Getting a Head in Yard Work

So I find this head in my burn pile....

I know. You're thinking, "Just what is a burn pile?"

A burn pile is where you put everything else that you don't know what to do with when you live just past city limits. It's true.

Jim and I were out doing some yard work recently and we were commenting on how much of our land we've reclaimed. "I remember when you couldn't even walk out this far into the yard," he said.

"I remember when our burn pile wasn't as tall as me standing on my own shoulders," I said.

He looked at me and smiled. We've been married long enough that he knows that's how I measure things...by how many of me's I'd have to stack up. I do the same with width, too, but we won't go there.

This particular burn pile is the largest in the yard. It's in the back, thank goodness.  All the stuff we had to rip out of the house when we bought it is in that pile. In a way, it's sentimental.

It's also got a tree in it. One fell over this winter during our crazy weather. It barely missed our storage building, but it did. Jim cut it up to put in on the pile the first day I met Chuck Norris. Ah, memories.

There are chairs in this burn pile, too. They're from my shabby chic days. They were way more shabby than chic.

It's also got an old pool in it. The pool was one of those cheapy fill'er up things that was big enough for the whole family to splash around in. I was skimming it one day before water play with the kiddo when I saw a black widow spider run underneath it.

"Get out here and kill this spider!" I yelled. Jim came out and did so. But I was convinced that the black widow had laid eggs in and or around the pool and it would never ever be safe. If nothing else, it must have been a black widow magnet because I was in my 40s and had never seen one before. I pointed to the burn pile and he dragged it off.

Most of the stuff in the burn pile is brush. There was a huge bushy mass in our front yard that Jim cut down as soon as we bought the house.

This big burn pile is at the edge of our ravine (which you must pronounce as RAAveen once you move just past the city limits sign). We were talking about why the pile has never been burned.

I have a few rules around here. One is: hide all fire sources from Jim on windy days. It seems like that's when he has the time/urge to burn. I'll give him credit -- he's learned to control it over the years. Rule 2: keep the fire insurance paid (which is also necessary when you live past the city limits sign)...just in case. Rule 3: no burning unless he can be with the fire all day and night.

Rule 3 is the one that has held up burning progress for so long. As an investigator here for a number of years, we never knew for sure when he'd be called out. He was on call 24/7 and his time off depended on the criminal element of our area. Don't get me wrong. Our town is nice and safe most of the time, but we're located on an interstate. That means folks from out of town drive here, do stupid stuff, then try to leave. We also have domestic violence in our area, like most places. And of course there are the hunting club break-ins. And dog fights.

With his new job, though, he doesn't get called out so much on his days off. Now the problem has been drought. Then wind.

We were standing there talking about it when I realized he was standing on an arm.

"Is that a head?" I asked. I wasn't right up on it, but it sure looked like a head. We have neighbors who also add stuff to this burn pile but I'm pretty sure they're not killers.

"Yeah," Jim said.

Yeah. That was it.

"Well, whatup with a head in our burn pile?" I asked. The reason I was surprisingly calm is because once, when I lived alone in my hometown, I had a fight with my neighbors. They put their trash in my yard. I know because I opened the trash and found their address on mail inside. I asked them nicely to stop. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that I found their address inside the garbage bag. In hindsight, that does sound a little psychotic.

Not to be out-psychoed, they proceeded the next week to dump their garbage around my mailbox and burn it. There was something that looked like a human skull in the middle. I called the police.

A friend on the force came out and looked at it. He poked it with a stick. He looked at me. He poked the skull some more. "This isn't a skull," he said. It's a football helmet. This stuff melted. That's all."

"What's my next step?" I asked. I figured he'd arrest them or ask me to fill out an affidavit to press charges. He told me I should learn to keep my mouth shut. Or maybe move.

But that was almost 20 years ago. Now here I am, with a head in my yard again.

"It's that old mannequin I found," he reminded me.

Stupid mannequin has scared me a number of times over the last eight years because I forgot about him. Jim and another buddy found him in a dumpster while checking downtown after an alarm sounded years ago. I saw it in my storage building once and almost passed out. He was lying by Jim's car project once -- a Cougar up on blocks (which is also a must have for life beyond the city limits sign) Now, this.

I've named him Bernie...Burn pile Bernie.

Now, to deal with that elephant in my yard.....

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