The Tower

The Smoky Hills, most days they look hazy and smoky.

Then you get closer to them and they lose their hazy,  smoky look.

I grew up near this fire tower, during the spring and fall it was manned by a person called a fire spotter. They were armed with binoculars and a radio, at the first sign of smoke they would call with the location of the fire. During the summer the tower was unmanned. There were three of us, my brother Carey, our neighbor Danny and me. The boys had no problems scampering up the ladder, I on the other hand struggled. When I was just above the tree tops my knees would begin to knock together and my heart would be in my throat. I would end up backing down without reaching the tower platform. The boys would usually go first, on the few occasions that I went first, I would have to dangle from the edge of the ladder to let them pass me, and then I would go down. It was on those occasions that they would call me a chicken and flap their arms and make chicken sounds. True friends.

One fine summer day, they decided that I was going to conquer my fear and I was going to make it to the top. Once I was on the ladder they said that they were not going to allow me to chicken out and if they had to push me up the ladder they would. There was lots of cheering and shouts of "Don’t look down." "You are doing great" I made it past the treetops and there was no wind. Maybe I could do it? I scampered to the top, opened the trap door and collapsed on the floor, totally exhausted. The boys were right behind me, they hollered over the treetops "She did it!" Then they wanted me to stand up and look over the edge. I did but only while holding on. Then it hit me, how in the world am I ever going to get back down? I announced "I can’t go down, you will have to leave me here." Much discussion followed, they were blaming me for the whoopings that they were going to get. They said I was going to be in "big trouble." Finally after much talking, and their swearing on a stack of Holy Bibles that they would never call me a chicken again, Carey started down, then me, followed by Danny. My knees shook, I cried, they ignored my fearful sobs and counted the downward rungs for me, one at a time. They talked me through it. They avoided a whooping, they never asked me to climb that tower again, but they never called me a chicken anymore either, it was the first and last time I climbed that tower..once was plenty for me:)

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10 Responses to The Tower

  1. Avatar of homd homd says:

    On vacation once, HighGuy and I came across a fire tower. He wanted to climb up right away, while I was less enthused about it. I think he did climb it — and I think he realized then his fear of heights. The lighthouse was another story — there I climbed up, no fears, while HighGuy was a little more cautious.

  2. billy bones says:

    I gotta ask, it wouldn’t be the lookout tower in the smokey hills north east of that big city wolf lake would it?

  3. Far Side of Fifty says:

    billy bones, There is only one tower that I am aware of in the Smoky Hills State Forest. It is quite aways due North of the big city of Wolf Lake:)

  4. Avatar of billybones billybones says:

    i’ve climbed said tower a few times mysely, back when I was a bit younger. (Ok, a lot younger) I remeber climbing it to the top…It was padlocked..but people had written their names over on the far side of the metal frame…Much braver, or more crazy than I.

    The last time I drove through the great big city, I was shocked at the change. the old church that was converted to the VFW was gone, as were several other old buildings.
    And Curbs,,,,in Wolf Lake???

    Speaking of Wolf Lake, last night I was eating Ice cream, and the scoop I used (best Ice Cream scoop I’ve ever had, was a 25th? anniversary Kangas Implement givaway…from about 1976 or there abouts….the engraving on the handle is quite worn.

    why, I remember Kinnunen Store, Kangas Store…the little bar that became the Cafe…the old barbershop, the blacksmith shop..

    ok, thanks for the little trip down memory lane.

  5. Avatar of billybones billybones says:

    oh, I meant to ask, what lake is that on your picture…it almost looks like it could be from the waterfront park on wolf lake by the ball diamond…but not quite…..maybe a different lake?

  6. Far Side of Fifty says:

    The Lake is the public access at Osage.. Straight Lake.
    Back in the 1950′s the Smoky Hills Tower was wooden, and never paddlocked.
    Wolf Lake is quite a little town, I will head over there some time and take some photographs! If the bar turned into the Cafe had the best BBQ Ribs you have ever eaten..then it was my Aunt’s. :)

  7. billy...on memory lane says:

    Oh yeah, used to ride bike into osage and swim.

    The bar i believe belonged to someone of the last name of Baso or Busie or something
    It may have been closed for a while, then sometime early to mid 70′s I think, Esther (your aunt? or was this a different cafe?) opened it as the Wolf Lake Cafe, and Ray had Ray’s repair next door. I don’t know about Ribs, but I sure liked the burgers there.
    I loved the old bar in there.

    somewhere in there, the bakery across from the post office (another building gone) was running…I believe Mrs. Noble? then I think for a short period of time a couple of the Keranen girls ran it or something.

  8. Far Side of Fifty says:

    Yes that would be my Aunt Esther ( My Mom’s sister), except I always called her Aunt Toots, she was one heck of a cook. My Uncle Ray had the repair shop, his son has it now. Sadly both my Uncle and Aunt are gone to their heavenly rewards.
    You spell those Finnish names pretty good! If you think about all the Finnish names you know, and have one that starts with Y, other than my Uncle and Aunts you will have my maiden name. Starts with Y ends in I. :)

  9. Far Side of Fifty says:

    Starts Y——i. That should be a good hint! :)

  10. Avatar of billybones billybones says:

    yup, she was one heck of a cook, and a heart to match.

    i was a little younger than the boys, but knew them.

    thanks for the memories