Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pocket Smokejumpers

These funny-looking trucktanks are how people really get around in Yellowstone in the winter. 

We had promised to go camping.We'll know better next time, most likely. But a promise is a promise. So we turned south instead of northeast, and headed for West Yellowstone. The special pavilion tent came in real handy at the KOA. I just don't know how we all had managed to cram into the other tent for so long, though when we first got it, the kids didn't take up NEARLY as much space as they do now.

Devon "helps" set up camp. 

After a feast of more Boca Burgers,
plus spectacular grilled corn on the cob,
and a nice, long night's sleep,
 it was time to take the kiddos to the
junior smokejumper training in West Yellowstone. 

Tiggy tried (successfully) to save the
little cabin from the forest fire,
blown in by Devon. When it
went out, he begged, "Please, just
one more match! I can burn it if you
just light it one more time!"
The kids practiced getting Mr. Smokey (sounds
catchier than Mr. Jumpy), out of his
entanglement in the tree. I'll lay odds
that after Devon got through with him,
he decided to be more careful
next time.

Usually Damon is the one who gives the long-winded scientific lectures to whichever hapless employee has the misfortune to ask an open-ended question. This time, though, he kindly allowed Devon to take lead.

Volunteer, smiling sweetly: "So, do any of you know what makes a pine cone release its seeds?"
Devon, clearing throat ostentatiously: "The heat of the fire combines with the gases from the flames to trigger the release mechanism in the pine cone. The cone opens part-way, and when the fire cools, the cone curls the rest of the way open and the seeds fall out of their compartments."
Volunteer, eyes glazed over: "Yes, little boy. That's right."
Devon burns down the forest.

A retired smokejumper in charge of
our class taught the kids how
to cut line. Oh, look! We have a
future supervisor on our hands!

Next they practiced throwing dirt at a tree.
Had there been a fire, the dirt would
have cooled things down enough
for a sawyer to take out the tree.

Damon was fiercely competitive, and
highly accurate.

At least Tiggy is beautiful.

On to the physical fitness portion. One of the
requirements to enter smokejumper
training is to be able to complete
seven pullups. Uber-competitive Damon
accomplished them with ease.

Devon accomplished all seven with
difficulty, but he did them. Go Devon!

Tiggy stood and jumped to do one.
But at least she's beautiful.

45 situps? Piece of cake.

Fifteen pushups...or something. 

"Listen closely. When you jump out of the airplane,
go feet first. As soon as you land on your feet,
tuck and roll."
So naturally Devon went headfirst.
For their own protection, they brought
out the Junior Smokejumper Helmet
and Coat of Destiny.

Tiggy makes that suit look good.

Damon shows them how it's done,
with a perfectly executed jump,


and roll.

Before getting out the real parachute,
they practice steering. (Mom thought they were saying ,
"YAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!!) The harsh truth
began to sink in that even the hottest smokejumper
needs to know

I took a number of photos of Devon
from the back. There was just something
about his bulky coat, bright blue
helmet, and scrawny little legs
that I found irresistible.

Our intrepid instructor got out his own personal
parachute to show us how the steering mechanism
worked. It was a very windy day, and it took
lots of cooperation to hold it back. 

Here comes Devon to save the day!

Their efforts come together, and the parachute soars aloft...

...while Tiggy supervises. Beautifully. 
Picture perfect! It was so nice to see the boys cooperating
for a change.

Devon and a parachute. What could possibly go wrong?

It was just like a zombie movie, not that I've every seen one.
A shapeless outline staggering along, arms held out menacingly,
uttering weird, unearthly grunts and groans.



And then it was time for the test. They all must have passed. Either
that, or the workers just pretended they did so they
would leave faster.
Oops, did I say that out loud?

In the end, the kids got their Junior Smokejumper certifications,
and the instructor managed to pry the helmet and
coat off Devon. I think I saw his eye twitch
just a little when Devon promised to visit him again.
Real soon.

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