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Monday, October 24, 2016

BURNING LEAVES

BURNING LEAVES
This cranky re-run is from November 2013
In the good old days, back when air pollution wasn’t a concern, when global warming was not yet conceived of, and playing with fire was a childhood rite of passage, the Fall meant burning leaves.

We did not have leaf blowers which would have been fun.  We had rakes, and for manpower, dad had sons. My brothers and I were responsible for the leaf raking.  It was a lot of work, but we didn’t mind because we also got to burn them.

We did not recycle the leaves.  We did not bag them (the biggest pain in the ass known to man) we dragged them to the street and set them on fire. 

Ahh how I loved the sweet smell of burning, smoldering leaves in the Fall.  The leaf burning ritual made the hard work of raking and sweeping a chore we almost enjoyed.

There were some drawbacks to the leaf burning.  One fall weekend after a rainstorm, the leaves did not want to burn.  I suppose we could have waited a few days for them to dry out, but my oldest brother, Jim, was too resourceful for that. 

A little lawnmower gas might ignite those leaves. If a little gas might ignite those wet leaves, a lot of gas for sure would get the job done.  To be absolutely positive the leaves would burn, Jim added the whole  gallon jug into, around, and on top of a huge pile of wet leaves.

My brother was no dope; he knew putting a match to gasoline might be a little dangerous.  Jim positioned me ten yards away as he moved just several paces back from the leaves.  With one flick he drove a match against the match pack abrasive strip and sent that tiny flaming torch toward the gasoline soaked pile of leaves. 

The flaming match never reached the leaves.  My brother, a future physicist, failed to take gas fumes into account.  The fumes from a gallon of gas soaked into wet leaves apparently reached a tiny bit less than several paces.  The resulting explosion was instant.  It knocked Jim onto his back and slightly singed his eyebrows.

Damn that was cool! 

Stupid, but cool! 

Several years later our town put a halt to the Fall leaf burning ritual, and most towns in the state followed.  The leaf burning ban wasn’t from an air pollution issue, or global warming concerns; no, it was a safety issue.  Almost everyone waited for the weekend to burn the leaves, and a large bonfire in front of every quarter acre lot on the street created a visibility problem.  It took several car accidents from vehicles traveling blindly through smoke at about three miles an hour and a small child almost being run over to convince our town’s leaders that the sweet smell of burning leaves and the convenience of no bagging was not worth the residents safety.

The lawmakers were right of course, and the new ritual of leaf bagging and recycling is a good thing.  Still I miss those days of innocence when we did not worry about polluting our lungs, heating our planet or blowing ourselves up. 

I miss the old leaf disposal ritual.

It doesn’t quite seem like Fall without the smell of burning leaves.

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20 comments:

  1. My brother and I thought making thick smoke was cool.
    We had seven large oak trees in our yard.
    So we had lots of leaves.
    Once we got the fire lit, we'd pile on more leaves and get huge ...yeah, huge!!! ...clouds of white smoke that made great smoke signals.

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    1. Seven oak trees? SEVEN?? I wish I had enough space for just one. My favourite tree.

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  2. With my new account at work, I type reports from a burn unit. I shuddered when I read your accounting of burning leaves as I've typed a few reports of similar instances when things have gone "bad" and major injuries/burns have occurred. I do remember driving by places and seeing a fire and seeing leaves being burnt. When we lived in Montana, you could rake your leaves into a pile on the street right by your house. The city collected them one time for you; you just had to make sure your leaves were ready when they came by to collect them, no second chances.

    Now here in Phoenix, no leaf changing or raking I would imagine.

    betty

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  3. I miss the smell of burning leaves too. My dad had a burn barrel and he burned all the leaves and all of our trash. I remember we had certain days we could burn and certain days we couldn't. I'd totally forgotten about burning leaves. My neighbors always had burning leaves. Thanks for the memories, Joe. :)

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  4. I remember the old style push mowers, not petrol or electric, just a handle, two wheels and a set of revolving blades. We'd pile up the leaves and run the mower through them until they were just tiny little bits, then spread them around again as mulch to rot back into the soil and feed the grass for the next season. Mum's idea, not ours, but it seemed to work and a few other families did the same.

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    Replies
    1. I did that with an attachment on my rotorary mower, worked just as you say.

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  5. Oooer, having been a victim of fire I too shuddered when I read this post, yet I can still imagine the fun kids had.

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  6. yeah, it was a childhood pleasure.

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  7. It does smell wonderful, and it would be nice to occasionally throw a few onto the fireplace for old time's sake.

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  8. Sometimes, out in the country, the smell of burning leaves drifts in the open car window. Lovely.

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  9. I agree, bagging leaves is a royal pain. I would load mine (unbagged) into a truck, drive out into the countryside, and dump them. As they were organic it didn't seem like littering. That's my story, and I'm stickin' with it. ;)

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  10. It is kind of amazing that so many of us survived our childhoods. Where I grew up, every house had a big metal barrel in the backyard where the week's garbage was burned on Saturday mornings. That did not result in a smell anyone could be nostalgic about though.

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    1. We had them in the LA area, we called them incinerators. I remember throwing stuff in it, i don't really remember how it worked, may have been gas? Don't remember it smelling bad, I do remember LA had a big smog problem and the incinerators were a big part of the problem.

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    2. I was born & raised (& still live) in Los Angeles & I remember incinerators. They stunk!!

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  11. It was a lovely tradition...nothing says autumn like the smell of burning leaves.

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  12. We never burned the leaves. We didn't rake them either. They just were there until they weren't. We lived on a farm, so we had other more important chores to do. We did have burn piles though. Those were fun too.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  13. Loved and miss the smell of burning leaves. Now days it is lawnmower exhaust as I mulch them to bits.

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  14. We were allowed to burn leaves the first few years we lived in Oregon in the early 80s but then it was outlawed. I loved the smell of burning leaves.

    Thanks for the shout- out for my give-away. I really appreciate it.

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  15. Whoa...sounds like I missed out!!! Living in southern CA my entire life, leaves were not much of an issue. Or maybe it was just my street. We didn't have too many trees around, or at least not the kind that dropped many leaves.

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