Occasionally I had thought that I remembered Ken muttering something about burning the pile one of the times that I had tried to engage him in the discussion of removing it as a cleanup component of the construction project.
Time had gone by. The pile had become even uglier and even browner. I wanted to get rid of it more with every passing day. Joe and I talked about the idea of burning the pile. Joe, even when he had been only ten or eleven years old had always had a mechanic’s or engineer’s sense about him; when Mysti and I had bought things requiring assembly we always had Joe put them together and he was always able to do it and do it quickly and correctly, and always with only one try. So by the time of the great brown pile on the lakeshore I had come to depend heavily upon Joe’s opinion of the practicality of the various physical or mechanical tasks that seemed to always be dogging me. He thought that we could probably burn the pile without setting the house on fire or starting a forest fire; but he did concur that it would be an awfully large fire and one which, once underway, would go until it had run out of pile and before, hopefully it had raised anything surrounding it to kindling temperature. In spite of the ambivalence of that opinion I had opted to do it.
One cold, recently wet, and not at all windy Saturday in late April we doused the pile with some gasoline from the chainsaw’s fuel can, threw in some matches and stood back in wonder as the thing took off. We must have experienced a feeling similar to that experienced by the scientists who had watched the first nuclear explosion at Los Alamos. Once it was under way there was no way to stop it and where it went other than the pile if it went anywhere other than the pile was obviously going to be completely beyond our control. Those scientists, like Joe and me, had all the theoretic proof they had needed that the bomb wouldn’t start an unstoppable chain reaction, but they weren’t to know for sure until they had set the thing off. I knew that feeling the day of the great Lake Champetra bonfire.
As it turned out the pile was, for a number of hours a spectacular event on our shoreline but it finally went out having reduced the pile to nothing but a little ash. Nothing ever grew within several feet of the epicenter of the blaze.