Swallowing the Hook

“Man, that one swallowed the hook good.” A phrase I and my closest friends said countless times while pulling any fish dumb enough to bite our lures from any local pond or waterway we could get permission to fish. “Swallowing the hook”, as it’s called here in the South, is a reference to when a fish attacks a lure with such aggression and fervor that the hooks of the lure will be lodged as far down in the fish’s throat as it can get. The fish literally inhales the bait like it is the last morsel of food it will ever see or receive.

During a conversation earlier tonight with my wife, she made the comment of how much she really just wanted and needed me around. I knew where it stemmed from, but casually blew it off in a way I sometimes do with the remark, “You’ve got me. I’ve swallowed the hook. I ain’t gettin’ off.” She laughed like she (normally) does, and we said our good nights and went to bed. Now I lie here tonight writing this because my seemingly insignificant response kept repeating over and over in my head (“I’ve swallowed the hook. I’ve swallowed the hook…”) like someone else was trying to send a message. The significance finally hit me as to why that phrase stood out and I am thoroughly convinced that is EXACTLY what is happening and my job is to convey it the best I can.

Today (March 1, 2020 at the time I started this), one of the sweetest and most caring individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and working alongside of passed away and went home to be with the Lord. Marian Horton was the type of person you could go to with your biggest secret or your lamest joke and by the end of the conversation two things would become quickly apparent; your secret was safe and you were the funniest human being on the planet. Whether she was horrified at what you told her or however terrible your joke really was, she never in a million years would’ve let you know otherwise. Her coy smile and infectious laugh lit up her quiet demeanor.

Cancer took Mrs. Marian from us. Over a year ago she had a surgery in an attempt to remove the cancer and the visible worry on her face at work a day or two before the procedure was heartbreaking. She knew it was serious. She probably knew more about how serious it was than she ever would have led anyone to believe. Just before she left work that day, I cracked a joke to her to try and put her at ease about how “If you’ve been married to Willie for this long and putting up with all of his shenanigans hasn’t hurt you, this surgery will be a piece of cake. I don’t know how you do it!” She laughed and laughed and said, “Oh I needed to hear that. You’re right. I swallowed the hook when I married him and I’m not getting off that easy! I sure do love that man though.” I heard her repeat the story a few times after she came back from her surgery to other coworkers at Barnes and always took pride that maybe I helped that day. I never thought much more of it than that.

Back to tonight. The same day we lost a friend and beloved coworker, I repeated almost word for word a seemingly insignificant line from a seemingly insignificant conversation to someone I care deeply for. It was Marian’s message to me that she is ok and that I helped that day. It’s a message to all of us on how to live our lives to the fullest and how to love the ones we are meant to love.

Be a fish. Always keep swimming. Inhale life. Attack each day with aggression and fervor like it’s the last morsel of this world you’ll ever see or receive. Swallow the hook.

Pink Starbursts and Proper Perspective

Sometimes in life, God provides to us an impenetrable and unforgettable testimony on His love in the oddest yet most unmistakable of ways. The web of love and connections He weaves often goes unnoticed and takes a “wake up” moment to realize. A sudden moment of tragedy and the loss of their beautiful 3 year old daughter for two wonderful people I have come to know in life woke me and hundreds (if not thousands) of others up this weekend.

Close to ten years ago now I was taken in by a core group of lifelong friends who will never fully understand the support and fulfillment they provided. As fate and God’s Will would have it, one of those guys married a girl I knew all the way from high school and the world received Jacob and Stephanie Harper with open arms. You will be hard pressed to find two better people in this world. Not only as a couple, but as genuine and caring people who are the epitome of what most people should strive to be.

Life moves at a torrid pace, and oftentimes the day to day rat race pulls us in different directions. The parties, cookouts, and date nights give way to weddings, careers, and babies. Our hearts don’t change, but our priorities do. I had the privilege of meeting Jacob and Stephanie’s highest priority, little Miss Rilyn Alivia, a few times in passing around town and at the store and such. Like any proud parents, she is their pride and joy, and the smiles on their faces always tell the story. Rilyn left us this weekend in a moment of tragedy, but her impact was felt in so many ways today.

There were two things that really stood out to me today at the funeral. The Pastor preached on “Proper Perspective”, and there was a little pink starburst candy on every seat in the room. The pink starburst, such a small and somewhat commonplace object, stood for SO much more. It was Rilyn’s favorite candy, and I swear there was a sense of her there in the room sharing with all of us what brought her joy. It was one of the most incredible feelings in my life to see people latching on to their candy piece because of the impact a tiny little 3 year old girl made on them. I can only dream to make an impact like that when my time here is done.

As Pastor Garner talked on “Proper Perspective”, my very own perspective came into view. I couldn’t help but look around and notice all the things I have taken for granted. There, for the first time in I don’t know how long, were most all of my friends in one room. There were those same bonds made years ago that had been covered by the strains of life peeking through in a show of support and love. There was no deadline to meet. There were no jobs. There were no judgments. There were only hundreds of people gathered for the one common goal of supporting and loving friends when they need it most. Although everyone there today would have taken her place, God’s love and power were shown to me through the loss of a 3 year old little girl.

To Jacob and Stephanie, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for pouring your love and same genuine spirits into Rilyn. If not for you and your indomitable love for her, God could not have shown His power. Although our hearts break for you, the renewed view on life and love from your beautiful little girl gives us a sense of strength and peace knowing that in the hardest of times there is positivity to be gained. Kind of like when you reach in the pack and pull out a yellow (yugh) starburst. It’s ok to cry about the yellow one you’ve been given. Just know that pink one is yet to come. We love you.

-Chad and Rosemary

The Weight

My career as a firefighter so far has taken me places and shown me things I thought I’d never see. We are expected to go places others won’t, and to be ready when we get there. This is just a cool little tidbit of research I did to show what we as firefighters carry on a day to day basis. Something to think about as far as physical fitness and when you may see even the best of firefighters struggling somewhere…

My everyday station uniform including boots, pants, shirt, hat, radio, and radio strap. 222lbs.


Next, my uniform plus turnout coat, boots, turnout pants with suspenders, and helmet. Typical of a car wreck or other incidents where a little more protection is needed, but not necessarily respiratory protection. 247.6lbs.


At an “everyday” housefire or alarm where added respiratory protection is needed, so is a little weight. Personally, this adds an SCBA, mask, my own personal ceiling hook, and another flashlight (who can have too many lights?!). 287lbs.


Finally, and this RARELY happens, is the load on a large commercial building (like hospitals and schools) or other hard to access places. I think I’ve only carried this load five times, and I have to be honest it sucks. The “highrise pack” is a bag full of hose, a hydrant gate valve, spanner wrenches, and a nozzle. 313.5lbs!


Just another look inside my life. Hope it shows a few things, and maybe helps people see the physical weight we carry during mentally stressing times.

When I Grow Up

When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter. I want to ride on the big red truck. I want to fly through the town, lights flashing, horn blaring, saving the day at every turn. I want to be the hometown hero. I’m gonna wave at all the pretty girls and shake all the hottest hands. Everyone is gonna know my name when I’m on that truck. Daydreaming of the day when I grow up.

Growing up happens quick, like the flashover I’m trained to fear in my new job. I’m on the big red truck. The lights flash and the horn echoes through the city square. I still wave at all the pretty girls and shake every extended hand. But I’m learning every day that the relationships this job builds are the important ones. The elderly couple two blocks away that call 911 at least 3 times a week begin to ask me how my weekend was. I know where to find the key to their house when one is bed ridden and the other falls down and can’t get to the door. The special needs camp every year is now something I mark on my calendar. “Another 2:00am med call to apartment L5” I grumble as I climb on the rig, but I uphold my oath and treat their emergency with as much compassion as I can muster. I guess it’s all a part of growing up.

In not so many years, transfers and terminations have rocketed me up the seniority list and made me a “grown up” compared to the 18 year old babyface we just hired to replace the 30 year Lieutenant that retired. The crew I was once “just a member of”, I now consider “mine”. I input my opinions and help influence the things we do as a team. Those same sirens still blare and that same horn still blasts the mortar from between the bricks of our square. The “pretty girls” I wave at are my wife and niece as I tell them bye from another dinner cut short by emergency tones and climb onto the big red truck. “I can’t believe Mr. J from apartment L5 passed away” I say when I read his obituary in the local newspaper a few weeks after we life-flighted him to Atlanta for a still unknown cause medical emergency. Another unexpectant “relationship” cut short by unexpected death. Tonight, as we all crawl back into bed with aching joints and tired feet after spending 5 hours at an apartment fire while the rest of the city sleeps, I’ll wonder how I got so old so quick. I’ll daydream of when I was young and careless. But I’ll thank God for keeping us safe and drift off to sleep until the next call. All grown up.

The Helpers

May 13, 2016… My job as a firefighter often shows me the horrible sides of life. Other times, it has an uncanny ability to completely restore my faith….

…Ever have something happen to you that in the grand scheme of things is a small act, but it instantly restores your faith in mankind? It happened to me tonight. My engine was dispatched to a call on the side of Highway 27 that absolutely ruined our patient’s day/night to put it lightly. It was nearly midnight and raining almost sideways. Terrible working conditions which is often the case in my line of work. Anyway, my guys and our ambulance crew are doing what we can with what we’ve got in this monsoon trying to help this person. When you’re helping someone in need you kinda block out all the distractions like the rain and wind and focus on the task at hand, but there’s always a little pesky voice telling you “this rain sucks…it’s cold…it’s hot…I can’t see…etc.” Tonight, for some reason, my subconscious voice that’s usually nagging and even sometimes cynical said, “You’re completely dry.” I don’t know why. It was almost like someone (and I believe it was) was saying in that split second, “Hey dummy, look around for a second at the blessings I gave you.” So naturally I look up and there are I think two, could’ve possibly been three, men standing above and around all of us fire/police/EMS workers holding big umbrellas and blocking the rain off of us. Complete strangers just getting pelted by rain and wind all for the sake of helping us help another stranger. The crazy thing to me is they weren’t even looking at us for the most part. It was almost eerie. They looked like statues just standing there for that split second I looked up. And then I never saw them again. I know they were there, but there were more important things at hand than to keep an eye on the “umbrella guys”. I don’t even know if anyone else saw them or even cared they were there. All I know is it was one of the simplest yet most profound things I’ve ever seen and it’s something I’ll never forget. “Always look for the helpers. You will always find someone helping.”


White Girls in the Wild. If you think you might be one, you’re already 12 pumpkin spice lattes and two pairs of UGG boots ahead. If you “literally can’t even” understand why I’d make a classification such as this, two things: 1. You IS one. 2. You better start chugging that PSL…

My wife is going for her Doctorate in White Girl Appreciation. Today, as some filler in her dissertation, my young scholar demonstrated experience and poise while turning your everyday plaid blanket into a freaking scarf. Every true #whitegirlinthewild needs a scarf when the temps hit 55 degrees.

Side note: As I am writing this without her knowing, she states to me (her broke firefighter husband), that she wants her next car to be a Land Rover. If there’s anything after a Doctorate, she’s well on her basic little way.img_3548

Christmas Kitty

December 5, 2015… Proof that a kind heart and compassion gets you absolutely nowhere with a feline.img_3547

Here’s a little Christmas cheer to lighten your moods today. Forgive the horrible picture quality, the light was blinding me… So, as I’m heading to work this morning, I pass by an unsaid establishment and spot a stray cat huddled beside a light on the ground trying to stay warm. Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT a cat person AT ALL. For some reason, seeing this guy doing what he had to to stay warm kinda pulled at my heart strings a little bit. Something told me to stop, so I did. I didn’t figure I had much to offer since I can’t take in another animal, but at least petting him may let him know somebody cares. Anyway, I walk over to the little guy slowly and cautiously as not to scare him. The closer I get, I realize he is purring louder than any cat I’ve ever heard! Now I’m smiling and feeling good about myself for making this cat’s day….Here’s where it gets good. Apparently that “loud purr” was more of “go away” growl. As I crossed the 3 foot threshold of no return, this little spawn of Satan exploded from his warm bed with the fury of a thousand tornadoes. His scream and hiss came second to only MY scream as Mufasa Jr let me know who the king of this parking lot jungle was. He used my legs as a climbing toy and figure-eighted in and out like an obstacle course pro. The terror probably only lasted 5 seconds, but it felt like forever. I’m pretty sure I blacked out, because next thing I remember is being back in my truck covered in sweat. Hoping it was all a dream, I looked over and this is what I see. “Christmas Kitty” was back warm and cozy in his bed, probably laughing to himself at the guy who once thought he should feel sorry for him. Well played, Christmas Kitty, well played…