Making wood

From the time when man first realized that mastodon was easier to chew with his three teeth when it was cooked, the world got a little warmer. I never thought that building a fire was all that hard. I’m sure that MacGyver marches straight past the matches when he goes to the store, choosing instead to use three safety pins, a wad of chewing gum, and some pocket lint.

Even seasoned survival expert Bear Grylls will tell you that having a fire is one of the most comforting elements on a cold night in the wilds of the Yosemite National Forest Holiday Inn. For me, a fire on the hearth is an integral part of Christmas.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where wood was plentiful. You looked in any garage on the block and you’d find a drum of used car oil, a chainsaw, and a side of venison. Oh wait, that last one was only in Sarah Palin’s garage. It was rare to find a house without a fireplace. We owned a woodlot outside of Puyallup, Washington, home of the annual state fair and daffodil parade. To illustrate how exciting our state fair was, the highlight was the Fisher scone mix kiosk. But I digress.

Grandma and Grandpa Holt had only 3 space heaters and a fireplace in their big old farmhouse. Consequently, there was a fire going every day. In the morning, Grandpa would carry in about a ½ cord of firewood, which he tucked in behind the andirons, ready for ignition. He then doused the wood thoroughly with gas, which he kept in a 5 gallon metal can RIGHT NEXT TO THE FIREPLACE. Add one match to the wood, and BOOM! An explosion of flame shot straight up the chimney and into the upper ionosphere. How he managed not to blow up the house, I’ll never know. Oddly, right after he died, rain started leaking down the chimney for the first time anyone could remember.

The house we live in now has no fireplace: nowhere to hang the stockings; no place to roast chestnuts. It’s years like this that I wish I still had Grandpa around with his gasoline can, or MacGyver. I don’t think that either of them has ever stayed at the Yosemite Holiday Inn.

Hope you all have a warm and Merry Christmas!

18 thoughts on “Making wood

    • My Mom was the pyromaniac in my immediate family. She couldn’t compare to Grandpa, but she did have that incident with the garage. No permanent damage.

  1. Hi Karla;
    Same kind of memories, just of my MawMaw (don’t laugh…she earned that nick) and her little house in the Smoky Mountains. There was a wood stove right smack in the middle of the sitting area, and even though the house always felt a little bit too hot, it smelled so good and so homey and cozy. I miss that. I miss her. She’s in a nursing home now, bless her heart. Anyway, I have a gas fireplace in my apartment, in the living room. It’s pretty when fired-up, but just not quite the same. Still, with a good book and a glass of merlot, I manage to ‘pretend’, and it is quite nice.
    And a very warm and Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  2. We don’t have a fireplace in the house where we live now, though we had one in our previous house, and I miss it terribly! A couple of weeks ago I bought an electric space heater that looks like a fireplace and it is substituting nicely. But it’s still not the same.

  3. My dad used to say that MacGyver could be locked in a bathroom and he’d make a bomb of poop and TP.

    This from the man who wanted to melt ice off our sidewalk with a flame thrower….

  4. A little disappointing at first; you can see how from the title, “Making Wood” one could make the honest mistake that this post was going to be something of a sexual nature.

    But for the life of me I’ll never understand fireplaces in Florida.

  5. I remember one time when my father started a fire in the woodstove, leaving the draft wide open to get the flame going…then, promptly forgot about it. The fire started going up the chimney, and could have started the house on fire…luckily, the firestation was only 8 houses away…

  6. I remember when we lived in Elma and heated the entire trailer with the wood stove. Aaron was only about 10 but he got so he could start a fire with presto logs and a roll of TP soaked in kerosene without losing any arm hair. Ah yes, two years of ….. well it was a long two years.

  7. BTW I boarded up the fireplace here at the old homestead. It was either cover over all that 1970s white brick or take a sledgehammer to it.

    • The white brick was very trendy in its day, but if it hasn’t come back into style by now, it ain’t gonna happen.

  8. Well, it’s hot here! That’s because Christmas is in the middle of summer and having a fire in a hearth would be stark staring mad. We all travelled to Europe over 1999/2000 for a traditional Christmas, and had a white one, complete with a snowman we called Steve. We have a grand hearth here, but it’s for July and August. (If you’re wondering where I am – Australia!)

    • I visited Perth in June one year long ago. It was pretty cold and wet most of the time. Somehow, I hadn’t thought of that when I was making my travel arrangements.

  9. You’ve inspired me!

    I’m going to hack up the kitchen chairs and make a toasty seasonal fire!

    You can probably read all about it here,

    I hate people who show up and plug their own sites, very distasteful.

    Thank you for the smile. I grew up in Northern Ontario in a small in bred community. I miss those days, and those Christmas times with my uncle/brother and my sister wife.

    I love New York but the condo doesn’t have the same charm

    Thank you for the smile

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