Ex-local firefighter Tim Casey has written a book about danger, drama, courage, our society's perception of heroes and fire station penis-measuring contests. It brings the reader into a world of bravery and explosions, of death and destruction and miracles. It gives us a long look at the amazing gallantry some people have in their souls.
But first, here's how the wiener-measuring contest evolved:
"Being the nerve center of every fire station," Casey writes, "the kitchen is host to many special 'events,' you might call them. Some of the 'events' are not what could be described as well thought-out."
Uh oh. Here we go.
"At Station Four, a very manly place at the time, a discussion arose about who had the largest man tool in the station. After an all-day exchange, it was settled. There would have to be a measure-off."
But there is much more to the book — Dangers, Toils and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter — than some silly contest. (The book, released last summer, is a good last-minute gift, $14.95 online at amazon.com or at Colorado Coffee Merchants, 302 E. Fillmore St.)
More important is the light Casey shines into a previously shadowed place. The book has, as you might imagine, upset people in our fire department, where Casey worked for nearly 30 years.
The storytelling is hilarious and sad and out of control and poignant, too. But in throwing open the door to the private madness of fire-station life, Casey jabbed some sensitive nerves. He tried to shield the identity of the department and the town with some vagueness. He even used fictional names for people in the book. But the attempt at anonymity failed for several reasons, including the book printer's decision to introduce the author in the preface as a firefighter "in the city of Colorado Springs, CO."
Live it up!
"There will be some people upset by this book," Casey writes. "For I have taken you to places they won't feel you belong."
An example might be, ummm, let's see here ... oh, I know! The wee-wee-measuring event. It had to be, as Casey says, more than a casual whip-it-out sort of thing.
"No," he writes, "there had to be rules, criteria and an impartial judge. It was decided that the kitchen counter where we prepare our meals should be the official measuring station ... where a full 12 inches was measured with great care."
(Personal note: A full WHAT?)
"Length was the only measurement to be taken. The judge had agreed to witness the official stretch, but he declined to be involved in any measuring of girth. He was, after all, 'not that kind of guy.'"
Casey began as a firefighter for the old Broadmoor Fire Department and then joined the Colorado Springs Fire Department. He was saddened when the end came in 2009.
"I miss them [firefighters] every day, but not the job anymore," he writes. "It's a game for younger and stronger and more mentally flexible people than I am."
Speaking of flexible...
"It had to be determined," the author writes of the Captain Winkie-measuring contest, "if the 'hoses' were to be 'charged' or left 'uncharged.' The judge ruled that uncharged hoses would be used, as he felt rather uncomfortable with charged hoses."
Of the eight men who had signed up for the contest, only three, according to Casey, "actually agreed to the gunfight. ... [The judge] dug up a black-and-white striped shirt and a whistle. He had a clipboard and latex medical gloves. The first contestant pulled his weapon and placed it on the counter.
"I don't know if it was fear, the temperature or embarrassment, but he really didn't even make the counter or the first hash mark. An argument ensued. The judge blew his whistle. The measuring strip was moved back to the edge of the counter."
I won't give away the ending. However, as a footnote, you may have read last week that Mayor Steve Bach and the City Council had their own, uh, contest, with the Council overriding most of the mayor's budget vetoes.
Frankly, I'm the last guy to be making any snide remarks. But I wonder if maybe our mayor brought an itsy-bitsy derringer to a bazooka fight.