Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Man and His Wood Stove

A Short Story by Wendi Taylor
Chair - Sierra Club PA Chapter

There was man who lived with his wife in the North Country.  They lived comfortably in their home, which was heated with wood.  Every morning he would rise, go out to the shed and fill the rack next to the old stove with wood. And every morning his wife would complain that he had tracked mud into the house, along with wood dust and debris. 

The man would shovel out the ash and dump it into an ash can – wood ash and soot flying everywhere -- build the fire and, before he left for work, remind his wife to feed the fire throughout the day.  Every morning after the man left, his wife would scrub the kitchen floor, sweep up the wood droppings and wipe away the wood ash and soot.

As the years passed, the woman began to resent these tasks. If he would be more careful, she would not have to clean up after him, she thought.  So she began to go behind him and demand that he take off his boots. She purchased several rugs, one to lay the wood on as he removed his boots and runner rugs, which made a pathway to the old wood stove.  She also supervised the disposal of the wood ash. After he left, she would pick up the rugs and shake them outside. Those always made her sneeze three times.

One day, a traveling salesman came to the door selling a new device that would heat their home without wood. “Hmmm,” she thought, “this is a better idea!” Her husband would not have to build a fire in the old stove and there would be no more mess to clean up. She bought the device and placed it in the room. It worked!  

When her husband came home, the house was toasty warm and the rack by the wood stove was still nearly full. When she showed him the device and the way it worked, instead of being pleased, the man was furious!  

The woman was perplexed!  “I thought you would be happy,” she told him. 

The man said that wood was good enough. “Hadn’t it always kept them warm?” he asked. “But it is dirty,” the woman complained. He did not agree because he never had to clean up the mess.

He forbade her to use the device.

Then change came to the North Country. The forests began to die and instead of snow, they got rain, and wood became harder to get. The man told his wife that they needed to conserve the wood they had. They could no longer keep the house warm. “Use just enough to keep it from being cold inside,” he said.

And as they both shivered with cold, the woman thought of the device that would heat their home without wood.

Sound familiar? We have always relied on fossil fuels but it is dirty. While regulations have reduced some of the problems with burning fossil fuels, it doesn't solve the problem. Fossil fuels are finite resources, which will only get scarcer.  Conservation helps but it merely forestalls the eventual outcome. The time will come when there will be no more.

Why not use the device?

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