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CCFB News» July 2024

Downwind"open flames"

07/01/2024 @ 8:00 am | By Bob Rohrer, CCFB Manager

Early man discovered how to create fire. Then big things started to happen…heated caves, bbq brontosaurus chops, gun powder, the peace pipe, and warm baths. July was then named National Hotdog month.


I try whenever I can to maintain the early man tradition of fire by cooking over open flames. A campfire in the mountains or the Weber on the back patio appeals to my manhood (Insert a Tim Allen grunt here). This small but direct link to a bygone past is something my heart yearns for (I would be tempted to go back to that past except I really appreciate flush toilets and ice in the summer).


Where did this primal urge for fire come from?  Let’s explore.


When I was a kid, it was commonly considered to be “ok” to burn the household garbage on the farm and in rural areas.  We had a burn barrel like all of our neighbors. On calm, windless days, spirals of smoke from the burn barrels eating up the garbage could be seen at various farmsteads within the township. Probably a bit overly fascinated by fire, I was usually first to “volunteer” for the chore of burning the trash. I was especially fascinated with the plastic milk cartons melting into flaming globs on a stick.


We were not really a grilling family although there were interesting efforts attempted. In my early days, I can remember my father, the farmer, “dancing” around a grill with a squirt bottle of water aimed at angry flames shooting skyward. There was yelling. I would not describe the meat as tender but char could be described as a flavor.


We were not a camping family…thus no campfires. When the topic came up as a kid, I can remember my Dad passionately saying, “I will never sleep on the ground again”! I discovered later that my father did some “chasing through the woods” as an enlisted man at Missouri’s Fort Leonardwood. Those orders resulted in some uncomfortable nights in the woods of the base, away from the barracks. After the Army, he was provided the opportunity to choose.  Camping was a hard no.


Hosted by my 4H club or my church youth group, Fall was the time for bonfires and weenie roasts in area cow pastures. The “stars” of the bonfire were the flaming hotdogs and marshmallows we created on sharpened willow sticks. The heat from the bonfire was usually so intense, the longer the willow stick, the better (unless you wanted to lose a little hair on the back of your hand). A bunch of youth running around in the dark with sharp sticks, fire and snipes…what could go wrong. When in high school, that youth group provided to me my first true tent camping experience with the delight of a campfire in the mountain west. I was hooked.


As a young parent, I wanted to pass on my love of the outdoors to my children by taking them camping and building campfires. I created a one match competition, challenging the kids to construct a campfire that was successfully ignited using a single match. The key was PPP. Preparation, planning and patience to build the fire “structure” for access to oxygen, self-fueling and shielded from the wind. That was fun for about 1 minute after the match was snuffed out by the wind. Usually, the urge to “try to see if it works” won out.


Later, when taking nephews and nieces camping, the one match competition became a team event. The teams were selected, followed by team members arguing on the best fire construction methods or pointing out to their teammate “you did it wrong” after the one match fail. Good memories.


I talk a good game. Honestly, I have never been good at the one match campfire creation game (or lighting the burn barrel for that matter). A good starting point for me is a 300 count box of wooden kitchen matches. Even better, a self-igniting map gas torch. Simply use the map gas torch to ignite the charcoal in the grill when in a hurry. One minute with the torch and it is a grilling time!


I was thinking of all this because now, in July, we are in the heart of grilling season. The 4th of July brings out the grillmaster in all of us and we can let our early man or woman out of the box. Remember that July is National Hotdog month (and yes, not being from Chicago, I like mine with catsup).


I wish all Cook County Farm Bureau members a productive grilling season. Farm raised/produced beef, pork chops, chicken, brats, fish, and vegetables all seem better licked by flames!




FarmWeek, the Illinois Farm Bureau publication that goes to all Farm Bureau voting members in Illinois, is celebrating its 50th year. In its special anniversary section, FarmWeek provided some interesting facts regarding what was happening 50 years ago while FarmWeek was making its debut. For those that did not see the facts, they are duplicated below:

  • The value of farmland in Illinois average $720 per acre
  • The price of gasoline average $0.61 per gallon
  • A gallon of milk averaged $1.39
  • A pound of bacon averaged $0.99
  • A dozen eggs averaged $0.58
  • Richard Nixon became the first president to resign
  • People magazine made its debut
  • Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record
  • The sitcom Happy Days began its 11-year run
  • Crop prices averaged $3.02 per bushel for corn and $6.64 per bushel for soybeans

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