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Percent Police descend on law abider

I’m not a rake-and-burn guy. Oak leaves and pine needles have decomposed on their own for millennium. I’d rather watch TV.



My wife looked out our window. She said, “We have to keep a defensible space around this house. There are a lot of pine needles and oak leaves down there.”




I sighed and called to see if it was a burn day. “Do not burn piles composed of more than 20 percent pine needles. Today is a permissive burn day.” Darn.

OK. We have oak trees. We have pine trees. How hard can this be? I’ll just rake up under two pine trees, and eight oak trees. This can work. The math seemed right, but I’m new at this. I got out the new, fire-proof metal rake. Sadly, the bamboo one … well, never mind.

There are oak leaves in my pine needles, and pine needles in my oak leaves! How is this 20 percent stuff supposed to work, anyway? By weight or by volume? I guess the idea is not to burn the wet stuff and not to create too much smoke. I was a Boy Scout. I know these things.

By now, I have a small blister on my hand. I’m thirsty. I don’t smoke so finding a match is a real challenge. I watch “Survivor.” Rubbing two sticks together is not an option. I retrieve a cold one, rummage through the drawers, and find a matchbook from the “Peppermill Casino: World’s most expensive matches.”

I start the fire. I wonder if we have any old-fashioned wire coat hangers. I could straighten one out and roast marshmallows.

Suddenly, the Percent Police screech to a stop, and descend on my fire pile with this huge, wet blanket. They cover the pile. A huge cloud of smoke and steam arises. So much for the marshmallows. They start digging through the unburned stuff, separating it into two piles. “Oak leaf.” “Pine needle.” Score: Oak leaves, 78. Pine needles, 22. “I’m sorry, sir. You’ll have to come with us. You have the right to remain silent …”

Edward Glenn

Grass Valley


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