Fire, my Interested Party. We have, as a species, manipulated it as a species since long before we even thought of ourselves as a species. Or anything else as its own species, for that matter. A civilization's ability to produce iced-down drinks may be a high water mark, sure – but fire's the thing that allows a civilization to be a civilization in the first place. Without fire, a civilization is only a bunch of critters getting together in order to hit the local fauna with the local flora.
And yet, Interested Party, fire is not exactly tame. Look the wrong way at the wrong time and fire will steal your house and your eyebrows. Sometimes you don't even have to look the wrong way -- you just have to have enough of the good beer to make drinking the bad beer seem a little easier to bear. Sometimes you only have to follow around after the Flaming Gas-Can Brothers.
Wait -- let me back up and start from the beginning. It won't make much more sense, but it'll be more entertaining that way.
Big Crazy Friend, the Mighty Buzzard, and myself were out at Big Crazy's place last Friday night. He'd been drinking some of your more expensive brands of beer and had, at about dark-thirty, decided that we all needed to Get Us A Bonfire. Being as Big Crazy had spent the day cutting and stacking brush along the bank of the lake on the back of his place, he claimed he knew just the spot.
“The wind's blowing like hell, man,” said Yours Truly. “We'll wind up burning down the whole county.”
“Nay!” said Big Crazy. “It's blowing out of the south-west! It'll throw all the embers right out over the lake! Come on, cowards!”
So I grabbed a flashlight and we loaded up in the truck, intending toward Glory. Eventually we found a truck that worked. Again, eventually, we got the truck out of the hole Big Crazy had driven off into. And then, Interested Party, eventually, we stamped off through the woods and the briers after Big Crazy insisted that he knew the way to the brush pile at the lake.
So we stumbled through what was, by now, a moonless night. Somewhere in the middle of all the briers and brambles and other miscellaneous thorny thing on the property, the flashlight shuffled loose the mortal coil. Undaunted by our lack of sonar or armor, Big Crazy insisted that we were almost there. He took roll and seemed very pleased that Buzzard, Yours Truly, both gas cans, and umpteen bottles of beer were still present.
Buzzard, lamenting his terrible thirst, began pointing out how good the beer would taste when not accompanied by puncture wounds from bois d'arc thorns as long as your finger. Big Crazy agreed. Which brought about the subject of the bottle opener. We didn't have one.
Buzzard said, “Screw it, we'll use pliers.”
And finally we arrived at what Big Crazy insisted was the brush pile. I was having to take his word for it. He handed a gas can to Buzz and sent him off to start the magnificent blaze.
Eventually, Buzz pointed out that he'd just slung a gallon of diesel onto the brush heap and would Big Crazy please Hand Him A Gas Can With Some Actual Gasoline You Bastard. See, Interested Party, diesel burns hotter than gasoline but with great power comes great responsibility – in the form of a higher ignition temperature with diesel. Toss on a match and watch as it goes out. But don't do it in your living room or anything.
Eventually, Buzzard got the gasoline spread out in the brush to his satisfaction. Eventually, we got the matches to stay lit long enough to start the fire.
Eventually, the fire got hot enough to ignite the diesel whereupon it turned into a ten-foot tall blow torch burning a hole in the middle of the brush pile. This was a Pillar of Fire from biblical times, I tell you. The high winds we were having were not remotely able to persuade this fire to bend. Finally, the fire began to die down in a serious way.
“Quick! More gas!” yelled Big Crazy. And then I pointed out that the wind was not out of the south-west anymore, which brought all our attention to those embers. They were catching nearby grass and trees on fire.
Big Crazy frowned and said, “Uh, that's not supposed to happen.”
At this juncture, Buzzard somehow managed to catch the nozzle of the gas can on fire. He ran backwards a way and threw it down. Big Crazy, paying no attention to my arguments against his intelligence, stood over it for a better view – so Buzzard ran up and kicked it onto the brush pile before it could explode. Where the fire on the gas can promptly went out.
Big Crazy ran up into brush fire, snatched up the gas can, and jumped out to calculate how best to continue pouring gas on. This is about when he caught the damned gas can on fire -- only being neither as sober as myself, nor as smart as Buzzard, Big Crazy tried to sling the fire off the end of the gas can nozzle.
Suddenly, my Interested Party, Big Crazy had himself a flame-thrower. After he caught a few more patches of grass and bushes on fire, he decided it was time to take my advice and put it the fuck down. Plus, well, he was on fire by then and he needed to see about addressing the issue.
Remember stop, drop, and roll? He didn't do that so much as he just hopped around yelling and slapping himself until the flames on his pants abated. Then, my combustible Interested Party, he ran back to the gas can and stomped it on the grounds that It Hadn't Exploded Yet. It worked.
Eventually the fires all went out and we stomped through the stickers back to the truck.