Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out with the Plymouth, in with the Oval

Floyd Peterson’s staggering collection of junk, mostly metal scrap, was stored in and around an enormous well-weathered building next to the old Mill Pond in Enterprise. Somehow Mike figured that amongst all that junk Floyd might have a cookstove, which Floyd did, which is how for the grand sum of $25 we became proud owners of the Plymouth.

“It’s all there,” Floyd said, pointing to a pile of metal that he claimed was a functional wood stove. “We raised six kids on it and it’s been right there ever since I took it out of the house.” Mike brought the pieces home and indeed, it was all more or less there, from the somewhat-repaired firebox, to the black-trimmed white porcelain warming shelf, to the oven temperature indicator reading: “warm–slow-medium-hot-very hot.”

For twenty-five years, the Plymouth served us well. It was about as non-airtight as it gets and wouldn’t hold a fire for more than an hour (well, maybe longer if you put some apple wood in it). At baking temperature, the inside of the oven would be 500 degrees in the left rear corner and 300 degrees in the right front. If you forgot and set something breakable on the warming tray, it would soon vibrate toward the edge as people walked past and then fall off and shatter on the cast iron stove top.

In short, the Plymouth was a beloved fixture in our otherwise frigid farmhouse. The center of every winter morning, and every holiday gathering, loaded with simmering and baking foods, a place to dry out and warm up after cold, tiring work, the Plymouth was like an alter in the middle of our lives.

Several firebox repairs and about 150 chords of wood later, we’re not exactly getting rid of the Plymouth, we’re just putting her into semi-retirement. We’re modernizing. For our thirtieth wedding anniversary Mike gave me a brand-new modern, efficient, wood cookstove. As of this very moment, all six hundred pounds of the Oval are resting on the new tile hearth Mike built, hooked up to the new insulated chimney that Mike put in, burning a toasty fire of wood that Mike and Zeke harvested. She’s a beaut.

The old Plymouth hasn’t quite made it out of the kitchen yet, but will likely head to the canyon to take up a service in the ranch bunkhouse. She’ll need a new firebox first. And the bunkhouse needs new sills, a chimney, a door…it could be a few years. But that’s okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that a useable cookstove is worth hanging onto.

From Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef