Our large kitchen, the center of our family life, was usually the only room heated in winter. The source of heat was a wood burning cook stove. All food preparation and baking was done there, winter and summer. It had warming ovens and a large reservoir. This tank on the end of the stove was kept filled with water – a steady source of warm water. The walnut drop-leaf table stood in the center of the room. The extra leaves were kept handy to expand its seating to twelve or fifteen for harvest crews or company. A large wood box stood next to the cook stove and was filled daily with dry, split firewood. A lounge, usually Grandpa’s resting place, stood along one wall. A Lincoln rocker, the caned seat and back long worn out and replaced with heavy string, rocked us to sleep regularly. I rescued that rocker from a granary years later and had it recanted and refinished. It holds special significance for me because I remember when I took a nut pick and punched holes in the wooden arms of the chair. Those holes are still visible. I never forgot the incident, not because of any punishment I received, but of how deeply hurt my mother was.

We had black iron sinks that drained to the outside with a copper faucet and running water. A windmill on the hill behind the barn pumped the water from the well and stored it in an underground cistern. Gravity provided the pressure to bring the water to the barn and house. The only time we needed to use water sparingly was if many days passed without enough wind to turn the windmill. If a storm was approaching someone always had to hurry to shut off the windmill. A strong wind could damage it. I was always afraid someone would get caught in the storm doing that, especially if Dad sent me. To turn off the windmill we needed to pull down a lever attached to one leg of the tower. By doing that we tightened a cable connected to the wheel at the top that set a brake. We then slipped a metal ring over the lever to keep it from slipping back up.

There was no heat source in the bedrooms except what entered through the doors from the kitchen and the sitting room. During the coldest days of winter when we were small Dad slept with Ralph and Mother slept with me to keep us warm.

Next week – My Grandpa Herold

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Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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