When we moved out into the country and into a rental, it was during a relatively mild November. One of the things about this house we were told early on, and made us happy, is that it had a dual furnace system. A propane furnace for backup, and an “Energystar efficient” wood furnace. Because of the way things were bollocksed up when we were agreeing to rent, getting in to look at the house happened sort of slowly and piecemeal. I was excited to have a system that wasn’t entirely reliant on electricity, unlike the little house. There may not be as much danger of losing power here in OH, but there still is that, and I was raised to be prepared.
So, a wood furnace. Well, sort of. It, like much of the other things in this house, is quirky. Before we moved in, we had propane dropped, and the plan was to find a wood supplier once we were settled. With mild temps, it wasn’t a bad plan. I was a little worried about the cost of wood, especially once we looked at the ‘furnace’ and realized it was a wobbly (I kid you not. One of these days it’s going to fall over) wood stove on tall legs, with a sort of automatic damper (which may not be working. We’re not sure. We also have no idea when the chimney was swept. They’re getting back to us on that), half-lined with firebrick that is cracking and falling apart. Oh, hey, you know… I grew up with a barrel stove, he grew up with various wood stoves and fireplaces. It’s functional. Efficient? Yeah, no.
Shortly after we moved in, I stopped at a garage sale about a mile from home. I found a hat stand for my First Reader, and in the process of chatting with the lady, learned that her husband delivered wood, for $140 a cord. Given that I’d been told about the high price of wood by one of my professors, who was paying at least $200 a cord, and remembering NH where in the dead of winter it could climb to $300 a cord… I took down his number.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve gotten to know the wood guy. He’s been by at least every two to three weeks with another load. This morning was the latest one, and I was musing on the workflow we’ve developed. That first load he brought us, a heap of split dry ash on a big flatbed trailer, he confided in me that he has COPD, so he has to stop and take a breath from time to time. He’s a tall, rugged older fellow, reminding me more than a little of my grandfather and certain great-uncles. He wasn’t too sure about this little lady who started pitching wood right alongside him, that first trip. But I wasn’t going to just stand there. I certainly wasn’t once I saw how out of breath he got. The kids were tasked to help, too. The whole family works.
On a later trip, he told me he’d just celebrated his 69th birthday. He’s told me that his kids are all grown, and moved away, and that Christmas isn’t much, without family around. This morning, he was out of breath again. Not because he was slinging wood. Nope, this time it was laughter. Three kids, me, and the wood guy, pitching firewood and witty banter. My girls go out with headphones on, and the boy is like a feckless puppy constantly worrying the wood guy because he’s in the way. “You’re goin’ to get hit! It’ll hurt!”
I like our wood guy. I don’t think he knows what to make of us, but I know that we make him laugh. He likes coming here, he told me, because my kids remind me of his. I like that I can see my family through his eyes, and on days where I’m wondering if I’m doing ok at this mom thing, I can see that yes, they are good kids. They may complain, but they’ll pitch wood with me. They’ll make jokes and offer the wood guy their music when he wants to know if he can listen while they pitch. They get his dry sense of humor.
It gives me hope that there are people out there like this guy. He barely knows us, but he dropped by a while back because while I have his number, he doesn’t have mine, and he wanted to make sure we were ok on wood. At Christmas he insisted on lowering the price, and he won’t raise it again. He fusses over the wood he brings us to make sure it’s clean and dry, since he knows we store it in the basement. There are good people in the world. I can’t do much in return for him, but we can make him laugh, and make his work easier when he comes to our house.
I guess that’s enough.