“Dog’s Tail Told Tanka” Tanka 2196


(December 13, 2018)

Once she dragged me near

jaw-to-wrist to the near woods

to put out a fire

moss-smoke and palmetto fronds

with just-yellow tongues showing*

*(The culprit sat nearby fascinated by the flame he grew. I yanked his arm – rudely I must say – and drug him back to the street – Holly I think – and raced across half of Maple to the two-story place we lived for a while upstairs while our home was being built. There was an old saucepan – a big one – out by the back-of-the-house where a faucet served to fill Winkie’s outdoor drinking needs. Took me three or five trips hurriedly sloshing water across my shorts and shoes to put out the fire. Later my two brothers got whipped for participating with other neighborhood kids in building an alleyway fire out of moss and dried palmetto fronds. Now, I like illicit fire in the woods as much as the next kid, but I never did anything with a fire in the woods or elsewhere which involved play – just cooking a killed quail or such, like the one Ronnie Risner beaned with an old darkened-by-overuse baseball out behind The Register’s portion of our dwindling blueberry and blackberry woods all-to-soon giving way to more houses and such. So it was no surprise to me that when I left active duty Marine Corps and returned to Sanford to finish that Sophomore year of college and lived in Lake Mary on a lake I inherited a dog, Heidi, a massive Saint Barnyard, and joined The Lake Mary Volunteer Fire Department as a hoseman and a junior engineer…because, after all, what young male is not a pyromaniac at heart, with or without a cave, with or without a dog? Just instead of setting fires in alleyways using moss and palmetto fronds I got my kicks walking into burning places – the Old Stucky’s (roadside gas-n-groceries store) out by State Road 46 near Interstate Four, or between two houses burning bright and roiling dark smoke in Midway where the corrupt Water District and the corrupter Ginderville Volunteer Fire Department was supposed to be on the lookout and we came barreling through Sanford on 25th Street (State Highway 46) with two women volunteers using their cars to block the North-South main artery roads and The Major, Margie Hess, and me driving in the pitiful old pumper with the biggest water tank and only a 60-gallon-per-minute capacity pump while we awaited the available other male volunteers to come help this 2 p.m. conflagration which threatened the Black community’s modest – okay less than modest – nondescript shacks in that part of town. It was a gas at Stucky’s sneaking to the night watchman’s cot in the middle of the store with black-n-orange nasty rolling flames working through the fiberglass insulation overhead. Nope, the watch was not asleep on his cot. We took turns, three or four of us, breathing good clean air just off the fire hose’s fog-nozzle as we crawled in and out and when we came to the door whose window I cut myself on the right forearm breaking so we could unlock the deadbolt, there were Longwood and Seminole County Fire Departments’ men wearing Scott Airpacks, helmets with face shields and all the latest gear standing ’round to greet us in our soot-blackened faces under our firemen’s helmets. Winkie would have loved it as she washed off the soot. Tiger, too.)

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