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The Wood Burners
Cooking And Heating With Wood

As of my first recollections, my family had both a wood burning cookstove and a
woodburning heater. This necessitated cutting and stockpiling a good bit of firewood for
the winter. Dad would wait until the first cool spell to go chop wood. We didnít worry
about getting caught without any firewood as we usually had some left from the winter before.

Whenever dad got ready to go cut the wood he would hitch the team of mules to the
wagon and drive the wagon and team down into the woods. He would hunt for some
dead trees that had blown down. He would chop off the larger limbs with an axe, he
always kept a good sharp axe handy, then trim the smaller branches off and load the
whole limb on the wagon. When he got a wagon load he would take them to the house
and unload them. He would try to get several wagon loads brought to the house before
the weather got too bad. He would cut them into firewood lengths later as he had time.

I can remember several years after we had moved from the ranch of going back and
taking a walk into the woods. There were dead trees just about everywhere you looked.
Dad said, ďI can remember when it was hard to find a dead tree to cut for firewood, but
now everyone has gone to using butane and there are plenty of dead trees to be found.Ē I
know, everyone uses propane today but then they were still using butane. The tanks had
to be buried underground, as the butane would freeze in the winter. I think that is why
everyone switched to propane, it was easier to just sit the tanks out on the ground and not
have to worry about it freezing.

Now, back to that cookstove. The oven on that stove was right over the firebox and it
didnít take it long to get hot. Mother swore that that was the fastest cooking stove she
had ever seen. The oven had a door on each side and mother said that she needed both
doors, that it took two people to cook a pan of biscuits. She would stand on one side of
the stove, open the door, set the pan of biscuits in and close her door. Dad would be on
the other side and as soon as she shut the door on her side, he would open the door on his
side and pull the pan out and they would be done.

It wasnít long until they went modern and bought a kerosene cookstove. Mother liked it
better because she could have better control over the burner temperature. I didnít like it
because it made the kitchen smell like kerosene. However, mother kept that stove until
we moved to town and she could get a natural gas stove.

After getting the new cookstove, dad decided it was time to get rid of the wood heater in
the front room, so one evening he stopped in town after work and bought a kerosene
heater. Dad put that heater up that night before he went to bed and took the old wood
heater down and put it outside. He then told mother that she didnít need to worry about
having enough wood inside anymore as he had an extra jug for kerosene to go with the
heater and he would always make shure it was full and inside before he left to go to
work of a morning. Dad bought kerosene by the 55 gallon barrel and always had a barrel
at the back of the house.

Everything went well the next day until about the middle of the afternoon. A fresh
norther had blown in and it was beginning to get really cold. Mother had turned up the
flow of kerosene to the heater and it was doing a fairly decent job of keeping the room
warm. Then something caught mothers eye at the back of the heater and she went to
check it out. Somehow the kerosene around the base of the cup that the jug was turned
up in had caught fire. This scared mother and she grabbed a towel that was handy and
threw over the flame to put it out. She then flipped the kerosene jug over and set it
down on the floor behind the heater. After what kerosene that was already in the heater
burned up, that was the end of our heater for that day.

The rest of the day we sat around wrapped up in blankets to keep warm until dad came
in. As soon as dad walked in the door mother told him to get that heater out of the house
and to put the wood heater back up, that she would rather carry in the wood herself than
to have that jug of kerosene blow up in the house. That was definitely the end of our
new kerosene heater.

About the only good thing I can say about the wood heater is that whichever side you
had facing the heater stayed warm while the other side froze. Of course, the house itself
was part of the problem.

As I stated in the first chapter, this was an old box house. In constructing a box house,
after you get the boxing planks up you then nail 1X4 lathing strips over the cracks to
keep the wind out. This house was so old that some of the lathing was warping and
pulling away from the house and some of it was gone altogether. This didnít do much
good at keeping the wind out.

On the inside, since this was a box house, there were no studs and therefore no extra
ďinsideĒ wall. Canvas was tacked directly to the inside of the boxing planks and wall
paper glued to that, and part of that had been torn off. You could sit in the front room
when the wind was blowing from the north and watch that paper blow out from the wall
with each gust of wind.

Also, the house did not have any underpenning around it and some of the flooring boards
had cracks between them. My parents had gotten some 9X12 lineoleum and put down on
the floor. No one glued lineoleum down in those days, they just rolled it out and sat
some furniture on it to hold it in place and that was it. You could watch that lineoleum
on a windy day and any section that didnít have any furniture sitting on it would rise
about half an inch off the floor with each good gust of wind.

How could you expect any type heater to keep a house like this very warm? I guess that
is the reason I still donít like cold weather.

I remember dad telling about living in this same house in the winter of 1929, which he
described as the coldest winter on record.

He said that it got so cold one night that the flame froze in his lamp. It stayed frozen for
three days and nights. On the morning of the fourth day dad was tired of the lamp staying
on all night, so he broke the flame off and threw it out the back door.

Dad always kept some chickens in the yard. After the ground being frozen over for
several days, those chickens were ready to eat anything that moved. When one of those
chickens saw that flame sliding across the ice, she ran over, plucked it up and swallowed
it. That chicken laid hardboiled eggs for a week after that.

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