By Regena Handy
A huge hickory tree has fallen into our field. It stood at the edge of property on Conners Creek. Over time heavy rainfall and flooding eroded the massive root system and recent strong winds took it down.
It was a beautiful tree, its previously golden leaves still clinging to the branches. I wonder about its age, how many years it was there, battling against nature. My daddy, the timberman, could have told me, as well as estimated the board feet in the tree. All I can tell you is its really big.
If we still used wood heat, we would be one step ahead. A downed tree — now it was a matter of cutting it into appropriate lengths and hauling it to the house. This reminds me of the saying about cutting wood, that doing so heats you twice, while you are cutting it and again when you are burning it.
As many people know, cutting wood is hard work. One of Daddy’s possessions that passed to me was his cross cut saw. Manned by two people, the saw is pulled back and forth through the trunk of the tree. Prior to the availability of chainsaws he used the cross cut for cutting timber as well for heating wood.
I grew up with wood heat. There is nothing quite like the warmth of a crackling fire on a cold night. The siblings and I learned early on to be cautious of fire and its dangers. A scar on my left arm serves as a reminder from a childhood fall against the hot pipe.
My husband and I heated our homes with wood for several years until we developed allergies to the smoke and smell that seemed to permeate everything. Even then wood heat was still the preference so we purchased a unit that we always referred to simply as the water stove. A large, barrel-like structure that sat outside, one compartment was filled with fire wood and another with heated water that forced warm air through ductwork into the house.
One cold windy night the frantic barking of our dogs awoke us. The stove shed was ablaze, the wind whipping it into a frenzy, torching everything nearby and coming frighteningly close to our house. Fortunately the Woolwine Volunteer Fire Department arrived and contained the fire before it could do further damage.
It was our assumption that a bit of hot creosote had leaked from the stove, landing in wood scraps or dry leaves, high winds stirring it into a flame. Afterwards we chose to heat with propane logs in our fireplace.
Before fire destroyed the water stove and shed, two ladies delivering religious tracts came by the house one day. We stood on the deck talking for a few minutes and as they prepared to leave, one lady wanted to know if she could ask us a question to which we replied in the affirmative.
Pointing at the stove, she said “What is that?” When we explained, both ladies hollered with laughter and slapped their legs.
“We thought it was a liquor still!”
Hmmm, not an unreasonable notion, I suppose. After all, lots of us know that firewood might once have been used for that very purpose in this part of the country.