Clorinda's Stove

"Big as Ox Buzzard's woodpile" was Uncle Lonzo's favorite size comparison. That was big, especially after Clorinda got her iron stove. All the cooking and baking had been done in the fireplace for years. If Clorinda wished for a stove, she wasn't one to mention it.

Ox went into the village one spring day to take his wool to the railroad station. There he found Uncle Lonzo amid a group of men gathered around the storekeeper, "We" Turner. His name was William Emmett Turner so, of course he was called "We". They were trying to figure out how to get an expecially large iron wood-range off the boxcar and onto a dray.

"Here's the man you want, We." Lonzo called out. "Ox kin prolly heist it down by himself."

"Hev ta call him back when I sell the thing, too, I'll be bound." We chuckled.

"That thar contraption for sale?" Ox asked. "I'll buy it fer 'Rindy an save ye the trouble."

Even with Ox's great strength it took several men to load the various parts of the stove off the boxcar and on to the wagon. It was no trouble for Ox's team of Shires to pull the load home, however. Uncle Lonzo and three other men followed in their wagons to help set up the stove.

Several wagons rattling over the boards of the recently built bridge over the creek brought Mz McCoy, Clorinda and her children running to the dooryard. Visitors were rare but heartily welcome and everyone wanted to know who'd come and why. Seeing Ox leading the parade in his heavily laiden wagon elicited curious and astonished stares.

"Brought ye a weddin' gift, Rindy." Ox grinned as he swung the wagon into the yard. "Bout time ye had one, after dun'kno how many years and all these young'uns."

It took a while to unload and set up the stove. Clorinda stood with her children gathered around her, her hands clutched to her breast in breathless wonder. Uncle Lonzo said her eyes got brighter and brighter as the great black monster took shape. Mz McCoy kept up a stream of "Oh my lands" and "Well, I nevers", "Land 'O Goshens" and "Bless my souls" as she watched. Ox and his boys would put up the stovepipe later.

When the men had washed up at the pump, they were pressed to "set and eat" and were served plates of ham and baked beans with Clorinda's sody bread spread with fresh churned butter, washed down with scalding coffee and topped off with slabs of apple pie before heading back to town. They were waved off by a grateful Clorinda encircled by Ox's arm, wiping away tears of joy with her apron as the children excitedly danced around them.

Since the huge fireplace took great hunks of log to feed it, there had to be another woodpile of smaller chunks for the stove. The boys kept the chips flying for hours at a time all year round so their mother had plenty of fuel for her cooking.

I never walked into Clorinda's kitchen that the air wasn't fragrant with something baking or stewing. Her "bil't dinner" was a favorite of the family. She used a piece of corned-beef the size of a platter, simmering it in a black iron kettle on the back of the stove for hours before adding "baggies" (rutabaga), carrots, onions, "parsnaps", and, toward the end of cooking, lots of potatoes. Cabbage, cold and firm, was taken from the root-cellar, cut in quarters and added a while before it was to be served.

What a feast that was served with mixed mustard pickles, slices of fresh bread dotted with butter, and topped off by apple dumpling with plenty of nutmeg flavored sweet cream.

Folks ate well and heartily in those days but they worked well and heartily, too. Clorinda's iron stove saved her and Mz McCoy a lot of bending over the fireplace to cook meals though they still used the ovens for baking. Their "timer" was an in-born instinct and their measure was often a "pinch", a "dash", or a "smidge". But, oh, food did taste so good whether cooked in a fireplace or a "modern" iron stove.