Lucas getting snake bit last year changed the way I think about Cottonmouth Cover. The pond beside my house is only partially wet most of the year and mostly it’s dry. But these waist high weeds grow up through the water and everywhere else out there so it’s hard to tell where the water is and where there are just weeds. They all die off in winter and droop onto one another which creates a thick mat of dead weeds. If the water level rises this mat of weeds will float and as the water recedes this mat of weeds will rise too but as the water falls the mat becomes a canopy suitable for perfect snake habitat. My idea was to burn this canopy off as well as the entire eastern part of my property and let the snakes have the rest of the pond that belongs to my neighbor.
The problem with this is a pretty serious problem; the weeds, once they dry out completely also become the perfect fuel for fire. Thin, light, very dry, and elevated makes for something burning like gasoline dipped in lighter fluid. While the fire won’t last very long if the wind picks it up it can be expected to turn into something I rather not see racing around on someone else’s land. Not that my neighbor would complain about me burning off his part of the pond, mind you, it’s the very idea that a man can’t control his own actions that would bother my neighbor and it would bother the hell out of me. I’m pretty certain he would tell me to go ahead and burn it if I asked and if I wound up torching the whole pond he would never say a thing about it. But everyone around here would know I mishandled fire.
I cannot live with that.
So when I set the fire I set in in the dry canopy of dead weeds. I watched it burn and sure enough it kicked up its heels and begin to spread quickly. I let it head west towards the strip of woods between the pond and my backyard because I wanted that cleared a bit as well. I let it head north because that’s where a good portion of the dry pond is. I let it run South for a bit, just to clear out enough stuff to match the old fenceline in the backyard, but I was not letting it head east into the pond itself where it would have gotten much larger, much faster, and much hotter than I could handle. I let it run South then put that part of the fire out, and concentrated on managing the north running fire to keep it from turning east.
The plan is quite simple. The fire heading towards the backyard cannot burn the backyard because there isn’t anything there for it to eat. The fire running north can be held in check as long as I’m there with the hose and I am. I hose down the fire anytime it turns and it does turn. The dry grass is a perfect environment for fire. A couple of time is flares up and as I turn the hose on it I can see the fire nearly burn through the spray. Some Spanish Moss catches on fire on the west fire and I have to go hose that down. Damn. The South Fire has re-ignited. The fire I thought was out is not only not out but it is heading South again and if it gets to the small ditch between the old fenceline and the back acre it will gain access to the pond and the canopy of dry grass napalm. I have exactly what I planned not to have and that is a two front war. Worse, I’ve threaded the hose through some small trees so the hose won’t get seared by any errant flames.
I go back to the northern fire and hose it down as fast as I can. This is not enough to put it out but it will slow it down. I slowly and carefully take the hose out of the trees and of all things, the fire running west towards the yard decides to flare again in the moss. I hose it down and then head South.
The South Fire has been bad. It wasn’t at all out and it crept down low and didn’t smoke much but it is heading towards becoming Godzilla with an accent. There’s a dead tree limb that it had entered and I have to spray all of this down good. I drop the hose and look north. It is time to go play with the real fire.
I gave myself some space between my property and my neighbor’s for just such as this. The north fire has reincarnated and it is hungry as hell. I thread the hose through the brush carefully because I might have to head South again and soon. Care is needed here. If I freak out and get the hose kinked or burned I am screwed. If I get too close to the heat that fire running north it could kill me. I come up behind the north fire and hit it hard on its eastern flank. I spray water on the fire but also over it and into the fuel it needs to burn. I make sure I get ahead of it and hose down the eastern flank. I back up and head South again.
The fire spreading towards the backyard has paused with the wind change and the South fire is nearly dead. I hose it down again and this time I make sure to get the hot spots. I head back to the northern end and my preventive spraying has curtailed eastward expansion plans. The North fire obediently chews its way north and I following it with the hose, as if I am walking a dog on a leash.
My neighbor will see the blackened area and he will wonder how on earth I managed to burn my part of the pond and not his. He may wonder why I didn’t just go ahead and burn it all. But he’ll look at the fire tossing catapult that weeds can be and he’ll say it out aloud if he gets around other folks: The man can handle fire.