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.


  1. As I got up and read your story, I was reminded of many similar memories from my grandparents’ house. Good memories of lots of aunts, uncles and cousins, all visiting, eating and enjoying each other’s company. Someone had to sacrifice to make it happen.
    It’s amazing that you don’t really think about the work, the effort that goes into everything we do, even just daily life. If you want to eat, then you must be willing to prepare. If you want to have something, then you must be willing to make money to buy it.
    As we gathered around, we all enjoyed the rewards of someone’s labor or sacrifice.
    Come to think of it, life is a daily exchange of labor or sacrifice.
    I am so grateful that Jesus was willing to exchange His life for ours. If we just accept Him, we
    will be truly rewarded and forever enjoy His sacrifice.
    Thank you for a great story!
    God bless you!

    • Dear CSG, as you started writing you spoke of “getting up”, and that is what life is all about. If we just laid around and did nothing there would never be any reward. Everybody reaped the reward of the wood that was cut. We were warm and well fed, that is a pretty good reward I would say! Bless you my friend, Chaz

  2. That brought back so many memories as my first 18 years of life were also spent in those cold Illinois winters. My father chose to heat our house with a wood burning stove as well. However, Dad never considered it “girl’s work” so I lucked out…no wood splitting for me:) I enjoy these tales so much every Sunday morning…keep writing my dear friend!

  3. NH, memories!, what a blessing! Just think, without memories there wouldn’t be any stories! The stories of life are what we are made of. As I talk to my Nancy I remind her of the stories that have gone to make up our lives and her joy in the remembering is so beautiful because it is in the remembering that we live! Bless you muchly. Chaz

  4. I remember walking the railroad tracks picking up coal that had fallen from over-filled cow cars, and when that coal burned, the metal sides of the heating stove became red hot. I remember using a little shovel to clean out the ashes and clunkers. I also remember Papa sitting near the stove skinning muskrats on cold winter days. He would suspend the brown furry body from a clipped clothes hanger suspended from an hook in the ceiling. After carefully cutting around the tail and back paws, he quickly pulled the pelt off the carcass. This pelt and others like it were sold to a furrier named Jaffee, $1 a pelt. Those sales were part of Mama and Papa’s substance existence, supplementing butchered chickens, ground corn and garden produce. I remember Papa trapped a large mink shortly before Christmas, and the sale of that mink paid for Christmas. How many can recall such memories? We are blessed.

  5. Judith, what a wonder! What a miracle is the human mind. You have referred to the fact that you remember and that fact alone proves the miracle working power of an infinite, loving God because by remembering we learn. Let us remember that Papa God has touched us with love and grace all of lives life even when we couldn’t see it or feel it. Bless you and yours, Chaz

  6. Charlitos, it is a Beautiful Story !!! This ONE give me deep thoughts about our Precious Childhood … No technology, surrounded with animals, nature, real food, everything PERFECT !!! None gonna take those years.
    And Thanks GOD for That !!! Praise PaPaGOD for every single miracle we living … And thanks GOD for this Amazing Little Brother that HE Sent me !!!

  7. Leonardo, my brother in Jesus and my friend. You ARE SOO RIGHT! As long as those memories are with us all of the friends are there also. We have been greatly blessed. GoodFriends are a lot like good memories, the two go together. Bless you pal, Chaz

  8. Charlie, I never told you this but as a child who is my duty to get up early in the morning and go down to the basement take out the ashes. One morning as I stepped off the bottom step I stepped into approximately 6 inches of water. A farmer had decided to divert a stream to better water his crop and the stream decided to flow right through our basement. a Sump pump was the answer.

  9. Herbert, because we were living on an island with a very shallow water table we never had a basement. If we dug down 3 or 4 feet the hole would fill with water. Believe it or not it is difficult to build a fire under water? The old wood burning stove was cozy and and very friendly! That was a different time. Bless you my friends, Chaz

  10. Once again the memories of the differences. I was a city boy and well remember the Wisconsin winters! We had a furnace in the basement and I remember the truck pulling up next to the house and dumping coal through an open basement window into the coal bin where it would be shoveled to fuel the furnace. Then we converted to oil heat and no more shoveling! The furnace heated the house but not so much the basement, you still put on a coat to spend any time in the basement, like on wash days! I remember milk being delivered to the house each morning in an insulated box on the back porch, the milk was always about an inch above the bottletop when it had frozen in the bottle, this was before milk was pasteurized! I didn’ t get to chop wood untilk I was in high school and we moved out of the city to a house with a fireplace but we had cut wood so we used a sledgehammer and a wedge but you are right, before it was done, we were working in a wisconsin winter in only a t shirt! As strange as it may seem, I do cherish those memories!

  11. Ricardo mi amigo! It is our memories of past life experiences, what my mama called “happenings” that prove life, that we have lived! Keep looking up, Chaz

  12. I love to read about your memories. The treasure trove of thoughts and memories in a persons mind is something worth sharing if it can encourage others along the path of life. Funny how it’s the not so pleasant stuff that we remember so vividly all these years later, but even the hard times have a huge blessing if remembered in context. The hard stuff is often what builds character….if we were not fortunate enough to have some challenges, we missed out on finding out what we are capable of! I’m glad God made you….and I wish you a very happy Birthday! Love, your daughter

  13. Dear Faithy, I don’t know if you were aware of the fact but there was a time you would have been known as Karlsdotter. Boy, haven’t we had our challenges, and our great blessings? Praise the lord! Blessings on you sissy, with much love, your dear auld pater


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here