A Trial by Fire

by | Mar 17, 2023

Photo by Cullan Smith, courtesy of Unsplash

The three young braves had left their wigwams early that morning, planning to hunt in one of their favorite spots just north of their village. The hunting had not gone well, though Red Hawk’s arrow had pinned a squirrel by its tail against the trunk of a large maple tree close to the skunk cabbage swamp. 

The squirrel had broken free but in the fury of its escape, had left its bushy hind piece behind and Red Hawk quickly claimed a victory and waved the gray tail around his head while whooping it up and dancing around his friends Star Boy and Strong Bow.

Neither of the other two boys had anything to show for the hunt even though Strong Bow was usually the best hunter of the three and usually came home with something to show for his efforts, a rabbit, groundhog or bird.

After trudging the forest for over two hours, they decided to retreat to their secret camp in the tall grass just north of the white man’s wood fort and west of the area where boats were launched.

The grass was unusually tall this spring, and, a beautiful yellow color. Star Boy and Red Hawk started gathering tinder while Strong Bow used his friction bow to get a small fire going.

It was not long before they had a nice, warm fire going. It was spring, but winter still had some chill to give and the fire felt good.

Unfortunately, the wind was blowing pretty hard that day and suddenly a spark whirled in the air and caught one of the wispy, willowy ends of the long grass. Before the boys could react a fire was going in the grass and within seconds it took off into a bigger fire.

Flames and smoke were everywhere when a white man’s voice rang out from the wood fort. “Fire!” “Fire!”

The boys could hear, and partly see, the white men running towards them from the fort. They gathered up their bows and arrows and headed for the cover of the green woods nearby.

The white men came with blankets and buckets of water and other tools, and soon with hard work had put the fire out.

Red Hawk, Strong Bow and Star Boy slipped quietly out of the area and headed back to their village. Star Boy said nothing about the incident to his father and went about the day as if nothing had happened.

Strong Bow’s father had seen the smoke and discerned something was up. He questioned his son and got the story out of him. He then held Strong Bow’s hand over the family’s cooking fire until Strong Bow winced in pain.

Red Hawk told his father most of the details of what happened but gave himself a lesser role in the action, thus drawing rebuke and a lecture, but no real punishment.

The boys’ favorite field was reduced to black charcoal and they had to relocate their secret camp to another place in the nearby woods.

The Real Story: Three boys from “Grenitch” were playing Indian. They went hunting with bows and arrows in the woods just north of Division Street. One of them did pin a squirrel’s tail to a tree and claimed it. Though he said he was aiming for the tail, in actuality he was aiming to snuff the pesky squirrel, from a tribe which has become a lifelong foe.

The boys did retreat to the field next to the Lumberyard and across from the EG Yacht Club. When bare, and even though mostly dirt, rocks and cinder, it was the home baseball field (and sometimes football field) for the Scalloptown Raiders, a real rough, tough bunch.

The boys did start a fire. The field erupted in flame. One boy ran to alert the lumberyard and have them call the Grenitch Volunteers to come fight the fire. They did put it out but the field was completely black!

The boys hightailed it home. One said nothing about the incident. One told the truth and his father held his hand on the stove long enough for him to learn that you don’t mess around with fire.

The third boy told most of the story truthfully but downplayed his role and thus learned about the telling of half-truths. That served him well in later years when he had to deal with young braves himself.

Writer Speaking: There you have it. Another tale from Good old East Greenwich, the smallest town in the smallest state in an America is trying to be great!

Funny thing is. If those boys had been caught they would not have gone to jail. They would not have had to go in front of the Juvenile Board. They would go to the Police Station. Had the wits scared out of them

And then?

Their parents would have been called AND that would have been worse than all the rest put together.

Oh, for those Good Old Days.

Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks that contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.

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July 22, 2023 8:00 am

Thank you, Elizabeth. It is good to be home. Had to go through a fourth operation since Jan and hope it is the last one, though most likely not. . I have lost 50 pounds, am weak as heck, and won’t be riding my moped again according to my wife. I am bartering for a three wheeler (4?) or a golf cart. Failing that I will continue to cruise Main in my car, tunes blasting, and absorbing all the Magic I can. Those 28 hour days and 8 day weeks are longer in the hospital and this time movement was limited as I had about 7 wires attached to me and several monitors in the bed causing me to revert back to boot camp and sleep at attention all night.
Thanks to all those who prayed for me, called, visited or sent cards. They were much appreciated.
Hope to see all at sometime.
Until then I remain,
In the Spirit of all that is,


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