|Author: Rhynes, J.D.
|My Old Fireplace
In the living room of my house there is a beautiful old fireplace
that I just dearly love. The first time I used that fireplace in the
fall of 1994 it filled the whole house with smoke, due to the fact
that the smoke shelf was not high enough. That ain't no problem for a
country boy like my own self that understands how fireplaces are
supposed to be built, so I just outfitted it with a shroud on the
front to contain the smoke, and while I was at it I built a pot crane
to hang a pot of beans on to cook real slow on a cold winter day. I
have cooked many a big cast iron pot of beans that way, served up
with hot cornbread fresh from a Dutch oven cooked right there on the
fireplace hearth. Gourmet country vittles without a doubt!
A couple of weeks ago when it snowed 12 inches here on Bluegrass
Acres, I was sitting in front of the fireplace enjoying a nice hot
fire one evening and I got to reminiscing about when I was a little
bitty redneck, and how I used to wish that we had a big fireplace in
our house to enjoy on a cold winter evening. That wish did not come
true until I bought this old house back in the summer of 1994. As I
sat there that cold snowy night a week or so ago, I got to thinking
and wondering of how many young children over the years had played
right before this very fireplace on a cold snowy evening over the
last 80+ years that this house has been here? Even today I usually
lose power two or three times a winter when it snows. How many
families had to use this as a light source and cooked over an open
fire in the fireplace during power failures? How many times did a
mother have to melt snow for drinking water and to cook with over
this fireplace? I also wondered how many times a mother had heated
bathwater for her children in this old fireplace? It's about 100
yards one way to the spring for water, a distance that would seem
like 2 miles when there are 2 to 3 foot of snow on the ground. How
many families over the years used this as their only heating source
during hard times of unemployment or heavy snow bound winters when
the roads were closed for extended periods of time. Also, I wondered
how may times this old fireplace sat here cold because the people
that lived here had ran out of firewood during an extremely hard
winter, or simply for the fact that they could not afford to buy
firewood, or could not get out to cut some. I took solace in the
fact that I have a huge woodshed that is chock-full of dry oak,
cedar and pine firewood.
As I write this month's column, it is Christmas Day of 2013, and it is hard not to wonder how many young children over the years hung their Christmas stockings on the big thick slab of cedar log that they used for the mantle piece. I know it was quite a few, because there are several small nail holes that bear witness to that fact. They are kinda hard to see now, since I have my 50 caliber flintlock rifle mounted on front of the mantelpiece. Hey, this is a MAN CAVE! A REAL MAN lives here now not some pencil neck wimp.
I would be willing to bet that there have been several Christmas turkeys roasted right in this fireplace as well. A lot of the old-timers used to cook their turkeys over an open fire, and was the preferred method because it was so easy. You simply rigged a turkey on a spit, over a big pan of some kind to catch the juice and grease and set before a fire and turned it occasionally. Comes out perfect every time. I have a grill that I built especially to use in the fireplace. When I get a craving throwed on me for a barbecued steak in the dead of winter, I just rake a bed of coals out and place my grill over it, and within 20 minutes I have a piece of meat that's been cooked over a "wood far", the way God meant fer meat to be cooked!
There have been several nights I have also set in front of my fireplace and wondered just how many jam sessions have been held right here in front of this old fireplace on a cold winters night? How many times have fiddles guitars and banjos livened up the air and got folks up and dancing? It has probably happened more times than I can imagine. If I could only pull the notes out of the soul of the old fireplace that is stuck between the bricks and in the chimney, and stacked them up they would probably be as tall as the chimney itself. And speaking of the chimney, about three years after I moved here, I took that ugly chimney cap off and threw it away and built one that is in the shape of the pyramid about 3 feet tall. On top of the pyramid is a weathervane that depicts a Comanche warrior on his Buffalo pony with his raised Lance, chasing a wild buffalo, and they are both mounted on a huge six-foot long arrow. The warrior is about 12 inches tall and the buffalo is at least eight or 10 inches tall. The weathervane rotates and always faces into the wind, and it is a joy to watch clouds go scudding by on a windy day, which gives the illusion that the buffalo and the horse is running. There have been several nights when the wind was blowing extremely hard I'll swear I can hear that buffalo and that pony in hot pursuit running across my roof! I have a huge buffalo robe on my easy chair next to the fireplace and I have fallen asleep there many a restful night, wake up about daylight throw some kindling on the fire, go turn the coffee on, and in 20 min. I got a nice warm "far" to enjoy with my first cup of coffee of the morning. That is one of the most joyful things I get to experience with this old "farplace" of mine.
Looking back over my life, I thank God Almighty for the multitude of blessings that he has heaped on me. Ever since I was about eight or nine years old, I always wanted to live in the West Point area of Calaveras County. Twenty years ago God answered my prayers and put me here on bluegrass acres. I marvel every day when I wake up and realize I did not do one thing to earn this, other than pray to God every day for an old house that had a nice fireplace in it, one that my children and grand children can enjoy for many years to come. As I set here tonight in front of a nice warm fire I know that I am the luckiest man in the world, because God does answer prayers. I have been enjoying my prayers for a"farplace" for the last 20 years! It ain't no secret, you just have to believe and keep praying. May God bless and keep all of you, my big bluegrass family.
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