I've been very busy preparing for the cold days ahead. The little blue house at the end of the road is cozy in cold weather, but unlike the gambler, we can't allow money to slip through our fingers, needlessly. Mother Nature may deal us a bad hand this winter.
Yes, the price per barrel of crude oil has eased somewhat, but; when the consumer receives his/her delivery of home heating oil, the cost for a tank filled to the hilt won't be anywhere close to a bargain. We must winterize now and pay attention to energy saving tips offered by others, as well.
I want to make sure that I don't ever sleep by a crack again! When I was a kid, our three-room house could be cold as a creek rock in the winter. The 9x 12 Mohawk rug in the living room and linoleum in the bedroom and the kitchen fell short of covering the floor in its entirety. Cracks between the old rough hand-hewn native boards invited old man winter in. The tall heavily enameled hand tooled baseboards housed the biggest cracks of all, less than a foot from my side of the iron bed where my sister and I hunkered down every night. Even the east wall in our family's common sleeping quarters was cold to the touch when I did the spider walk with my clammy fingers; a pastime when sleep eluded me or nightmares shook me up and opened my eyes.
My siblings and I carried in many buckets of coal and dug night chunks from the ten- ton pile with a miner's pick, every evening, like programmed robots. My late brother, Johnny Wayne, and I split and splintered enough dried kindling wood with the hatchet and ax to heat two or three houses. However, when the day was done and the range and Heatrola were banked, on the coldest nights, more than often; the fire fizzled out and the embers died; there was a thin cover of ice in the water bucket before early light.
Sandra and I burrowed under the heavy cotton stuffed bed covers until we heard Mom stirring about. We heard her coughs as she shook down the ashes and refueled. Then we waited until the smells of coal oil, smoke and burnt newspaper dissipated. Then, after we heard the Heatrola talk to us with a crackle and pop in its voice, we darted to its side to warm our young bones. We knew how to toss our flannel gowns and matching chenille bathrobes aside and re-garb in a flash. My sidekick and I donned warm winter wearing apparel and the chattering stopped. Sometimes we backed too close to the heat source, during our quest for comfort. She and I warmed up the exposed flesh to the extreme. Other times we dressed behind the Heatrola, in the corner.
Did you ever rub elbows with a red hot coal stove pipe? BURN BABY BURN!
Our carelessness didn't mark us for life, but we knew what it was to wear colorful arm stripes once or twice and more days than that during those heating seasons. I called the minor burns "red badges of courage," the words borrowed from my brother's Christmas present. Mom was highly decorated.
We all walked into the oven door when it was down for one reason or another. Some knew more colorful words than I did at the time. I'm not bragging, but; I know them by heart now.
By the time we threw us together, removed the metal pins from our hair, and combed our locks into frizzy coiffures, the coal range in the kitchen was fired up and our cook was cooking up a storm.
Our tiny family ate high off the hog. I loved fresh side pork or pork side, if you prefer. The thick fatty slices of fresh meat needed to fry in the iron skillet on an open burner a tad longer than the thin ribbons of commercially processed bacon we enjoy today.
Our hens knew that we appreciated their bravery and hard work, especially, stepping up to the plate in cold weather. A shortage of eggs was never a problem at our place. The hens cackled and the roosters crowed and we passed the platter. Neither was limits mentioned, nor was medical advice discussed. Slices of "Tastee bread toasted nicely in our polished metal two door toaster. Sometimes we had to scrape them a bit or toss the project out the back door toward the free-range flock that laid the golden eggs that cooked on fires that Mom built. When all went well, oleo and homemade jelly, honey or dark Karo was always within arms reach. Sometimes we ate fried mush, cream of wheat or puffed wheat. We drank Ovaltine and cocoa and fished seeds out of the best pure orange juice I have tasted to date. Mom drank "Delicious Sips" coffee or tea brewed and run through a strainer. Sometimes she worked on a cup of each. Dad was a " milk" man, mildly mentioned, three meals a day and anytime the bottle was handy. Cow' s milk failed to fill his glass when goat's milk or buttermilk was on hand.
We teethed on more than a few very good rock solid homemade pancakes drenched in thin syrup, simply consisting of brown sugar and oleo boiled in water, but since the hens and waterfowl were so giving we didn't want to seem ungrateful.
Our gang had a lot on our plates, with not much time before noon to digest it and condition ourselves for more good eats and another platter piled high with hen fruit to go with it. I don't know why I was such a skinny little dickens and more; I wondered why my wonderful Mother tortured my taste buds with that unpleasant tasting snake oil "Pound-X" that promised to pack on the pounds. My caregiver and all around good Mother thought that she sent the dark syrupy liquid down my chute every morning, without fail, before breakfasts. Not so!
I saw the old bottle sitting on a cluttered shelf above the cellar door in their back porch, before the old house burned down in 1987, years later. The solidified contents smelled like homemade pancake syrup.
Today, when I reflect back to those seemingly bittersweet harsh winters that I once knew, I hunger for another piece of the cake!
If I could go back and rekindle the flame, I might even offer to carry out the ashes or anything that Mom needed carried out every morning --just because!
Well folks, it is almost midnight and I need to get some rest. Paul will be home tomorrow and we must further prepare for "winter 2008!
I can be reached at 446-4852 or drop me a line to 613 North Elm St., Brazil, IN., 47834 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.