Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stuntman Training #2 - Playing with Fire

It's all in the wrist.
My Uncle Kevin knew some of the coolest fire tricks. We would be sitting there talking to him and suddenly a big ball of fire would jump out of his hand. As we shouted, "AGAIN! AGAIN! DO IT AGAIN," he would quiet us and nervously look around. "No. I got away with it once. I don't want your mom to see me showing you." He acted like he was worried we would try to imitate it ourselves.

He had every reason for that concern. You can't show a boy something as cool as that and not expect them to try to figure out how to do it. It was actually a pretty simple trick. It only required a standard lighter. We soon figured out how to do with our hands, as well as, with our mouths, on the kitchen table, in our pants pockets or under the shirt of an unsuspecting friend. It was one of the earliest things we learned about how much fun fire can be.

Being fairly stupid adventurous already, we were more than eager to add fire to the things we were willing to play with and experiment on. Since we were determined to be stuntmen when we grew up, it only made sense that we familiarized ourselves with the dynamics of fire. Some of our other stuntmen adventures can be read here and here.

Kyle loved to set his hand on fire to get attention freak people out at parties. If we used the right accelerant, the fuel would burn quickly enough that the flame could be withstood for a few seconds before having to extinguish it. He might be standing in a crowd of people and his hand would burst into flame. He would calmly look at it and say something like, "Well, that's peculiar," and then pat it out and continue with the conversation he was having as though nothing had happened.

One Halloween, we decided to use this for a larger audience. A local Jaycees chapter had a Haunted Hayride and was taking volunteers to man the various scenes. Each group built their own scene and the tractor would pull a hay wagon full of screaming teenagers and families by for them to terrorize. Plus, as teenagers, it was an excuse to sit in the woods and drink beer all night.

The scene we came up with consisted of someone being burned at the stake. The wagon was far enough from the scene, we could put the person being burned behind the fire and make it appear that they were being burned alive. Once the people on the wagon could see us, we could start our scene and toss something in the fire to make the flames shoot up. Various people in our scene took turns being the one to get 'burned alive.' The crowd loved it, but we thought we would take it up a notch the next night.

Stick men shouldn't try this.
Wood burns too fast.
We spent the next day digging a large trench in front of our entire scene and filling it with wood. When the hay wagon would pull up, we would do our quick acting and light the stake while our victim screamed. Now that we had their attention, one guy would run along the length of the trench, pouring a fuel mixture over the burning coals. This created a quick wall of fire blocking out the rest of the scene.

Once the fire jumped up, a flaming man would come running out of the fire toward the wagon and disappear into the woods. The part of the flaming man was played by my brother Trevor. He played that part dozens of times for the next two nights. However, just like many of our other ideas, this didn't always happen the way we planned.

 Before starting that night, we experimented to get the perfect concoction of flammable material for the effect we wanted. After spraying our solution on his outer clothing, when he jumped through the wall of fire, he would ignite. The flames were big, but not so hot that he needed much extra protection. His head was exposed, so the crowd could see his face, but we had one problem. The fumes, flames and smoke made it impossible for him to see once he was lit.

Our solution? We discovered that about 30 feet past the wagon path was a creek. As long as Trevor ran straight, he would eventually fall into the creek, putting out the flames. From beginning to end, he would not be on fire for more than 8-10 seconds.

When the first wagon went through, we got exactly the reaction we wanted. People were so scared some of them tried to jump out of the wagon. It was a huge success. However, we had four more hours until the end of the night with a wagon coming every 10 minutes.

As the night wore on and our alcohol consumption excitement increased, we kept making the effect bigger and bigger. Trevor screamed louder and would stop and flail his arms more before proceeding past the wagon to the creek. After a couple of hours, one of the other members of our group decided he wanted to be a second flaming person as well. We figured two flaming people would be even scarier than one, so we agreed. Since Trevor's stunt required several costume changes (you can only burn clothes so many times before they fall apart), we had the extra clothing.

We only had 10 minutes between wagons, so we had to move fast. We covered them both in solution and Trevor quickly reminded him that he would not be able to see once he ignited. "Run straight and you will be fine." He assured himself and us that he could do it.

When the next wagon came around, we started our scene. The stake was lit and the screaming started. The pit was ignited with the wall of flame and our two human torches ran toward it to jump through. At the last second, the new guy changed direction as he jumped because he was concerned he would hit the wagon when he ran out the other side. In doing so, he collided with Trevor, knocking him into the pit and directly onto the burning coals.

As drunken teenagers,
we weren't adequately prepared
Although the new guy landed on the other side, he was sprawled on the ground. Still in flames, he jumped up and started running, but in his blinded state, was not headed toward the creek. Kyle quickly assisted Trevor, who was out of the pit, but still burning, while I chased down the runner. I knocked him down and started throwing dirt on him while he rolled around. We got the fire out, but not without the loss of some skin.

Trevor, who got the worst of it, had fabric burned into his skin, lost a good portion of his hair and was already starting to blister on his forearms. For the rest of the night, he had to use long sleeves to prevent further burning. Plus, with the new bald patches, he was much more frightening.

We won the prize for scariest scene.

46 comments:

  1. Holy shit, dude. That is some intense stuff right there.

    My favorite part is the last paragraph, when you describe his injuries, then nonchalantly go on wearing long sleeves as if there was never the thought of calling it quits.

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    1. Thank you. He really did keep going. The next night was the final night. He was properly bandaged by then.

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  2. I LOVE BEING ONE OF "THE MINOR BOYS"!!!

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    1. Kyle, keep in mind next week that those people in the Amazon don't know who we are. Some of this stuff might be taken the wrong way. Come back safe.

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    2. I want to wrestle an anaconda.

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  3. You won a prize?

    SO YOU SHOULD!!!

    That is awesome.

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    1. We won the prize two consecutive years. The second year was without injury, but the scene was much better. No fire involved.

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  4. Your mother must have been grey by the time she was 30 with you boys! Holy crap that could have been so much worse! Glad it was only minor burns and a few bald patches. Scary stuff.

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    1. I should have my mother do a guest post on here. She spoke at a women's retreat once and just told stories. She was a hit.

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  5. I love your anecdotes!

    You've won an award, my friend! Check on my blog!

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    1. Thank you. I was just over there and saw that.

      You are still going strong and I have not forgotten about the celebrities you promised.

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    2. Of course not! A promise is a promise =)

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  6. Wait just one minute...'for the rest of the night'???

    He kept doing it??? I am impressed.

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    1. I guess we figured the damage was done. You know the saying:

      The show must go on!

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  7. OMG lol... you weren't joking when you said you liked "big". I had to laugh and cringe all the way through it. Have you not written a book yet? This is the sort of thing best sellers are made of.

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    1. Go for the whole thing or don't bother.

      No, I have not written a book, but I want to. I haven't decided what to write about yet.

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    2. Well, I for one would love to read more about your growing up years - sounds amazingly fun and crazy. I really enjoy this sort of read.

      Have you ever read "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" by Bill Bryson? It's a killer book - very funny - and from the above post I think you would be able to relate lol

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    3. No I haven't. I will look it up.

      Years ago, I tossed around the idea of writing a book loosely based on our adventures as kids. That may be the direction I go.

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  8. Pfft xD This made me laugh so much, even though I did feel bad that the stunt went wrong at one point. I can't believe you continued with the show; that's so awesome.

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    1. We took care of the burns afterward. Had it been more severe, we may have stopped, but he wanted to keep going.

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  9. Well that was an absolutely great and absolutely horrible story all rolled into one! I tell ya, I'd have loved to have seen that show. One of the successful ones that didn't smell like burning flesh and hair, I mean.

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    1. I don't know. I think the crowd that saw the mishap might have gotten the best show.

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  10. I'd have loved to hear what second place was saying about you guys!

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  11. I am now officially scared for my son to grow up. He's 4 and already enjoys fire and trying to play with it without getting in trouble. (He lights sticks in the campfire then puts them out in the dirt. always under parental supervision). I am going to be in a straight jacket rocking in a corner singing nursery rhymes to myself by the time he is 15.

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    1. I have heard the phrase Playing with fire will make you wet the bed. The more reasonable fear would be burning oneself.

      Fire is fascinating for some reason. I don't know if it is just a boy thing, but we loved it.

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  12. I feel like if I tried this with my sister, we would be able to execute this without making mistakes, because I have learned from yours. Just give me a couple of days. I'll send you a video. If you don't hear from me soon, it means I am looking after my sister in the hospital.

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    1. If we hadn't added the extra guy, it would have gone on all night without incident. Most of this stuff doesn't require any actual skill, just a willingness to do it. I'll watch for the video.

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  13. I kind of want to try this. Which means there must be something severely wrong with me. But I've never been on fire. How lame is that??

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    1. It's just something about fire. Guys like to play with it. Not lame, it's macho.

      Does anyone say macho any more? Not lame, it's manly.

      That sounds funny too. If I say it's studly, then I would sound like I was calling you studly.

      You know what? It's not lame. Let's just leave it at that.

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  14. My pyromania ended with matches. I don't think I could watch someone be burned, or run through fire or anything like that.

    Silly "new guy", thinking he could hold his own with the Minor Brothers!

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    1. It eventually wore off. These days it's just the occasional trick when I see something around me that could be used for something cool.

      "Hey, wanna see something awesome. Hand me that aerosol can and bottle."

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  15. This, along with a few of your other stories, really makes me a little surprised you survived your childhood. You know?

    Beautifully written story though!! :)

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    1. Thank you. There were some bad injuries which will be covered in future posts. My youngest brother has been hospitalized several times and Kyle spent six months in a wheelchair.

      We lived, but have plenty of scars.

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  16. You guys should see what the Minor bros can do wih fire and a wheelchair!!!!

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  17. You won the prize for scariest scene.

    Hmm.

    That's like shooting someone in the face and winning a prize for most realistic shooting-someone-in-the-face moment.

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    1. Yeah. I guess we cheated. There was no actual physical prize so no one was upset. That we know of.

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  18. Yeah anything with fire freaks me out. I even get nervous lighting birthday candles.

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    1. I have a friend that hasn't cooked in years because he moved into t a house with a gas stove and he is scared of it. He grew up with electric and is worried he will blow up his house.

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  19. HAHAHAHA

    But I am very glad you didn't live anywhere near me. I was the kid who cried because she was made to hold a sparkler on bonfire night.

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    1. Yeah. We would stick firecrackers in someone's pocket and then light it.

      Small ones, of course.

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  20. "For the rest of the night . . ." I love this!

    Basically, your brother burned himself alive and then was like "meh, show must go on . . . douse me with the lighter fluid, yo." Brilliant.

    I second the idea of your mom writing a post. You could do a sort of point counter-point on one of your stories from the 2 different POVs. That would be very interesting. Plus, your mom seems rad.

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    1. My mom is pretty cool. I am thinking I may ask her to do one. I don't know if she will be up for it, but I will give it a shot.

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