When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, we had three sources of heat in our home: the fireplace; the big gas space heater at the end of the hall; and the little gas heater in the wall of the bathroom.
The fireplace was our main source of heat for the common areas of the dining room, living room and kitchen. Of course, the kitchen had an oven and a stove top, both of which generated some heat from cooking. But it was the fireplace which kept the house relatively warm.
For the winter months, our goal was to never let the fire go out. Once it got to be about mid December, you could expect the fire to remain going for months. Allowing the fire to go out meant starting a new one from scratch. We wanted to avoid that.
Each night, it was important to throw a big log or two on the fire late in the evening, so the fire would burn all night. Even then, by six the next morning most of the logs would be burned, while ends and embers would remain in a state of muted flames. As long as there was some wood burning and a goodly amount of hot coals, the fire would resurge immediately upon throwing a fresh log on them.
Daddy and I cut wood, usually far too close to the time we needed the wood for the fireplace. That meant going out in cold, often rainy weather to get wood. Daddy cut it and I loaded it onto the truck. Then if he got the truck stuck on the way out of the woods, I would unload it, push the truck until Daddy got it unstuck, then load it up again. I hated those reloading efforts. Mainly because once the truck got going and came out of the mud, Daddy would have to find a dry enough spot to stop. That spot was usually a good hundred feet from where I unloaded the truck.
Daddy died in 1971. If he had lived many years longer, eventually I would have asked him "why did you cut green trees, and trees like sweet gum, when they make terrible firewood?!" I still wonder that sometimes. Dead trees make the best firewood. They've already dried out some, and they've lost much of their water weight. If you have ever hauled firewood, you know how heavy green wood is compared to deadwood. And not all kinds of trees are great for firewood. Anything with too much sap is a problem.
When it comes to splitting wood for firewood, the more you can split it, the better. Smaller pieces make for great fires. The pieces catch fire quickly and they were much easier to carry in. I loathed hauling in a whole, green log from a bad tree source (such as a sweet gum). They weighed what seemed like a couple of hundred pounds, and were very bulky.
But when a fire is made right, when the logs are burning well, nothing compares to an open fireplace. Watching a fire in a fireplace remains one of life's wonderful simple pleasures. The fire dances, as do the shadows cast on the walls. If you come into the house cold, that direct heat warms the body in a hurry. So throw another log on the fire, and let's reminisce.
© 2014, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.