Sunday, August 26, 2012
Even if you don’t live in Oklahoma, you probably heard about the recent horrific wildfire near the small town of Mannford, just west of Tulsa. It made the headlines in the Tulsa World, the local TV stations, and was even mentioned by Brian Williams on the NBC Evening News. Nearly 400 homes were destroyed. Many families had only minutes to grab their most precious belongings and dash to safety.
Before the smoke cleared, there was an outpouring of support from organizations all over the country. The Red Cross was there of course, but many others contributed their time and effort such as the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Muscogee Creek Nation. A local motorcycle club did a run to collect money for the victims. Other individuals donated clothes, supplies, and shelter. My old fishing buddy, Arnold, jumped in and hauled his fifth-wheel to the site, allowing some lucky family to get out of a tent and into more comfortable digs.
It was a few days later, when suffering from a near fatal dose of cabin fever, that I grabbed a camera and drove out to the Keystone dam area to see what I could see. Due to our extreme drought conditions here, there was no water being released from the dam thus shutting down most of the bird activity. I drove through the park hoping to see a Scissortail-flycatcher that’s been hanging out there, when I came across a campsite with a tent and filled with odds and ends. An old man with a gray beard sat in a lawn chair watching the cars go by. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that it dawned on this old thick skull, that gray beard had to be one of the fire victims.
A few days passed. The more I thought about the old guy, the more guilty I felt for not stopping and offering him some money…or something. I called to the Missus, “Get your purse, we’re going to the grocery store.”
Going down the isles, I tried to think of what I would enjoy for a meal in the park, healthy eating be damned. I picked up a roll of bologna, some barbeque sauce, chips, bread, Pepsi, milk, donuts, etc. Oh, and a six pack of beer.
Upon my return to the camp site, I saw that the population had grown. Now there were three more tents and a small trailer, not Arnold’s, but a nice one. The old man was there, walking around, and I got out to talk to him.
“You get burned out?” I asked.
“We did, he said. “We got four families living here now.”
“Could you use a few groceries?”
“We sure could, let me get one of these boys to help carry them.”
“Could you use a cold beer?”
He grinned. “Well sir, I don’t drink, but I’m sure a few of these other folks would enjoy it.”
A young man approached, asked my name, and shook my hand. “God bless you,” he said.
It was a small act of kindness, a feel-good type of thing, and perhaps self serving in some ways, but I did like to think about some of those folks sipping on a cold beer that night, munching chips, and chomping on barbeque bologna sandwiches. It was a meal I would have enjoyed.