By Charles Towne
Back on the old home place in Illinois when I was a boy, the privilege of building the fire in the cook stove, as well as in the old cast iron Warm Morning heating stove, fell to me.
I can remember waking at six o’clock each and every morning to my father’s deep voice, “RISE AND SHINE BOY, TIME TO GET UP! LET ME HEAR THE CLATTER OF YOUR CLAWS ON THE FLOOR!”
The humor of his somewhat jocular summons was lost on me as I reluctantly rolled out of my nice warm bed to the insidiously damp, and miserable, Illinois cold to kindle the fires.
Yes, it was cold.
How cold was it? you may ask… and so I will tell you.
It was so cold, frost would build up a quarter of an inch thick on the inside of the windows, and that thick coating of icy frost was the closest thing to insulation we had.
With my teeth chattering from the freezing chill that had invaded our humble abode during the night, I gathered the makings of a fire. Some scraps of newspaper, and twigs for kindling. A match ignited the paper, and a tiny flame licked at the wood. The wood began to burn, snapping and popping, it grew. Slowly at first, and then, as the fire grew faster, the winter chill began a reluctant retreat from the house, and from my bones.
As the warmth chased the cold from the house, mama, daddy, and my siblings would crowd around the heating stove in different degrees of undress, greedily soaking up each tiny calorie of heat.
Believe me, our stove never spoke British thermal units; the only language it was conversant in was early American poverty.
It was my responsibility as well to cut the wood that fueled those two insatiable stoves. I learned how to use both an ax and a crosscut saw at an early age, and came to appreciate the old saying “Firewood heats you twice: Once when you cut it, and again when you burn it.”
I must admit, I did not exactly enjoy having to cut those endless cords of wood. But remembering those cold Illinois winters also helps me remember how good the heat from those stoves felt. The heat radiated out and spread warmth throughout the house because of the wood I had cut.
I remember too the wonderful meals that Mama created on that old wood-burning cook stove…also because of the wood that I had cut. Without the labor, there would have been no reward – none of her delicious fried chicken, nor her chicken and dumplings. (Those dumplings were so light we had to tie them down to the table to keep them from floating away!) And how about those wonderful apple pies! And fried fish, or wild mushrooms… or mama’s special fudge. And you can bet I will never forget her oatmeal cookies!
Are you beginning to get my drift? I cut the wood, and in exchange, I was warm… and I ate good! DARNED GOOD!
If I had arbitrarily decided one morning not to build the fires, and instead, chose to wait for the stove to kindle itself and warm me, would anything have happened?
Cut the wood, eat the pie! Don’t cut the wood, no pie to eat.
I chose to cut the wood!
Dear Papa God, I praise you, and I thank you for good parents, and I exalt your most wonderful name. Help me to hear your voice calling to me. Help me to realize that when I answer your summons, there is always a reward. Help me so that I will not become so comfortable in this life that I become complacent. Please speak to me, lead me, guide me, and let me always feel the heat of your wonderful, glorious, abundant love burning in my heart. Praise you, praise you, praise you, oh holy God. In Jesus’ sweet name I ask it, Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.