Icky Abe was born July 16th, 1889 as Abram Willis Durk. At the fine age of eight his name became Icky Abe given him unceremoniously by the seven students of Grace Harbor School.
The Durk family consisted of Ruth Ann his mother and Buck a dirty and under fed Collie that scratched constantly from the many fleas he entertained. Abram’s father Jeremiah died shortly after performing the act that brought Abram to this world; Abram the baby came to too this world exactly nine months later. A weak heart is what the Medical Examiner said, he made a better part time well digger than a Medical Examiner but he’d won the position fair and square in the election two years prior and it never entered his head to think any different. Ruth Ann knew better. Rape is rape; no matter if they had spoken a few times and even held hands once. Ruth Ann was a seamstress with protégé skills as Jeremiah found out. She deftly placed a rather large needle into the back of Jeremiah’s neck just below his skull just a mere second after he finished his business. Ruth Ann cleaned up herself, Jeremiah and moved him into the parlor. She set the table and made tea as if she and he had just finished a nice friendly visit. No one suspected a thing and she even went to the funeral. Faking a tear at just the right moment during the proceedings.
The Durk family grew by one in July as Ruth Ann came to full term. People of Bishop Creek, Washington; a small, very small community some distance from the bulging sea port of Seattle, talked behind handkerchiefs’ and curtained windows as Ruth Ann would walk by. Not one word was dared spoken to Ruth Ann about her mysterious pregnancy and giving birth to a baby boy. No one wanted to confront the woman that many said was crazier than a pet raccoon and twice as mean. Ruth Ann had a very well deserved reputation as a woman you didn’t want to cross. This had been shown on more than one occasion and a couple local gents with less than pure thoughts about Ruth Ann found out what she was capable of, they were lucky to live to tell about it and they both very well knew it. Word passes quickly in a town with only sixty three souls living within its boundaries. Don’t mess with Ruth Ann Durk.
Abram started off as a normal boy, happy, giggly and all around good natured. Around the age of five hard times came upon the Durk family as Ruth Ann’s arthritis ended her only means of an income. Abram was sent out three times a day to search through the towns trash cans for anything that could be eaten or of value. Ruth Ann went from a demanding scolding mother to right out abusive soon after the meager family savings ran out. On nights that Abram returned home empty handed neighbors could hear the beatings from a hundred yards away. Abrams screams bounced off windows and barn walls, entering homes that knew nothing of insulation. The crack of the belt came at regular intervals, crack scream, crack scream, crack crack crack.
The town’s people were very aware of the Durk family’s plight, Mr. Nix the owner of Nix’s Mercantile, the only grocery store in town give the boy a gift of bread and sliced ham to take home. It was like a lighting strike to the ass of Ruth Ann and she made it abundantly clear at the top of her lungs and with a few store items broken that handouts were not welcome or tolerated. Abram always a skinny boy lost more weight, always sickly with snot running down his pinched face. His classmates withdrew from Abram, distancing themselves from the sickly boy. Soon one of the older kids caught Abram going through the school’s garbage and the name Icky Abe was then and there forever his name.
On July 16th, 1903 at 4:00am in the early morning of his fourteenth Birthday; Icky Abe became a free young man. It was the best Birthday gift he could ever remembered receiving. Bishop Creek didn’t have a fire department and those that came to watch the Durk home burn watched until only ashes blew in the wind. Icky watched along with them, not a tear was shed. The once beautiful home built by his Grandfather now lay in ruins. Icky Abe now had a little secret he called his own just like his now burned to death Mother once had.
There were no monies for a funeral, so the burnt down house became the final resting place for Ruth Ann and the smoldering memories of Icky Abe’s childhood. There were a few, very few words of condolences to Icky and no one thought more than a split second before dismissing any thought of putting the teenager up in their homes. Icky Abe was left on his own, liberated by fire and free in this world. Mr. Nix the store owner the only one to ask Icky if he had any plans, asked if he possessed any usable skills. Icky Abe‘s only answer was no. Mr. Nix’s questions and concerns about the boy’s well being were silenced and he dismissed them from his thoughts a second later.
With the house being a burnt hole in the ground, the only standing building left on the property was the dilapidated little barn. Icky had two years earlier burnt down the tool shed; and the garden shed went up in flames that same fall. He had discovered he had a talent, a talent to burn even the most stubborn of things. Icky Abe could look at a brush pile, building or just about anything and see the exact spot where a few well placed tenders would work their magic. He’d check the wind, knew the dryness of the air just by a quick sniff a taste of the breeze. He knew the perfect way to take a fire from just a baby flickering flame to a roaring inferno in just minutes. He was a natural arsonist; like a duck takes to water, Icky was to fire.
He’d been torching trash cans around town since he first became their constant companion by order of Ruth Ann many years ago. He then played with bigger and better things; that being the Johnson’s barn when he was six. Next the Black Smiths building became his biggest accomplishment to date at seven. Never missing an opportunity to practice his growing skills, he burnt the outhouse at the rear of the school to punish his class mates for their ill treatment of him. Jacob the boy that coined Abram’s nick name; house was the first to burn to the ground. Like a true arsonist Icky loved his work; you could tell immediately if one cared to look at the front of his bulging pants. His first house fire over whelmed him as the house turned into an inferno. Icky danced, pranced and yelled in his excitement at the flames and billowing smoke. He went crazy when Isaac the youngest of the Newman family was the last from the burning house, engulfed in flame.
It was clear to the people of Bishop Creek who was starting the fires and with the town’s population reduced by two; the arson deaths of Ruth Ann and Isaac it was time for Icky Abe to move on to greener pastures. Icky burnt the family barn and then the towns Postal Office for good measures as he left town at midnight; just minutes before the Sheriff from Seattle arrived to take him into custody.
Icky Abe changed his name to “Torcher” a man’s name that night as a reward for his skills at evening up the score in town before having to make a fast dash for his newly found freedom. Icky was a kids name, made up by a kid; a kid without a house now. So “Torcher” it will forever be.