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Machine Guns and Orange Balloons

This is both uplifting and difficult to write. Contradictions seem to be the order of the day during our short spin on this planet. Let me put that in the “I” context………..on my short spin.

My son, Ryan was killed in a tragic accident on July Four 2006. Initially, everyone thought, including me, that I was responsible for his death and I was charged for causing it. Later, after a close investigation, it was determined that I did not cause his death and was exonerated. That made things better, but it will never be OK.
Ryan was the son I had always dreamed of, and came to me as a ‘blank slate’ with whom I had the challenge and joy to sketch, color, and mold a strong and happy person . To be clear, he was a ‘step-son’ but I never called him that, out of respect for him accepting me as the guiding male influence in his life.
I will write more about this remarkable young man later……..but let me get to the uplifting part first.
Ryan left us before his sixteenth birthday. He was a skate-boarder and had lots of pals that did the same thing and enjoyed that fringe culture. He practiced the art and sport of this at a church basketball court in Quinton, about eight miles from home. Gladly we transported him there and fetched him when he was done.
On his sixteenth birthday we had a party at his favorite skateboarding venue with all of his friends attending. In his honor the kids wore his trademark red bandannas and gleefully showed off their skills, some of which were truly amazing. We had cake and ice cream, sang Happy Birthday and had a warm and collective remembrance of him.
The last thing we did was to release sixteen orange balloons with white ribbons and watched them ascend and slowly drift west toward Richmond. Orange was Ryan’s favorite color. When they were out of sight, the party was over, and with enough hugs and well wishes to almost hold back the tears, we went home.
Five years later I had some friends and my nephew, Kevin, at my shooting range here at home. We exercised a variety of machine guns and sent hundreds of rounds downrange. Some of the ammunition belts were loaded with tracers which are bullets that have an incendiary charge that lights up as the bullet travels, so in war, a soldier can see where the impact will be. That’s because machine guns are pointed rather than aimed.
Tracers have one hazard, other than killing. In dry conditions, they can start fires. And that they did. As we were finishing up the shooting and packing the weapons, I saw smoke downrange. I had set the woods on fire and about a quarter acre was involved before we could get back there with rakes and shovels. It wasn’t even my land to make matters worse. It belonged to Luck Stone who owned the property behind my range. Frantically we stomped, raked, scraped and such and had it contained in about fifteen minutes, but I got nervous and called the County and asked for a couple of ‘Brush Trucks’ to help finish the job. The fire department gladly obliged and were here in minutes. These young and eager firefighters quickly had all the affected area totally extinguished.
Then the Fire Marshal showed up with the representative from Luck Stone. The Fire Marshal asked what happened and I informed him that I had caused the fire by shooting tracers. He said “Stuff happens” (well, that’s not exactly what he said, buy I’m keeping this clean), and wanted to go back and look at the burned area. The guy from Luck Stone asked why I had put it out. Huh!? It seems that he had applied for permits to burn the undergrowth a number of times which were denied and would have liked it better we let it burn.
Ok, so I’m not in trouble with the landowner………..now the fire Marshal is investigating. He looked at the area and tossed some leaves in the air to observe the wind direction and said, “You did not start this fire”, and pointed to a charred stump. “That has been burning for at least thirty six hours.”
This is getting strange. I told him that I liked it better when I thought I started the fire, because there was something I could actually do to prevent it in the future…………not shoot tracers in dry conditions. But he insisted that there was another cause and left it at that.
He and the nice man from Luck Stone left, as did the fire department guys. I had a beer. OK, I had more than a beer.
Several hours later the Fire Department came back to look for ‘hot-spots’ as a precaution. Finding none, thy advised that they would return at midnight to check again. I told them that I didn’t think they should trouble themselves with that, and further, I would go out and check it myself periodically. Satisfied with that, they told me to call if they were needed, as they were minutes away.
I checked for hot spots later and again, at midnight, half asleep, stumbled out there again with a flashlight. There was no problem.
As I turned to go back to the house, I tripped over a fallen limb and fell to the ground in the charred ashes and woodland debris. Picking myself up, my flashlight illuminated something that at first was odd, then took my breath.
It was a shriveled up orange balloon with a white ribbon. I picked it up, totally incredulous and brought it back to the house, waking my wife to show it to her. We were totally astonished at this find.
Now, I’m not talking about something I thought I saw or think I smelled. This is tangible and real. I can show it to you today.
I fancy myself to be a bit of a scientist and to that point thought everything had a logical explanation…………a reason. But for the life of me, I cannot explain this.
Resolving to accept this as a ‘visit’ from Ryan, I framed the balloon and ribbon remains and made a bronze marker engraved with “Ryan, We Are Listening” and put that marker at the spot where I found the balloon.
I don’t know what else to do.
Ryland
 

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Life

Some will believe this was a greeting and some will reject it. What others believe isn't important because what matters is what is in your heart.

For myself I still believe in Santa Clause, laugh if you want. But kindness, caring, giving, and love are important. Sometimes we have to look inside ourselves and give Santa a little help when others are in need.
 

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Ryland, after just shy of a decade on this forum, I can never tell if you are batshit crazy or just a downright prodigy. Regardless, there are very few people here with the wealth of knowledge and experience that you have.

My thoughts are with you my friend. Thank you for sharing this with us.
 

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Some will believe this was a greeting and some will reject it. What others believe isn't important because what matters is what is in your heart.

For myself I still believe in Santa Clause, laugh if you want. But kindness, caring, giving, and love are important. Sometimes we have to look inside ourselves and give Santa a little help when others are in need.
X2 It was a greeting. Not everything in life can be explained. Sometimes faith is involved.
 
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