PRAIRIE FIRES pgs 52-54
It was fun to watch the tumble-weed frolic but frightful enough at times to see a prairie fire. When there were miles upon miles of open land covered with dry grass either in the fall or in the spring nothing could stop such a fire. A tiny blaze at first would soon grow into a long line of fire moving across the prairie in early times as fast as a race horse.
It was very dangerous to be caught in front of such a fire, but there was one way to safety if there was enough time. By making another fire about the place to be protected and beating it out on one side before it became too strong, a small burned place would soon be left into which the traveler could go and wait. Or the settler might burn around his property the same way. This was called �back-firing� and it was sure relief. Usually the farmer plowed a strip of land around his home, but even then the fire sometimes leaped across the furrows.
After the land had been partly settled, it was a thrilling sight to see on a still, dark night the different lines of fire moving across the level ground. To a small boy it was like the pictures of companies and regiments of an army as the fire slowly burned out because of plowed fields. Since the tall slough grass burned rapidly while the short upland grass burned slowly, the lines of fire became irregular and the boy�s fancy pictured armies in battle array.
Sometimes a fire set out to burn wheat stubble, that is the wheat stalks left after harvest, would get away from the farmer and burn his neighbor�s stacks. This was very unfortunate, because the man who set the fire must pay all the damages.
If a fire threatened to burn a home, a team might be hastily hitched to a plow and furrows be run along in front of the approaching blaze. Very often the whole family would try to whip the fire out. Neighbors would come to help and with wet mops or anything that could be used to put out the blaze they would fight the danger at great risk of being burned. The work of a whole summer might be destroyed in a few moments; for once under headway, a fire would even sweep through green grass, killing the blades as it advanced, and wiping out in a brief time the stacks in the harvest field.
Very early in Iowa laws were passed to prevent such accidents by punishing men who carelessly caused them. Hereafter if the Iowa boys and girls wish to see tumble-weed frolics or prairie fires they must go farther west.