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Unusual ways to ‘warm’ a home

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When I tell you of life in my yesterdays I cannot fail to tell you of the careless things I have done, and, on occasion, have even endangered lives through my carelessness. This is just a few of the things I have done in the almost 81 years I have lived.

Cleaning the Garage

The television announcer reported two ladies had been burned by a trash fire. I thought back to a stupid thing I did long ago.

My husband was at work so I took my son, John, and we decided to clean the back of the garage in the back yard. It had grown up and there were bricks stacked against the garage. We raked and raked.

Each time I seemed to rake out a little snake. I never knew if they were grass snakes or rattlers. I just flew away until they crawled off. I had the idea that if we burned the grass it would take care of the snakes and make the raking easier.

I instructed my son to pour gasoline from the two gallon tank generously over the whole mess, right up to the garage and even up to where we stood. It was probably an area of twenty feet by thirty feet.

I struck a match and threw it over in the middle of the area. The whole thing did not just catch fire, it exploded and the fire was on us in a split second. It was a roaring inferno before we could do a thing.

Away from the Blaze

We were able to run back from the fire before we caught on fire. It scared me to death, and to think I had endangered my son, too. I knew that gasoline was combustible but I thought it would just burn.

It burned alright. It took just a few seconds to consume anything and everything he had poured the gasoline on and even further out. We called it quits on that job. I was too shaken to work further.

A Deep-Fried Mistake

Years before this I had made a really bad mistake.

It was my husband’s birthday. I had steaks marinating, a cake baked, french fries ready to cook, a green salad ready, and french bread ready to heat.

I put the deep fryer on to heat the grease for the french fries. The broiler was already heating. I glanced at the clock.

It was almost 4:30 and my 7-year-old daughter was due at her piano lesson at four thirty across town on Richardson Street. I forgot the fire under the deep fryer. I hurriedly put my mother in the car and put my 15-month old son in her arms and then Suzanne and I got in. I rushed across town to get her to her lesson on time. J. C. would leave work at 5 and go by and pick her up.

I drove home in a more leisurely fashion. As we rounded the little curve on the Sibley Road I saw flames coming out of my kitchen. I had enough thought to park the car at the neighbor’s and left mother and my son in the car. I went to the phone and finally had enough sense to tell the fire chief who I was and where the fire was.

I took a small receiving blanket, wet it, and attempted to put out the fire. Grease fires do not respond to water very well, and so it continued to burn. It went up the wall to the canopy over the stove, burned it and on to the ceiling. Part of the canopy fell to the floor and burned through the vinyl.

I continued to try to fight the fire. I only succeeded in burning up the blanket, and almost caught on fire myself.
The firemen reached here before my husband could get here from work. They quickly extinguished the fire but not before that greasy smoke had gone into the dining room and even into my china cabinet. Each piece of cut glass crystal had a deposit of greasy smoke. It took my mother and me days of washing with ammonia water and a tooth brush to get the crystal back to looking clean.

That was October 20, 1959. J. C. occasionally kidded me about the “house warming” I had given him on his 41st birthday.

The Dish Towel Incident

Now you might think I had profited from the experience but I still goofed again in December of 2001.

I put rolls to rise on the back of my stove. I turned on the burners for heat to get the rolls to rise before lunch. Close by was a stack of dish towels.

The flames extended out from under the kettle and ignited the dish towels. When I glanced back into the kitchen there were flames three feet in the air. The formica was burned through and even the inch thick plywood cabinet top was burned through. The front of the cabinet was deeply pitted by the fire. The floor was ruined and the kitchen was smoked black in places. We were up into January getting things back to normal. We did part of the work ourselves so that the insurance money would cover the repairs.

When I called the insurance office to report the fire, I was almost hysterical I was so frightened.

The lady at Jud Hale’s office was so nice, and she calmed me down, pointing out that the house could be repaired
but it would not be so easy to get over a heart attack if I didn’t calm down. I appreciated her interest in me.
My son said that he knew old ladies should be kept away from knives and all sharp things but he thinks matches should be added to the list. I set the house on fire twice, and I almost burned the garage down as well as my son and me. Can he be right?

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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