Thousands of events have been lived, studied, and evaluated upstairs in the old noggin. One reoccurring study that’s been with me since I was a kid is the discussion between heaven and hell. I learned that the two future homes are the result of our actions in life. If I understand the result correctly, I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s either one or the other.
For the longest time, I tried to over-think heaven and hell. I have complicated them, tried to critique them, and attempted to justify and modify them. There is no doubt in my mind that the two “worlds” exist in our after-life. In order for me to relieve my heavy thought towards this matter, I have to keep it simple. The only way I knew how to do this during my youthful years, was to live heaven and hell on Earth. I had to recognize both in my life and we live each one of them daily. It’s all a matter of perception.
Heaven on Earth:
I grew up in a wonderful home. My parents were both fantastic, kind-loving role models. Our home was on the west side of town and backed up to the old high school athletic field complex. The layout for the games consisted of football, baseball, softball, and a track and field setup. Buildings for restrooms, concession stands, equipment storage, and tennis courts scattered about. On the land were bleachers, light posts for night ball, a drinking fountain, and a grassy parking lot. Homes backed up the athletic field on 3 sides at the perimeter, and there was a playground for young kids on the south end. There were 3 press boxes; one for baseball and the other two for football. One of the press boxes sat high wrapping 360 degrees around a wooden light post. It served as a lookout much like a large sailing vessel had in centuries long ago. The circular press box high and abandoned now, was to become a favorite target of mine catapulted from Louisville Sluggers from a distance.
There was an era when this complex was the weekend hangout for an entire town to come cheer their local boys on. That time had passed the year before we moved here. A new high school was built a mile west in the country. I had free and uninhibited reign of the fabulously old athletic field. I couldn’t have dreamed for a better place to grow up. This wasn’t always a good thing for an adventurer to have at his disposal. My father used to go ballistic at the mischief I would get in to.
I had many hiding places for special items I needed for creating a little fun in life. One of those hiding places was in the light switch terminals attached to various light posts. No longer applicable, locks were cut off by a borrowed hack saw from a father’s garage, and the containers could secure many cool items. One of those “toys” was my fireworks.
After many pick-up games of baseball, the neighborhood boys went home for lunch. This upset me as I never understood how food could ever be a priority over another game of ball playing. I could play ball from sun up until sundown and it never mattered to me who played. I only cared that there were people to play and I was all in for the action. This summer day, the only kids left on the athletic field were me and a neighbor. “I know what we can do but you have to promise me you’ll never show anybody this,” I said to my buddy. I opened the hinged box and confiscated my firecracker stash. A couple of books of matches sat next to the powdered packs of mini grenades and we were in action. We took my fireworks and climbed to the top of the football bleachers. Alone and in packs, we dropped and rifled off air bombs exploding in the warm summer’s breeze.
Hell on Earth:
Occasionally, a pack of firecrackers possess a rapidly burning short set of fuses. You only have a second to react before they explode in your hands. You have to be alert when this happens, and you need to separate the distance from your hand and the explosion very quickly. This day, I had one of those unruly mini sets of dynamite. Dropping them through the wooden bleachers before my hand was in harm’s way, a pack of 32 fell lit to the tall brush below where a lawn mower couldn’t get to. There was no rhythm of “crack-crack-crack-crack…” The grouping of explosives was duds! The string fizzled and hissed and the outer papers burned in a small little fire. “That was a close one, huh,” I said to my friend. We carried on and lit more.
Soon we noticed smoke rising from below us. We looked through the gap in the stands and saw flames rising towards our feet. “Whoa. This is not good,” and I jumped over the top railing to the burning ground below. We both stood there, in shock and disbelief, watching the tall brush that had now ignited. A part of me was laughing and in awe, and another portion of me said, “Oh crap. My dad hates it when stuff like this happens to me!” We were in big trouble and had to do something quickly. I’m not sure how much time elapsed between admiring our unplanned artwork and acting. It seemed like forever but was probably more like 1-2 minutes.
I sprinted across the track and through the chain link hole in the border fence, to our garden hose about 120 feet away. It wasn’t far at all and I turned the hose on full blast, threading it through the link in a direct course towards the bleacher field fire. Bolting back through the fence and stretching the water hose, it became taught but far short of the brush blaze. Improvising was the next step. We rushed over to my back porch and grabbed empty containers my mom had lying around. Filling them with water, we carted them to douse the flames.
During our scurrying about, a corner section of the bleachers had now caught on fire also. “Oh God Oh God Oh God….please-please don’t let one of these old neighbor ladies see this and call 911.” This situation just elevated to another level. “Hail Mary, I’m full of fire, the Lord is with thee, pray for Charlie sinner, give me a hurricane immediately!” My dad will go insanely crazy if the fire department has to respond to this. I didn’t care so much that there was a fire. What I cared about more was that I didn’t want to sit through another table dinner hearing about how I can mess up a one car parade. “Please don’t burn, please don’t burn!” The open field winds spread the flames and the dry summer brush fueled the fire. We were not containing this. I ran back to my house and grabbed a Coleman water cooler. Filling it up from the water hose on the running track, the cooler had a tap at the bottom which could be used as a make-shift fire hose. This helped but wasn’t the key to ending this fire.
Heaven on Earth Again:
The winds that helped to spread the blaze also assisted us in finishing it. As the tips of the dry grasses reached for the wooden bleachers, the windy forces blew out the candle tips with a “whoosh”. The fire had no where else to go and only the splinters and corner of the wooden bleacher tips had caught fire. There wasn’t enough fuel necessary to engulf a large wooden butt plank into a “conflagration” behind my house. We watered, trampled, and stomped the embers with our baseball cleats. The remaining burning brush was sliced down by numerous swings of a baseball bat.
For one afternoon day in a life, a little boy lived both heaven and hell from his perspective. There were plenty more days like this to come in the future. It’s difficult for me to explain how and why I find unusual events like this fascinating. I didn’t ask for them. They just happened regularly. I wish I had an answer on how I can stare catastrophe in the eye and realize both humor and fear in a single bizarre event. There is a momentary disbelief that sets in my being that recognizes a situation that few will ever experience. Possibly my mind has a need to record such experiences for a short time frame. Maybe I am amazed by the fact it’s happening again to me. “Why me,” will be asked 10,000 times in the future. Ten thousand times “fox hole” prayers will be plead. “Oh God-Oh God, I’ll never do this again” … or … “I promise not to pull single hairs anymore from the girl’s head sitting in front of me at church,” will be prayed 10,000 times in the heat of the moment.
A few weeks later on a vacation trip to the Lake of the Ozarks, newer and bigger fireworks would be purchased. They would be hidden between baseball shirts and basketball shorts. The little grenades called “M-80″s that packed more of a punch would be taped to the end of arrows that would be launched from a bow. The fireworks would be used to lure local police into exciting foot chases through neighborhood back yards on a boring Saturday evening. Heaven and Hell on Earth would be lived again yet another day.
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