Trial by Fire


When we were just starting out on our new farm, everything seemed extraordinarily precious to us. We often lost sleep over the health of our crops and livestock, fretting about how we would pay the bills if things went wrong.

That sort of feeling is natural, but you just can’t get too caught up in material concerns. If you lose sight of what’s really important, even for a few seconds, you can end up acting like an idiot.

Case in point: the day I ran into a flaming building to save a flock of turkeys.

We were raising about 200 of them that year, in a makeshift shed heated by a small wood stove. Ted was away working as a plumber in the city, leaving me alone to tend the farm during the day. I was pregnant at the time, as big as a house.

One morning, I happened to glance up through the kitchen window, and saw flames shooting out of the turkey house. A pipe had overheated and ignited the wood around it. I raced across the yard and threw open the door to let the birds escape. But naturally, being turkeys, they just sat there.

So in I went, half blinded by the smoke, to shoo them out the door. Unfortunately, there was a second smaller opening, built for the turkeys. You guessed it: as I chased them out the main door, they simply marched around the building and came back in the small door. I finally blocked the opening and managed to get almost all of the birds out. We ended up losing only about half a dozen.

Later, as I watched the flames devour the shed, the realization of what I had done began to sink in. I had taken and absolutely terrifying risk. I could even picture the headline: “Pregnant woman dies rescuing turkeys.” What a way to go.

It seems absurd now, but in the heat of the moment, I didn’t even think twice. Those turkeys were our livelihood. What would we do if we lost them all?

The answer, of course, is easy. We would have picked up the pieces and moved on. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

Except, that is, for the turkeys.

-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry a Farmer