“If you only have one match to start a fire, it generally takes two.”
The Dictionary for New Farmers, 1st edition
One of my favorite stories as a kid was a short story by Jack London titled “To Build a Fire.” It was required reading when I was in school although it may not be today. In the story, a newcomer to the Yukon Territory in Canada is traveling to a wilderness lumber camp. He has been warned not to travel alone because of the extreme cold. At 75 degrees below zero, at-tempting a long hike alone in the Yukon wilderness is a virtual death sen-tence and, as one imagines, there is little forgiveness in the Yukon frontier. Such cold temperatures would even cause Frosty the Snowman to hesi-tate and worry about frostbite. The newcomer’s inability to keep a fire go-ing ends badly for him.
I have started many fires in my wilderness adventures and once even in the middle of an ice-cold Wyoming mountain thunderstorm. I can start a fire with a bow drill, I can start one with flint and steel, and, usually, even with a match. Starting one in my wood stove, however, is not so simple — at least for me. My wife has no trouble, much to my chagrin and moral out-rage at its unfairness. She can place a single piece of wood in the stove and seconds later, there is a roaring fire. I, on the other hand, can build a carefully constructed monument of twigs that are no bigger than a game of “pick up sticks” in our stove and can’t light it with a blowtorch. I have even tried using a Little Debbie brownie snack as a fire starter with no luck. My inability to start a fire at times would certainly earn “two thumbs up” from Smokey Bear.
Since building a fire in our wood stove is no easy matter, at least for me, I find myself waiting in bed until my bladder is about to burst before reluc-tantly climbing out of bed to fire up the stove in the morning. Unfortunately for me, as old age has progressed, my bladder is not what it used to be, so my wife can usually outlast me. I can eventually get the fire going, even if I have to use enough olive oil from the kitchen to lower the cholesterol of an elephant. Of course, by then there is enough smoke to test all of our fire alarms and send enough smoke signals to earn a scout merit badge.
Once the fire is going, it is of course, worth all the effort. I do take pleasure in having a nice warm fire going for my wife on a cold winter morning. And there is nothing better than coming into the farmhouse on a frosty morning after feeding the chickens and placing my feet up to toast by the fire like two overgrown marshmallows. If I am really lucky, I come into the house to a cup of hot chocolate that my wife has made from scratch.
Of course, there are many mornings when my wife starts the fire. And even though she only has to use one match, she very rarely mentions it. And, at the end of the day, I have to admit that if I ever have to take a trip to the Yukon Territory in the middle of winter, I would make sure I bring my wife along.
Jeff and Kathy Crisler own a farm in Hocking County where they raise bees, berries and blisters. They are both retired and have two children and six grandchildren. Jeff wrote this column to be published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.