Saving Country Music’s greatest country albums of the decade post back in February had four Turnpike Troubadours albums in the top 20. Yeah, they really were that good. I can’t believe I have featured the Turnpike Troubadours only once in these pages. After a long hiatus spurred by their breakup, I have been back digging into their catalog. One song I keep coming back to is The Housefire.
My sister died in a house fire. But this isn’t a post about that. This is a post about my brother.
Cities have professional, full-time firefighters. But most of the country is protected by volunteer fire departments. It’s a remarkable bit of American civic virtue, if you think about it. A dangerous, necessary, and expensive public service is provided with limited state involvement and support, made possible by community generosity and volunteer labor.
If your house catches on fire in the country, you rely on the local volunteer fire department. But that isn’t all they do. They also serve as first medical responders (they are at the front lines of the opioid epidemic). I grew up a mile from the local volunteer fire department and seven miles from the hospital. If there is a medical emergency they are going to be the first on the scene.
And so it was that Thanksgiving when my brother had his accident. Not that there was a whole hell of a lot they could do but wait for the ambulance. And then wait for a medical airlift. Not that there was much to be done at the hospital. One verse from The Housefire always makes me think of that day.
Well Lorrie called the volunteers
Siren music to my ears
First I’ve been glad to hear the flashing red and blue
Can’t repay the time they gave
There was nothing left to save
Shake all of their hands and wave
They did all they can do
It was hard as hell on us, but it wasn’t a picnic for them. These were men of our community. Men who grew up with my dad. My best friend’s dad was there that day. His youngest was in my brother’s elementary school class.
Our relationship with the sheriff’s deputies was rather different.