Firefighters Bob Brownell and Dave Fiandt, Fire Chief Gregg Gorsuch, and half of firefighter Mark Hunter. But at least it's the half that's always right.
SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
You know, for a guy who doesn’t like to get up in front of crowds, I’m not very smart.
I’m terrified of public speaking, or any kind of recognition -- always have been. They called it shyness when I was a kid, and it was so cute. I’d cross the street just because somebody was walking toward me on the sidewalk. When we visited distant relatives I’d stay in the car, pretending to sleep, because of the fear of going into unfamiliar places.
Sometimes I went against my nature, joining drama club and choir, and taking a Speech class. (Which involved - wait for it - public speaking.) As an adult, able to do as I pleased, I become a certified instructor so I could stand in front of a few dozen firefighters and pretend I wasn’t terrified. Do you know where I wanted to be? That’s right - in the audience, preferably at the rear.
Then, a week before the Chain O’ Lakes Festival, I approached the Fire Chief, who had announced he’d be walking in the parade. We call it walking, and if you ever saw me try to march you’d understand. He was going to walk a mile in front of thousands of people, subject to tripping, drooling, wardrobe malfunctions, hats blown off in the wind -- it’s insane to do something like that on purpose.
I volunteered to join him.
Why? Don’t know. I actually marched with an honor guard a few years ago, because they were undermanned and I was there, but believe me when I say it wasn’t voluntary. I did okay except for when I almost knocked my hat off with an ax. What the heck -- could have been a nose.
In this case, though, I actually threw my hat in, so to speak. Maybe it’s because I felt we should put in an appearance, as a group. You see, we put all of our fire units into the annual parade, and by the time we get a firefighter to drive each, and account for those who couldn'’t be there, there aren’t that many left on foot. So I thought what the heck -- there were no horses dropping goodies in front of us, and most people were going to be looking at the huge Sparky dog in the back of the ‘29 antique anyway; that took care of most problems.
After all, I'd already covered the part about not being able to march.
What we needed, I told the guys later, was somebody to count cadence. That's when some sergeant speaks incomprehensible words designed to keep each left foot hitting the pavement at the same time. You’d think the guy would just say, “Left, right, left, right” -- how hard could that be to screw up? Instead it usually comes out as, “Hyup, hyup, hup ho hugh!” There usually isn’t even a guy named Hugh there.
I tried. I really did. I suppose I could blame the big honkin’ fire truck behind us, because every time we slowed down that diesel engine got real loud, and I began to imagine becoming a bug-like embedded hood ornament. Or I could blame Sparky, riding on the antique in front of us and waving in the wrong cadence. “It’s the dog's fault!” The real problem is, there were four of us marching, and I had positioned myself at the far left because my daughter would be taking pictures, and that way she'd get a good, heroic pose of me in my dress uniform. Shyness has nothing on egotism. This left nobody to my left, and the Fire Chief on my right.
The Fire Chief is tall. Real tall. Corn fed Hoosier farmer Paul Bunyan tall. Way taller than me -- I grew up around smokers. Not to mention, the doctor says in the last few years I've actually shrunk an inch, although I maintain it's a false reading. That's still working its way through the insurance.
Have you ever tried to keep in step with somebody who's three steps taller than you? It’s like trying to beat Rush Limbaugh in a bluster contest. I have no idea how the other guys were doing, but within half a block I was hyuping to his hugh. I tried to keep up for awhile, but I'd have to take a half step, then jump forward, and after awhile I realized I was skipping. Something tells me skipping is a bit less dignified than marching out of step.
It ended up being like the stopped clock that was right twice a day: We kept going through cycles, and every six cycles or so I was in step. For a few seconds we'd be marching, then I went back to walking again.
Still, the little kids waving and yelling “Firemen!” more than made up for my lack of rhythm, which is probably related to my lack of dancing ability. Besides, my daughter got a real nice photo of the line of four firefighters approaching her position. I don't know if I was in step with the Chief at that point:
Because she only got the other three guys in the picture.
All we saw of the parade -- that's the chief's daughter in the dog costume.
We have our own flag!
You skip fast when you're in the middle of the street and a line of big honkin' trucks are right behind you ...
Big honkin' rescue truck, which is the same truck that crashed into a utility pole a few years ago and put a bruise the size of Jupiter over my right kidney. Notice the front seat passenger -- we recruit 'em young these days.
Charis, stop tilting the camera! I'm getting tired walking uphill.
The building in the background was the town hall/Albion fire station, from 1930 until the fire station moved in the early 70's to the building to the right, which you can't see because it was torn down last year.