Summers in Minnesota were hot and muggy --he humidity often meeting or beating the temperature.
The most common escape from the drenching heat was to head to the lakes --t was the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," so such watering holes were easy to find.
During one particular summer, I was a reckless teenager when my family vacationed at a friend's cabin near Thief River Falls in northern Minnesota. Despite it's proximity to the Canadian border, it was still unbelievably hot; the damp air clung to our skin like a wet blanket.
In between dips in the lake and rides on the boat, my brother and I played with fireworks. We threw cherry bombs in the lake and watch them explode underwater. We launched bottle rockets over the neighboring cabins. We even lit and threw firecrackers at each other -- typical brother stuff.
Late one afternoon, the adults were gabbing around the barbecue, my brother had found some frog to keep him occupied and I was left alone -- bored, with a fist full of firecrackers.
Near the lake I noticed the charred remains of a birch tree that had been struck by lightning. The six-foot high skeleton seemed to be the best target for my last pack of Black Cats.
Unnoticed, I snuck over to the tree, stuffed the explosives into the trunk, lit the fuse and ran like the dickens.
BAM!! The firecrackers exploded, one right after the other. It was a satisfying sound.
Later that night, my dad's friend, Jack -- the owner of the cabin -- noticed a light flickering near the lake. Upon inspection, we discovered that the trunk was burning from the inside out.
I panicked, dying inside waiting for the punishment that was sure to come.
Luckily for me, it was northern Minnesota, and the fire was contained to just the tree. Also luckily, Jack said he'd been trying to figure out what to do with that stump ever since it had been struck.
That moral of the story is that this isn't northern Minnesota. That one act of stupidity, had it played out in central Arizona, could have sparked a blaze the size of the Rodeo-Chediski fire.
There are times when the cliche "boys will be boys" is sufficient to excuse a foolish act of youth. But after last week's firecraker-caused blaze within town limits, it's time for parents to have a serious talk with their children. They must understand that one firecraker in a dry forest can be as lethal as a bomb.
For information to help talk with your children about the dangers of fire, contact the Payson Fire Department at (928) 474-5242. ext. 3.