I lived in colonial times and was out on the frontier, living in a huge log common building in a settlement of white people. The building housed an eating and entertaining are on the ground floor, and lodging upstairs all around the periphery of the building. It was made of exposed pine logs with high ceilings and a walkway around the 2nd floor rooms that looked down into the common area. Far from being a saloon/brothel, the settlers were all Pilgrim types who gathered for hymn sings around the piano downstairs and had fellowship meetings around the long tables on the main floor. They were very white, very protestant/puritanical and very imperial.
As for me, I was considered a “white trash” woman, not good enough for their company. I lurked on the fringes of their common area, taking hand-outs of food and money from charitable settlers. On the periphery, there also lived a small tribe (members of a larger one) of Indians. They lived on the perimeter of the building under the eves in unfinished sections that were dark and dusty. they sold crafts and traded for food with the whites. Since I wasn’t welcome with the settlers, I took up company with the local natives and hung out with them, rolling dice, chatting, and eating and sleeping. They accepted me and adopted me unofficially into their group.
One day, part of the roof caught fire over in the finished section of the building. The whites were terror-stricken and rushed to get water. The local natives and I just watched – we were over in the unfinished wing, out of danger. I got nervous, but they showed me how the walls around us on our side were just tarp and animal skins. All we had to do, was lift the edge and slip out, and we’d be safe.
The fire spread down the wall across from us and we watched as the whites dashed to and fro, desperately trying to put out the fire. They hauled water in big wagons drawn by teams of draft horses, and made water brigades. They hustled to barricade the interior against the spreading fire. All was pandemonium, as they tried to save all their equipment and possessions from the fire. It kept spreading, tough, and soon they all had to flee their part of the building. The natives and I just watched the fire spread and consume the roof, the walls, the interior.
At last, we gathered our few things – blankets, bedrolls, a few eating utensils, and personal effects – together and ducked out under the edge of the tarp behind us. We climbed to the to of a little knoll and watched the whites scramble in vain as their common building burned to the ground.