This all happened one day in the little known town of Pig Wallow, population counting dogs and anything else alive around 500. At the time I was not a member of that particular fire department, but I was living in the town, why, only God knows.
The fire department was made up of a cross section of the local talent who at the time were not, fully trained. The truth of the matter is the only training they had was going to actual fires and learning the hard way. They did have the good fortune to be under the supervision of a Fire Chief that wasn’t born there and had actually fought some fires back where he came from. How much success he had back there is another story, but like all the rest he did his best with what he had to work with. The fire engine was an antique that didn’t start on it’s own most of the time, and had to be towed to some of the fires. This alone caused some embarrassment to the members, but if towing the fire truck was the only way to get it there then that’s what they did. Almost none of the Firemen had turnout gear and the ones that did have a full set weren’t much better off. The chances of getting a complete outfit that was still in one piece were slim to none. If the coat fit the pants didn’t and the boots never were the right size. So when they were all decked out for a fire it looked like the circus was in town with firemen walking in strange ways because of either boots that were too tight or to loose. They either walked on their toes to lessen the pain or kind of shuffled along taking two steps for every one step with the big boots. Some of them had coats that didn’t come down to their belt line while others had coats dragging on the ground.
With this little description it will be easier to get a feel for the scene that took place whenever there was any type of emergency that they had to answer.
The day it all happened was a bright sunny day and the sleepy little town was about to be treated to a show. That show would be talked about for years to come. I can’t honestly say what the call was all about that day and it probably doesn’t matter. But the alarm was sounded and the faithful firemen raced to the station. Before I get to the best part I need to go a little deeper into how the calls were received and how the information was relayed to the firefighters, also some of he finer points of how a small town department responds to emergencies.
Take the word of one who has had years of experience with small town fire departments. If you are ever in a small town and you hear the fire siren go off, don’t hesitate get the hell off the street. The danger is not always in being run over by the fire truck, but long before the truck rolls out of the station there are any number of crazed firefighters on there way to the fire hall. Some have sirens and lights some have nothing but a heavy foot on the accelerator. All have one thing in common. Get to the fire hall as fast as possible and worry about any collision later. There is no safe place to be when the alarm is sounded. You have to realize that this is probably the most exciting thing that ever happens in the smaller towns. The danger is not confined to the firefighters because the event draws everyone else in town that can find a way to get to the fire or whatever emergency.
The streets of this town are not paved but are covered with gravel allowing for some really fancy driving skills and points are awarded to the fireman that can turn a corner and slide sideways the farthest. The racetrack is tame by comparison and usually has fewer crashes. The citizens are not far behind the firefighters and in some cases ahead of them. Now you have all these half crazy people heading for the same place and arriving there about the same time and all are going to fast to stop like they should. In a lot of cases there is a massive traffic jam right in front of the fire hall door where the firemen have abandoned their cars to run blindly into the fire hall. This isn’t a real problem because the driver of the fire truck just plows through the mess like a bowling ball. Some times the driver is one of the owners of the abandoned cars and doesn’t realize he has smashed his own car until he gets back. When this happens he usually trys to find someone else to put the blame on.
Now that we have a general picture of the workings of this small town fire department I can go on with the real story.
The Fire Chief always sounds the fire alarm. The Fire Chief’s home is where the calls come in when there is an emergency. This works out providing the Chief is home, if not there is a second and third location for the call to be received. If it befalls some other luckless individual to answer the call that person then has to drive around and find the Fire Chief or if all else fails go to the fire hall and do it himself. This is not a good idea because the Fire Chief gets madder than hell if he isn’t the first one to know about the emergency. As a general rule the Chief is in town and answers the call personally. Now comes the good part. The Chief races to the fire hall and with a lot of good luck he manages to get the truck to start. If it does start he jumps in it and drives around town blowing the siren. When the other members of the department hear the siren blow they take to their cars or run on foot to the fire hall.
Today would be just the usual mad race to the fire hall and the life threatening ride on the fire truck for all the firemen with one exception. That exception just happened to be Jim Bob, because today Jim Bob was working with his back hoe and by the time he got to the fire hall the fire truck was pulling out. Jim Bob was not going to be left behind when he got this close, so he ran into the fire hall, grabbed his gear and ran after the truck. The fire truck was slow taking off so Jim Bob had a good chance to catch it. Jim Bob put everything he had into catching the fire truck and he was gaining on it with every step re ran. At exactly the time Jim bob decided to make a jump for the fire truck and was already in the air the Chief saw him in the mirror and put on the brakes. With little or no imagination it can easily be seen what happened next. Jim Bob hit the back of the fire truck with a thud and the other two firemen that were already riding on the back grabbed him so he wouldn’t just slid off the back. Jim Bob claims to this day that what happened next was the result of him being almost unconscious after hitting the back of the truck when he jumped on. No one else believes this because anyone that knows Jim Bob knows that he’s unconscious most of the time. Now Jim Bob is on the truck, but he still needs to put on his turnout gear. This is no easy trick while riding on the back of a moving fire truck even if it doesn’t move very fast. Jim Bob throws his Fire Coat, Helmut, and boots up on the top of the truck which leaves him with his turnout pants to put on. The good news is that the turnout pants are at least three sizes to large for him and go on over his regular pants with little resistance. The bad news is that Jim Bob will have to balance on one leg to put the other leg in the pants. The other two firemen by now have lost all interest in Jim Bob because their mind is trained on the emergency at hand, or at least what they secretly hope is an emergency because this small town is beyond boring and this is the only real excitement the ever get. Jim Bob is trying to stay on the fire truck and put on the turnout pants and by some small miracle he manages to do it. Jim Bob now has real confidence that he is going to pull this whole thing off, so he goes on to the next step. Jim Bob now figures its time to put on his boots and after the pants this will be child’s play. Jim Bob is successful with the boots and now he figures he is a part of the fire truck and can’t possibly fall off. All that is left for Jim Bob to do now is put on his Fire Coat and Helmut.
While Jim Bob is working on getting dressed on the back of the fire truck the Chief is in the drivers seat swearing, spiting tobacco out the window and generally being his lovable self. The Chief sees he has a good crowd of spectators today including a couple of tourists talking to the Mayor and foolishly considering purchasing some property in town. The Chief is a showman by heart so he decides to make a couple of extra passes through town before going out on the highway and this decision seals the fate of Jim Bob and is the stuff that legends are made of. The Chief is now set to make the final run past the assembled spectators. The Chief knows that the truck could quit at any given time so he figures that he should be going fast enough to at least coast past the spectators and not embarrass the Mayor.
The stage is set. The spectators are waiting. The Chief is just about to try and put his foot through the floorboard of the fire truck. Jim Bob is just about to do the one last thing getting dressed. All he needs to do is fasten the chin strap on his Helmut. As in every good show timing is crucial and this time it all comes together.
It all happens about the same time Jim Bob takes both hands off the grab bar on the fire truck and is fastening his helmet. The Chief stomps on the gas. The mayor is telling the tourists to have a look at the local fire Department going by. As if by magic the fire truck picks this time to hit a chuckhole in the road. The effect of the change in speed and the bounce from the hole in the road launches Jim Bob. Jim Bob has been known to get excited over a lot less than being thrown off the back of the fire truck. It comes as no surprise that he makes a high pitch wailing sound as he is in the air and another more subdued one as he comes in contact with the street. Much to Jim Bob’s credit he rebounds nicely after doing a couple of back flips in the air and two or three rolls in the street, he stagers to his feet and starts running after the fire truck. He has no chance this time because the Chief has seen the whole thing in the mirror and doesn’t want to stop while the Mayor is there. The Chief spits some tobacco juice out the window and keeps going. Jim Bob realizes that it’s all over and throws his fire helmet down in the street gives it couple of kicks and limps off toward the fire hall.
The Mayor tries to give the tourists some sort of political bull shit reason for Jim Bob falling off the fire truck, but even he has to laugh because the tourists are laughing and not paying any attention to what he has to say.
So today in the tiny town of Pig Wallow history is written and another legend is born. Jim Bob is forever disgraced and will be talked about anytime things get boring around town. The Fire Chief will use Jim Bob as an example in every training session. The Chief will start all meetings by telling the firemen to pay attention and for Christ’s sake don’t do a Jim Bob.