“Slam the Stack”: Of Bonfire and Texas

As preface, let me start with with how we used to Stack way back in ’03 and the first Stack off campus. The fundamentals of design were the same as now. All logs touched the ground, the tallest in the center and shorter farther out for the stepped profile. There were Perimeter Poles, and so naturally a Perimeter. By all appearances, one might perceive things to have been the same as today. But they weren’t, and it was my ears and not my eyes that first told me so.

I heard it for the first time at a First Shift just a few years removed from my days running it. Walking from my truck, I saw a three-story length of interior timber creeping slowly slowly slowly aright by increments. I paced into a sprint toward the Rope Crew, thinking them struggling. The old guy was back in the game. Then I heard from inside Perimeter the steady order: “sloooow to Stack.” This wasn’t trouble. It was something new.

Turns out that’s how Bonfire had started doing it then, and how they do it today. And I am glad that they do it this way. Slow, steady, and measured. The ropes bear the log skyward and the sparse meat at its base direct it. It’s progress to be proud of. A far cry from the process I knew, but one that was recalled today…


The log approached Perimeter, borne by motivants “nut to butt” down its length. “Butt the Stack!” was the call that placed the log as a radial from its final resting place. The stump end hugged Stack, the tree end lay stories away. The meat was then motivated, imbued with will unnatural. There were no ropes when they raised the log again.

“One! Two! Halfway up!” and the tree end so far from Stack was lifted gruntingly. Fitful and seething breaths along its length. Motivation exhausted like piston fire through clenched teeth. Beyond this moment there was no return and failure was no option.

“THREE! FOUR! SLAM THE STACK!” and the log heaved up and forward.

In an instant, the process was played out. Chaos belied choreography. Meat on the lifting end first pulled their load up. Past the shoulder, then put paws to it and walk by hands down the log, run with feet toward the Stack. The butt end against Stack dug into disadvantaged leverage. Simultaneously hold the Stack-side position down. Pull up the tree-side hold. The log pitched Stackward, its stump end the pivot. The tree end climbed out of the tallest reach.

And then the crush began. When a pair of hands could no longer reach the log, they were thrust into the small of the backs of meat in front, driving another up and forward. In a heart’s few powerful beats, a stretched line was condensed into a seething forward-moving mass of purpose. Spirited hands toed the Perimeter to charge forward into the crush. At the tipping point, the outermost layers of the mass of humanity were 10 feet from Stack and the log they had thrust toward it. Only a few still touched the log. Momentum and will carried the log through the tip into Stack. And one more purpose was fulfilled.


Now, what the hell has this to do with Texas on August 27, 2017? I hear from all corners of this Great State compassion and courage. Will to drive to the heart, to the purpose, to Rockport, Houston, Beaumont and points between. Frustration when it’s impossible.

This is the crush. It has purpose, and it has affect. It is seen most formally and officially in first responders, water rescuers, emergency services statewide. They are called southeast. Some will never make it to the center, and by design. They drive forward to brace the crush. We are all called to the same. To descend and condense. Faster than harm – courage, capacity, and compassion flow toward the purpose.

Push toward the purpose. Stand where someone else is and dig in. Drive them forward. In turns, we brace the crush. We tilt against the impossible.

Push toward the center, Texas. Push forward, and we will rise.

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