About the recent discussions about relationships:
I won’t pretend to know all there is about relationships, fire and the state of the union (or disunion). But to add a few nickels worth of experience, I’ll reach back through the mists (or smoke, fog or dust) of time. For those of you who have loved and lost, those trying to hang on and those that have made it work, my best to you. It is not easy, on spouses, kids, family, and relationships getting started. Making a relationship work with one spouse gone all the time, whether chasin’ trucks down the road, cattle or pack strings, or fires is a tough row to hoe.
Dad went to work in the woods at 16, where his dad worked, his uncles and his brothers. When Mom married up, she left a comfortable house for a three room cabin furnished with bats, mice and the occasional snake in what was called family camp. Flush toilets were unknown in camp, having been replaced with a two-holer, spiders compliments of the house. Winters were in a logging town where the housing was miserable. Somewhere along the way I came along, then my brother. One family of many who were logging gypsies- Standard in winter, Camp Curry, Camp 16 or some other in summer.
When the camps closed, Dad ran the then fledging truck shop. By himself. The trucks were second-third and fourth hand logging trucks that were used to haul milled lumber to where ever. We usually saw Dad about once a week on Sunday, unless he was called out to get some rig ready for the road. As the trucks were replaced with new stuff, they upped the fleet, but not the staff. At it’s height, Dad was in charge of 21 highway rigs that hauled to all of California, sometimes to Nevada and Southern Oregon. Mom used to wake us kids up to eat dinner with Dad just so we could spend time with him.
I joined Scouts at age 11 in a extremely active outdoors troop, so I spent a lot of time gone in the summers. Then at 16, I started packing. Through High School I packed and did the scouting thing. Never has one been so enamored with the mountains as I. At 19 I went to work in Yosemite as a government packer. There, I got my baptism of fire and began another parallel love. My folks now never saw me. The night I graduated from high school and the night I got out of community college, I was in the woods. My friends, some from outside of packing, but most from the packing community and from fire was where my world revolved. I could never get enough of the mountains. I counted myself the luckiest guy alive to get called to backfill for the firefighters on my days off from the barn, and yet, just as ready to hit the trail back into the hills.
In 1995, I finally got married. Most, if not all considered this to be a miracle of minor proportions. Many, if not all cautioned my wife to be before we tied the knot about you’ll never see him- at least while there are fires or a trail open. My wife, who comes from the horse business herself had a pretty good idea of what she has getting into, and what she was getting (Tho Mom sez she got the worst of the trade). We’ve two daughters aged 5 and 4.
Through the years, I’ve had a handful of failed relationships. Some, were most definitely not meant to be, others went the west because the time a relationship needs wasn’t given or available. Some, I didn’t try very hard to work at and others, well, I can still get the twinge. The job I hold now is full time fire. My wife and kids love it. My wife knows the risks and prefers them over the risks I took through the years with the stock end of the business. The fire staff makes the family part of theirs and my daughters will pass through the fire house like angels of good will dispensing hugs and kisses to every firefighter therein. They are heroes in my daughters eyes, and I am just Dad.
They light up when I say I’m going to a fire, then remember that fires mean Dad’s gone for a while. Letters written from firecamp to home, and cell phone calls make a big difference. Pictures from where I was and a wall map of the US show them where Dad is now. The T-shirts are a big hit for sleep wear, pins and cups from different states also help. It’s damn tough on my wife. The bills, school, swimming lessons, mechanical problems, the house, no one else but her. My parents are a great help for her to turn to when needed and she has some fantastic friends that get together with her. But still, I’m not there. Of course, by spring she’s ready to throw me out at the first hint of woodsmoke.
Coming home means getting Dad’s filthy laundry done ASAP for the next call, extra hours getting caught up at his regular fire job and making sure we get out to town with the girls. Hit a playground, maybe some shopping and a movie. An ice cream. Simple things. I have been extremely lucky to have a family that will go the extra mile when it comes to Dad.
My brother is a mechanic like my father. His life, like mine and Dad’s are different universes in a parallel existence. My Mom, my wife and my sister in law have all faced the same problems that many firefighters face in relationships. Long hours, partners gone, called out or paged out at all hours not knowing when you’ll get back, filthy clothes, lack of family time. Again, the three of us are lucky for the fabulous women in our lives and our kids who have adapted to making a life with a part time father due to work.
I doubt I have cast any pearls here in this long tome. But I know that with love, persistence, communication and a willingness to try to work together ( and if he/she is that special to you) you’ll make it work out. It’s taken a lot of effort on our part, but it’s been worth every ounce of sweat to pursue the multiple loves in my life.
I wish you all the best out there.
Thanks Cache King.