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Haven’t we all burned down a barn or two? Maybe not. Last week I wrote about Uncle Keith burning down a barn on my grandparent’s Illinois farm. Well, when I was a kid, I too caused a barn fire on the farm. Here’s the story: 

At a July 4th family gathering, my younger brother and I were horsing around and lighting fireworks in an abandoned chicken house near the main farmhouse. The small structure was Uncle Keith’s old clubhouse, and it came furnished with a ratty old couch. Suddenly, we saw a mouse run under the couch. Well, this was our clubhouse and that critter’s impudence would not stand! After dangerously short deliberation, I decided to smoke the invader out. I pulled some stuffing from the couch, got it smoldering with a match, then shoved the smoking wad under the couch. Adios, mouse! We headed to Grandma’s house—her homemade peach cobbler and chocolate chip cookies beckoned.

Twenty minutes later, just as I savored that last morsel of peach cobbler, Grandpa burst through the kitchen door bellowing, “Who set the chicken house on fire?” Aunts, uncles, cousins and toddlers all stopped what they were doing and rushed outside and watched as the flames violently whipped skyward. My brother and I stood far behind our astonished kinfolk, guilt written all over our faces. Luckily, no one looked back.

Everyone knew we had been playing in the chicken house, so they sat us down at the kitchen table and the grilling began. We just kept blaming it on the fireworks. After a short trial, Grandpa rendered his verdict: not guilty, for lack of evidence. Dan and I breathed a sigh of relief, grabbed a handful of cookies, and went back to playing with fireworks. Life on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm was always good.

 And now, here’s this week’s punchline, sponsored by Home Defenders, “We’re not just bug guys, we’re Home Defenders!” And the punchline is: Well, at least I got that mouse out!

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