Everybody knows that young boys and matches don't mix. That is everybody knows except the young boys. This is the story of one of those times which proves this saying right.
I've considered the ramifications of using our correct names in this story and have decided to do so because of several factors the first being that this happened in the mid 1960's and surely the statute of limitations has run out. Another reason for using the correct names is that all of the evidence of this escapade must, by now, be long gone. The last reason is that finally, at age 51, I have learned to own up to my mistakes. Given these three factors, here goes.
This takes place during spring break of the year 1967 so we were about thirteen or fourteen years old. The culprits in this story are George and Tony. Because George is nine months older than me I am going to claim that the whole thing is his fault. Besides he is not writing this and I am so that's the way I'm telling it.
As boys are we were somewhat adventurous. Living on Oakwood Avenue east of Maysville Road, we were always fascinated by the mountains and the opportunities for adventure that they presented.
Over the winter we had traveled up the creek that begins at the end of Oakwood Avenue where it used to dead end at the bottom of Montesano Mountain. Just before you get to Buzzard's Roost we came across some large rock outcroppings that we decided would make a good fort. We began to chop down small trees in the immediate area in order to span the gap between two large rock outcroppings forming a roof of sorts over the depression between these rocks. This sounds simple until you consider that our only tool for chopping was an old dull machete. Needless to say this took a while. After the trees were in place forming a frame for the roof, they were covered with small limbs that we had cut off of the trees thus covering our fort completely. There was even a small nook where the rocks came together that was to be our fire pit. This fire pit is otherwise known by the phrase "a disaster waiting too happen." Now we had our fort completed and ready to fend off any invasion or attack by the Indians (oops-Native Americans).
By this time Spring Break was approaching and it afforded the perfect opportunity for us to spend a night in our fort. George and I trudged up the mountain with all of our gear which consisted of a few cans of Beanie Weenies, sleeping gear and a couple of bottles of water. We were young and stupid but not stupid enough to drink the water out of that creek. It is important to note here that George's sleeping gear consisted of a nice mummy style sleeping bag while mine was an old army blanket. I discovered that they must have passed these out to soldiers as an illusion of staying warm. Neither one of us considered how cold the nights still get in March but we found out. Oh well, planning was never our strong suit.
Now we have all of the necessary ingredients for a good time. There is a fort, two stupid kids ill prepared for a cold spring night and don't forget the matches. As night fell we started a small fire in the fire pit and talked. Anyone that has ever spent a night in the woods knows how magical and exciting the quiet night can be. "George, did you here that noise?" "Naw, I didn't hear anything." "Well I did and I think it must be a bear!" "Tony, you idiot, there aren't any bears on this mountain." At that moment I didn't care what he said, I heard a bear. And so it went the rest of the night. It sure is strange how sounds that are perfectly normal during the day are awful menacing at night.
Since we had known each other for so long, we had heard each others stories many times before and with no television to watch we soon became bored. We put out the fire, you can't be too careful, and got in our sleeping gear and went to sleep.
At some point during the middle of the night I awoke. Boy, it was cold to the point that I was shivering. I lay there trying to ignore the cold and gaining a newfound respect for soldiers that had suffered through nights like this wrapped in these stupid blankets. Finally I woke George up and tried to get him to share his sleeping bag. For some reason, that I can't grasp, he was not very sympathetic to the situation I was in. This is why the following events are George's fault.
He left me with no other option. It was either freeze to death or start a fire, so I started a fire. Anyone that has ever been really cold knows how hard it is to warm up. The little fire I started with just wasn't cutting it. No problem, we have more wood just make the fire bigger, I thought to myself. I made it bigger alright. Bigger to the point that it caught the branches we were using for a roof alight. It sure is funny how quickly George woke up with a fire blazing away just three feet above his head. Nope, our fort was not destroyed by an invasion or by savage Indians, but by George's unwillingness to share his stupid sleeping bag! I told you it was his fault.
The only thing that kept the whole mountain from catching on fire was the fact that we had cut down all of the trees in the immediate vicinity to use for the roof of the fort. Now we were scrambling around trying to put out the fire. The creek that we followed when coming up the mountain was only about fifty yards down the hill from us but all we had to carry water in was an empty Beanie Weenie can. So down the hill we would run just to bring back about ten ounces of water to throw on the fire. Finally, after a lot of huffing and puffing, we managed to extinguish the fire. More accurately, the fire went out because it ran out of wood to burn. If anyone down in the valley had been looking up at the mountain that night they must have wondered what the bright light up at Buzzard's Roost was.
There we sat with several hours before the sun would come up and our fort smoldering in the background. At least I was no longer cold. There were only two things to do, wait for daylight so we could go home and blame each other for the fiasco. Never did we consider how close we came to setting Monte Sano ablaze.
Yeah George, it was your fault!!!
Such are the makings of friendships and memories….