A Dream, a Dog, and a Forest Fire

A forest fire burning above Hardscrabble Creek.

Last Monday, the 22nd, I came home from a week-long trip. On Tuesday, I was temporarily homeless, a condition that persisted until Friday.

Tuesday’s weather was warm and windy, with the highest gust in the area clocked at 79 mph. Somehow — I still have not heard the definitive story — a tree hit a power line or a power line hit a tree . . . or something — and a raging forest fire began.

Within an hour, fourteen houses plus barns, sheds, etc., near mine had been erased. Eventually that night the fire burned 2,100 acres (850 ha).

M. and I were 45 minutes’ drive away when we saw the smoke. I brandished my county-issued volunteer firefighter ID card, and we passed through four road blocks.

When we arrived home, she quickly left again with the dogs, her favorite faux leather jacket, her laptop computer, a sack of dog food, a bag of apples, a bottle of wine, and the clothes on her back.

She was not sure where she was going, since the road to town was closed to “civilian” traffic.

I left home dressed in my wildland-fire gear, with my laptop too, and also my bunker gear in case I had to face a structure fire. As it happened, it was too late to save any houses — I ended up working until about 9 p.m. chasing spot fires that kept multiplying in the trees along the dry stream bed of Hardscrabble Creek.

I talk about the experience at Southern Rockies Nature Blog here, here, and here.

But there is a part that I left out in that blog.

On the night of the 19th, I believe it was, sleeping my friend’s slightly haunted house* in a small North Dakota prairie town, I had a dream.  In the dream, M. and I were at a house in the woods, although it was not our house and not our woods.

The house had a long gravel driveway (as does ours), and M. was setting up a card table beside it in order to eat a meal out in the sunshine (as we sometimes do). Standing on the steps, I looked down the driveway past her and saw a large tawny animal.

“Wow, that’s a big coyote,” I thought. Then I realized that it was a sort of bleached-out-looking tiger. I wanted her to come to the house right away.

In the morning, I tried to think about associations with tigers. True, we had recently watched the “Siberian Tiger Quest” episode of Nature. (It is excellent.) Otherwise, the only thing that came to mind was William Blake’s poem that starts,

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,

Burning. Forests.

I told M. about my dream during the time when we were staying at a motel 15 miles away, me commuting to the fire house, and she spoke of something that struck her oddly.

At a house about 250 yards away lives a chocolate Lab named Boone. We hear him bark now and then. But on Monday night he bayed all night long, so persistently that M. shut the bedroom window, turned on a fan, and muttered about his stupid owners who would not bring him indoors.  If I ever hear him bay through the night again, I am going to be very nervous.

I do think that events cast their shadows before them, but it is so hard sometimes to know what the shadows signify.

* I will discuss the “haunted” part soon. It was a post that I had meant to write this week.

3 thoughts on “A Dream, a Dog, and a Forest Fire

  1. Janeen

    30 some years ago I spent 4 months working in a series of remote fly camps in the Alaskan Bush with my dog Buddy. He was a truly great dog who had shared a lot of travels and adventures with me.

    One night he refused to settle down. Whining, pacing, moaning, grumbling – even after I repeatedly told him to chill.

    It had been a long day in the field and I was exhausted. All I wanted was to sleep and the damn dog would have none of it.

    I had *just* finally succeeded in getting him settled down when the camp literally exploded with gunfire and shouting. A bear had been sniffing around RIGHT behind my tent and the poor dog had just been doing exactly the job he had been brought to the Bush to do.

    I gained a whole new sense of respect for barking dogs that night.

  2. As a resident of the Great Basin, you firefighters are my heroes & the fires rank among my greatest nightmares. All you had to say was houses & barns burned to the ground & my skin crawled off to hide under a floor mat.

    Thank you for your service & thanks also for the story. Food for thought. Those omens are so tricky & Nature, so impersonal. Glad you & M are well.

  3. I’m so glad everyone’s safe. With hurricane Sandy bringing nasty weather I’m looking for omens of things to come – nothing yet – because I agree, you can pick things up if you pay attention. It’s hard with all of the modern distractions, but I’m trying to be relaxed and observant. Take care!

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