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Don't Play With Fire

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

My baby brother Bart and I were visiting our cousins for the entire weekend as we usually did throughout the summer. I was probably around the age of thirteen and Bart had to be seven years old. We spent every weekend at our cousins, "the Larrabee's", because they did things with us kids and there were many fun things to do together. There was never a dull moment!

In the summer, we'd all go horseback riding and join in the July 4th parade which at the time also had tons of events to attend in addition to the parade. In the winter, we'd all go snowmobiling all over the countryside of East Smithfield, Pennsylvania. Back then we always had at least 12 inches of snow on the ground if not more. Everyone had snowmobiles and you could ride on other people's property. There were trails everywhere. We often would all ride late at night and would end the ride with a hot drink at the small country store in town.

On this one particular Saturday, during the summer, I was watching from the big picture window as my cousin put my baby brother on one of the new ponies he had bought. As I observed, I saw the pony rear up and fall on Bart. It fell sideways onto him and then proceeded to roll over him. My cousin who was the adult stood there laughing and laughing. Not once did he check to see if Bart was injured in anyway. My cousin Harm loved to have kids do crazy things while he'd stand back and laugh. I then saw Harm proceed to put Bart back onto to that crazy pony. I ran out of the house as fast as I could. I was pretty worried and steamed! "Get my brother off that pony now!", I said. Harm just laughed and said, "He's fine." "No, I want him off now!" Harm helped Bart off and I made Bart come into the house.

At the dinner table my cousin, Harm, was still laughing about the matter and I wasn't. I said to him, "I don't think it's funny, Bart could've been seriously hurt." Harm wouldn't stop laughing and making light of it. And I was just getting more and more upset with him. I warned him verbally, "Stop laughing!", or "I'm going to pour this pitcher of milk over your head." He kept it up and wouldn't quit. I then grabbed the pitcher of milk with no thought of how Harm would react and poured the entire thing over his head. I thought he'd be really mad at me then but not so. He still sat there all wet from the milk and still kept laughing. My anger did not faze him!

Last summer, my cousin, Sue, whom was Harm's wife, was reminiscing about the event and said to me, "You were always very protective of Bart." I replied, "I sure was and let me tell why." When we lived along 220 outside of Towanda, Pennsylvania, one day Mom took a bunch of papers outside to burn in the burner barrel. Us four kids were right behind her and as she turned to go back inside, she said to us, "Stay away from that fire and don't be playing in it." And of course, as soon as the door to the house shut my oldest brother, David said, "Come on let's play in the fire." And we all joined in to play in the fire. We were all very young and not too bright.

Each of us grabbed the biggest piece of paper on fire we could find in the barrel and held onto it as it burned. I happened to look over at my baby brother, Bart, and he was holding a piece right next to his little pant leg. I said, "Bart, get that away from your pants!" I no sooner said it and he was in flames. My brother, David said, "Run and hide!" "Mom is going to be really mad at us!" We all followed him and hid behind a tree. I piped up and said, "David, we can't do nothing and just let our baby brother burn to death." David then ran over to Bart and lead him to do the door as he was on fire. He knocked several times real loud and ran. Mom immediately answered the door and rolled Bart onto the ground to put the fire out. Then she carried him in her arms up to the highway and someone gave her a lift to Towanda Memorial Hospital. Mom had no vehicle at home at the time.

Bart's one leg was burnt to the bone almost and the other leg was burnt from the thigh down to the knee. He was in the hospital for a full year, and they had to keep doing skin grafts on his leg. Even as he grew older in later years, he'd have to be hospitalized to get more skin grafts done. Why? Because if his leg got bumped it wouldn't heal and it was necessary to do more skin grafts on his leg.

That's why I was always so protective of Bart because I had let him down and I wasn't about to repeat that mistake. Sue then had a full understand after my explanation as to why I reacted as I did whenever Bart was put in danger.

We where never taught about the dangers of fire and what the consequences would be if we played with it. Nor where we taught what to do if one of us caught on fire. Make sure to teach your children about the dangers of fire early on when they are young.

Even though you teach them they may still be tempted to play with fire. When you tell kids not to do something that's when they are going to do it! Just seems to be the nature of kids.

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