By LARRY M. JONES
A couple of weeks ago, my grandsons were visiting the “Pore Farm” and one of them asked me why there was a section of red bricks protruding from the wall in a corner of my office. In retrospect, I can see that it would be a bit puzzling to the youngsters. I explained to them that it was once a chimney flue that was built into the wall to take out the smoke from our early wood stoves.
A few years back, when Helen and I were remodeling our old farmstead, I deliberately left the brick flue, framing around it when I paneled my office walls. It provided a nostalgic touch – a reminder of harder, simpler times.
When my parents first built our old home in the 1930s, wood stoves were the only game in town, both for heating and cooking. It would be almost impossible for young folks today to imagine the way earlier generations lived.
Even most of my generation missed out on the subtleties of having no electricity, propane nor running water. Instead of setting the timer on the “Mr. Coffee” the night before and pouring yourself a cup first thing in the morning, in the early days you first had to build a fire in the cookstove. Only then could you think in terms of putting a pot of coffee on to perk. You also didn’t throw a breakfast burrito in the microwave for a 30-second nuking. Can you imagine building a fire in a wood cookstove to bake a skillet of cornbread on a 110-degree August day with no air-conditioning?
The wood pile was an important part of any farmstead or ranch. Farther out in West Texas the early settlers were often required to use buffalo or cow chips to do the cooking and heating in the winter time. For those of you unfamiliar with such an operation, I can assure you that we dwellers in the Cross Timbers region definitely had the upper hand in regard to fueling our fires. We were blessed to have a plentiful supply of excellent hardwood to use for our heating and cooking needs.
My father preferred seasoned post oak, although we would also use pecan, black jack, live oak or mesquite. Elm and hackberry were left in the pasture because it burned so poorly. We would drag large limbs and fallen trees to the side of the house where we’d chop or saw them into suitable size. Small sticks and the chips were saved for kindling.
Large trunks of trees were sawed with a cross cut saw and split with wedges or an axe. The easiest wood to split came from high on a hill, never in the river or creek bottoms. Smaller limbs were cut with an axe. We also had a large belt-driven circle saw that was powered by a stationary tractor. In the days before chain saws, this was a lifesaver. After a day of swinging an axe or pulling on a cross cut saw, no one ever had trouble falling to sleep, even on a hot August night.
We kids may have missed out on a lot of fun of playing video games or texting on our iPhones, but it was a lot of fun to sail a woodchip at an unsuspecting older brother.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.