It was May, and Dad was planting corn. Looking back from a far corner of the field, he saw black smoke rolling from the back of our home and heard shotgun shells exploding, a few at a time. Dad jumped off the planter and ran as fast as possible in his knee-high rubber dairy boots, across the plowed ground to the cow barn, screaming for the two hired men to come to help him fight the fire.
One hired man said, "De boss, he done loss his mind," and they went on milking! The mules, following Dad, planted corn behind him as he ran a diagonal route to the barn and the burning home.
Mom had driven to Columbia to get Jim and me from MUís elementary school at 4 oíclock. An alert rural telephone operator spread the fire message, but help was still too far away. The meat house with our home canned foods was separate but burned along with our home.
After it was all over, Mrs. Crouch and their older girls fed their family and also the four of us weary Meyerses and turned down our beds. Mom and Dad went over the tragedy time and time again. No one on our place smoked. Mom had done the laundry in the special room at the milk house, where there was a constant supply of steam-heated water for dairy and laundry.
Suddenly Mom yelled out, "Now I know what started that fire!" When all were listening, she asked our tired, exhausted dad if the tiny flame of an incubator would have been enough flame to set the whole house on fire. He thought about that and then nodded a yes.
Mom waited. Dad brightened. Finally, he cursed bad luck and shouted, "Your Momís right. The incubator flame has destroyed our home and everything in it."
Mom realized that I knew that more than a hundred unhatched chickens had died in their shells as that incubator became overheated. She hugged me tight when I said, "Mom, every one of those eggs had a baby chicken to hatch soon."
An incubator looks somewhat like a card table: four legs, flat top, one large, narrow tray under the table top. A small supply of kerosene feeds a tiny bit of oil to keep a minute flame warming eggs at a henís temperature day and night with no hen present. A human must turn the eggs daily to be certain of a proper hatch, when the hen is not available.
Neighbors loaned clothes for Jim and me to wear to school for the rest of that week and when school was out until September.
Mom and Dad borrowed money to buy clothes - beginning with shoes for dad. In the field, he often worked in his tall dairy gum boots when he was to be on a riding planter or mower for several hours. One of Momís friends gave her a used treddle sewing machine that the woman never used.
Mrs. Pace anounced a party for friends to donate practical items for immediate use. Weíd sleep in the borrowed tent, and that sounded like fun. More another Monday.