2010-10-06 / Opinion


by Ren Summerlin

There are many artists in this world. Some paint, some design buildings, some write, some sing and, of course, the list goes on.

But not many can build a fire, especially in a fireplace or a wood-burning heater.

One of my jobs as a young boy at home was to make sure daddy had enough fat lightered splinters to make a good fire. At times it seemed he would use just about all I had chopped up. I used an old axe that the handle would slip, and this was not the best tool around, but it made do.

Daddy would talk to me as he burned my hard cut splinters. “You have to have it hot to start. If it ain’t hot, it can’t burn.” was what he would say. He particularly liked those with the tiny shivers or fingers that stuck out.

I would watch him stack the splinters just so. Then some dry wood. Next the green oak or whatever they had cut. Soon a fire was going, and the warmth would spread all over the room.

We never used a fireplace much. Daddy liked a wood-burning heater more. I have seen that heater get so hot it would turn red. In an old cold house, it did not matter how red it got; we wanted to stay warm.

That wood heater would huff and puff, and sometimes smoke came out of the pipe, but no matter we were warm.

Two things that Daddy taught me about a fire. It has to be hot to start the other wood, and it has to breathe. Too much wood too soon can kill a fire in

a minute. Some fires need

nurturing, coaxing and a gentle touch before bursting forth into full flame.

I think I might have made a passage up from boyhood to young manhood one day. Daddy told me to build the fire. He had to go check on a hog or something. I must have done a really good job for from that day on I got to start a fire in the wood heater most mornings.

Fire building is an art, an art that one day might be gone forever.

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