As far back as I can remember I have loved the outdoors. From summer camp as a cub scout to deer camp as an adult, any time spent in the woods or at the lake was exciting. Having spent so much time warming my hands by a campfire or cooking breakfast on a Coleman stove I also have many great memories. The story that follows could have ended in disaster but because it didn’t it now is told at family gatherings as one of the funniest camping trip events ever.
Deer hunting season in Arkansas starts in early November and depending on weather patterns it can get pretty cold at night or it can be fairly warm. This season had started off pretty warm but a front was expected to come through and cool things down a bit. I had just arrived back at camp on Monday evening after having to go back home on Sunday evening and conduct some business on Monday morning. There were four people who had stayed at camp; two friends, Phillip and Robert, my brother Mike and my brother-in-law Mike.
As I walked up to the camp table where Mike and Mike were busy with one of the lanterns I saw right away the potential for disaster but I didn’t point it out because these were two grown men and surely they knew what they were doing. The two Mikes were filling the lantern with fuel but they weren’t using a funnel because they had misplaced it. As I laid a sack full of snack cakes I had brought with me on the table I commented that they were spilling fuel everywhere and needed to be sure to wipe it off the table when they were through. While all this was going on Phillip and Robert were sitting on a good sized log which was by the campfire and every so often would poke fun at what the two Mikes were doing.
I had just turned to go over to the log and sit and visit with the other two guys when the two Mikes finished filling the lantern and my brother started pumping the lantern full of air to begin the lighting process and I saw my brother-in-law bend over to pick something up from the ground under the table. It’s real weird how this happens but when something like what was going to transpire in the next instant occurs, time seems to stand still and everything seems to go in slow motion including thought processes.
As I realized in my mind what it was that my brother-in-law had retrieved from the ground under the table I also could see it was soaked with Coleman fuel. It was a box of matches! As my brother finished pumping the lantern, my brother-in-law was fishing a match out of the fuel soaked matchbox. Now remember this all seems to be happening in slow motion so I’m trying to get the words out of my mouth, “Don’t strike the…” and that’s as far as I got.
WHOOSH!! The box of matches ignited in Mike’s hand. This caused him to get rid of the matchbox immediately and where did he throw it? You guessed it, right into the area under the table already soaked in fuel! WHOOSH!! The fuel on the ground exploded followed by another WHOOSH as the fuel on the table ignited also!
After turning the table on its top and extinguishing the fire I looked over to Phillip and Robert and they were lying on their backs on the ground in back of the log. At first I thought one of the explosions might have sent some sort of shrapnel their way but I quickly realized from their howling they were paralyzed with laughter!