Some Thoughts On The First Freeze Of The Season

Blog 1130 – 09.30.2018

Some Thoughts On The First Freeze Of The Season

Saturday morning in Bemidji, Minnesota, where I am working, we experienced the first below freezing temperatures of the season. For about three hours the thermometer dropped below the freezing mark. And in the RV park where I am spending my last weekend before moving into a motel tomorrow they turned off the water. Drawing water to drink, wash, and flush with reminded me of by- gone days. A hundred years ago I would have been considered a “Cracker Barrel Philosopher.” I wonder if I make it passed a hundred, as is my intention, if I will be considered still wise and equally foolish by my readers then. I guess we will have to wait and see.

This first freeze of the season has me thinking about the the first freeze I remember of my almost sixty-eight winters. As a boy of about five years old I lived in a three room brick duplex with my mom, dad and little brother. We had to share a toilet on the back porch with the folks in the other half of the little brick rental. When they moved out my folks rented the other side as well. They opened up what had been a sealed door in the middle room that joined both duplexes into one home. That meant we had two kitchens and as we only needed one we used the one in the new half to us and my mother’s brother Bill, recently separated from his first wife, stored his half of their divided things in our old kitchen.

My parents heated our little home with what was called a “monkey heater.” It was in the front room of the additional duplex. We burned wood and coal in the heater, mostly coal brought in from a pile in the back yard one pail or skuttle at a time. Dad taught us boys very young how to make a fire in the stove using first newspaper, then small pieces of wood, called kindling, then after you got the wood going to add smaller pieces of coal then as that caught fire larger ones, he also taught us how to maintain the fire and “stoke it” so it would not go out overnight. I have seen my father get the stove pipe atop the heater “cherry red” a few feet up, the fire in the heater being that hot. And it was a joy as a little boy to back up to that heater and warm my hands and posterior.

That reminds me of an old joke about the coldest things – on women’s it is their feet as any husband can testify who has felt his wife put her cold feet on him to warm them, on dogs it is there noses and they like to warm them on you too, and on men it is their behinds, notice how they always back up to a fire first to warm themselves.

The weakness of the monkey heater was that it only heated the front room and barely that in the second half of the duplex. Mom would leave a back “eye” on the electric kitchen stove to knock the winter chill off the second kitchen we used but our two bed rooms in the front and middle rooms of first duplex were freezing which required piles of blankets to stay warm sleeping. We had all it seems forgotten about the pipes in the storage room kitchen. But we were reminded after the first hard freeze. My Uncle’s furniture looked like a winter wonderland all glazed and covered with ice cycles when the pipes froze, burst, and covered all with waters which quickly turned to ice. It amazed my little brother and me but I do not think my parents and uncle were as thrilled as we at that first hard winter freeze.

I have never forgotten that little boy who thrilled at ice cycles in and on the house and always got excited to see and play in the snow. After all these years he still does.

Your friend and fellow traveler,

David White

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