This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
We have had our heated term even here where the atmosphere is supposed to be always cool and moist, but old Sol was not responsible. Of course in clearing timbered land there is much burning to be done, and as the time approached when rain might be expected it seemed as if everybody started fires simultaneously, and the summer having been very dry they spread beyond all expectation. We have had a new experience in connection with these fires, but not one we wish to repeat. With my little daughter. I left a neighbor's house to return home nearly three miles distant. We knew there were great and increasing fires in all directions, but had no thought of danger on my way, of which the first mile lay through open ground, the remainder through heavy green timber hitherto untouched by fire. There were no houses after I left the open ground, no cross roads, and my road was scarcely more than a foot path. Half way home I became aware of a heavy fire advancing from the south. I could hear the steady roar of the flames, and soon could see them at intervals sometimes quite near. I hesitated a little, but did not like to turn back.
The fire could not advance very fast through green timber though there was dense underbrush and many fallen logs, some dry at this season; besides, I might soon pass the fire. For a mile I went on, hearing and seeing the fire constantly, but as my way tended to the northeast, not nearer to the road.
Half a mile from home, however, the smoke thickened and the air grew hotter, and I could hear fire advancing from the east. I dared not now turn back, for my strength was giving way. and I was sure the fire had crossed the path at many points. I soon saw that a fire had swept through since the day before, and had retired and stumps were still blazing and trees had fallen across the way. All this time my little girl was trotting happily along, unscared, chatting about the bright leaves, and moss, and butter-flies' wings she had found, and I answered cheerfully, though rather briefly, for I would not cloud her little soul with fear if it could be avoided, and to her remonstrances at my speed, I only said "we must get home before there is any danger".
A quarter of a mile from home the road turned north, at the top of a hill, but here the prospect was worse than ever. I could now see the fire coming fiercely from the east through dead instead of green timber. The smoke and heat were suffocating, the air full of flying leaves and ashes, and the very small portion of the road that I could see, strewn with brush, and burning fragments from the dead "stubs" that were blazing around. But my husband was at home, and would come if he could. But what if I could not make him hear above the roar of the flames !
I called at the top of my voice, a peculiar cry, that is our family signal; three times I called before there was any answer, but at last it came, and soon my husband came at his utmost speed, and in a few minutes we were at home and safe. He had supposed that it was known that the fires were becoming dangerous, and had no idea we were on the way. Half an hour after we reached home that last quarter was utterly impassable, and no doubt much of the last mile.
That night we had fire works to celebrate our safe return. On all sides we heard the roar and crackle of the flames, and the fall of great tree trunks near and remote. It was a grand, and even terrible sight, but I could survey it calmly, and enjoy its grandeur, thankfully that it was not the smoke of homes and temples that was ascending, and human life at least was safe. More than seventy tall trunks were burning quite near. Some smouldering sullenly, some blazing at top like a torch; some, often the tallest, flaming from base to summit, and over others again the flames flickering in a way that made them look like hollow tubes full of fire, escaping at many perforations. Green trees and bushes writhed and tossed their arms in the strong draught of the flames like living things seeking to escape, and this the fires seemed determined not to allow, sweeping every way in turn, and scorching every green thing. After this it became rather monotonous. For nearly a week the fires raged unabated. The smoke became so thick that it concealed the fires almost wholly. We could gaze on the sun at noon-day; the moon was a copper instead of a silver orb, and the stars were hidden save in the zenith.
Our heads were water, and our eyes fountains of tears.
Well fire is a good servant. This week of fire has done more clearing for many persons than they could have accomplished in a year. But, oh! the blackness and desolation of the prospect about us. No bright Autumn tints for us this year, and the vine maples were hanging forth such beautiful scarlet banners. There are heaps of ashes, and of fallen trees which yet leave scarcely a gap among the many more that remain standing, thrice blackened. The undergrowth is scorched and bleached, the young firs scathed and brown. Well, perhaps there must be chaos at the beginning of every new creation, even of our homes in the wilderness.