Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Shootin’ Straight
The seventies was the time of wood stoves making a big comeback in South Dakota, and the residents of Harrold were busy installing stoves and cutting wood. We bought a Mama Bear Fisher stove to put in our new house. It was an amazing stove, heating the whole house all winter long.
It wasn’t long and the wood supply out on the prairie was drying up, and we had to hunt for a source farther from home. Dad knew a navy veteran who lived near the river south of Harrold. He had served on a battleship during WWII, and had lost much of his hearing being around those huge guns when they were fired, so the only way to communicate was by mail. We dropped him a line, telling him we would be at his place in a week with a horse trailer to buy a couple of cords of firewood. When we got there, this spry sixty-some year old man came out and we shouted at him for a while, talking about things in general, then, getting down to business, he pointed to a stack of wood thirty yards long, measuring out two chords and marking the spot with a stick, signifying where we would stop in our loading. He owned land along the river with many draws and gullies full of timber, and he was finally making some money off of borderline pasture land. We waived goodbye, hollering we would be back for more.
Mom and Dad lived in a mobile home next door to us, and Dad would come over in the evenings just to stand in front of our wood stove. He kept wishing he had one in his trailer, and did mountains of research, measuring and figuring where a stove would fit in the singlewide mobile home. He finally had it set in his mind. A Baby Bear Fisher stove would be just right, and would fit perfectly between the kitchen and the living room. He ordered the stove and began preparing the platform he would set it on.
The stove arrived, and as we struggled to get the iron plated stove into position, a problem occurred to us. Now that the stove was there, we needed to install the stovepipe through the ceiling. Because the stove was so visible in the house, having it set square and true was important. How would we get the stovepipe straight? We put the elbow pipe on the back of the stove, then used a plumb bob to find the center of the pipe by tacking the plumb bob to the ceiling so it hung right in the middle of that elbow. The problem was solved. Now, to get that mark through the ceiling and out the roof.
I carried a 22 rifle in my pickup most of the time, shooting gophers and sometimes a rabbit, but had never used it to install a wood stove. It seemed like a simple, logical way to punch a hole through the ceiling and roof, so we set the rifle in the elbow of the pipe, pressed it up to the plumb bob mark, put a level alongside the barrel, and pulled the trigger. The hole was barely visible in the ceiling, so we ran out and climbed up on the roof, looking for the exit hole the bullet made. There it was, no bigger than a pea. The stove pipe hole was cut, insulated pipe installed through the roof, and the stove was ready to go. It provided the perfect amount of heat for the mobile home and looked great, sitting in the middle of the house. People would comment on how attractive it was, and inquire who installed it. Dad would answer “the firm of Heintz, Heintz, and Winchester.”
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