Posted by: ushas | July 12, 2009


So there is the man in Town.  He is one of those people that make an impression.  A bit of a social outcast but definitely  a known part of the community.  I like to engage him in conversation sometimes.  It can be a challenge to follow his thought stream but I usually find it entertaining at least.  He is a hard worker, this man.  He once told me that he keeps his body occupied in an attempt to quiet his mind.

One day he was in the coffee shop murmuring about the difficulty of fitting in with everyday society.  “I like to speak under my breath and hope to be overheard,”  he said, ” I find it works well for me.”   He had caught me listening in and was having some fun with it.  Sometimes when he notices he has your attention it is hard to break away but, for the most part, it has been worth it.  I have picked up some real gems.  Example?

“It is never too late to continue on.

It is always early enough to continue on.”

He had uttered some other version that I could not absorb.  He said this was a more traditional interpretation.

Anyhow, I sort of befriended this guy because I am listening.  I overhear.  That’s me.  I don’t know if it comes more out of curiosity or some sort of anxiety.  I guess a little of both.  I love to hear what people are saying.  I find it fascinating.  Also, I like to be aware of my surroundings.  You never know just what people will do so, I pay attention.

I may holler across a room into someone else’ conversation or speak directly to you on my way past about something you’ve been saying – but not to me.  I guess you could call it rude.  Butting in.  I suppose that’s what it is but, darn it, I just get such a charge out of it.


I find it very intriguing in a party situation.  When a social gathering is really working, everything just seems to sync up.  I love that.  Everyone involved in separate groups and conversations but somehow a part of the same rhythm.  If, at any time, someone spoke a line of conversation loud enough to be overheard – it could weave  seamlessly into the banter of a neighboring group.  Perhaps this is the result of carefully laid ground work – perhaps it is more organic, a collection of individuals functioning as a group.  Seems sort of magical… but maybe not.

The interaction of human beings with each other and their environment.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Posted by: ushas | April 8, 2009


It is 3:30 AM, Wednesday morning. A freight train blows through town. I’m up; knot in my shoulder, boy snoring and pushing me off my bed, work on my mind.

I’m not complaining. I have a home, a family, a job. To me, these times are more odd than they are tough. The rules I know just don’t seem to apply sometimes.

The light swells and fades in a window across the street. Could it be a glass front woodstove burning on this cold April morning or another restless soul walking near a lamp?

A couple days ago I had a physical examination. The nurse’s aide asked, among other things, how I handle stress. “I drink” I answered flippantly. That question hung with me for a few days. How do I handle stress?

Usually I try to work it off. I simply apply myself to a large physical task. Or I go for a walk. I also cry sometimes. This time of year I seem to cry at the drop of a hat. This is a big season for a cemetrian. Memorial Day preparations you know. The tears sometimes sneak up on me – other times they explode out of me with uncontrollable chest heaving sobs – usually while driving (watch out fellow motorists).

So, I don’t know, how do I handle stress? Is it effective? I am definitely feeling something this morning. Stress? Yeah probably.

Posted by: ushas | October 16, 2008

Daddy’s Weekend Away (Part One)

So I went on my first back packing trip a couple weeks back.

Kristen had spent a weekend with some friends in New York City recently and suggested that I plan a weekend for myself soon after.  A little research and, whala!, back packing trip!

The plan was to pick up the M&M trail where it crosses Rt.119 in Richmond, NH and hike it to, up and over Mt. Monadnock (the photo at the top of this page).  I told my friend Ezra about the trip and he was instantly on board.  I also invited my brother but he was unable to get that weekend away.

The weather was beautiful the week before the trip.  Cloudless sunny days around 70 degrees with crisp clear nights.  The forecast for the weekend, however, was for heavy rain with wind and warm humid temperatures.  The remains of a  tropical storm were predicted to pass through.  Ezra, who had purchased several hundred dollars of new gear, wanted to post pone the trip.

“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” I told him, “but I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for some time and I’m going to do it.  We can always go it again sometime.”

“Fuck you Josh.  I didn’t buy all this shit to not go with you.  We’re going to get fucking soaked you know.  You’re an asshole for this.”

“Well, the weekend’s still quite a ways off.  Maybe they’ve got it wrong, besides, how many times have we camped when it was supposed to be bad weather and had a fine time?  You usually get some portion of the night that is really cool!”

“Nope.  It’s gonna downpour and it’s gonna suck.”

The plan was to leave my truck on the northern side of Monadnock on Friday night.  I called Ezra in the afternoon to see if he was still planning to go.

“You’re gonna go aren’t you,”  he said.

“Yeah.  Are you?”

“I fuckin’ guess so Josh.  When do you want to bring your truck up?”

“As soon as we can.  I’d like to get a full night’s rest.”

“Alright.  I’m going to pick up Sarah and we’ll meet at your house.”

Kristen had gone out for the evening so Jack and I rode up in the truck while Sarah and Ezra followed in her car.  We were going to park at the bottom of the mountain, stop by an outdoor store so Ezra could pick up a rain cover for his back pack and grab some dinner.  It was getting late when we arrived in Keene and I was concerned about Jack’s normal bedtime.  I called back to Sarah and Ezra,

“Hey Sarah, Do you guys want to get dinner and hit the store now?”

“Yeah.  Excellent idea Joshie.  Can we eat at Papagalo’s?  I’m starving.”

“Yeah sounds good.”

“Ezra says store first then dinner.  When we get there let’s put Jack’s car seat right in my car in case he falls asleep.  You know, save him from being disrupted later.”

“Right on Sarah.  See you in a couple of minutes.”

Dinner was fun.  I had given Jack an early meal figuring he’d be too busy in a restaurant to eat.  I was right.  He was super cute; peaking over the booth to the ladies behind me saying “Hi” and giving big, coy, flirtatious smiles.  Really hamming it up.  The three women were having so much fun with him that it attracted the attention of the folks sitting beside us.  By the time our entrees arrived we were involved in a full fledged ten person game of peekaboo.

We finished dinner, buckled Jack into Sarah’s car and brought my truck to the trail head.  I left a note on the dash with our names, phone numbers and anticipated arrival date.  We all piled into the car and headed for home.  The rain had been falling steady for several hours now.


During all the planning for our trip, Ezra had emphasized the importance of an early start.

“You’d better be ready early Josh.  I’m picking you up at 6AM.  No 5!  Maybe I should come at 4:30.”

“We’ll be hiking in the dark.  How about 6?”

“5:30.  Be ready.”

“I can’t get up that early.”

“I’ll pound on your bedroom window.”

I was sitting on the front step at 5:25 AM.  Then 5:30.  5:35.  Ezra was late.

Kristen, who’d stayed out late the night before, came shuffling out.

“Why don’t you just get going?  Jack’s going to wake up soon and I don’t want him to see you.”

“I’m waiting for my ride,” I told her as Ezra pulled in.

“Good morning Kristen!” he said.

“Yeah, whatever, it’s early.  Have fun.  Be careful.  Give me a kiss goodbye.”

We were off.

“We’ve got to get something to eat Josh; I’m starving.”

“Who’s open?  Does the Norway open this early?”

“I don’t know but we’re going to find out.”

It wasn’t.  We headed over to Athol to try the Main Street Diner.  Closed until 6.

“Maybe Sandy’s” I suggested.

Sandy’s was open but Ezra decided that we’d head back to the Main Street Diner and wait until 6.  It was quiet.  The street’s were wet with last night’s rain.  The air was warm and still.  The street lights hummed.


Breakfast was good; Roast beef hash, eggs, toast, coffee.  The young cook and waitress were fun and sassy.  Ezra told them that we must be the two dumbest guys in town – going on a backpacking trip in the down pouring rain.

“Are they still calling for rain this weekend?” asked the waitress.

“Yeah, tonight and a little tomorrow morning,” I said.

“Whatever Josh!  I’m gonna kill this guy before this is over.”

We rode up to New Hampshire, our bellies full, parked Ezra’s car at the trail head, stretched, put on our packs and started walking.  For the first time Ezra was quiet.  I knew his hips were hurting.  I figured he was wondering if he could do this.  For a while I didn’t say anything – just enjoyed the lack of verbal abuse – then, about a mile in,

“How you feeling?”

“Not too good Josh.”

“Your hips hurtin’ you?”

“Jesus yes.  Yours?”

“Yeah a little.  Let’s take a break.”

“Take a break!  We just got started!  We’ll never get there!”

“Sure we will, besides, who cares?  Let’s just take it easy and enjoy the walk.”

We took off our packs and swayed.  We stretched some more and loaded back up.  I adjusted Ezra’s pack for him and we were off.  The trail left the old dirt road and turned narrow as it dropped into a wide, wet valley.  The woods were uncannily green.  First ferns then moss.  There were tall hemlocks.  We stepped on roots and moss covered rocks to avoid soaking our feet.  The morning was still dark in here.  There was almost a fog settled between the small hills.  If Sasquatch lives in New England, there was one in here.  We walked around a large marshy pond, crossed several brooks and a stone wall.  We took a break.

“That’s a big pond, huh?”

“Yeah.  Do you realize that all we did is just fucking walk around it?”

“Yeah.  Pretty much.  I think we’re going to start up Little Monadnock soon.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for the climb but I’ll be glad to get up a little higher.  Maybe get out of these mosquitoes.”

I wasn’t exactly right.  The base of Little Monadnock was still about a mile away.  We walked along a brook on an old cart road.  There was a stone wall on one side.

“I like these woods,” I said, trying to brighten Ezra’s mood, “That brook is awesome!”

“Yeah, me too,” he said.

Then, a little while later,

“What the fuck, Josh?  We’ve been walking for miles and there is a  fucking house right there!” he pointed through the woods.

“Nah.  That’s not a house.”

“What the fuck is it then?”

“I don’t know.  Red leaves or something.”

“Fuck you red leaves.  That’s a fuckin’ house!  You see any other red leaves around here?”

“No, but I have seen some around, today.”

“Why do you always have to be such an asshole?”

“I don’t know.  I guess that’s just the way I am.”

We walked  a little further and sat down for a snack.  Ez had brought some yummy trail mix.  He took a photo of a mushroom that we both agreed we’d never seen before.  I got out the trail guide book.

“What’s it say?”

“We’re not far from the base of the first mountain.”

“Little Monadnock?”

“Yeah.  It says that we go to the top of that hill,”  I pointed up the hill behind me, “to a small pond where there are often ducks. Then a short walk down another jeep road and we turn onto the trail for Little Monadnock.”

“Ducks huh?  How far is that?”

“Ahhm, it says it’s 3.7 miles in.”

“Well that’s fuckin’ bullshit.  We’ve already walked farther than that.”

“You think?  I don’t know.  This is the official guide book for this trail.”

“Yeah, well, whoever wrote it is full of shit.  Or he’s just plain lying to us.”

We packed up our gear and started back up the trail.  Soon we came to the small pond, no ducks this morning, and the jeep road. We turned and began a slow walk up Little Monadnock.

The climb was pretty nice.  Gradual enough with occasional blueberries.  The air seemed dryer.  The sun even threatened shine through a couple small holes in the cloud cover.  As we reached the peak we heard voices approaching from the other side.  We set down our packs as a man and a woman, slightly older than either of us, came huffing and puffing up the rocks.”

“Good morning,” called the woman, “How are you?”

“We’re on a death mission,” Ezra said.

The man and woman looked a little surprised at his greeting.

“Hi,” I said, “We’re on our first backing trip.  I think our packs are a little too heavy.”

“Oh?” asked the man, “Where did you start?”

“About four and a half miles back in Richmond,” I said.

“Yeah.  More like six miles.  We’ve been carrying these things the whole way and it’s not easy let me tell ya.”

“I’ll bet,” the woman said.

We talked for a while and they were off.  We stayed for a mid morning snack then continued on.  The walk down the northern side of the mountain was a little hairy.  The man from the top had warned repeatedly that we be careful on the rocks.  There were large areas of wet bare stone with no route to go around.  We both slid on our feet for several feet on different occasions.  We both realized that this was serious.  If we hadn’t found some traction, we would have suffered a serious fall.

When we got down off the mountain and back into the woods, Ezra began chatting away,

“I’m never doing this again you know.  This is stupid!  Especially in the rain.  You’re not too smart you know.  It’s a good thing I came along or who knows what kind of stupid shit you would have gotten yourself into.”

“Thanks.  It’s not raining.”

“Well whatever.  Everything’s all fucking wet isn’t it?”


“Yeah.  Stupid.”

We walked for what seemed like a long time onto what eventually became a road leading to the center of Troy.  We had intended to have lunch in a little cafe there but it had gone out of business.  We walked into the market next store and asked the two teenage girls if there were any sandwiches to be had.  There weren’t.  I asked if there was a place nearby where we could sit down and eat.  There was.  A pizza place about a mile and a half out of our way and a Chinese restaurant about a mile out of our way.

“What do you want to do?”  I asked Ez.

“Chinese I guess.”

We walked across the common to the restaurant, dropped our packs in the coat room and settled in for lunch.  We each ordered a combination special.  I ordered a beer.

“I’ll have an SB”  Ezra told the waiter.

“An S. B. ?”

“Yeah!  A suffering bastard!”

The food was okay.  It was just nice to sit in a padded chair for a while.  The place was pretty slow.  An older couple who seemed to be out for a touristy ride in the Monadnock region, two women on a lunch date and us.  Ezra mostly complained about his drink being too strong.  I sipped my beer and noticed that the same poppy Chinese song was playing over and over.  I told Ezra that I didn’t think I could work in a place where the same song repeated all day.  He said he hadn’t noticed but made sure to tell the two Asian boys about it on the way out.

So, I’ve been kicking around this idea lately of Human intelligence.  It’s a topic that comes into my life from time to time.  Mostly, I’ve been pondering the ability of one Human to quantify the intelligence of another.  I’m not entirely sure that this is possible.  Basically, for me, it boils down to this:

Most people are of average intelligence.

Some people are far to the edge of the scale.

Either extremely intelligent or extremely not.

These extremities are rare and apparent.

Everyone else is not.

I think the judging of others is an interesting concept.  It somehow helps to give us a sense of self?  I don’t know.  I like to say that I know enough to know that I don’t know much.  I digress…

If you and I haven’t met before and then we do, we will begin to form opinions of each other, right?  I mean, there is the possibility, especially in the early stages, that we may get caught up on physical observations.  You may, for example, be distracted by my ample Neanderthal brow or abnormally large ears.  I, in turn, may be wondering, “pimple or cold sore?”.  These are things that can cloud communication – no?  But, let’s say that we are more evolved people and can get past that.  Let’s say that we are really communicating.  You know, listening, considering, observing, allowing this other person to truly interact with our being.

Well, I would say that I will mostly pick up on the things that I can relate to.  You know, things that are familiar to me.  I will go so far as to suggest that you will do the same.   You may well be displaying ideas, or paradigms even, that I have no frame of reference for.  It is quite possible, therefore, that I will be blind to your way.  It may be lost on me.  At best, I may sense that there is something about you that I cannot quite put my finger on.  I may find this intriguing or unsettling – I may want to learn more or I may want to put as much distance between the two of us as humanly possible.   You have heard of the concept of the parallel universe?  Well – parallel universe.  That is, an ethereal ocean of truth, life and knowledge existing in the same time and space as the universe I call home that is completely invisible to me.  Undetectable.  Or is it?

Perhaps you are presenting me with an opportunity to discover something within myself that I’ve yet to imagine.  Perhaps you are offering me a more complete understanding of this place we live in.  Perhaps, then, the choice is mine.  Do I openly accept you as a relevant part my universe (I heard it was Christ who suggested that, to understand the universe, you must first accept yourself as part of it)?  Or do I label you as separate?  Different.

Honestly, I do not understand how you can possibly be separate.  This is a concept that is completely lost on me.  Us and them.  I only see us.  Does this speak to my lack of intelligence?  I wonder.

Posted by: ushas | June 9, 2008

Whatever you do! Have fun doing it.

“I’m not taller than you are

You’re smaller than I am”

“It’s one of those defining questions. You have to decide. You are either a Beatles fan or an Elvis fan. Beatles fans can like Elvis and Elvis fans can like the Beatles but no one can like the two the same.”


What a perfect unofficial summer weekend. Sunny, windy, rainy and hot as hell. I got a bunch of shit done. Pretty happy about that. Picked up the yard some and got the old house trailer ready to go. Got together with my old friend, brother-in-law, business partner, room mate Dave and cleaned Kristen’s car for her. Went to my nephew Connor’s third birthday party along with attending one for his mom the night before. Cleaned and installed the air conditioners. Took Jack and the boys for a hike, along a brook, down to a river and had a little wade. Oversaw the leaving of the house trailer. And, to finish it off, a drink, a swim, and a barbecue at our friend Sarah’s house.

Really nice. Jack got a bunch of bug bites and maybe some sort of hives ( a little freaky ) on our hike today – but – a really great time over all.

As I prepare to head back to another work week, I find myself feeling thankful… Thankful for my life and family, Thankful for my time on this truly wondrous planet… and eager to see that which awaits me. Truly amazing times we are living in. Change is afoot.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to rebel against this idea of a dichotomy. I hope that is the correct word. The idea that there are two sides to every story, light and dark, right and wrong. I’ve always felt that it could not be that simple. In science class I learned that, theoretically, there is no such thing as cold – only the absence of heat. Plus, I thought, it’s not like the two sides of a coin, religious and not religious, but more like the many facets of a prism or gem, or the way light reflects across a water droplet.

I’m not sure that I’ve abandoned this ‘oneness’ of thought but, maybe, adopted more of an “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” attitude. I’ve decided, I think, for the time being, that if this Idea of a two sided universe is accurate, then everything that exists must be made up of both of these things in varying recipes. That is, I’m good but I have a bad side, there is truth in both versions of the tale, Sour Patch Kids are sweet and sour.

I guess what I am getting at is that, if a being of purely one side or the other exist, it sure as shit isn’t me. I like things all mixed up. I’m crazy like that.

I am declaring that Summer is officially unofficially here and I am inviting you, and you (you crazy kids!), to stop thinking about all this silly sort of shit and go outside and have some fun.

Keep smiling. Love ya.

Posted by: ushas | April 29, 2008


    Last weekend Kristen and I decided to try and ween our son Jack from his bottle. Looking back it was remarkably smooth but it didn’t seem it at the time (wo)man.

Saturday morning arrived with the sun and I decided to let mumma sleep in for a little. Normally Jack is pretty cool in the morning. He might fuss a little during his diaper change but then we’ll settle in to a groove with his morning milk, a little news and, his favorite television show, ‘I Spy’. This was not a normal morning.

In fact, I would say that Jack was freaking out during his diaper change. I tried to sooth him with ‘Shhhh buddy…Mumma’s trying to sleep’ but this had little to no effect on the squirming banshee on the table. After a bit I decided to try and make him laugh. I gave it a good go and his wail did take on a quality of laughter a couple times but still no use. Finally I had to laugh softly to myself at the absurdity of the situation, no one could possibly sleep through all this noise, I snaffled him up and whisked him off to the kitchen.

The trip through the next room did nothing to alter my little boy’s state of being. “Maybe he’s getting a new tooth or something – I hope his bottle will settle him.” Nope. The little guy swatted it away with a definitive, “No!” sniffed up some boogers and resumed crying at every exhale. “Hmm, maybe this is the day we try milk in a sippy cup.” I poured the milk from the bottle to the cup. Jack was sitting on my hip, occasionally slapping my face or attempting Mr. Potato Head with my ear or nose. I handed it right to him. He took it, put it to his mouth, tipped it back, took a couple decent pulls off it and then, just before I could breathe a sigh if relief, he threw it straight out in front of him on a slight downward angle. It flipped off the edge of the table on its way to the floor.

“Alright little boy…” I may have said aloud, “I’m going to put you down for a minute and make you some oatmeal with fruit and yogurt.” Some of his favorites. I’m not sure if this was the case on this particular morning but, sometimes I just lay him down on the floor if it seems he won’t stand so as to avoid him having a fall. He was having breakfast in his highchair and just beginning to wind down when Kristen emerged from bed.

“Dude Almighty!” she exclaimed to me or Jack – I’m not sure. These were the first words from her mouth. Dude Almighty. Who says that? I smiled and enjoyed the warm wave of love washing through me as she started water for coffee.

Dude Almighty…

River Rat Day 2008

Posted by: ushas | April 21, 2008


You know – I figure there must be a reason that I do what I do. Manage a cemetery I mean. I think that there is something I must learn from it. Not just one thing but a whole series of things that lead to a new understanding, revelation, way of being…

I don’t want to get carried away here. I feel this way about most things in life. Just – this cemetery thing – I know it is right there – in the mist – just outside my peripheral vision… I feel it sometimes. A ripple in my spine, the way certain words or phrases pop out of the din, a sudden move to tears.

I’ve had many learning experiences in my first five years in the cemetery. Carving graves into the Earth with my hands, caring for these burial grounds, listening, working, observing…

I buried my Grandmother, my father’s mother. I dug her grave alone. I was the only one left working at the cemetery when she died. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My last time alone with my Gram. I dug her grave right beside my Grandfather’s, exposing him to the air for a night. I worked to covered her over with my brother, and my cousins Dana, Eric and David. Carl went on to the reception. He is smart – that Carl. There was food there.

What I know today is that it is the people that matter. All of us. That life is precious and should be approached with reverence, tenderness and a smile. That any interaction among Human Beings should not be taken for granted. That each time is an opportunity. That everyone has something to offer. There are times for frolic and times for stillness. That this life is built on relationships.

I have buried people I will miss though I hardly Knew them. I have only known them from a few, brief encounters. Sometimes I can only just grasp an idea of them through interactions with their families. It saddens me, sometimes, to know that these people are now missing from the fabric of Humanity. Of course, they are not really missing. If I am thinking of them then you can bet that someone else is thinking of them too and they will not soon be forgotten.

I like how, in a moment of interaction, I can learn something about a person. I like the way people reveal themselves in different ways. I like to think that there is a true human to human honesty when conversing with a grave digger.

We’re all in this together. No one is more Human than another. I’m pullin for ya.

Posted by: ushas | February 21, 2008

What I did on President’s Day Weekend

President’s Day.

I honestly do not take enough time to reflect back on the great leaders who have brought our country to where it is today. Honestly I don’t.

What I did on President’s Day Weekend

President’s Day makes for a three day weekend for some folks and I am happy to be one of them. Thanks President’s! This President’s Day weekend was packed full of activity in our household.

Friday – had chimney fire

Saturday – went on a Valentine’s date with Kristen

Sunday – wept openly over the Daytona 500

Monday – well not much on Monday really. It rained.

Posted by: ushas | February 21, 2008

Chimney Fire Hey


Chimney Fire


It was a cool, star filled evening. Rapidly becoming cold even for a February night in New England. Kristen and I were plum tuckered out. Little Jack had been sick with a cold and fever. I gave Jack his bath and dinner while Kristen began preparing dinner for the two of us.

After putting Jack to bed, I went downstairs to feed the fire. I opened the stove door and decided the number and size wood pieces that would create just the right amount of heat, retrieved them from the pile and placed them in the fire. I shut off the lights and began walking up stairs.

“Did I just see something orange in my peripheral vision? No. Probably not. But – why would I think I did? I should probably take a look.”

When I walked back to check it out, I saw that it was coming from the partially ajar clean out door in the bottom of the chimney. “Hummn. That doesn’t seem right.” Upon closer inspection I realized that it definitely was not right. There was what looked like a small pile of coal burning on the other side of the door. Air was rushing through the small gap around the door super heating this little fire.

I walked up the stairs and through the kitchen out to the back yard. “No sparks coming out the top” I was happy to see. I went back inside and up to the attic. “Chimney’s not too hot up here.” So back to the basement.

“What should I do?”

“Chimney fires usually burn themselves out if the chimney is sound but I’m going to want to go to bed in a couple hours and I don’t think this will be over by then.” I didn’t want to alarm Kristen just yet so I sat and thought for a moment. I shut down the wood furnace. I tried holding the clean out door tightly closed for a few minutes in order to starve the fire of air. That didn’t work. I called my brother on my cell phone,


“Hi Trav”

“Hi Josh, how are you doing?”

“I’m not sure. What do you know about chimney fires ’cause I’m having one.”

“You are? Is it coming out the top?”

“No, it’s just burning in the bottom but it’s pretty hot.”

“Do you have a fire extinguisher?”


“Shoot it right up there. That should take care of it.”

“I’m going to do that right now. I’ll call you back.”

“Yeah. Let me know what happens.”

I went upstairs to get the fire extinguisher out of the closet. “Can you help me cut this acorn squash?” Kristen asked. “Sure” I said. She showed me how she wanted it sliced, I cut it, grabbed the extinguisher and went back down cellar – Kristen none the wiser.

When I got back down to the chimney I really did not want to open the door. “What’s going to happen when it has access to even more air?” I read the directions on the extinguisher – ‘remove pin’. The pin was broken off in the handle. “Aw, what the crap.” I found a pair of needle nosed pliers and pulled it out. ‘Stand back six feet, aim at bottom of fire, sway back and forth until fire is out.’ “This isn’t a water extinguisher is it?” I didn’t want to break the chimney with the sudden onslaught of cold water. “Nope. Chemical.” “Here goes…”

I opened the chimney door with a fire glove on. Man that little fire was hot! I shot the extinguisher up the chimney and then stepped back to concentrate on the fire. Through the white cloud coming out of the extinguisher I could see burning creosote coming out of the chimney and spreading around the cellar floor, “Jesus Christ!” I was thinking. I unloaded the extinguisher, shoveled the stray burning creosote into my ash bucket and saw that the fire was still burning. The cellar was filled with a chemical cloud. I shut the chimney door and opened the cellar windows – putting my face to the screen to get a breath. I had gotten a better look at the fire and thought that I could pick it up with my little ash shovel, put it in the ash bucket, carry it outside and toss it into a snow bank – good plan – no?

I gathered my tools and set to work. Damn, that fire was hot! The ash bucket was nearly full of ash and would not hold the entire fire, “I guess this is going to take two trips.” I closed the chimney back up and headed for the bulk head with the hot and smoking bucket. I unlatched the bulkhead door as fast as I could but when I tried to push it open it wouldn’t budge. That’s when I remembered the recent sleet storm we’d had. I slammed my shoulder up into it a couple times but it would not move. “This is like a bad dream” I thought. I decided to go through the house.

I hurried through the cellar, up the stairs and into the kitchen where Kristen, blissfully unaware, was cooking dinner. “Watch out. Watch out!” I told her as quietly as I could (Jack was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him) as I hurried past her and out the door – smoking bucket in hand.

“We’re having a chimney fire.” I told her when I returned. It doesn’t seem too bad. There is a little more burning still. I’m going down to get it and I’ll be back up with another bucket full.

“Should I open some windows?”


When I got back down to the chimney I was not happy with what I found. While shoveling the fire out I had broken the remaining creosote into much smaller pieces. With all this new surface area and the increasing wind outside, the fire had grown even hotter. I wasn’t sure that the metal bucket would hold it. I called my brother back.


“Hi Josh, is it out?”

“No. I emptied the extinguisher but it wouldn’t do it. I tried to shovel it out but I ended up breaking it up and now it is really hot.”

“Humm, You could try putting salt on it, can you get up on your roof?”

“Jesus Trav I don’t know. It’s all icy up there.”

“Well, if you’re that worried about it, maybe you should call the fire department.”

“Yeah, alright, I’m gonna do that. Talk to you later.”

I came upstairs and told Kristen that I was calling the fire department. She was opening windows. “Orange Fire Department” the voice on the other end of the phone said. I recognized her as my cousin Dana’s sister-in-law. “Hi. This is Joshua Knechtel calling. I am having a chimney fire and I can’t get it out.” “You can’t?...” she said, ribbing me, “we’ll be over with a fire truck.” “Thanks” I said and hung up the phone.

I put the dogs in their crates and turned on the outside lights. The chief was the first to arrive along with a couple of police officers. “Hi guys” I said walking across the driveway in my slippers. The chief was instructing the officers to shut down the road. “Hi Josh” they said.

I told the chief what had happened. “Have you seen any sparks coming out the top?” I told him I hadn’t and that I was quite sure the fire was contained to the very bottom. “Where is the chimney?” “Follow me” I said. He looked around anxiously, grabbed an extinguisher from his truck, and followed me into the house.

“Come on in” I told him. He said hi to Kristen and, as I stepped quietly down the cellar stairs, I told him that the baby was sleeping. “The baby’s sleeping?” he chuckled, “You’re about to have a whole bunch of people in here.” He looked around, asked if the wood furnace was shut down, pulled my ash shovel and bucket to the chimney, opened the door, shoveled the burning creosote out and that was it. He radioed some instructions to his people, asked if I’d checked the walls for heat and said they were going to put a ladder on the roof. When we came up from the cellar there were red and blue flashing lights everywhere and what seemed like a hundred people in my driveway. A ladder truck was being directed up to my house while the chief casually dumped the remainder of the fire in a nearby snowbank. Everything was thoroughly checked, I told my story to a couple fire fighters while we were waiting in the basement, we all had some good laughs. Kristen packed up some homemade peanut butter cup to be taken back to the station, everyone left, we settled down to eat our dinner and watch a movie. Jack slept through the whole thing.

Posted by: ushas | February 3, 2008


Time – the most precious commodity of all mortal beings. I’ve been sitting, snacking on taco salad and watching cars go by for a little while now while little Jack naps. The sun is warming my skin through the window. It’s quiet in the house.

What a luxury! Just wanted to share these few moments of complete peace.

Older Posts »