manti Pageant. Moving in after the fact was complicated, however, by the fact that he had bought a dog after arriving, a non-starter for college house living. In true Kentucky form, the dog was named Turbo, surely a sign of Jamie's fondness for turbo-diesel trucks. Well, a couple days ago he went outside and found his dog gone, and with it his housing problem. (Heartless, I know, but true)

And so Jamie made plans to move into the college house today, and we spent most of the day doing all the things that that entails: borrowing Shane's dump trailer, breaking into Keegan's truck to get the dump trailer controller so we can dump out the junk in said trailer, picking up a totally sweet wooden spool at the dump to use as a coffee table-- but I digress. Y'all know how moving works- you get the biggest vehicle you can manage, throw as much stuff in as will fit, and drive to the new flat and reverse the procedure.

Well, we got Kentucky most of the way moved in (the bed is here, and that's what counts) and were grocery shopping to fit his new-found stove access when a call came in. 'Tucky had an announcement made on the local radio station regarding the missing Turbo. Someone a few blocks away from Jamie's old place had picked up a dog matching Turbo's description. We headed straight over from Walmart and sure enough, there was Turbo. Well dadgum. Now we have the dog situation to figure out.

Fortunately, we weren't completely out of sorts- before Turbo ran off, 'Tucky had been examining options for finding a place for Turbo so he could stay in the college house. In fact, the deal to have Turbo stay on some land belonging to a gentleman in our church was all but sealed before Turbo ran off. When we got Turbo back again we just needed to get the final go-ahead and make it happen. The land in question is about 10 miles out of Ephraim and the barn which would act as an oversized doghouse needed some shoring up before a dog with a Houdini history could be let loose inside.

The refurbishment would have to wait, so we decided that we'd tie him up for the night in the barn and get it dog-worthy after we finished moving. And so we headed off to the land with Turbo and an enormously heavy Utah-style (construction remnants) doghouse in the trailer. Given that Turbo had been good enough to escape before, we decided it was high time to get a proper collar for him. (Ed. note: I looked at the rope 'Tucky used to tie him up before- the mock-collar was a shoelace. True Country, right there.)

Given that Turbo is only three months old, the collar was of course too big for him. Well, we've got a country solution to that- we'll just put another hole in it by heating up a piece of baling wire that is sticking out of the wall and poking it through the nylon webbing of the collar. Well, we took out the lighter and got to work. And, well, you know what we did with that lighter in that rickety old barn in the middle of the field full of dry grass? Can you guess? We put a hole in the collar. Worked like a charm.

With that problem effectively solved, we looked to wrap up our mission by improving Turbo's accommodations. After all, 'Tucky was moving up in the world, so we ought to see that Turbo had a similar upgrade as well. We had two problems with the area where he was tied up- there was a fire ant hill close enough that he could get into it, and all the dry grass around the barn was rather prickly and unpleasant on Turbo's soft little puppy feet. Our hearts were moved with compassion for Turbo, and it was decided (rather complicitly on my part) that the obvious thing to do was to pile up some of the grass on the anthill and light it so that the ants would be burnt out.

So we lit a little bit of grass on top of the anthill. It burned very quickly. I started plucking up clumps of grass and throwing them on the fire at a controlled rate. At this point I was actually more concerned with keeping the fire going than with it getting out to control- the grass I threw on burned up so quick that by the time I threw the next clump in, the last one was almost completely gone. While I was pulling up grass to throw in, I saw out of the corner of my eye that two spots of fire had appeared off to the side by 'Tucky. I figured he had it under control. I never did mention that Kentucky was a volunteer fire fighter. In fact, he joined just the day before. He's also a salesman for his dad's business of selling rescue equipment like the Jaws of Life and firefighting equipment.Jamie is not unfamiliar with the firefighting business.

It is at this point that I am somewhat unsure of what exactly happened. There were those two little spots of fire a few feet from the anthill, and then all of a sudden things got crazy. The fire started spreading out into the dry grass surrounding us. It became apparent that we should control the fire, and so we started stomping out the burning grass. Right then it didn't seem like we had a big problem- the fire was pretty small and we could stomp it down pretty quickly. However, things got out of hand really quickly. The flame front was growing faster than we were stomping it out and we started working quickly to stay ahead of it, but to no avail. It became apparent that the fire was serious at this point. Stomping wasn't effective anymore, and we grabbed boards to beat the fire out with. This was working better, and I was beginning to think that we could get the fire contained and out. However, the boards were dry, weather-rotted, and soon broke into pieces, becoming useless.

We got way behind the fire at this point. Jamie was starting to flip out a little bit. Furthermore, the more the fire spread outwards, the harder to got to control. A three-foot ring of fire is one thing. A thirty-foot ring is a lot more fire. We knew we wouldn't get back ahead of the fire at this point and Jamie called to me to call 911. I've been reluctant to call 911 frivolously my whole like, after all, I'd rather solve my own problems than have a dozen people rustled into frantic action and rushing down to highway to help me. I recognized now that playing it safe called for containment of the fire, not politeness in not inconveniencing the responders. I got on my phone and called 911 while continuing to try and fight the fire with my other hand, now using a two-foot-square piece of roofing tin to smother the fire.

After I gave 911 our location, Kentucky shouted at me to move his truck- the flames were starting to get close to it, and the last thing we needed was an engulfed vehicle. As I ran to the truck I tried to toss my sunglasses in the back but missed- normally I'd stop to pick them up, but firefighting had suddenly turned into Serious Business. I jumped in hoping that he'd left the keys somewhere obvious. I tried to start his truck but found that I'd turn the key and nothing happened. It was a manual truck, and I knew enough to push the clutch in to start it, but nothing would happen. After frantically turning the key a dozen times or so I heard Jamie shout "You have to push the clutch in HARD!" I bore down on that clutch pedal with the whole of my strength and turned the key- it started. It didn't feel like the clutch moved any more, but I guess ornery old trucks like his are entitled to their idiosyncrasies. While this was going on I was listening to the dispatcher announcing our "out of control brush fire north of Sterling, 500 yards west of 89" over Kentucky's volunteer firefighter pager which was clipped to the visor. The irony didn't escape me.

The location where we started the anthill on a fire was in a little fenced-in area for horses, long-abandoned. There were shed-sized barns off to two sides of it, and an entire field of dry grass separated by only a wire fence. We were on a slight hill, and above us on the hillside was a bunch of sagebrush- even worse, over the crest of the hill was a house. I kept beating away at the flame front spreading out back towards the road, and was actually making a good headway. I got the flaming grass extinguished on that side when Jamie ran past me with the bucket he was using to spread dirt on the fire on the other side of the yard. He was fairly well flipping out at this point.

"This is bad, this is really bad... oh man.."
"Well, we've got it out here, where else is it?"
"Dude, it's up on the hill on the other side of the fence!"

I started to realize the gravity of the situation at this point. While I was busy beating out the fire advancing towards the road I had paid only limited attention to the other locations- I thought the heavy wooden fence lined with feed troughs would contain the fire to the yard while we stopped it from getting out of control outside of it. But no- there was a two-foot gap in the fence where it met one of the sheds, and the fire had spread through it up to the hillside. This fire would not burn itself out. It would only spread. It was already wider than just the two of use could contain, and only growing more quickly. If the sheds started to burn, that was bad news- and if the fire advanced up the hill that was worse news yet. Looking around I saw that the fire had handily spread through the wire fence into the field of dry grass and was advancing much more quickly than I imagined it would.

'Tucky ran off towards the field with his bucket so I ran to the hillside to keep things from going nuts up there. The tin I was using to beat the fire out was now too hot to hold, and I stopped for half a moment frantically racking my brain for how to solve this problem. I tried using a clump of grass to hold onto the tin with, but it just slipped out of my hands and let my fingers be burnt while I tried to move the tin around.

"I need a glove" I said out loud.

Figuring that the situation merited the immodesty, I used the Sprint method to take my shirt off and used it to hold onto the tin. I advanced up the hill putting out fire as a went. The fire I was putting out before was easier because it was just grass on flat ground- the hill was covered in sagebrush. I couldn't pat out the fires around the bases of the sagebrush with the tin, and I couldn't stomp any but the smallest flames there because I was wearing my handy Chacos (sandals). At one point I picked up a sage branch that was burning so I could blow it out and throw it back into the blackened area, but it caught on something and I ended up hitting myself in the forehead with the burning part. I laughed in spite of the situation- I'm sure that in a different context hitting myself in the forehead with a flaming branch would be hilarious. It didn't leave a significant wound. Unable to completely put out the sage, I settled for putting out the perimeter of the fire and trying to keep the brush inside from blazing up so bad that they'd jump the perimeter.

As I was working on this I saw a white Sterling Fire Department pickup rambling through the field between us an the road. Thank God they responded as quickly as they did- it was probably only 10 minutes between my call and their arrival. From my spot on the hillside I could see that the fire was advancing with frightening speed through the dry field that it got into through the wire fence, as well as into the corner of the field of green alfalfa hay on the other side of the shed, which was now surrounded on two sides by fire. We really needed their help. The truck, which was equipped with a big water tank and hose, was unfortunately on the other side of a barbed wire fence. I knew it would take them a few minutes to get to the fire and applied myself to keeping it from advancing up the hillside and the house that stood over the ridge.

I had the perimeter of the fire on the hillside extinguished a few minutes later, but the sagebrushes still kindling inside. With the Sterling FD pickup approaching, I look towards the field below which had become an inferno and decided that if they were going to take over the hillside my efforts would be best spent stomping out the grass fire down there. There were a few hundred feet yet between the field fire and the nearest building, while the hillside fire, although not blazing anymore, presented a significant hazard if it advanced up the hillside, as fires are wont to do.

The fire in the field was a lot more intense than the grass fire I'd put out earlier because the grass was a lot taller. This corresponded to a significantly higher degree of heat. I was somewhat surprised with the degree of success I achieved by stomping out the fire with the tin- but I still had little chance of getting far enough ahead of it to stop it if the Sterling FD brush truck weren't working its way down. I had to be careful with placing the tin before I stomped on it, because if I overshot the amount of fire to put out, stomping the tin would put out the fire underneath but also billow the flame out at my sandal-shod feet, making things worse. I was approaching a bend in the fire line, which meant I got the heat not only from the fire I was putting out right in front of me but also from the side as well. Stomping the tin is up close and personal, right in the fire, and things were starting to get just too hot to stay in the fire. I had to turn away a couple times to keep my still-shirtless top half from getting burnt.

By now the brush truck had the hillside wetted down enough that they could turn their attention towards the field fire, which I had half put out but was failing to make any quick progress on due to my burning-alive problem. The fireman waved me off as he started working the fire on the other side of the fence with the hose, not wanting me to burn myself putting out the fire the hard way when he was able to put it out the easy way in just a minute. At that point I stepped back and looked to see if there were any other flame fronts advancing that I needed to stop. Thankfully, there was nothing blazing anywhere else.  There was plenty of smoldering going on where the fire had been stomped out, but once the blaze in the field was hosed down, the flames would be out, the advance halted, and we could work on making sure it wouldn't start back up anywhere. Around this time, another brush truck arrived from Manti. I had overheard one of the firemen accepting the second truck's aid but waving off a tanker truck- if the firemen were optimistic, so could I be. Seeing that I wouldn't be needing to hold my hot tin anymore, I donned my now-very-smoky shirt again.

The sheds had thankfully not begun to burn, although after we got the flames out we spotted the corner of the roof on one was smoking from under the roofing tin so we peeled that back and hosed it down well. Some of the hay in one of the feed troughs was smoldering as well, so one of the firemen was chopping out the wood and pulling out the hay as another spread it out thin and yet another hosed it down. I asked the fireman who had arrived first (who I later found out was the chief, despite his young appearance) if there was anything else I could do, and he had me get a shovel-pick tool out of the truck and showed me how to dig the sod out from around to base of the shed's wooden wall to make sure no smoldering grass would light the shed up later. While I was doing that, the firemen were wetting everything down with their hose to make sure nothing would flare up again.

Well, the fire was out and the panic was over. While we were winding down the main extinguishment effort, I'd overheard Kentucky kicking himself for lighting the fire in the first place, and claiming responsibility for the fire- he verbally absolved  me of blame for the fire, but in reality I feel a dumb as he does for letting it happen in the first place. Even if I'm not the chief perpetrator, I can't deny that I'm implicitly to blame because I let the stupid mistake happen. While things were winding up and I'd finished digging out around the shed, a fireman named Thomas introduced himself to me and asked me to fill out a voluntary statement of what had happened. While I was writing I wondered if I was incriminating myself, but figured that even if I was justice would be served by it, and being uncooperative probably never helped anybody in my situation anyway. Being the word man that I am (as my mom calls my brothers and me) I filled up the lined area on the page as well as half of the back of the sheet. I was halfway through the statement when I wondered if anyone would be able to read it- my penmanship was especially atrocious because I was writing on the hot hood of a truck with hands made very shaky by the events and exertion of the past hour. When I was done, though, Thomas said he could read it, so I figure I'm alright.

During all this Kentucky was quite worried about the consequences that might land on us as a result of our foolishness- although he insisted that he was the one to be fined if someone were going to be. While I won't argue his claim of primary responsibility, we both acted pretty stupidly and I wouldn't think it unjust if we both got some kind of fine. Thomas, though, reassured us that in a case like this, the fire warden was unlikely to issue any consequence and that because of our cooperation, attitude, and open acceptance of the blame for the fire, he didn't want us to get fined and would pass that impression on to the warden. I think that's as strong as a statement as he could make in his position, really I don't think there any risk at all of me getting one, and only a slight chance for Jamie.

The other thing 'Tucky was doing during the wrap-up was selling rescue equipment. I can't blame him for taking the opportunity, and the firemen were interested in his pitch. An appointment was even set up for a demo. A bit ironic, I think. I'd think it inappropriate if it weren't for the genuine interest and good nature of the firemen. The chief who arrived was smiling and jovial during the whole event, if businesslike during the heat (har har!) of the situation. Generally I'd expect men in such a position to be more severe, especially when dealing with two idiots who lit a field on fire while trying to kill some ants. I offered to re-weld a broken bracket on the Manti brush truck's storage box, and I think they may take me up on it. I can't say I wasn't partly motivated by wanting to make friends with the firemen- after all, friends don't issue fines to each other.

The fireman who was calling in the report to the dispatcher had a laugh with the paperwork- his first radio call named the fire "The Ant Fire" as a temporary moniker until the reports were being written. This was, after all, because the fire got started Well, Thomas (who I think was the senior man on site) saw no reason to rename it, so The Ant Fire it became officially. I gather that's something a bit usual because the firemen all found it entertaining.

Things had pretty well wound down and we were all getting ready to leave, each of us with another fire story (I have a previous one from Alaska I will have to write up sometime) behind us. I snapped some pics of the carnage before we left- check them out:

This is the area I fought first, out the gate from the fenced-in area towards the road.

This is the view over the wire fence that the fire hopped through into the dry field- this is where I was putting out the line of fire when the FD waved me off.

This pic is from about where the anthill was (and IS! With live ants!) looking out the gate. That's the hay we broke out of the feed trough to stop from smoldering- it is all black underneath.

And so you have it, friends- the story of how 'Tucky and I started a brush fire in central Utah. It could have been a bad day, but I see it as another adventure under my belt and a cool story to tell my grandkids. Life without brush fires would be boring.