I rented an older film entitled, “Quest for Fire” the other day, based on the two thumbs up review that some friends had given it. The film takes place in cave man times, at least a few million years ago. Raquel Welch wasn’t in this movie and no dinosaurs were walking around devouring people. The filmmaker tried to be less hokey and a little more authentic because the humans didn’t speak English and they had messy matted hair and dirty greasy faces.
The plot centers around fire. If your posse of peeps possessed a camp fire then you were keeping up with the Jones’s. Fire was like gold and other cavemen and women wanted to get their hands on it. This one particular group had their fire go out so they had to search the world over for fire and bring it back to their tribe.
Based on this film, I see how the fascination with fire must have started back in those rough times. At an early age, I was lured to the power of fire. I think most children have sometime in their life have experimented or been captivated by the essence of fire. I look back and believe that my interest was more of an addiction. A can of lighter fluid was my whiskey and a book of matches was my drug. I guess when your dad smoked, a book of matches wasn’t too hard to find.
My favorite thing to burn was plastic. The hot bubbling and dripping plastic, the smell and smoke was so intoxicating and beautiful at the same time. I specialized in burning army men. I didn’t give preferential treatment to the Americans over the German soldiers, I had no mercy for either one. I tended to pick the soldiers with the most useless poses or the ones that already had their heads put in the pencil sharpener. I would design a whole scenario and storyline that ended with a giant inferno.
Of course on of my favorite holidays was Independence Day, the 4th of July, firecracker day, smoke bomb day. Fireworks were legal in our county then and I would spend every penny I had to buy anything that sparked, smoked and exploded. I loved lighting them and anticipating the display of gunpowder igniting. Firecrackers destroyed every plastic I ever built. I think the reason I built them was to eventually blow them up. I couldn’t save my firework stash until the night of the 4th. I depleted my stockpile well before we set off our family box.
The fascination with all this fire lost its appeal on a hot summer day. While at a family visit with a relative, I wondered off to light a box of matches that I acquired. I snuck off around the side of the house and began lighting them one by one, I was getting my fix. All of the sudden, I heard voices in the front yard and I panicked. I threw the matches to the ground and walked around to the front. It was my uncle and his daughter ready to run an errand. We exchanged “hi’s” and I acted cool as ever. They got into their car and began to pull out of the driveway when my cousin yells out, “Daddy, something’s burnin!” I kept walking into the house like I didn’t hear those words.
Between her yelling and the smoke rising into the air, panic had reached the families in the house. Everybody came running out to see what all the excitement was about. Someone yelled to call the fire department. I meanwhile was still acting cool like an assassin who just shot the government dignitary.
I followed the crowd outside the house. I never felt so relieved when I saw my uncle put the fire out with a garden hose. The side of the house had a slight amount of smoke damage. A juniper bush had burned in the blaze and caused a short amount of high flames. After the fire was out, my uncle found the book of matches and like an investigator announced he had found the evidence. My brother gave me hell because he knew I did it, but I denied all accusation of the crime.
The incident seemed like it was soon forgotten by most of the families and they resumed their get together. I didn’t soon forget it, I felt sick and ashamed of my pyromania. Fire was never the same after that day. I still flirted with it now and then but the days of torching all my toys and endlessly lighting matches was over. My personal quest for fire was satisfied and it was time to find a new and dangerous things to do, like chemical reactions.