Crawfish Boil Fireball

April 06, 2006

Over the few years I've been doing these posts, I imagine that I've told a number of stories where the principal theme is some boneheaded thing that I did, which lead to odd consequences. This one should top all of the rest of these.

On Saturday night, we had a group of people come over to eat and watch the NCAA semifinals. Even though the LSU game was late, we got a relaxed, early start. Eddie brought over a couple of sacks of crawfish, and Shelly brought the stuff to fry onions and pickles. We had beer galore.

The burner that I have has a propane tank, connected to two burners, with each burner having its own valve. It lets you run both at once, with varying degrees of flame. I started boiling the water for the crawfish, as it takes a while for a big tub of salty water to get boiling.

We fried a couple of batches of onions. One came out good, one slimy due to too-cold grease. We vowed not to ruin another batch and turned up the fire under the grease.

About that time, the crawfish water started to boil. To make it easy on ourselves, we poured both sacks of mudbugs into the one basket. The basket weighed a ton, but the two of us lifted it up, and lowered it into the boiling water. At the time, I wondered how we would possilby lift the boiled ones out of the water, but I just took another swallow of beer, to give me strength. I also put a batch of batter-covered mushrooms in the fryer.

We started to lower the hot basket of crawfish into the water, and as suspected, it weighed about a million pounds. We lifted the basket several inches above the crawfish pot, and some water splashed into the hot grease on the burner next door. This causes a little flame to shoot up, but it immediately went out.

I shoved the arm of a little wooden paddle through the handle of the basket in order to help lift out the basket. We both pushed up on each side of the paddle, which made it a lot easier to lift. As we lowered the crawfish into the boiling water, I heard a cracking noise.

The next few paragraphs might take you a minute or two to read, but everything here happened within a second or two.

The paddle snapped in two, dropping the crawfish basket back into the pot of water. This sent a huge wave of boiling water into the scorching grease next door. The next thing I remember, I was looking into a huge wall of flame. It was way over my head, as I couldn't see the top or sides of the flame.

I really got scared when I turned my back to the flame, and I was still looking at fire. Instinct told me to run, and I was clear of the flames by the time my mind told me, "Fuck, you're in the middle of the fire."

You know how when you get hurt really badly, you don't feel the pain when it happens, and it just starts to hurt as you get clear of the immediate danger? I was fine until I was out, and then the left side of my face and next started to burn.

I looked up, and saw the faces of my friends near by. Absolute terror. I asked, "Am I still on fire?" Someone said that I wasn't. I put my hand to my burning face, and was immensely relieved to feel flesh and lack of blood.

Mrs. theskinnyonbenny shouted, "YOU ALMOST BURNED DOWN OUR HOUSE!!!!" She claims that the fire ball was up to the roof line. I was still freaked out, and gave a panicky response that I don't remember, but was vaguely centered on my own well-being. I remember that even to my own ears, I sounded slightly insane, and I think there was an f-bomb in the response.

I turned and looked back where the fire ball had been. No kids and no pets were in the area. Nothing was still on fire. No one was injured. Don't they say, "God looks after those with heads up their ass?" I don't think that's the exact expression, but there is some saying where that's the jist.

About that time, Eddie poked his head (and just his head) from around the side of the house. His eyes were as big and round as if there were golf balls glued to his head. It was clear that he didn't know whether to expect a normal back yard, or whether to expect to see Beirut.

The stinging on my neck and face disappeared pretty quickly. But my nerves were shot. I put on my game face, but I had a pretty healthy case of the shakes, even as I finished the crawfish, and finished the frying -- after the boiling water had been safely removed.

So, to recap, here are the things I won't be doing any more:

  1. Cook near the house.
  2. Boil right next to the fryer.
  3. Overload the crawfish basket.
  4. Try to lift heavy basket with a wooden handle.

By the way, I have another recent experience with passing unharmed through a large section of flame, which I haven't yet shared on this site. I will -- but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Based on these two experiences, I am not yet ready to concede that I am without superpowers.