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July 25, 2008 - Wes Burns
There was a fire here in Marshalltown a couple days ago. The building, an old yet still functioning factory just east of the 3rd Ave viaduct, burned in the night on Wednesday.
I was unaware of the fire until leaving for the north part of town on Wednesday evening. Myself and some of my erstwhile chums were heading to the local public house to discuss politics and the day's scuttlebutt. En route we saw the smoke rolling over the Center St viaduct.
Just a brief aside: why are we Marshalltownonians the only people left on the Earth that uses the term "viaduct"? Is it really just because they cross over rail road tracks and not water? Is that what's preventing us from saying "bridge"?
As I was saying; smoke was pouring over Center St. Quickly surveying the situation we determined that a building was on fire. While discussing the issue we came to the realization that none of us knew what they did in the building. One of my friends offered some information that he received from a less-than-reputable source that claimed the building was a tomato plant. I assumed that he meant a canning facility or a ketchup factory; clearly the building was made of brick and mortar. Not a three story tomato plant.
I have to say that it was an impressive fire. I know that a lot of people are going to be out of work for a while and that is sad but there is something that about a fire that just draws the eye. The eye, not the whole body.
Apparently others in town, gawkers if you will, decided that it would be a good idea to approach the fire. While the firemen were still working. While the fire was still burning.
Now I'm sure the fire fighters of this and probably every other town in the US have to put up with gawkers coming around and staring. Staring, gawking, and generally getting in the way. The people get their fill and eventually everyone is shuffled off by a police officer saying "nothing to see here, move along."
This does not suffice for the Marshalltown gawker. According to highly placed sources in the Marshalltown garbage service community this recent blaze was so mesmerizing, so enchanting, that gawkers were issued repeated warning to leave the premises. Then they were issued tickets. Tickets?
Why would you have to be ticketed to leave? The police really have to writer you a piece of paper explaining why you shouldn't have been standing next to a blazing fire? And to the point where they make you pay them money for doing so? Ridiculous.
To all the gawkers: get cable. Or maybe a book? Books are good. What about the internet? Lots of interesting stuff on that internet. Much more interesting stuff than walking to a fire in the middle of the night only to be forced off by the police after repeated warnings to vacate a dangerous area.
As for the garbage men, this is what they do. Who else is going to know all the seedy secrets of a town, or all the embarassing incidents at least? These guys have the first hand experience of seeing the extent which the gawkers were willing to go through to get a look at some burning wood. Its too unbelievable not to believe. I remember how jazzed people were about looking at the flood and that's not even on fire!
Gawkers: leave the firemen alone. Firemen: I apologize for the Marshalltownonians that are such a problem. Garbage men: The eggs are in the basket. REPEAT! The eggs are in the basket.
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