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27 May 2009

Cowboy TV

To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world.
~Charles Dudley Warner (also quoted by Warren Guenther)

Spring, Summer, Fall, and the early part of Winter is spent in our backyard around the fire pit. I can't tell you how many get-to-gethers we have had that always ended in half-toasted people sitting around our firepit telling stories. If firepits could talk...
Warren and I lived downtown in an 1920's apartment complex on campus for many years. To experience campfires, we'd pack up our cars and head down to the nearest campground to town which was about 30 minutes away. Even on week nights, we'd order a pizza and head out to camp. An alarm would alert us early in the morning that it was time to head back into town so we could get showered and get to work and school. That ritual lasted until we eventually we moved across the river and officially became South-Easters.

We had our first deck and real backyard. One afternoon, soon after we moved, we took a drive back downtown, nostalgic for the good old downtown days. We found a garage sale in one of the downtown neighborhoods. What actually drew us to this sale was the perfect sized kitchen table but what we saw when we got closer was a black metal fire pit with sides and lid, like the $200+ ones you see at Home Depot stores. The lady of the garage sale told us we could have the table and the fire pit for $20. We handed her the money and loaded our stuff as quickly as we could into the truck before she could change her mind! On our way home, we picked up free pallet boards to burn. That night, under a cool spring moon, we had our first fire in the backyard. Our hats and vests kept us extra warm as we talked about never needing to go camping again now that we had our own little campground exclusively with a fire pit.

That fire pit has warmed up many people and has heard endless stories. It lighted up parties with friends and families as we celebrated our engagement and pre-wedding festivities. It became a favorite pastime for our cats to roam around next to us or sleep on our laps soaking up the warmth of the flames. One year, we set a tv up in the back yard and watched law and order epidsodes every night while staying toasty by the fire. Sometimes we'd light up the fire just to provide a place to relax in between games of croquet. Many times we'd invite people over and let their kids over to cook their very own hotdogs and sm'ores over perfectly tended hot coals. Other times, we'd sit around the fire sipping wine after a hard days work, relaxing to the crackling flames. Most times we have a fire, someone always ends up stopping by. It's like the hot roaring fire is an irresistable invitation to pull up a camping chair, sit down, crack open a beer and shoot the shit.

Not much has changed in the last 10 years. We always have stacks of wood, kindling, faded camping chairs and an open door. Anytime someone is getting rid of old wood, old garden boxes, pallets - we are the first to claim them then break them up into burnable pieces. The dogs too, have taken well to the tradition of nightly fires. They run and chase eachother around the pit as we shoo them away from flames intent on scorching. They finally settle in and curl up next to the fire. When we take trips to the beach, we are always on the look out for the perfect wood stoking stick. Some of our friends and family members have fire pits too. So the luxury is extended when we visit them. It doesn't take much to have fun around a fire. You can talk a lot or not at all. The flames and crackling wood can keep a 2 year old amused.

The backyard fire pit continues to be a gathering place for all those in need of a brief escape or leisurely laid-back respite from daily life. Whether we are away camping or hanging out in the backyard, the fire is our main source of comfort and entertainment and is now fully rooted in tradition and a more than seasonal way of life.

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