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The Fire (standard:non fiction, 1048 words)
Author: SarahAdded: Apr 02 2001Views/Reads: 2400/1270Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The vivid and painful recollections of my mother as she tells of the fire that destroyed her home when she was a child of eight.


The eight-year-old child stood staring at the smoldering remains of
what, till an hour ago, had been her family home as she pushed the toe 
of her laced, high-top, black shoe into the ashes at her feet.  Cinders 
and small pieces of wood were still burning but all that really 
remained of their beautiful, two-story home was the chimney.   The year 
was 1921. 

She looked up as her brother, two years older, approached her and held
out his hand. "Here, Annie, I found this," he said solemnly.  Silently 
she raised her head and reached to take his offering, her face streaked 
from the sooty tears that had fallen from her large grey-green eyes. 

In his hand was the porcelain head of the doll she had received for
Christmas a few months earlier.  The hair was gone and the eyes had 
melted.  The doll had been so beautiful, her clothing so elaborate, the 
child had kept her on a shelf in the parlor next to the piano taking 
her down for a few minutes each day to touch the golden hair and feel 
the silky texture of her gown before returning her to the safety of the 

Moments later, her tall handsome father, clothes torn and dirty and
smelling of smoke, gathered her up in his strong, soot-covered arms and 
carried her to the buggy.  Her pain was so great and the ache so deep, 
she could not give expression to the thoughts that were screaming in 
her brain.  "It can't be gone.  My house just can't be gone.  I've got 
to go back inside.  Just one more time." 

Instead, she leaned against her father's side, his arm protectively
gathering her close, the now deformed doll's head clasped tightly in 
her hand as her father drove the buggy holding his family -- wife, son, 
and daughter -- and all their worldly possessions down the road to the 
neighbor's farm where they would spend the night. 

* * * * * 

My dad had hired Mr. Askew, a house builder, to build our house.  It's
the first house I remember.  I think I was born there. 

It was a large two-story house with three bedrooms and a hall upstairs. 
Downstairs, front to back, was a parlor, dining room, and kitchen with 
a pantry.  Off to the side of the kitchen was a small porch.  Across 
from the parlor and dining room was the living room.  A porch ran 
across the front of the house and around the living room side.  The 
front door opened into the parlor. On the side porch another door 
opened into the living room.  The door to the upstairs was also in the 
living room. 

A fireplace was built into the wall separating the parlor from the
living room.  On the living room side, a pipe from the heater stove 
used the same flue.  When we used the heater, we closed off the 
fireplace opening in the parlor with a piece of building board so the 
heat wouldn't go up the chimney. 

Before he left the house the morning of the fire, my dad put ashes on
the coals in the heater stove to keep them from going completely out.  
This was called "banking the fire" and was a common thing to do so that 
it would be easy to get a fire going again later.  My stepmother had 
put some papers in the fireplace the day before when she cleaned up the 
parlor.  Then she replaced the board against the opening.  When my dad 
banked the fire, we think a spark must have flown up the chimney and 
landed back down in the fireplace where the papers had been placed.  
The board was covered with paper so it would burn easily too. 

We know the fire started in the parlor. 

My brother and I and my stepmother had left for school in our buggy
pulled by our horse, Daisy, as usual that morning.  My stepmother was 
the teacher.  My dad had gone down to our "bottom" field with some wire 
stretchers.  He was going to stretch wire on a fence he was erecting 
and had slung the heavy wire stretchers across his back . 

When he got about half-way down to the bottom field--at least a half
mile away--he turned around and saw heavy dark smoke coming from the 

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