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Doug Clark: What’s a little smoke among friends?

Sun., Aug. 22, 2010, midnight

Today we peek in on Hazy Acres, the retirement home for old and burned-out North Idaho grass farmers.

Oh, look. Several residents are sitting in their rockers on the front porch and they’re having a loud and animated discussion. Let’s listen in.

AMOS (pointing) – “Would ya look at all that clear blue sky? Here it is late August and you can’t see or even smell a trace a smoke in the air. It’s a gol-danged shame, I tell ya. A gol-danged shame.”

LUKE – “Now calm yerself, Amos. Don’t get in a lather. You know it’s not good for yer emphysema.”

AMOS – “Well, it ain’t right, dagnabbit. This used ta be my favorite time a year.”

LUKE – “Mine too. Me’n Little Luke couldn’t wait to get out on the Rathdrum Prairie with our burners. By noon we’d have so many fields a’pumping smoke you couldn’t tell if your dog was a cat.”

HASSIE (laughing) – “Good one, Luke.”

AMOS – “This one time, we had the prairie blazing like the seventh ring a hell. Then a big wind come along and blew an A-bomb’s worth a soot all the way up onto Hayden.”

LUKE – “I remember that one. It was broad daylight but the town was darker than the insides of a skunk.”

AMOS – “Drivers had ta turn on their headlights there wuz so much smoke in the air.”

HASSIE – “Grass farmers could get away with anything back then.”

LUKE – “I used ta burn my ol’ tractor tires in the backyard.”

HASSIE – “If it wuz field burnin’ time, who knew the difference?”

AMOS – “Then everything soured worse’n grandma’s onion cobbler. Cussed enviro- (hawks up a gob and spits) mentalists come along with their no good commie ’genda.”

LUKE – “The lung doctors started in, too. All the time hollerin’ about field smoke causin’ asthma an such.”

HASSIE – “Quacks!”

LUKE – “An don’t forget those Chamber a Commerce types in Coeur d’Alene. They kept yelpin’ about how burnin’ the fields wuz scarin’ away the tourists.”

HASSIE – “If tourists can’t take a little smoke in the air, who needs ’em?”

LUKE – “We got hit with lawsuits an stricter an stricter reg-alations.”

AMOS – “It’s a wonder anyone would even wanna be a grass farmer anymore.”

LUKE – “A poor farmer can’t hardly strike a match these days without Air Quality kooks jumpin’ on him like pigs on Pepino when he fell in ta the hog wallow.”

AMOS – “Take what happened last Wednesday. Just 50 acres a bluegrass got torched before they had to shut her all down.”

LUKE – “The airheads claimed the smoke weren’t liftin’ off the ground far e-nuff.”

AMOS – “Liftin’ off the ground. Bunch a sissies.”

HASSIE – “Hey, remember how you guys had everyone believin’ that burnin’ the grass fields was a vital part a agriculture?”

LUKE – “We told ’em fire wuz the only way to increase next year’s crop production.”

(The three old friends stare at each other a moment. Then they all erupt in laughter.)

AMOS – “All right. All right. Guess we can’t feel too sorrowful for ourselves.”

LUKE – “Yeah. We gotta lotta mileage outta that whopper.”

HASSIE – “Maybe we should a just told the truth.”

LUKE – “That burning the fields is dirt cheap?”

HASSIE – “Come on now. You ol’ firebugs know as well as I do. Watchin’ those blazing fields an those giant mushroom clouds of billowing thick smoke is just plain FUN!”

LUKE – “We did have us some hot ol’ times, huh Amos?”

AMOS – “Yes indeedy. Them were some hot ol’ times.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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