Monday, February 18, 2008

Ralph On Fire - Garbage Cans

The fire crew was on the bus driving to yet another fire. The bus wasn’t a luxury coach like the one you might be picturing. Rather it was a surplus school bus. The last two rows of seats had been removed for fire gear. Air conditioning consisted of open windows and a six-inch fan mounted at the front of the bus. My friend, Alan, was the driver so I always sat directly behind him. After a few moments of silence, Alan leaned back and said, “Maybe we’ll get to eat out of garbage cans again.” Alan had given me something to look forward to. . . .

Several factors determine how well you eat on forest fires. Larger fires bring in caters who specialize in serving fire crews. Some are exceptionally good. Others left you hoping for food poisoning so you could skip breakfast. It’s hit and miss.

On small fire, you may get sandwiches from a local supermarket or a few loafs of bread and some meat and cheese to make your own. C rations were popular for a while and really didn’t taste bad, as long as you didn’t look at the expiration date.

We had been on the fire a few days and our meals had consisted of C rations, sandwiches, with cereal and donuts for breakfast. We weren’t starving but we weren’t eating well either.

Returning to fire camp, we were told a caterer had arrived and was setting us a mess tent. Hot meals would be served in an hour. Just the fact we would have a hot meal and a place to set while eating raised the morale of the crew.

Standing in line with a hundred other people waiting for a meal was common. You always tried to be as close to the front as possible. When caterers started serving, the portions were larger. As people kept showing up the portion size decreased. Another benefit to being near the front was generally the food was hot.

We had reached the table that held the trays, plates, plastic ware, and napkins. Past the table, four 55-gallon garbage cans were setting on burners. Behind each can, a person with a huge pair of tongs waited to dish out dinner. When I got to a garbage can, the person with the tongs reached in and placed a round steaming object on my plate. I stared at it, and then stared at Alan who just looked at me and shrugged. I looked at the caterer and asked, “What’s that?”

The caterer looked at the bag on my tray and replied, “Roast beef.”

“No,” I said pointing towards the steaming bag, “what’s this?”

I was holding up the line – that makes caters nervous. He did take the time to tell me it was a boiling bag meal. Alan got his and we walked over to the tent, found a table and sat down.

Cutting through the mesh netting, four steaming plastic pouches fell out. One had meat and gravy, another potato’s, the third a vegetable, and the fourth desert. I was staring at the pouches when I noticed no one was talking. Everyone was busy eating.

On that fire, and many more, every morning and every evening I stood in front of a garbage can waiting to eat. Some of the best meals we had on fires were served out of garbage cans.


Blogger Cliff said...

Yeah you'd think you'd run into the garbage can on the way out.
I hope they looked kinda like new cans.
Excellent post.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

I hope you are not in charge of the meals at Blogstock '08!!

12:17 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Ralph, I suppose the garge cans are a great way to cook and transport that kind of food. I sure hope the garbage cans were sanitized before the process began.

I didn't know that you were a fire fighter before I came to your blog but I was wondering, "How do you communicate when you are out in the middle of a fire?" Do you use ham radios? What part of Colorado do you live in? We had a small parcel of land in the Pagosa Springs area at one time. It is so beautiful over there.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hi Ralph! Welcome back. A garage can. It sounds like a bad episode of Sesame Street. Was there any blue fur in the food?

As alway, I enjoyed your fire story. Can't wait for another.

Have a good night. Lisa

4:16 PM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

I agree with Jerry. We don't want to eat out of garbage cans, and we don't want any mystery meat meals of any kind, and we especially want for all mayonnaise to be banned from Blogstock '08.

I like your line about wishing for food poisoning.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I'll have to bring Mayo to Blogstock08. I love mayo Jamie Dawn, so get over it!!!

Ha! Reckon I told her didn't I?? Of course she probably won't come back and read this so I'm safe!! hehe

I didn't know what surprise you were going to say came out of those garbage cans. Sounds like a good way to cook for a big crowd though. I do hope those cans were new ones used for only that purpose!!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Janell said...

I think I've seen those boil in a bag dinners at my local camping supply store, but have never tried them. I might do that next summer. Very good story, Ralph and well-written.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Aravis said...

Mmm, tasty! *G*

Actually, it doesn't sound so bad, especially when you're tired and hungry.

9:08 PM  
Blogger nora said...

"really didn’t taste bad, as long as you didn’t look at the expiration date."
You just described lunch at Second Helpings!

8:10 PM  
Blogger Granny Annie said...

First, thank you for being a fire fighter. I don't know many people who have not been positively affected by the efforts of heroic firemen and women.

Now, you've probably heard this story, but I can't resist sharing it.

A fire started on some grassland near a farm in Indiana. The fire department from a nearby town was called to put out the fire. The fire proved to be more than the small town fire department could handle, so someone suggested that a rural volunteer fire department be called. Though there was doubt they could be of any assistance, the call was made.

Five minutes later, the volunteer fire department arrived in a dilapidated old fire truck. They drove straight towards the fire and stopped in the middle of the flames. The volunteer firemen jumped off the truck and frantically started spraying water in all directions. Soon, they had snuffed out the center of the fire, breaking the blaze into two, easily controllable parts.

The farmer was impressed with the volunteer fire department's work and so grateful that his farm had been spared. The next day he presented the volunteer fire department with a check for $1000.

A local news reporter asked the volunteer fire captain what the department planned to do with the funds. "That should be obvious," responded the captain. "The first thing we're gonna do is get them damn brakes fixed on that there fire truck."

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly enjoyed this tale... Deb

12:27 PM  

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