Undercover energy

While I was reading all those handy tips from people who can endure any energy hardship so long as they're comfortable, I remembered that Burlington Liars' Club story about the man who was working in his garden with a hoe. A rattlesnake struck the hoe handle, and when the man came back from dinner the hoe handle had swollen so he cut four cords of wood off'n it. This taxes my credulity, because as a veteran chopper, I know four cords make quite a pile. Three cords and a half, maybe. Most of the numerous people who have found energy solace in woodpiles have neglected to state a basic truth which I have known for years -- that survival is possible if you leave the firewood in the woodshed. It's not all that cheerful, but it gives you something to brag about in the after times. Viz.:

(By the way -- did you notice that soapstones now yield stored residual energy? We plain got 'em hot.)

My father grew up in what Washington Irving (who reads him!m ) called the Yankee Farmer's Shingle Palace. Four-square, it cost little because the trees had to be cut anyway for tillage, although today one of those pit-sawn boards would be worth an oil well. After one of those houses was built it stood for years drying out, so all the windows rattled in the casings and all the boarding and roofers stood an inch apart. The clapboards and shingles gave little protection outside and the plaster and lathes none inside, so any wind would find the cracks and lift the Godey's Lady's Book right off the parlor table. My father slept in a boyhood bedroom where, with the windows nailed shut for winter , any northeast snowstorm would lay a drift right across the foot of his bed. So he avowed early that when his family came along there would be advantages, and my memories start in a comparatively tight home with a furnace "down sulla." It was coal-fired model that reluctantly depended on something called "gravity" to give us an incipient warmth richly suffused with coal gas, but it allowed us to eat on any except the severest nights without mittens. Thanks to the kitchen range and a parlor airtight, we were accordingly pampered, and Dad also had banking boards and stormsash.

But my room was up attic, a flight above any evidence of the furnace and two flights beyond the stoves. My little room was plastered and papered, gained by a steep and narrow way, but the rest of the attic was open, rafters exposed and floor boards loose. It was a dandy boy's room, and I hope nobody will surmise I was abused up there. It had no electric line at first, so I carried a kerosene lamp to bed for many years. Except in summer -- "quite the other way" -- and in summer the accumulated solar heat on the shingles made my chamber bearable, at least, and I frequently slept a capella,m so to speak. But as the Maine winter got chummy I recognized that I was lacking in certain creature comforts the rest of the family, a floor below, took for granted. I never wanted for plenty of blankets and comfortables, but in a room like mine it was my job to warm them rather than theirs to warm me. The high check-rein set may have had soapstone bed warmers, and my siblings sported hot flatirons; I preferred a brick, and when properly warmed and wrapped in a newspaper and flannel it yielded stored residual energy in a manner I found pleasant, although in those unsemantic days I called it heat. When I first came up to my room I would push the brick down to the spot where my cold feet would find it, but I never gave it time to effect any coziness. Well, I could undress and get into bed in 1.06 seconds, which is a record as far as I know and included blowing out the lamp.

All the rest of me shivered and shook, but my tootsies were fine. Gradually, of course, I got the blankets warm, but I never knew exactly how long this took. There came a gradual change, with a lessening of quivers, and with this a lulling, and the day was done and sleep had come. Thinking each night I would never make it, I woke each morning to stick my head from under the covers, to hear both ears snap in the frost, and to find the orient sun touching rosy bloom to the rosebuds on my wallpaper. It was time to rise and put on the clothes standing there rigidly frigid. I had to go just about half-way down my attic stairs before I could smell bacon and eggs from the kitchen, and I could follow that scent to warmth. I tell you, and I say true -- you don't need to be comfortable to save energy.

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