Tuesday, January 7, 2014
You can't lie when you play with coal...
Boiler furnaces are becoming obsolete. I have come to love the nostalgic pop and hiss of the radiators. It's a steampunk thing. Grandma's house in rural Indiana had a coal-fueled gravity furnace. Coal was delivered by a truck that backed up to the house, and dumped the coal down the shoot into the cellar. When the temperature dropped in the house, she called for one of my uncles to go down and shovel some coal into the furnace.
I would tag along. Being a lover of stones and bones from an early age, I couldn't resist the beautiful mound of coal in the corner of the cellar. Grandma strictly instructed me to stay away, but I was compelled by the iridescence, the chalkiness, and even more, the satisfying crunch when you climbed on it. As careful as I was about not being seen, somehow she always knew. I guess you can't lie, when you play with coal.
As diligent as Grandma was about keeping house, the coal dust settled on everything. Things were simpler then, but dirtier. Think Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird; that was me. I had dirty feet, knees, elbows, and hands, year round; this was okay. Kids didn't have to be clean, except for The Lord's Day, when we were starched and spit-polished, until we were unrecognizable. My red Kool-Aid mustache never came off. I wore it like a tattoo.