Papaw And The Wood Stove

Inspiration in appalachia

Since I first started writing here on the Blind Pig one truth has proved itself to me over and over you never know where questions will take you.

It was well over a year ago that I started thinking about firewood. As will often happen, I already had the thought of wood meandering around my brain when GW Newton sent me the story about his Mother and lightered wood. Falling in love with his Mother’s fierce independent determination led me down a whole different road you’ve already read much of those travels.

Somewhere along the dirt path that went from dead chestnut trees to rich pine I took a u-turn and went back along the way looking for rolling stores. Wouldn’t you know when I hitched a ride on the store truck I found a story or two by way of Pap. Seems he’s always got a story for me no matter the subject.

pap remembers snow in may

Since most of the places Pap’s family lived when he was a boy are within driving distance (if not walking) he’s taken me to more than a few of them over the years. You may even remember the place he lived on Cook road the place where he was scared in the moonlight.

The house had 3 rooms with a fireplace for heat and a wood cook stove. WWII had been over for a few years and things seemed to be picking up even here in Brasstown. Pap’s father, Wade, was offered a job share cropping the old Brown place over on Pine Log.

In early summer they moved to an old house in Calley Cove. It had 3 rooms too, but the rooms were larger and even better the old cabin had a covered porch along the length of it. The house sat under a white oak as big as a wagon wheel. There was even a can house and a big barn. But the best part about the new place it sat on the sunny side of the mountain not in a dreary damp place like the house they’d just left.

The Brown place was less than a mile away, so Wade didn’t have too far to travel back and forth. Things were going good for Pap’s family. His father also did some farming for Pap’s aunt and uncle Ina and Bill Penland. Pap didn’t say it, but I’m thinking his Mother liked being only a mile away from her sister Ina. And I know from the stories I’ve heard a true bond was made during those years between the two sister’s children.

The house in Calley Cove didn’t have a fireplace nor a cookstove. The cookstove wasn’t an issue since they were able to bring the one from Cook road with them. But as summer turned into fall the lack of a fireplace for extra heat became a problem. You’d think a cook stove would be enough to heat a little 3 room cabin, but I’m sure most of the heat went straight out the un-insulated walls.

Wade came up with the money to buy a woodstove. Pap thinks it was 26 dollars. He put in an order for Bennetts Rolling Store to bring him one as soon as they could. Finally the day arrived. Pap said it was an exciting time for them all.

Now this is the part of the story that tugs at my heart.

When Wade went to meet the store truck he didn’t have anything to haul the stove home. All these years later, who can say why. Maybe he didn’t have an animal to pull a sled, mabye he didn’t have a sled, maybe he didn’t want to put someone else out by asking to borrow theirs? Pap doesn’t remember the why, but he remembers the how.

Wade directed the store man to help him put the stove on his back. The man didn’t want to comply with the request, the driver warned Wade he’d hurt himself, warned him there was no way he could make it home. Now my Papaw Wade wasn’t a large man. He wasn’t much taller than me (I’m 5’5) and he couldn’t have weighed much more than me either. Actually you can see for yourself, he’s the man in the family photo above.

Pap remembers how his Daddy started off for home with that stove on his back. He traveled a ways and then backed up to a bank so he could shift the load off. Pap remembers after his Daddy folded a coat and placed it on his shoulder he backed up to the bank and wrangled the stove to his back and started off again.

Pap remembers how after going a bit farther, his Daddy finally realized he’d bit off more than he could chew. After the stove was once again set on a bank, they went for a horse and sled that carried the load the rest of the way home.

I’ve pondered Papaw Wade trying to carry that stove a blue million times since Pap first told me the story last year. You’d think only a crazy person would try to carry a stove, but see I know Papaw Wade wasn’t crazy he was actually a very smart man. So why did he attempt such a herculean task?

Because his family needed a stove; because he had an independent spirit that made him want to take care of things on his own; because he didn’t want to put someone else out by asking for their help; because he saw what needed to be done and went at it like fighting fire.

This story about Papaw Wade trying to carry a stove home to his family and GW Newton’s story of his Mother figuring out how to get her own lightered wood splinters when she needed them are inspiring to me. Both show the determination and goodness that can dwell within us humans.

In today’s world there’s no need for carrying stoves on your back or crawling under the house for splinters, but there are still obstacles. There are still hard times in my Appalachia and there are still people rising above them for their families and you know what? That’s just as cool now as it was way back then.



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  • Reply
    February 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Miss Cindy said it better than I ever could!!!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    February 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Like this poignant example, it’s your stories, Tipper, and your wonderful connection to the Appalachian underpinnings of my soul, that take me first each day to Blind Pig and the Acorn. Not surprising how your hundreds of readers come to think of you as a personal friend.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I don’t know if it’s pride or independence, but our dad was the same way, trying repeatedly in many ways to get something done by himself before asking for help, and even then, he’d only ask certain people for help like his brothers before anyone else. I think that’s what gave the older generation so much character, ethics and strength – traits sadly often lacking in the present generation.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Amen to Miss Cindy’s comment. thanks Tipper for doing this blog!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Oh Tipper, this is such a hard but good story.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    February 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I’m not suprised at all by Grandpa Wade’s spirit & character. Doing what has to be done when it has to be done is the Appalchian way. An example we can all live & learn from, Tipper. Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I’m still crying…Tipper, I think you and I inherited those work ethics our parents and grandparents instilled in us. My mom has told about carrying sacks of corn across a mountain to trade for food supplies when she was just a little girl. I think about my daddy crawling on his belly in those dark coal mines to pick and shovel coal. That thought alone gets me through the phobia I experience during my frequent MRIs.
    Precious memories are priceless. Thanks for sharing yours.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    February 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    So absolutely lovely. This one is a keeper Tipper.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    The high country and the people of Appalachia are my kind of people. I understand your pride in them. I loved this story today!
    Your blog was recommended to me by a friend and I’m glad they did. I guess you could say that since I live to the south of you, the way I perceive how your blog came to me could be best understood by reading Byron Herbert Reece’s poem “Ballad of the Bones” from his book of the same name (third line page 15) when he was speaking of how something came to him “As a wind from the north.” Well, that is exactly how your blog came to my attention; as a crisp, unpolluted wind from the north. I ain’t gone never quit reading it Tipper!

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    February 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you Tipper for another wonderful story from the past. You described my grandpa. He was a very small but stong man that could do anything he had to do with no help. Hard working, proud but humble, loving, caring, and loved by every neighbor, fellow employees at work, friends, and family. At the age of 70, he could place his hands on top of the dining table, lift his body horizonical, and stay for a long period of time. He was my hero.

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    February 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Wonderful story about fiercely independent families… reminds me of my dad..

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    After reading Miss Cindy’s comment
    I don’t have anything I can add.
    She pretty well covered it!
    Just want to say “Thank You” and
    we’re PROUD of you…Ken

  • Reply
    Mary Holcomb Brock
    February 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Same spirit as my Granny,she offered help,baby clothes,food any and everything with the phrase “If it won’t offend you I have this I want to give you” I never saw anyone refuse.I woouldn’take any thing for my raising!
    Thanks so much for reminding me of my childhood.Mary

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    A beautiful and moving story! This is why we have always thrived and will always continue to do so; determination, strength and a stubborn refusal to cry ‘uncle’ when things aren’t easy.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Tipper, that is one of the most exquisite writings you’ve ever posted. Reminded me of my Dad and Grandpa who faced many adversities but did the best they could, with faith, determination and love.

  • Reply
    Carol Blanton
    February 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

    You write and preserve the heart of the past. Many Thanks

  • Reply
    Pam Moore
    February 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

    When I hear people complain about their work I think of my grandpa. He worked three jobs to support his wife and nine children. Full time on the railroad during the day, then to the grocery store to bag groceries, home for supper and a few hours of sleep. He got up at 3:00 am to set up warning signs for the highway department, home for breakfast, then off to the railroad. God only knows how much sleep he ever got.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Can’t ask for better ancestry than determination and true grit minded folks. Enjoyed the story as usual. You always make my day with your writing.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    February 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Wonderful story, Tipper. I love to read these sorts of posts. They make us think about how we live and how our ancestors lived, worked, loved and thought.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I can just see him strugglin’ along trying to carry that stove.
    Most of the folks in my family were the exact same way. They never wanted to ask for help and they were hellbent on doing whatever the task might be by themselves. I have to admit that I am pretty much the same way and I have hurt myself quite a few times because I am too stubborn to ask for help. Independent as a hog on ice!

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    February 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Sort of reminds me of my grandpa. He was born in 1896,and worked HARD his entire life. I agree with the other comments..people just don’t value work anymore. Working hard should give one pride;not a reason to bellyache! I’m not from the south,by the way,but from northern Appalachia in PA. I really enjoy your site!!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    February 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

    This just goes to show you how determination is rewarded.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 12, 2012 at 9:11 am

    sadly so much of “make do” attitude isn’t with us today. Great lineage there, Tipper, but greatest is your love and understanding of it and generosity in sharing it with all of us. Brings lovely memories back – thank you!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    That’s it Tipper. This story is why you write. It is the heart of the Appalachian Spirit. It is a strong minded people making their way in a hard world. Surviving and thriving no matter what.
    You are Appalachia you are that strength and independence and you tell the story, our story, your story.
    There is no difference in your granddaddy carrying that stove and you starting this blog with a dial up connection and no computer background. Forming the ideas then searching the internet to learn ways to make it happen, and happen it did. You now have over one thousand subscribers.
    You are your grandaddy, you are the spirit and you are every angel you ever painted…..even the ones in combat boots!!
    You go girl!

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    February 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I think I’ve met him, here and across in Tennessee, many times.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 8:41 am

    and now in our world UPS would bring the stove to the door but Pap was better off back then than now, i thin

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    February 12, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Sure is a strange world. I remember the same thing happening with a stove in the 1930s. My family moved into a larger house one time that needed a cook stove. My Dad did carry the stove for about a mile on his back. My uncles loaded the stove on his back and tagged along just in case he had to set it down and rest. Dad was a pretty stout man, 6’1”- 190 pounds and not afraid of tacking on any kind of work when nodded be.
    The people I grew up with were determined people who would not back away from any problems that had to be done.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I love this story Tipper, I adore the history you are speaking! Thanks for your wonderful stories and knowledge!
    I live off of Pine Log Road. Maybe I dive by the valley they lived in.
    Smiles, Cyndi

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 12, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Such devotion to his family. He must have been a wonderful man.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    February 12, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Very determined man. One who did what he had to do to provide for his family. Wonderful story!!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 7:29 am

    What a great man your great grandfather must have been –in a way it is sad in this day and age “most” do not have any of those times where determination and “must-do ” for one’s family is of major importance to survive and so I honestly think that men and perhaps women as well are not brought up to the potenial that what humans are capable of—the majority of folks these days have become “soft” and how sad for us all.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 12, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Your Papaw had the same attitude that I admired so much in the people I knew when I was growing up in that part of the world. Don’t ask for help unless you REALLY need it, but at the same time, willing to help anyone else at the drop of a hat with any problem, no matter how small. I came away from the mountains with some of that same philosophy.
    Sometimes other folks think its crazy, but let them think it!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2012 at 5:50 am

    I can only stand in awe of your great grandfather’s determination and independent spirit. He must have been a man of great values who really cared for his family to such an extent as to carry that stove himself. You must be so very proud of him, Tipper.

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