My horseman and Me Part 8 – Stoke that fire!!

stoke that fire

The winter of 1999 was all about keeping a fire going in our little wood stove.

The ranch owners had graciously given us the option of living in the trailer by the river until the next spring. (“graciously given”, “took pity on us” – call it what you will)

We went back to our jobs at the ski area. Clint was once again a snow groomer and I worked in the shop with the mechanics, mountain maintenance, lift operators, snow makers and groomers. Yep, just me and a large percentage of all the guys employed by the ski area.  (By the by, if you’re wondering, “What exactly is a groomer?”  Check out this article called “Making Corduroy”- beautifully written.)

The skirting around the trailer was less than perfect so we put in a wood stove for heating our winter refuge. Not the safest thing in a “vintage” trailer but what-are-ya-gonna-dowhen-ya-gotta-stay-warm?

We worked four ten hour days each week on opposite shifts. Days for me, nights for snow groomer, Clint. Our lives that winter revolved around keeping that fire going, so the opposite shifts were working for us.  When I got home at night, Clint was usually asleep. I’d stoke up the fire, go for a moonlight walk in the snow with the dogs, come back home, stoke the fire, make dinner, stoke the fire…

On our work nights, Clint would get up, we’d eat together, and he’d fire up his truck and head to the ski area to climb into his Bombardier for the night. I, on the other hand, would get that fire roaring – when I say roaring, I mean chocolate was melting and I was sweating in my shorts and tank top. Once I was satisfied that the heat would sustain me for most of the night, I’d put on my long johns, ski socks and stocking cap  * no body heat was allowed to escape*, and climb into bed under piles of blankets and the dogs at the foot of the bed for added warmth. (No matter how hot the kitchen and den were, the heat just didn’t travel down the hall much.)

In the morning, my first waking thought was always about the fire! Reluctantly, I’d slide out of my one warm spot in the bed, glance at the frost on the inside of the bedroom windows and pad down the arctic hall to the den. I’d coax back small flames from the few red embers left in the stove.

Once I had a blazing fire, I’d take the world’s fastest shower under a flow of mildly warm water in a bathroom that stayed right around 50 degrees if we were lucky and diligent with our fire.

Sometimes, Clint and I would meet at the 7-11 in town for a quick am hello. Me, on the way to work, him, on his way home. Our conversation usually revolved around the fire. “How did the fire do last night?” “Did you get the fire going really well before you left?” “Make sure the fire is good before you go to bed, so it will last until I get home.”

Fire.  Survived Y2K.  Fire.  -25 degree weather.  Fire.  Fire.  Fire.

And that pretty much sums up that winter.

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