When all else fails, play the 'glad game'

Being the kind of person that I am, when I am surrounded by bad things happening around me, I always try very hard to find something, even the smallest thing, good to help me deal with the bad. I have been chided many times in the past for being a "Pollyanna" but I have found through the years that, just like Pollyanna, I have to play the "glad game" when life deals out a situation that seems to be a losing hand.

Last Tuesday the Larson fire rekindled in high winds, again threatening homes, lives and property. Early Wednesday morning the fire laid down in the unseasonable chilly temperatures. There wasn't a sign of smoke in the early morning dawn from the northern end of the Antelope Valley near Topaz Ranch Estates when I awoke to look out my window. By 8:30 a.m. early winds again raised a column of smoke and whipped the settled fire up a small, rugged canyon above Centennial Bluff and Meadowcliff along Highway 395. Away from homes, it was now directed toward Slinkard Creek, near the area burned in the July 2002 Slinkard/Gate Complex fire, which was also lightning caused. So, off to Walker I went, remembering how devastating both that fire had been to our area as well as the Cannon fire which had been a month earlier that year.

Accessing Walker, by way of Cunningham Lane, as Highway 395 was closed due to the fire, I traveled down Eastside Lane that paralleled Antelope Valley along the western slope of the Sweetwater Range, also thinking of last year's Jackass fire that had burned in Risue Canyon.

Entering Walker at the mouth of the Walker Canyon to the south, an eerie quiet surrounded me. Then I noticed so many of the residents of the small town, which had almost been lost in the June 2002 Cannon fire, standing in their yards, anxiously watching the column of smoke once again loom above the mountains near their homes.

I wandered up and down the streets, talking to friends, remembering the two fires in 2002, barely a month apart. At least the winds had died enough for an air attack on the fire as the sounds of the helicopters, a SEAT plane and an observation plane circled overhead.

It seemed appropriate that I stop for a moment at the memorial for the pilot and crew of the tanker plane that had gone during the Cannon fire. Located near the point of impact at the northern end of town where the downed plane had created a swath of flame from the edge of Highway 395 and almost to the Walker River, the town of Walker had raised funds to have the memorial built to honor these men that put their lives on the line to save the small community.

New fire-fighting memorabilia had been placed near the memorial for Capt. Steve Wass, co-pilot Craig Labare and flight engineer Mike Davis who lost their lives when their C-130 tanker disintegrated during the air attack of the fire. Rolled fire hoses, stickers, T-shirts that commemorated other fires and fire departments and assorted other mementos decorated the site where the plane had gone down. There were two beer cans at the base of the memorial which, instinctively, I almost reached down to remove. But, I quickly had a second thought to not touch them. What appeared to be unseemly garbage may have been left by a fellow comrade who had stopped and drank a beer.

So, in the light of so much bad, I mentally needed to impose my self-made rules of the "glad game."

I was glad that the town of Walker had done so much to make sure these men were not forgotten; glad that fellow firefighters stopped to leave something special to honor them; glad that the pilot and crew had done so much before the accident to make sure that the town of Walker was still safe; glad that the present fire burning in the hills high above Meadowcliff and Coleville was now burning away from the small communities and that the only loss was a couple of outbuildings and a scar on the landscape; and glad the winds had died enough so an air assault could be used to suppress the fire. Above all else, I was glad that we have so many dedicated firefighters and volunteers along with a tremendous support system, willing to put their lives on the line to ensure our safety.

To all of you, many thanks from all of us and keep on keepin' on.

-- Jonni Hill can be reached through The Record-Courier at jhill@recordcourier.com or by calling 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at JHILL47@aol.com


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