Monday, August 18, 2014

Wood Stoves by Lauri Robinson

Although we have a propane furnace, we primarily heat our Minnesota home with wood. The furnace is usually only used in the spring and fall when we just need to take the ‘chill’ out. During the summer months my husband spends hours upon hours cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking the six to seven cords of wood it will take to heat our home from October to April. A cord is approximately four feet high, by four feet wide, by eight feet long. Most wood takes at least a year to ‘season’ before it’s dry enough to burn efficiently. Ideally it should be stacked off the ground, (on some kind of platform) in rows far enough part to get good airflow and in an area where wind and the sun can dry it out, but out of the rain and/or snow. The wood he is gathering now we won’t use until next year, or the year after—oak takes longer to season than other wood and that is his favorite type to use. He’ll often stack the logs for one year and then split it the next year. That wood is then stacked in cords in the woodshed for use the next year. It’s a lot of work and messy, but we prefer the warmth of wood heat. However, we appreciate the fact we have options. 

Pioneers didn’t—other than coal in some areas, which is a lot of work as well—and having enough wood to heat their homes and cook was a time consuming task.

Wood stoves were much more efficient and used less wood (and coal) than fireplaces, but until the railroad they were not readily available. Pioneers knew this when heading west and the stove was often the first thing loaded, however it was also, because of their weight, the first things tossed aside when the going got rough. Six plate stoves were called such because they were usually made of six heavy cast iron plates that were bolted together.They were also called box stoves, because that’s what they looked like. A box. The design was very popular because they could be used for cooking and heat.

One type of single "Canada" stove, also called a "box stove," made in Norfolk County, Ontario, about 1820. (From Jefferys, The Picture Gallery of Canadian History, II, 115.)
Old school in Wyoming with stove in corner
Kitchen in S. Dakota museum
Once the railroad crossed the nation, stoves became much more available. Parlor stoves, used for heat, not cooking, came in many shapes and sizes.  The next evolution was the cook stove, designed for cooking, heating with it was a secondary benefit. If a family was fortunate enough, they built a summer kitchen. A separate building from their home for cooking during the summer months. A very fortunate family would have two cooking stoves—one in the home and one in the summer kitchen. Other families would move the stove to and fro. 

We’ve had several wood stoves over the years. When we purchased our current home, the wood heat was a major selling point for us, however, from the day we moved in the woodstove and I never saw eye to eye. In our old house we had a ‘box’ stove I could build a fire in blindfolded. That soon became a thing of the past. The stove in this house and I fought constantly over getting a fire started and in keeping one going. I honestly have too many stories about that old stove to retell. I’ll suffice by saying I have a scar over one eye from when the door mysteriously swung shut, hitting me on the head. Mysteriously because I was the only one home.  I am glad to say that stove never got the best of me—not  completely—and  that we replaced it years ago with one that has served us very, very well.

In my book, The Wrong Cowboy, which will be released November 1st, I took the opportunity to incorporate an inanimate object that drove the heroine to her wits end. And yes, it’s a stove. Unfortunately, it does get the best of Marie or maybe it doesn’t considering she then had to move into Stafford’s home. 

One mail-order bride in need of rescue! 
All the rigorous training in the world could not have prepared nursemaid Marie Hall for trailing the wilds of Dakota with six orphans. Especially when her ingenious plan—to pose as the mail-order bride of the children's next of kin—leads Marie to the wrong cowboy!

Proud and stubborn, Stafford Burleson is everything Marie's been taught to avoid. But with her fate and that of the children in his capable hands, Marie soon feels there's something incredibly right about this rugged rancher and his brooding charm….

Here’s a snippet: 

“What were you trying to do?” he shouted. “Burn the place down?”

“Of course not,” she yelled in return. The smoke filling her nose and mouth made her cough before she could finish. “I was cooking lunch for the children.”

“You don’t know how to cook,” he yelled, grabbing her arm and pulling her toward the door.

“I’m learning,” she shouted back.

“Well, learn how to build a fire first.”

They were outside now, in fresh air, which got her lungs working again. “Shorty told me to leave the door open so the fire would take off.”

Stafford had a hold of both her upper arms. “You also have to open the damper so the smoke goes up the chimney,” he shouted inches from her face.

Over the noise of his voice she heard the trampling of footsteps on the wooden bridge and turned, a multitude of thoughts vying for space in her mind. Number one being that, even though he was shouting at her, she was rather delighted by the sight of him. It was like seeing the first robin in spring, when it made a person happy, even if there was still snow on the ground. Then again, maybe she was happy because she’d been right. He had come to the rescue.

“Everything all right, boss?”

It was one of the ranch hands asking the question. She hadn’t been introduced to anyone besides Shorty, but the children had, and by the descriptions they’d provided, she assumed this man was the one named Red. The children had asked how that could be when Red had black hair and a rather comical-looking black mustache.

“Yes,” Stafford said. “She just forgot to open the damper.”

“All right, then.” The other man tipped the brim of his hat and gave a little nod. “Ma’am.”

She gave a slight nod in return. Her mind was still racing, and still in one direction. Stafford. It had only been a few days, but she’d forgotten how handsome he was, and how tall. Right now, if she stared straight ahead, her eyes landed on the buttons of his shirt. She had to tip her head to see his face, which she was afraid to do again. A moment ago, while gazing up at him, her heart had started beating so frantically it hurt to breathe.

The hold he had on her arms softened and his hands rubbed the area instead. The action caused a multitude of feelings inside her, and she could no longer keep from glancing up.

His expression was no longer hard and fierce, and she couldn’t find a way to describe how he was looking at her. The tenderness in his gaze, though, made her gulp. It seemed as if time stopped, as they stood simply looking at each other.

He was still rubbing her upper arms and the commotion inside her was growing stronger. She had an undeniable urge to step closer and stretch her neck so—

The realization was startling, and Marie stepped back. Stafford moved at the same instant, separating them further. While she pressed a hand over her racing heart, he took off his hat and glanced around before replacing it.

She’d never, ever thought of kissing a man before.

“Make sure you open that damper,” he said gruffly.

Her meek reply of, “I will,” caused her cheeks to grow even hotter. What was it about him that left her completely out of sorts? She didn’t have a lot of experience around men, but one hadn’t intimidated her for a very long time. That thought triggered a response.

“I wasn’t trying to burn the cabin down,” she shouted at his back, needing to show him he hadn’t frightened her and never would.

He spun around, frowning. A moment later, he nodded, “Good, see that you don’t.”

“I won’t,” she insisted, marching toward the table and the eggs that still needed to be cooked.

Marie did cook the eggs, and did so several more times, until a week later, when she burned down the cabin.

One final note, I recently created an author page on facebook, if you'd care to stop by, I'd appreciate it!


Caroline Clemmons said...

I remember when my grandparents lived on a farm and had a potbellied wood stove in the living room and a larger cooking stove in the kitchen. My grandmother was happier after they moved to town and had a gas range, as you can imagine. I don't remember how they heated the home in town, but there were no stoves around that I recall.

D'Ann said...

My pop doesn't believe in heating a home in any other way than a woodstove. A lot of my childhood was spent gathering, chopping, hauling firewood. I love the feel of a woodstove on a rainy day!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

That is a great excerpt!! Sounds like a wonderful story. Thanks for the info about the stoves. There is something so outdoorsy about them, even today.

Lauri said...

Fun memories, Caroline. I remember when my grandparents got indoor plumbing.

I love the penetrating heat of a wood fire, too, D'Ann.

Thanks, Kristy!

Anonymous said...

Great Excert, Lauri. Sounds good!

Danita Cahill
Hometown Love and Laughter