The Preacher Who Put the Arson in Parson

February 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

When my new husband took his first pastorate in a northern village, he thought he’d ignite some spiritual fire in the community. He went way beyond that.

The church’s parsonage perched atop a hill overlooking a lake. Gerry kept the lawns trimmed but the rocky slope below our bay window was impossible to mow. The grass and weeds were an unsightly tangled mess that marred the beauty of our lake view so I suggested that Gerry find a way to clean it up.

He watched our neighbor burn off his tall grass early in spring before the snow melted under the fence that encircled his property. Quick to recognize a good idea, Gerry planned to copy him. But it wasn’t until several weeks later, after a hot, dry spring that Gerry finally had a chance to tend to my nagging. He decided to surprise me for my birthday.

Off to work I went on the thirty-first of May, the day before my birthday, oblivious to what lay ahead. In the late afternoon, I returned to a vacant house filled with unsettling clues. A trail of sooty water marred the white linoleum between the front door and kitchen sink. A melted, misshapen plastic blob near the door, on closer inspection, turned out to be the charred remains of my garbage can liner – a wedding gift from a dear friend. A blackened soggy pile of rags beside the sink was all that remained of my colorful handmade heirloom throw rug from Auntie Ada. I was alarmed and upset.

I headed back outside where I spied a garden hose snaking over the lip of the hill toward the lake. I ran to the crest of the hill. Blackness! All the way to the lake, to the edges of our property and dangerously beyond, the ground was still smoldering.

Halfway down the hill, slumped atop a boulder holding a dribbling hose was what appeared to be a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins.

“Caawww-neee,” Gerry hallooed, giving a feeble wave. “I can’t leave my post. Come down.” I minced my way over the scorched earth, tottering on three-inch heels. My bedraggled spouse’s smoke-reddened eyes darted in all directions. He kept whirling around, shooting pitiful spurts at puffs of smoke. There were so many burn holes in the hoses a well-aimed spit would have had more volume.

The harrowing tale unfolded. Midmorning he had decided to clean up that unsightly grass as my birthday surprise. Just like our neighbor, he had matches and a cold drink. (The missing factor was the snowpack around the perimeter!) Always in a hurry, Gerry thought he’d speed things along. He fetched the can of gasoline. After pouring a line of gas along the top of the hill, he tossed a match. Kaboom!

He managed to save our house before he ran for help.

Five elderly women—the only people he found at home—and he waged a furious battle to subdue the runaway inferno that threatened to consume our village. The not-so-volunteer ladies’ brigade plunked Gerry on that rock with strict instructions to “Stay there, young man, and keep a sharp eye. Or else!”

“I’m starving,” Gerry lamented.

I headed uphill to fetch a sandwich and found my neighbor Florence on my verandah. Her hair was still wet from the shower and she had a glass of whisky, straight up, in one hand.

“What is it with you Baptist preachers and fire?” she asked, waving her empty hand. “The last guy did the same dang thing!”

About Connie Cavanaugh

Connie Cavanaugh is a speaker, humor columnist, and author of From Faking it to Finding Grace and Following God One Yes at a Time. She and her husband Gerry Taiilon live in Alberta, Canada with their kids and grandkids nearby. You can find out more at
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5 Responses to “The Preacher Who Put the Arson in Parson”
  1. Elaine says:

    lol! I like the ending! Keep writing. You have the last name Cavanaugh, spelled with a c, but Father Tim Kavanaugh from the Mitford series would have done something like this. So cute!

  2. Mary Caffrey says:

    This vignette had everything–drama, an inferno, a happy ending, and whisky. Bravo for all the survivors!

  3. Dianne says:

    Oh gosh, Connie. Funny! Baptism by fire fore sure.

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