Sunday, November 22, 2009

Advice for Lighthouse Keepers

I once briefly served as a lighthouse-keeper. I applied for the job because the work, I heard, entailed little beyond cleaning the lens and making sure the signal lamp was lit at dusk and extinguished at dawn. This suited my lifestyle at the time, as I was quite a “night owl” and I believed that the tower could double as an exclusive gambling house to men of means. The facility would be open when the beacon was lit and closed when it was not, and I would be assured of a double income – that of a government employee and of an independent businessman.

The isolation of the lighthouse proved a perfect place for gentlemen who desired the privacy necessary for serious betting. Business was so good that I had to expand to the keeper’s quarters and still lacked space. Finally I decided to make room for additional tables in a fuel storage building several hundred yards from the other structures. I took care to move the barrels of coal oil outside, placing them along the exterior wall of the tower so they would be handy when the signal lamp needed refilling. I left empty barrels in the storage building so that customers might have some place to put down their drinks and cigars.

I still believe all would have gone well had the barrel-maker done his job properly. Due to shoddy workmanship, some oil must have leaked out. Otherwise, one of the empty barrels would not have exploded so easily, and a line of fire would not have extended to the tower.

It always amazes me how high flames can reach. The barrels packed along the tower wall produced a billowing, Vesuvian effect. All the customers were able to get out before the roof blew off, but in their haste to escape many left their winnings behind. I told them to seek justice from the barrel-maker, but they did not see it that way.

This is why I say: Safety First! Before you ever conduct business near water, you should learn to swim. Swimming is a healthful activity. It can also provide a refuge from wildfires and, when done at the proper depth, from bricks and bullets.

copyright ©2009 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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