From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, October 1, 2015
The temperature was dropping fast, but that didn’t matter to the group of men sitting in their folding chairs in a circle. It was one of those nights where the fun was being out in the cold. Eric Tech was the longtime Firemaster for the group and he knew that he had a big job — this night was going down to single digits. Eric took his job seriously, and he also set the bar high for anyone wanting to take on that role.
They are still talking about the fire he built that night. It was contained in two side-by-side fire pits where wood was stacked so high that the flames made the tree limbs dance around overhead. (It actually might have qualified as a bonfire.) Emitting from the heat were blue and white flames that were so hot, they made voices around the circle appear to bend, contorting to a higher pitch en route to the listener’s ear on the other side. It was so cold that the back side of your body — or any part away from the flame — felt like a frozen slab of meat. Turning around every two to three minutes was necessary just to keep from freezing or burning!
As the fall air turns cooler, campfires become a popular thing in our neighborhood. I can smell them almost every night now and I’m sure you can too. I love that they are happening all around us because it usually means an intimate gathering is going on. You know what I’m talking about — the campfire does something magical with social connectivity. When adults are around a fire, the talk often turns from a superficial one to a real and deeper intimate discussion that can create a bond between people. It also has the ability to break down social classes and level the playing field of people so that real discussions can exist.
What do children like about campfires? S’mores, of course! No one knows when this delicious treat was invented, but the name is most likely a contraction made from the phrase “some more.” And I can imagine why kids want more! Campfires and s’mores are so interconnected that I believe most children expect that graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows automatically show up after the lighting of the fire!
Speaking of lighting a fire — experienced campers will tell you that there are a few ways to build the fire. Just ask the Boy Scouts because they are the experts! There is nothing more rewarding than striking a single match to start a roaring fire. In contrast, it is embarrassing to attempt to light a fire when only smoke and smoldering result!
In my mind, there are basically two styles of campfires that one can build. One looks like a teepee and is the more common style, but it usually ends up falling over and making a smoldering mess. I like building the other kind, which resembles a log home without a roof. This one channels cold air up through the inside and out the top, feeding the fire while retaining its structure!
The key to starting a fire is having enough small sticks (kindling) to burn. And a little newspaper doesn’t hurt. If you are like my father-in-law, you can just add gasoline … but I don’t recommend that. It usually ends with scorched eyebrows.
If you like campfires, there happens to be a community campfire tomorrow night at Prospect Park in the Council Ring hosted by the Clarendon Hills Park District. There will be plenty of family fun with some glow-in-the-dark games … and of course, s’mores! It’s from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., so bring your own stick to roast your marshmallows!
It was extremely cold that night, but the double fire pit got really hot and kept the men warm. Men at campfires usually find a way to have fun and act like kids, and we were no exception that night. We found that in a white-hot flame, just about everything burns: bottles, folding chairs, leftover meats! Oddly enough, Triscuits and some other fiber chips don’t! You know boys; they’re going to find out!
Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princess; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.