“Patience is no better defined than waiting to get out of bed in the morning until your spouse fires up the wood stove.”
The Dictionary for New Farmers, 1st edition
My father grew up on a small Indiana farmstead. My grandfather, as well as his father before him, also grew up on a farm. Heating the farmhouse back then was done, in part, by the cast iron wood cook stove in the kitchen. These stoves not only had a range top for cooking, but an oven for baking and a chamber for heating water as well. In small rural farmhouses across the country that had yet to get electricity, bathing was often done in a tub adjacent to the stove where hot water was readily available.
Most farmhouses in my father’s time also had a smaller cast iron stove called a parlor stove in their living rooms where the family would gather to enjoy the stove’s heat on cold winter days. For those old farm houses that still remain, I am sure there are lingering echoes of children’s feet as they slipped from their beds on frigid winter mornings to scamper across the cold floors to find refuge by those cast iron heat-radiating hearts of the farmhouse kitchen or living room. In many homes, heating was done only in the kitchen and living room areas. According to my father, it was not uncommon, on especially cold winter mornings, to awake and find frost covering your quilt in the morning.
The history of cast iron is closely tied to the iron ore and coal industries that helped define the part of the country where I currently live. Broken-down brick furnaces from that period still remain, often hidden in the brush along roadsides little used today, their hearts of flame long extinguished by the passage of time.
The production of cast iron in this country soon helped to make the building of cast iron stoves possible. Benjamin Franklin designed the Franklin Stove in 1742 and its proven efficiency quickly created the desire for these stoves throughout rural America. Interestingly enough, Franklin did not want a patent for his in-vention and said in his autobiography “…That as we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.” If Franklin’s generous and selfless attitude were more prevalent today, I believe our society would be far better off.
By the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, suppliers like the Glenwood Stove Company, J.C. Penny, and Sears Roebuck, all supplied stoves across the vast farm communities of the United States.
I still remember my grandfather Chester cooking on the farm’s cast iron stove. He loved cooking pies. Each year, the extended family would gather at the farm in Indiana for Thanksgiving. Of all the food on that bountiful table, I remember those pies the most. Although my recollections have faded after so many years, I still remember the creak of the opening and closing of the cast iron stove door and the faint smell of wood smoke that filled the room where he cooked.
Those years are now long gone and faded into warm memories. Kathy and I have our own farmhouse now. For the last several years, it has been our turn to have the extended family and friends sharing our long table.
But not this year. Our family is sacrificing for each other to keep our loved ones safe. It will be just Kathy and me now in front of our cast iron wood stove this year. Our table will be set with turkey and trimmings and there will be pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert. And although I am not an accomplished cook, I will bake a pie and, as a toast, I will be sure to open and close the door of the wood stove a time or two, listening prayerfully to the sound of metal hinge on metal. I will leave the door open just a crack to embrace the scent. And then we will say grace and share all those blessings for which we are grateful.
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.