Where There’s Smoke, Soon There Is Fire

Years ago when I was a button, as the old timers called all youngins under the age of 15, we would neighbor up and help our adjoining ranchers work their cattle .No money ever traded hands, just help traded for help. The company was always great and the horsemanship and roping was outstanding.

Now this particular day we were at Big Joe’s across the mighty Red River near Quanah,Texas. I had asked to be in the branding pen that morning and was told I was too little and not stout enough to flank the yearlings. “You stay with Joe and help him.” So my pride hurting a little and sort of pouting I set out to help Joe. But all we would do is watch and shout out advice…well at least he did.

When it got close to dinner (or lunch as some folks call it), someone hollered and said me and Big Joe should go to town and get  hamburgers and fries for everyone. Finally a little action! We unhooked Big Joe’s nearly brand new trailor as he called it. Truth was, it did have one nearly brand new tire, but and the rest was vintage scrap from WWI, made of them old landing mats. Joe was also driving a nearly somewhat used ’52 Ford Pickup thatshifted on the column. When I went to get in my side door, which was secured by bailing wire, I noticed that the floorboard was missing. I ask Joe what happened and he told me, “Son, it’s a heater in the winter and a good place to spit in the summer.”

Now that ole rig of Joe’s just barely would climb them ole sandhills and man did it smoke and spit and sputter! Joe rolled his own cigarettes and when one went out he was busy rolling another. When we finally reached the blacktop, that’s when I noticed that all them ashes Big Joe was flicking out the winder was landing in the back amongst all them feed sacks Joe had been saving since 1902. They were as dry as pitchy kindling and all they needed was a little more wind.

Well we were at top speed now, 27 mph, and spontaneous combustion had taken place!

I hollered at Joe, “Say Joe you’re truck sure is smoking.”

He casually replied, “It does use a little oil but it always starts.”

“No sir, it really is smoking!”

Well wind, dry paper and ashes go real well together and by the time we crossed the railroad tracks at the edge of Quanah we were fully engulged with fire in the back of that ole Ford. I hollered at Joe, “Sir, we are on fire and I mean real fire not just smoke!”  Joe just coughed and lit another one.

As I was frantically trying to decide what to do, since Joe obviously was not grasping the severity of the situation he veered off the road and pulled into the fire station, right up to the doors. Sweating, and a little out of breath I turned and looked at Joe. He just chuckled and said, “I bet this is the first time someone ever brought the fire right to them!”

Fire out and burgers bought we headed back to the branding pens. When we got back, one of them old timers said,” Well Joe, I know what took so long- you finally stopped and cleaned the back of your Ford out!”

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