In Which I Learn about Fire and Hubris

Last weekend I took my lovely wife, our nieces, age 15 and 9, and nephew, 11, camping in the Catskills. (“Camping,” in this instance, meaning “backing the car up to a spot, complete with fire pit and picnic table, that was reserved online and setting up the tent about ten feet away.”)

After having the kids help out with setting up the tent, and feeling quite uncle-like in the process, it was time to get the fire started.

As I knelt down at the fire pit, I thought to myself, “Hold on, my oldest niece is in a New York Public High School, surely she’s got some experience with starting fires. And, by asking her to start ours I can get some serious ‘I trust you and think you’re capable’ points and then, when it doesn’t start, I’ll get a generous heap of ‘I am a wilderness master Eagle Scout’ points.’ Win win.”

So I asked my niece if she knew how to start a fire and if she’d like to put that knowledge to use. I busied myself with other tasks while she went about her business, though from the corner of my eye I thought I could see a great deal of paper being tossed in along with a suspiciously large amount of wood.

She called us over when it was ready for a match. I was delighted. The pit was filled with a solid foot and a half of variously sized wood haphazardly stacked. Clumps of ripped up paper bags were randomly distributed through the mess. It looked as if a very large, very drunk, bird had quickly tried to build a nest. In the dark.

As she got ready to light it, I offered, “You know, in the Boy Scouts we’d only get one match to start a fire…” and readied my most humble “oh well, I guess I’ve got to step in” expression for when nothing happened.

You know where this is going.

Damn thing went up like a Roman candle. Serves me right.

In Which I Learn about Fire and Hubris