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Carol Perkins: Cold weather has come

Times were cold, but they were good, in the drafty, wood stove headed homes of half a century ago. It was an honor to get the wood, when you were tiny enough that a stick at a time was all you could carry, but for one of her older uncles, he heard it so much he thought it was his name (and a dreaded one) - 'Go get the wood.' A memory of growing up in Metcalfe County by Carol Perkins
The next earlier Carol Perkins column: Willie. Just Willie

By Carol Perkins

Cold weather has come. We have grown accustomed to wearing light jackets and hoodies instead of winter coats, scarves, and gloves, so when the temperature dipped into the twenties, we weren't ready for it. At least I wasn't. My winter coat was buried in the back of the coat closet, and I couldn't find a matching set of gloves if I tried. It has been several winters since I have used either.

Frankly, I like cold weather. The air opens up my sinuses and I actually feel better when the air is chilly. However, that doesn't mean I would want it more than a few weeks.

I was thinking this morning about children waiting for buses on cold mornings. Some parents (maybe grandparents) probably drive their car to the edge of the driveway with the engine running; keeping their kids warm until the bus arrives. More than likely, most children stand in the cold and wait, wrapped up in their bubble coats, wool caps, and thick socks. That's the way it once was - way back when.

When I was young, we could count on winter arriving on schedule, which was around November, and then departing the last of March. During those months, snow stayed on the ground for weeks and ponds froze over. Ice replaced flowing waterfalls in rocky crevices and chickens headed for the coop. A dog curled up under a porch on old blankets and cats retreated to the barn.

Low temperatures also meant cold air stole into the house around windows that weren't sealed tightly (most weren't) and under doorframes, resulting in newspapers being stuck in cracks and towels laid under doors. This was long before plastic window covers.

Homes built in the 20's and 30's or before then did not necessarily have doors between rooms, so keeping the rooms warm was impossible, especially since families depended solely on wood stoves and fireplaces. Because each room did not have a wood stove, hanging quilts between one room and the other blocked out the cold air and kept the living space warm. The problem with that was when it came time to go to bed, the bedrooms were freezing and the floors felt like the ground. That is why beds were laden with quilts, and once under the covers, the only thing cold was a person's nose!

My grandparents lived in a beautiful old house, but it was not easy to heat. Cold air seeped from beneath the floors (most old houses sat on blocks), making heating it impossible. The upstairs had no heat except from the warmth of the wood-burning stove underneath. The main room where they stayed had two beds, a couch and chair and a TV. What more could a person want? I vividly remember staying with them on cold snowy nights and sinking into the warmth of the feather bed in the corner, waking up in a sweat! There was no danger of being cold in that cozy room, but rising from under the covers was dreadful. Drifting into the kitchen before the wood stove was popping and crackling brought a shiver, but my grandmother did this every day to prepare breakfast.

The woodyard was not far from the house, but during the winter months, my grandfather kept a rick near the back door or on the front porch. "Let me get the wood," I would say when I wasn't old enough to carry but a stick at a time. Going after wood was fun, but quickly became a chore when I was older. One of my uncles claimed that he thought his name was "Get Wood" until he went to school.

Another difficulty was getting water from the well. There was no plumbing in the house, so the only source of water was the well, which was not too far from the house. In the winter, it might as well have been a mile! My grandmother kept a water bucket on a shelf in the kitchen for drinking (with a dipper) and heated water on the stove in the dining room for other purposes. She washed clothes in water that was heated on the cook stove and then hung them on the back of chairs throughout the house or outside on the line, where they dried stiff!

Later when they built a new house beside the old house, I was sad. All of us grandchildren were. We missed the big house that had no conveniences at all, but it was special. We missed the water bucket, the wood stove and fireplace, sinking into feather beds and listening to the wind sing through the windows. We missed the summer porch and the parlor that was never opened until summer. They, however, never looked back.

Those were cold times, but good ones. Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2013-01-27 04:21:27
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