Monthly Archives: April 2018

It’s a Boy

[Originally published July 22, 2013 – reposted April 23, 2018]

A boy was born today, a very special boy.  He was born to no fanfare save that of his father celebrating in a Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, hospital.  He was born hours ago, but we still do not know his name.  Why?  Where are the news media?

What a royal future this boy has.  He can expect to live to be 54 years old.  And according to this U.S. State Department report, he may encounter a few problems along the way.  “The Republic of the Congo is a source and destination country for children, men, and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of children trafficked within the country migrate from rural to urban areas to serve as domestic workers for relatives or family friends. Some child trafficking victims are also subjected to forced labor in stone quarries, bakeries, and the fishing and agricultural sectors, including in cocoa fields in the Sangha Department.”

Should he survive his childhood, and if he is quite thrifty (the annual spending per person in Republic of Congo is $558), this Congolese man may be able to travel to Great Britain someday, to meet the King who shares his birthday.  If he happens to be there when it is the King’s birthday, he may be lucky enough to hear the bells of Westminster Abbey ring, and he can pretend that they are ringing for him.

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I’m not normally in the news business, but here’s a case where news was made outside our living room window.  Early  yesterday afternoon (Saturday), my wife noticed a cloud of dark smoke rising from the valley beyond our mountain.  Based on the color of the smoke, it looked to me like a trash fire — I remarked to my wife how sad it was that our county allows outdoor burning.

A couple of hours later, we noticed the sound of planes and helicopters outside.  We looked out our living room window and saw smoke billowing from the hillside across the valley and a helicopter dumping buckets of water on the area.   It didn’t seem that much progress was being made, as the clouds of smoke kept climbing up the mountainside.   There were houses in that area but we could not see them through the smoke.

Photo Copyright 2018 Craig H CollinsThe work to douse the flames went on for hours.  Shortly after dinner, we saw what I thought was a house on fire at the top of the mountain.  We were heartsick.

Photo Copyright 2018 Craig H CollinsThe flames eventually burned out about 10pm, but the flashing lights of emergency vehicles dotted the hillside until midnight.

This morning, the local news was rather blasé about the event.  Our “local” newspaper (served by just eight news reporters) did not even mention the fire.  Our television news simply reported that no structures were harmed and that the fire was contained.  They also mentioned that the source of the fire was a “supervised training exercise” that got out of control and that “a neighbor was also burning on his own property” but I wonder whether the latter had anything to do with it.

One had to read the comments on the WLOS Facebook page in order to learn anything of greater value.  In this case, a neighbor who lived in the valley filled in some details: an old house next to her was being burned down, intentionally.

I was astounded that a so-called controlled burn would be allowed to get out of control, and more than a bit concerned that local firefighters could not figure out how to keep the line of fire from reaching the house at the top of the mountain, given the hours it took for the fire to work its way up the hillside.  But I’m no expert.  I’m not sure they are, either.

All I can say is, I’m glad there is a fire hydrant across the street from our home.

Credit: Google Maps

The site of the controlled burn. What could go wrong?


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