My Sister the Stove

Mabel Steele Wright 1898-1993

You were retired this day, May Day, 1976, after 75 years of almost constant service, some of it night duty, far beyond the call of, and I feel a compulsion to comment on our relationship from the autumn of 1918.
It was then I was formally introduced to You. You presented what I thought, a formidable appearance. Ray and I had moved from the Honeymoon cabin where we’d spent our first summer to the Big House where I was to endeavor to cook for him and his brother who would be feeding the cattle that winter and for many more to come.

It wasn’t that I did not belong to Your era for I did – I was eighteen too! Also I knew how to build a fire in a wood stove and had mastered by the patience of my dear, long-suffering husband, the rudiments of some simple cooking. Poor Ray! How could any bride be as ignorant as I! I did not know “sic’em” from “come- here” about ANYTHING! But, I am not stupid and, as I said, had learned a little. However, the stove in our cabin was a very small one and uncomplicated and YOU were something else!

Ray, again, patiently instructed me as to Your draft manipulations; Your possible reactions at what I might do wrong and offend you. It was made plain that I would be the offender!

On the whole You were cooperative and I did not make too many mistakes. Most of them merely made You angry and so hot You burned my biscuits! We had seven winters in which to become acquainted and then I really took You over in 1925 when Ray and his brothers bought the Ranch from Father Wright and I moved into the ranch house to stay.

From 1925 until 1942 we served meals to our summer guests, sometimes as many as thirty, three times a day. I cooked these – rather You did – and they were big meals, all of them and the guests fell over each other to get into the diningroom.

Then, too, there were the hay-hands, often twenty or more men and teen-age boys. They ate in the kitchen and would they EAT! The big table would be turned catticorner and a smaller one put at one end. I think I enjoyed cooking for the hay crew most of all. YOU seemed to know how I felt, even at four in the morning, and seldom was there any trouble between us.

The cooking was not the only contribution You made to the welfare of mankind: I am thinking of the countless cowboys whose wet, cold boots and feet were warmed and dried as they sat with long legs poked into Your warm, open oven; the gloves and mittens a-top Your overhead warming oven; the coats hung on the water-tank that YOU kept hot; the convenience of Your reservoir on one side, the water always hot. Especially, there was the cheery crackle from You big firebox and the hum of the tea-kettle.
I looked at You this morning as You were moved through the kitchen door to the side porch. You show signs of use, many battle scars, many of which I put there. I did not cause them all, for after all, You’d been in use several years before my advent.

I see the result of the time I carelessly left You and let a kettle of grape jelly in the making, boil over Your top and down Your front onto the nice, shiny nickel.

Try as I did through the years, I was never able to erase this. You were really “burnt” over this; anyway the jelly was.

You had scarcely been installed in the new house at the turn of the century, the justified pride of Mollie Brown, when her new daughter-in-law accidentally dropped the lid of the reservoir and broke one of the hinges. I’d give a pretty penny to know what Molly said about this! One had to use care is raising the lid after this, else it would fall into the tank of hot water. I had been in charge less than a week when Ray repaired the broken hinge. The mend scarcely shows so perhaps this is not really a scar. You are as efficient as ever. There is nothing wrong with You or me except that we don’t belong to this era.

You never asked much of us, just fuel and a new set of fire-box grates now and then through the years. In spite of all the messes and mishaps, I think You are beautiful! It seems to me You should have at this time or retirement, some token of appreciation but What? Not a Watch, certainly, I have watched You too many years!

Perhaps, the best I can do is wish that Your new owner, who will value You probably as an “antique,” a representative of the “GOOD OLD DAYS,” will treat You kindly, more so than I have. I love You, STOVE.

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