Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Tale Of Popcorn Meadow

    A few decades ago, during my initial season out here, I was camped out in this very spot in a small travel trailer, roughing it and cooking over the fire while the cabin was being completed. 
There had been a little clearing done here at the residence end of the property, and on a lower level by the creek there still remained a pile of waste wood that had been piled up with an excavator for burning later in the season, some good size stumps, good for nothing logs, and brush and limbs in there to giver a good start. This was the last remaining slash pile to get rid of, and I was keen to see it gone.  It was getting into October, so I felt I was pretty safe to stick a match in there. 
    There was some history with the BC Forest Service due to a little incident earlier in the season, (I lit a half dozen slash-piles and caught half the country on fire in the process)  and I stopped in one day to let them know I'd like to let the last pile go. Being in proximity to a creek, and already being in their bad books, they wanted to have a forestry guy stop in to look first.
So a couple weeks goes by, and no forestry guy stops in to look.
    I got back from a shopping trip to town one Friday before dark, put things away in the trailer and was standing around my campfire, imbibing in some of the new town supplies as I recall.
From where I stood, I looked right down at this eyesore of a brush pile, and I think, "Hmmm...".
I convinced myself the forestry guy had thought it not worth his while to drive way out here for such a trivial matter, and next thing I know I'm down there with that days newspaper, scrunching it up underneath with some kindling, stuck a match in there then retreated back to the comfort of camp to watch the show. 
My journal entry made later that night, October 20, 1994, describes the ensuing inferno as, 'A Dandy Burn!'
The slash pile burned down without incident by the next morning, I spread it out and smoothed up the area with the bulldozer and carried on with other projects.
    Somewhere along the line someone had left behind a bag of popcorn, probably some well meaning hot spring camper, or helper I guess. At any rate, mice had over-run the trailer and chewded into the bag, I didn't know what else to do with it so I stood over on the bank, casting handfuls of popcorn kernels onto the lower area that had been smoothed out after the fire.
    A few days later, I was puttering around the campfire at the trailer just when it was getting dark when I look up and see a BC Forestry pickup wheeling in.
"Oh hell." I said out loud, then ran over to greet him, hoping to send him on his way quickly.
"I was out on other business", he says importantly, "...and thought I would stop in".
"Well its nice to see you again", I lied, trying to herd him back into his pickup.
"Lets go have a look at the slash pile you wish to burn." he says.
"Ah..., Okay" I kind of stammered, hoping to buy some time to come up with a better answer.
We were walking along and I'm thinking I better say something before we actually get there.
"That pile of slash...," I suggested lightly,
"Its not really there anymore".
The Forestry man stops in his tracks,
"You don't say..., and where did it go?"
"Straight up!" I said, "A dandy burn!".
    The man contemplated my remark for a moment, then says, "Lets go have a look".
So we walk on by my camp and drop down to the lower area where the pile was supposed to be. 
It was dark by now, and we were going by his flashlight, and walking across the fresh dirt we come across all these bright yellow popcorn kernels scattered around, and they really stuck out in the flashlight beam. I was hoping he wouldn't notice, but it was hard not to. 
Finally he stops, shining his light down at the yellow kernels.
"Whats this." he asks.
I thunk hard for a moment, and said..."Its seeded?"
He was silent for a bit, shrugs, and like a man that's had a long day says, "I've seen enough".
    We get back to his truck and he took out a file, opening it up and making a few notes under his interior lamp, shaking his head now and again, then closes it up.
I was sweating bullets the whole time.
"You have a nice evening Mr. Trethewey", he says winking. 
"Oh, and happy popping!" he adds, like a man barely able to contain himself, then slams the door.
I bet he could hardly wait to get back to the office in the morning and joke around in the coffee-room about that character out at the hot spring property seeding the area in popcorn.
    Popcorn Meadow, as it became known, grew back in all variation of local vegetation over the years, although no popcorn has popped up yet.  It has become a little overly successful I'm afraid, and I've began to reclaim the area, cutting down alder for firewood and weed-eating and brush-sawing in an effort to get the area back in a more usable state. 

    I knew much hard work lay ahead of me, so the first thing I did was build a swing to sit down on and think about it. After I managed to stack up a pile of branches and junk by hand I spent untold hours swinging and watching it dry for a month or two until conditions were right for a burn.

     It was certainly nowhere near the 4 story high inferno that was there in '94, but it was still a pretty good fire to stand around and admire, it cleaned-up the area and brought back some memories from that first year.
   Theres plenty to do down there yet, but this is going to be a long drawn out side project for sure. Eventually, maybe a common area fire-pit for guests or something down there would look good, we'll see. Or not, but it is a special place down there for sure with the creek and all, not to mention a swinging thinking-seat already in place.

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