Wednesday, May 4, 2005


We made endless trips up and down the celler stairs, constantly feeding a tiny parlor type woodstove. We fed it anything that would burn! The old farmhouse had a thousand leaks. Warm air rushed out -- icy air rushed in unabated. The parlor stove did precious little to curb the appetite of our ancient oil furnace. In December, we were going through 100 gallons of oil every 10 days.

Floyd believed he had a remedy that would get us through that first brutal winter.

Let me tell you about Floyd. He was self-deprecating, had an impish grin, and possessed a boyish optimism. He relentlessly made fun of himself and everyone else; he saw a humorous side to just about everything.

Floyd and his wife Eleanor invited me to their home in Washburn. Floyd embellished the conversation with a steady string of wise cracks. Eleanor's contribution was, Floyd you shouldn't have said that!

During my visit, Floyd told me, You're going to need a lot of grit to make a go of it. Floyd knew about grit. On his sixty-fifth birthday he and Eleanor lost everything they owned, except the little mobile home we sat in. Northern Maine is a tough place to make a living when times are good; there was a down turn in the economy and Floyd was another casualty.

Floyd's remedy for our heating problem? He had located a "potato house heater." That's a BIG, cast iron, incredibly HEAVY, wood stove that can put out some serious BTU's. It got its name from its intended purpose--to heat the massive barns used to store potatoes. We hoped it would be enough to heat an old farmhouse.

All we would need was a couple of strong backs to get it down the steep cellar stairs, assemble it, and hook it into the chimney flue.

One other ingredient is necessary for an efficient woodstove -- wood! At this time of year the only firewood left was under tarps or snow -- seasoning for the next winter.

For Christmas, God sent Ted Jackson. . .

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