The smoke covered the sky in the form of a black mushroom cloud. Stuff inside exploded and moaned. People watching, exploded and moaned. After all, this was Ball Motors. The coolest cars with the fattest tires were sold at Ball Motors.
The scene was chaos. The firemen were dragging hose and running here and there. Since this was a tiny mining town, the fire department was made up of volunteers, some of whom actually worked at this business engulfed in flames. I heard the word ‘shit’ used a lot as a complete sentence for the first time in my life. I was engrossed. Adrian cried a lot. I don’t know if it was his fear of the huge imposing plume of acrid smoke and the futile attempts by Mr. Cunningham who lived across the road from Ball Motors to water bomb the building with his ancient float plane that did Adrian in, or maybe the fact that the fire got so hot and we stood so close that our polyester bell bottoms were melting that got to me but man, at that moment I was hooked.
My home town was a dying mining town in Northwestern Ontario called Geraldton two hundred miles from the nearest traffic light.-And more importantly as a growing boy-about-town, a McDonald’s.
I admired all the firemen growing up. Our neighbour Mr. Shields was a fireman and worked at Ball Motors, saving the paint shop where he was employed and Uncle Ted Tarkka the Fire Chief, who lived next door to Mr. Shields and who also worked at the paint shop at Ball Motors. They were everyday people the townsfolk relied on to watch over their families. Or people you needed if you wanted a custom paint job on your new rod.
I lived directly across the street from them at 911 First Street West. The significance of my home address didn’t ring true as an indicator of my future calling as a firefighter because the number to call for a fire back in the day was something like, 1 800 MY SHIT’S BURNING.