SFPNN Special Edition - 10/31/03 Ė Controlled Burn (and the Pumpkin)
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(A NOTE From the Editor:Ironically, Joe had written this story on September 30th about conditions in Utah!)

--- Thanks to Author, Joseph Walker, for today's Special Edition



For most of the past week, thick smoke has hung heavily over the mountain valley in which we live. Throats have been dry. Eyes have been stinging. School children have been required to stay in for recess. Asthmatics and others with respiratory challenges have suffered.

And all because of something called a "controlled burn."

As I understand it, the fire was intentionally set by forestry officials on the other side of the mountain in an attempt to get rid of stuff that might possibly burn during a future wildfire.

Yeah, I know Ė burning stuff so it wonít be around to burn during a wildfire sounds a little like eating chocolate so it wonít be around to ruin your diet.

Iím sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, it wasnít supposed to impact more than 600 acres. But nobody anticipated high winds that whipped the flames into an out-of-control conflagration that has "accidentally" consumed more than 8,000 acres at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $2 million Ė not to mention all that smoke in the valley.

"Controlled," indeed.

Far be it from me to be a Monday morning fire marshal, but I could have told them it wasnít going to work. And not because Iím an expert fire fighter. Iím not. But I know tons about playing with fire Ė at least, in a figurative sense. And every time I have played with fire Ė in a figurative sense Ė I considered it a "controlled burn."

"Yes, itís a risk," I say to myself. "But itís OK. Iíve got everything under control."

I usually say this just before I get burned.

Take last week, for example. For some reason (can you say "procrastination"?) the registration on our elderly red Toyota had expired. Now, I know that cities like nothing better than to collect a little additional revenue from people who do dumb things like driving cars with expired license plate tags. They especially like it when those cars are parked on city streets, which allows them to issue the citation without the danger of a high-speed chase or even the potential ugliness of a face-to-face confrontation.

"Joe, are you sure itís a good idea to drive the Toyota before we get it registered?" Anita asked as I prepared to drive to work that morning. "We really canít afford any more tickets."

"It will be fine," I said, employing a subtle variation of the "everything is under control" theme noted above. "Technically the car is registered. Weíre just waiting for the new sticker."

"You and I may see it that way," Anita said, "but Iím not sure the meter maid will."

And of course, the meter maid didnít.

Two tickets and 40 dollars later I was doing my own version of a controlled burn.

"It isnít fair!" I wailed as I wrote out a check for the tickets. "I had everything under control!"

"Everything," Anita said, "but the stuff you canít control. And thatís the stuff thatís going to get you every time."

That is true with parking tickets and forest fires and just about everything else in life. No matter how much we may feel that we have everything under control, usually we donít. Not really. Almost always there is something Ė some seemingly insignificant element Ė that is uncontrollable. And thatís the thing for which we have to prepare with anticipation. The minute you think youíve got everything covered is the minute some gust of wind will come along to turn your "controlled burn" into a full-fledged fire.

Throat-drying, eye-stinging, recess-canceling smoke included.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World."

It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.

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Something ExtraÖ

The Pumpkin Ė Thanks to Jan K.

A lady recently being baptized was asked by a co-worker what it was like to be a Christian. She replied, "It's like being a pumpkin. God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you. Then he cuts the top off and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc., Then... He carves you a new smiling face and putsHis light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."

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