Surprise!

A couple weeks ago I came home from a basketball game and thought my house felt cooler than normal. When I got up in the morning I knew it was cold. I thought that something was probably wrong with my furnace.

I went to turn on my gas fireplace to get warm but the pilot light was out. I tried to turn it back on but there was nothing doing. I am on an auto fill plan for my propane, but I then suspected something was wrong. When I checked my tank, it was at zero. I waited until the local office was open then called to alert them that I needed a delivery — now.

Bless their hearts they were here within an hour and a half. I watched the truck go up the road from my son’s home. I went there to get warm. My house never got below 54 degrees, but even that felt cold with cold weather outdoors as well.

I watched, but I did not see the truck go back down. I ventured up to the house and he was still here. He told me he shut the tank off but he would turn it back on so I could check the furnace. When I hit the button, it roared to attention. It definitely was not the furnace. It took a while to heat up to what I considered normal, but that was fine.

That got me thinking about how we keep our house warm. When we first moved up here there was a wood furnace. I never did use that but I used the wood stove in the kitchen the fall that we moved in. That Home Comfort stove kept the entire lower level warm. That was a new experience for me. I had never run a wood stove before. I not only learned to keep the place warm, I learned how to cook on that thing. It was nice to get my meal cooked and be able to keep it warm in the warming oven on the top.

When Dick came home from the barn we sat by that stove while he had his snack. Sometimes he put his feet into the oven to warm up. He traveled on a four-wheeler and that was cold.

Our first furnace was run by fuel oil. I hated when they filled the tank because everything in the house smelled like fuel oil. The furnace lasted for more than 20 years, but by then the fire chamber was wearing thin. We replaced it with a furnace that runs on propane.

All of this was new to me. When I grew up my grandfather had a coal furnace. I remember it was my job to fill the reservoir with water while he put the coal into it. Every day you had to clean out the ashes. We used those to keep the driveway from being slippery. The ashes were dumped out back.

I remember when grandpa converted that furnace to run on gas. He did not take out the big boiler but added a gas unit to it. The unit in the basement was huge. It sure kept the basement warm though. It was a great place to line dry our clothes during the winter months.

When we lived in the trailer we heated with fuel oil. During the winter months, every couple weeks we had to clean the fan. I knew when they were going to complain because they began to make noise. More than once Dick and I got up during the night to clean the fan. When the children were small we hoped that we did not wake them up with all of our fussing with the fan.

Nowadays I am not sure the men would know what to do with a furnace that made noise. It would be a call for repair instead of fixing it themselves.

As farmers, we learned to fix things on our own. We could not afford to pay for service calls. My husband was very good at making things work. Somehow, he could look at things and figure out what to do with them. He called it “field expediency.”

I had an apartment that had baseboard heating. That was nice but it was awfully dry. I noticed that I felt cold before the unit ran again.

You must admit that we have it awfully nice. Young people today do not realize how things used to be. They grew up with a dial on the wall for heat, indoor plumbing, and phones that can be used anywhere.The big homes that are being built these days must take a lot of heat even though they are quite airtight.

While my home seems large, I do not keep the upstairs heated to the same temperature as the lower part. I have a blanket that heats the bed so I do not suffer. I actually think that I stay healthier because I sleep where it is cold. Of course, since we have new windows and insulation in the walls the upper portion stays a lot warmer than it used to. When we moved in I could not take water upstairs because it froze.

I have certainly weathered a lot of storms. It was just how it was.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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