Commentary by Ward Degler
It was chilly in the house the other morning, so I moved the thermostat up a few degrees. Then, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to catch up on some reading.
At least, that was the plan. But as I sat there with my coffee stirred and my book open to where I left off, I got to thinking about heating a home.
Turning up the thermostat isn’t the way we heated our home when I was a kid. Back in those days, we lived in the Wisconsin Northwoods and heated our home with wood. Before we could do that, we had to split the wood. And before that, we either had to traipse into the woods and cut it down, or buy it from a supplier who would dump it in a huge pile in our backyard.
My dad did both. Most of the time he would cut the wood himself with a helper from the CCC camp where he was superintendent. They used a two-man crosscut saw, a wicked-looking device about 7 feet long with handles at both ends. They would start out before sun up with a borrowed truck and lunches packed by my mom. Sometime after dark that evening, they would return with a truckload of wood. Before coming in for supper, they would dump the wood in the backyard.
The next step was splitting the wood into pieces that would fit into our wood-burning stove. Since Dad worked long hours during the week, he did most of his splitting on weekends. Weekdays after school it was my job.
Dad never told me how much I had to split every day, but I absolutely had to fill the woodbox. The woodbox was a clever creation that was half outside the house and half inside. You filled it from the outside.
On Saturdays, Dad would split and I would carry the pieces to the woodshed and stack them neatly in rows as high as I could reach. Dad always tried to get the woodshed filled before temperatures plummeted into negative territory.
Each winter we burned about 20 cords of wood. Considering that a cord is 4-feet high, 4-feet wide and 8-feet long, that was a lot of trips to the woodbox.
By the time I reached high school, we had stopped burning wood and graduated to a coal furnace that had to be stoked twice a day. Eventually, we got a gas furnace, and all you had to do was turn up the thermostat.