This isn’t your usual non-fiction read. It’s not quite a biography, not quite an orderly book on a particular topic. It’s the words of a man reminiscing about a small town and its volunteer fire department. The author admits that his natural tendency is to be rather hermit-like. But working with the local fire department has bonded him to the the little community that he grew up in and returned to. Mr. Perry describes his job as an emergency responder:
“In New Auburn, we are on call twenty-four hours a day. We are not scheduled, we are simply assumed to be available. We carry our pagers everywhere we go, we sleep with them beside the bed. You get so you jump at anything that beeps or jingles. I stayed with a friend over the holidays, and she had this Christmas clock with a little Dickens scene, and every hour on the hour, it played a wheezy electronic carol, the first note of which matched the tone of the fire page. Every hour on the hour, that clock would fire up, and I’d jerk as if I’d been goosed.
“I was paged one hundred and six times last year. Fires, drunks, babies, grandmothers. Injured farmers, frightened salesmen, old fishermen. The pager is on my hip right now, even as I type. It will go off, perhaps in the next five minutes, perhaps next Tuesday when I am in the bathroom. My heart will jump. If I’m getting something from under the sink, I may crack my head on the grease trap. I’ll listen for the details, find out where, begin forming a half-baked picture in my head. I’ll run across the backyard, headed for the hall. Whoever’s out there needing help, they’re getting me, for better or worse. Me, and a handful of my neighbors…” (from pages 159-160)
After reading this book, I thought about how difficult it must be to do emergency work in such a small community. You would probably know most of the people you were called on to help. You would need to emotionally detach yourself at the emergency scene so that you wouldn’t become too panicked or upset to help them. I, for one, am very grateful for people who have the gift of being able to handle emergencies calmly and efficiently, whether in a large city or in a small hometown like New Auburn. God bless those firemen and ambulance EMTs!