It was only after I moved to Southern California that I saw “wild fires” again. They brought back memories of when I was a child. That’s when I began to collect my thoughts of the timber-burning, forest fires of Southern Arkansas.
To see trees (or the forest) burning was such an excitement for us kids – Now, don’t ask me why fires excited us so, but they did. Maybe because we didn’t have earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters, fires evoked a certain degree of charm, for us. And it seems like every summer, a much-anticipated fire broke out. Perhaps it didn’t happen every summer, but if my memory serves me correctly, it did. Well, at any rate, when we lived in Patmos, we saw our share of fires. And some of them, I think, burned all night long. If a rain shower came, it was the blessing that put an end to everything, including our watchful eyes.
While the fire was burning, we watched, though not fearfully, to see which direction the fire was traveling. I’m not sure if, for some sadistic reason, we wanted the flames to turn and come in our direction, but luckily, they never came to our property. I guess providence knew we couldn’t afford to lose what little we had, so I guess that’s why the wind always blew the flames away from our place.
How the fire started was always a neighborhood joke. I really don’t think anybody knew for sure who the guilty party was, but at least once, the neighbor up the road told my aunt. And it eventually got to us, that our old, eccentric neighbor, (down in the woods), Miss “M,” told her that she struck a match, threw it in the grass and said, “Now, let her go!” Now, whether that’s true or not, I can’t say. In retrospect, I do think she was capable of such action. Even though she was a kindly woman, nevertheless, she had some queer ways.
The funny thing about it is that the fires always burned in the Northeast, behind her house – and her house only. So there is a good chance that she was the culprit. Bless her heart! Why do I think she set the fires? Have no idea, except some people have a fascination with certain natural elements such as water or fire, and I guess her attraction was fire. I wonder if she realize how much “money” she burned up when she set the trees on fire – all with a stroke of a match.
So, when we moved from Patmos and to the West of Hope, that was the last time I saw the woods on fire. And now that I think about it, perhaps everyone did have the right suspect, after all.