There are three introductory phrases I begin sentences with that truly define who I am:
The First—I can’t believe I have to repeat this, but …
The Second—If you truly want my opinion …
And the Third—When I was growing up in Wisconsin …
It’s the third, well-practiced utterance that we shall focus on today, as I feel this introductory remark is cemented in my daily speech and appears as often as the hourly Early Black Friday deals have been emerging in my mailboxes.
That said, when I was growing up in Wisconsin, it was an unremarkable experience to walk into anyone’s house—specifically in Northern Wisconsin where I was raised—and immediately feel the blast of a workhorse of a wood stove’s heat hit your face before the door slapped you in the ass.
This was rather welcoming, as most folks were more than happy to have something begin deicing their beard or eyebrows and eyelashes so they could again experience the pleasure and necessity of facial expressions.
Living for the last several years in a log cabin that is about as snug and as well-chinked as a pasta colander, I have finally decided to fork over several thousand dollars to a local dealer of what I’m certain is a large smelting furnace. I now join my childhood brethren in creating creosote worthy of the number of railroad ties needed to get from one end of the state to the other on an hourly basis.
As I do not venture into unfamiliar territory lightly, a great deal of research has gone into this decision. Yes, I may have grown up with an iron beast that tamed the North Pole snows that spewed down upon us for nearly nine months of the year, but I was merely a cog in the wheel of warmth creation, and not the true operator of the equipment.
My job, as was my three other siblings, was to chop, maul, haul, and stack. Four cords of wood were not going to magically emerge, wood stove ready, from the forests surrounding us. Hence, the true purpose for having a large family: woodworking.
Weeding rounded out the trifecta of those drudgeries, but again, as one can decipher from above, it was a small spot of three-month labor which, in truth, provided variety.
Having grown up in Wisconsin (yes, just another variety of the catchphrase from above), you get used to the cold very quickly. Note, I did not say agreeable to because bitter cold is a most lamentable backdrop to the everyday ordinary experiences of life, but one is quickly absolved of the notion that you are free to voice your complaints because, and to quote my dad, “It is not a personal experience.”
I forget, though, how temperate humans will not only note how frosty my home is in the winter but will not give a second thought to the unspoken but undeniably communicative action of refusing to take off their winter gear once entering the house.
Sitting around a table eating dinner with guests who remain clad in their parkas, hats, and mittens is discomfiting, to say the least. Hearing one of them whisper I think I can see my own breath was a sharp but inaccurate poke I was biting my tongue to address—firstly, because the house was currently at a balmy 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and secondly, because that temperature was a full 19 degrees above the true temperature for when one does actually see one’s breath.
I would know. As my Wisconsin childhood bedroom was the farthest away from the wood stove and, come morning, I could see my breath when first waking up. One could not blame the wood stove though, as it was attempting to fend off the typical 40 degree below winds whipping about outside.
First things first. After settling in with the pricey plan to purchase a humdinger of a heater, a few minor details needed to be addressed.
Where would it go?
Where would the things go that used to be there go?
Do I really need that out of tune grand piano any longer as I hardly ever play it, it’s in the way, and it IS made of wood?
Much shifting of furniture ensued.
Countless pictures flew through the ether for a woodstove salesman who refused to do a site visit.
Perilous ventures on to the rooftop followed to provide yet more pictures for a woodstove salesman who refused to do a site visit.
This was a familiar routine of mine until said woodstove salesman and I agreed we had at last found a suitable home for my forest eating friend.
Piano could stay … for now.
Next up, must find food—for the woodstove.
I called my local Paul Bunyan and inquired about pricing—after all, a looming factor pressing me to switch from electric to wood was the announcement from my local electric company that this year, because of price increases, we all may have to decide which days of the week we’d like to be warm, and which days we’d prefer to be fed.
Lord Lumberjack said, that because I shared the same namesake as his new bride, I’d get a special deal for his delivered logs—only twice as much as last year, but only because I was ordering twice as much.
Not much of a head scratching statement out here where I live, I assure you. In fact, rather standard.
Two cords of freshly hewn oak showed up on my driveway a few days later, and the days of fawning about with nothing to do and no sawdust in my hair came to an abrupt halt.
Norwegian roundhouses (this year’s being more of an oval house because of two cords) are standard in the Northwoods of my youth. Not so much the engineering aptitude required to make successful roundhouses, as this typically is accrued over one or two years where a great crumbling collapse will make you take pause in the whole worthiness of warmth, or life in general after you spent so much of it building a blunder to be.
But at last, site selected, money exchanged, wood stacked to perfection, it was now time to count the days until the crew arrived with my new climate controller.
But when I was growing up in Wisconsin, we never whistled before we were out of the woods.
Hence, next month: the install.
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