The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Woodstove Memories Aren't Always Warm Ones

By Barbara Crowl © 1987

Issue: January, 1987

When my husband first approached me with the idea of purchasing a woodstove, he was well prepared with facts and figures about savings on energy costs. I studied his face, which was agog with the idea of radiating heat with a woodstove and becoming one of the thousands of Joe Homeowners who beat the high cost of fuel. My husband is now one of these. He carries a chain saw.

The one stipulation to receiving these savings was that we'd have to cut the wood ourselves; buying it at the current high prices would defeat the purpose. I agreed. What did I know? I grew up with concrete and asphalt. When I was a mere kid, we spent our time dodging trucks, "souped up" Chevys and buses, but my husband spent his chasing deer. My faith and pure, blind trust in him were what drove me to nod my head in complete agreement, that a woodstove was a must have.

So we bought. And we bought. First we bought our woodstove. Then we bought our chainsaw. Then we bought our truck. Then we bought insurance. Lots of insurance.

The woodstove cost $700.00 plus, and weighed even more. We decided to buy the kind with the water tank attached to the side to also heat our water. Good idea! We spent several days scouting the neighborhood for those men (or women) with biceps huge enough to help carry in our money saver. Mission accomplished. My husband under normal circumstances could easily have hooked up the plumbing necessary to the stove. But we never HAVE normal circumstances. In the middle of the job, he came down with all the symptoms of mononucleosis. I tried everything to try to project his body out of the bed so that he could return to the stove to finish the job. I attempted to secure the instructions sheet between his nose and upper lip; mission not accomplished. When his eyes started to glaze over, I realized that it was time to call a plumber. He finally came after hours and at time and a half and hooked up the pipes, which were by then leaking water all over the floor. It turned out that my husband didn't have mono after all but a rather nasty case of strep throat.

We now needed a method of transport for our timber. After all, if we had to rent a truck each time we needed to carry the wood, where are the savings? So we shopped. We were finally led to buy a real goodie through private sale, which was a true beauty, army green with no chrome, and absolutely NO comfort. I know, I know; if we have any comfort, where are the savings?

My husband felt compelled to teach me how to drive this treasure in case of an emergency, and to me it felt big enough to pull the Queen Mary. I never did get to be very proficient at maneuvering it, so Park was my favorite "gear." The prepared for emergency came all too soon when I had to drive my son to the emergency room with the truck's bed full of brambles and wood. By the time we got there, no one was sure who needed treatment more; my asthmatic son or his catatonic mother. That truck carries with it a whole book full of stories. Sadly, (snicker) we had to let it go to buy a smaller truck which would require less gas.

I quickly nicknamed this truck Sparky, because it was such a dog. It was easier on gas; however, because it was so small, one had to make more trips to carry the same amount of wood. If you have to make more trips, where are the savings? My logic doesn't match that of the Mister's. Anyway, to say that going uphill in Sparky with a load of wood was slow going, is putting it extremely mild. I could get out halfway up, spread out a five course picnic lunch, stuff myself, chase some butterflies and still be back before my husband had driven Sparky fifty yards.

About this time the key became useless, because the ignition no longer worked. We discovered that you could start it with a hammer, which was okay. But sometimes the hammer got a little heavy on the key chain, and was awkward to carry in a pants pocket.

Also, once when my husband had Sparky out for a deer hunt, the truck locked up completely and would only go backwards. He drove sixteen miles down the mountain backwards. The friend that was with my husband is almost fully recovered.

But Sparky one day finally gave his last cough and completely quit. Before I could even suggest having him put to sleep; my husband decided to fix him instead of buying a new vehicle. We bought and gutted an old car with a huge engine in it to transplant into Sparky. His insides were replaced with the engine, which was a 327. The procedure took an eternity to complete. My husband, the "surgeon," calmly asked me to kick him if he ever attempted a project like this one again, but I had other visions. Sparky is now at least like Willie, on the road again. But now I had to rename him, because the engine is so fast, that along with the "hair gas pedal," even a nervous twitch of the foot can put you into flight.

Auto repair bills, though high, do not rival lawyer and hospital fees; we have had several close calls with both. However innocently we were involved, they were nerve wracking experiences. Twice my husband and a friend cut wood on what they thought was the latter's property. Twice the courts thought otherwise. That was touch and go. Even though it missed, my husband's hair nearly turned white as he watched his timbering lumber approaching power lines. Another time, he looked on terrified, as huge logs rolled down a relative's front hillside at him and a $200,000.00 house. That time the Queen Mary puller courageously intervened. We left the body work go unrepaired.

One of my other half's several Emergency Room visits was quite embarrassing. He was trying out his new maul and missed the log, but not his leg. That was bad enough, but when he repeated the move several hours later, I was mortified, for him of course. He looked as though he were carrying a softball inside of his leg. The nurses resisted the urge to snicker until they left his cubicle.

I believe that their stifled hysterical laughter went unnoticed by my husband, his leg did eventually deflate.

The woodstove certainly does have its advantages. I do prefer seeing Sparky to seeing the oil truck. It is wonderful for steady heat, and cooking on it is interesting. And we are now able to find my husband's biceps without the aid of a microscope. In winter, I dry our clothes in front of it; so what if they're a little stiff? A little abrasion is good for circulation. Even the first back puff can be a useful experience. (Back puff is the term used for the time that the smoke backs up and fills the house.) We got our smoke detectors checked for free in this way. My Caucasian family suddenly changed race, though.

If the truth be known, I would opt for it again. Maybe the smoke has filled my brain.

You too, can have savings such as the following if you purchase a woodstove.


Cost of Woodstove - $700.00

First Truck - $600.00

Chain Saw - $279.00

Chain Saw Blades for them that gets stuck in the tree - $38.00

Maul - $30.00

Overdue, Overtime, Overpaid Plumber - $62.00

Gloves for Family to stack wood - $62.00

Needles for when the Family forgets to wear Gloves to stack wood - $0.98

Masonry for Stone surrounding Stove - $200.00

Chimney - $300.00

Sparky - $900.00

Hammer to use as Sparky starter - $12.00

Sparky's new engine - $400.00

Emergency Room  - $150.00

Lawyers - $300.00

Smoke Detectors - $50.00

Chimney Sweep Brushes - $20.00

Repair of Chain Saw - $179.00

Therapy for Friend who was along for sixteen mile backward trip - $300.00

Piece of Land with Timber and a Trailer on it, SUBSTANTIAL

Oh yes, we are now the proud owners of a quarter acre of land with timber. Husband says that it also doubles as a hunting camp. What a bargain!!

Please see me if you have any questions about how you too, can have all the savings we now have. We'll have a long talk over a cup of coffee, around our woodstove, of course.