It was a cold snowy weekend, this last weekend in February. The snow came down steadily beginning around noon on Saturday and continuing through the night. When we woke on Sunday morning, there was a nice six inches on the ground. Snow like that always leave me digging out Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”
I grew up in a home with a wood burning furnace in the basement. During the heart of winter upon coming home from school, it was my job to stoke the coals and toss in a few logs to bring the fire back to life. And because my bedroom was in the northwest corner of the house, I was highly motivated to keep the warm and toasty air flowing from the furnace registers and hold the chill winds at bay.
Today, I live in a home with an outdoor wood burning furnace, so I’m still more concerned than most people probably are with the nuts and bolts of building and sustaining a fire. Stir up the ash so those coals at the bottom find a breath of fresh air. Start with a few smaller logs, but don’t add too much fuel too fast or the fire may be smothered out.
Each winter when the temperatures plummet and the wind cuts to the bone, “To Build a Fire” reminds me that Mother Nature is not your friend. A friend doesn’t freeze the hairs in your nose as soon as you walk outside and take a breath.
Reading this story reminds me of the time I decided to walk home during a ground blizzard in Laramie. Rich and I lived on the very north edge of town, and because of the snow, I’d caught a ride to the university instead of driving myself (Laramie in winter…ya gotta love it.).
With the wind whipping off the mountains, it was well below zero and absolutely bitter. Walking home, the trek got longer and longer. I was dressed for the weather, but the weather had the advantage. By the time I got home, I understood why people go to sleep in snowstorms and don’t wake. I also knew if I’d had to light a fire, it would have taken more than one match.
And that’s why I always want to yell at the guy in the story. “You stupid idiot! Don’t walk out on the ice!! D’oh! You just used all the matches!!! You don’t have a Menards you can drop past on the way home from work!!”
It’s been snowy again today and the wood is damp. I’d better go check the furnace. Wouldn’t want the fire to go out.