Non Fiction

Lighting and Fire (continued)

“What’s that?!”

‘I don’t know, looks like something’s caught fire.”

Something had caught fire in the lightning storm, but I couldn’t place where or what it might be that was burning.  I was trying to tick off geographical possibilities but none of them worked for the fires location.

“Where is that?” “How far away is that?”

“It can’t be too far away.  Someone’ll come along and put it out,” my dad said trying to revel in the peace left behind by the storm, and encouraging me to do the same.  I wasn’t deterred.  Even if it was only a few fields away it would be the largest fire I had ever seen.  “That was an awesome storm.”  he said, his grin returning to his face in response.  He crossed his arms behind his back and rocked back and forth on his feet;  to look at him was to witness contentment. He talked for awhile about cumulonimbus clouds, how they are formed, and moved on to other cloud types.  After some time I interrupted, “that fire is still going… I think its bigger.”

Stirred from his musings he looked over, “Goddamn it sure is, isn’t it?!”  He pondered on it for minute, his brow furrowing in the process, “You wanna go check it out?”


The imperial valley is farmed from end to end.  The patchwork of fields obstructs a direct trajectory but it is so flat that if you keep heading toward a point on the horizon, you will eventually make a zig zagged line straight to it.  My dad had a super big gulp and I had a slurpee as we set off to get a closer look.  We settled into a long silence, dusk turned to dark and our destination blazed bright on the Horizon.   As it dawned on my father that it was not a small fire we were going to see, his curiosity took on a tinge of concern.  “This fire we are going to see is huge,” was all he said.  I wasn’t sure if he wanted a response but his tenor took some of the joy out of the experience.  My innocent awe of nature’s beautiful power was meeting a sneaking sense of dread.

The fire was devastating something.

The lightning had caused the fire.

The lightning was devastating.

“What if we get hit by lighting?” I said no longer sipping my slurpee.

Moments like these were where my dads casual brightness served its greatest good.  He smiled and laid into a physics of electricity lecture, about the need for a ground and that a car would act like a faraday cage if struck by lightning.  “If hit by lightning,” he said, the car may suffer some damage but it should not affect the passenger.” I started to drink my slurpee again wondering how the fuck he knew all that, but he always seemed to know.  Despite his fabulous mind my father never received anything higher than a high school diploma, yet he rattled of knowledge of subjects I never experienced until college and even then occasionally corrected errors in my understanding.  I still wonder if he wishes he would have done more with his talent.

As we approached the location of the fire the sirens were a cacophony and the flashing lights were barely noticeable in the veiling glare of a crackling inferno.  The lightning had struck an energy plant that burned hay to generate power.  It was a single tower surrounded by a ¼ mile square of hay waiting in line to ride flames into the air.  I had to lean forward in my seat to see the top unobstructed by the truck’s roof.  Dust devils danced around the scene drawn in by the voracious appetite of the fire’s unyielding destruction.  It was dumbfounding.


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