OUR WOOD BURNING CAST IRON KITCHEN STOVE
By: Verna (Cook) Weatherly
Bates was a lumber town in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon (Grant County) where I lived for 17 years, from the middle 1930's with my parents, Bill and Mary Cook, and my older brother, Denny, and younger sister, Dana.
The house we lived in was small, but our lives were big. Central to it all was a humble kitchen with narrow kitchen cupboards, a table with six chairs, and close by, a wood burning cast iron kitchen stove, which was probably purchased from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue for approximately $60. The stove was fueled by leftover trees hauled in by out father, and it stood on our kitchen floor on four cast iron legs, approximately 10 inches tall. Other than our father's wood and an unintrusive stove pipe, it required nothing, but gave all. My father lit the stove each morning with pitch kindling, which he had prepared the night before, and on cold days, with abundant firewood, we kept the stove burning all day and many times 'till our eyelids closed late at night.
The kitchen stove was multi-purposed and many times her warmth served as a nursery for newborn chicks, who were safely placed on the floor under her sturdy frame. This little spot, which served as a brooder, was warmed by fire by day and lamp by night.
My mother told me years later how she had ordered the baby chicks from Sears and Roebuck catalogue. I found an ad in a 1931 Sears catalogue which read: Baby Chicks Pure Strain - Hardy Stock 100% Live Delivery Guaranteed. The article goes on to say: "Write for our special price list of baby chicks."
Well, Mom must have written for that price list, as I remember how they were shipped from Baker in a long, flat, floppy cardboard box with nickel-sized holes around each side to let the air in. But the "unplanned joy" was it let their little "cheeping song" out. The sound was one of the miracles of the times -- how life so tiny and fragile only knew how to celebrate.
It was a day of immeasurable enchantment when the chicks arrived in our house and from that moment we were held spellbound as we watched the little, yellow chicks growing into a mass of pure white feather, pecking away at the yard grain pitched by my mothers as she call, "Here chick, here chick-chick." So melodically convincing was the call, you knew she was a true farm girl. Accenting this blessed chaos were many laying hens and a well-tuned rooster who each morning honorably placed himself at the edge of sunrise and began crowing.
Our Mom's high spirits embraced all she did. Early on, she mastered "Woodstove Cooking" as she gathered, picked, measured, baked, and fried foods from every resource; always from scratch. And most of the wild game was from my father's excellent hunting skills. Freshly picked huckleberries from her own secret mountain patch made into dumplings and pies; maple bars; fresh-baked bread; chocolate pudding; hand-churned - homemade ice cream, frozen by fresh mountain snow; mincemeat pie from venison mincemeat; pheasant and quail from field meadows nearby; always fresh canned venison; and I'm sure in the early days, my father's own "Blue Mountain Moonshine;" I even heard tell of my Aunt Kate's dandelion wine. But the world stopped when we ate our mom's vanilla cake (with its baked-in-memory), iced with a river fudge, which could be sliced and eaten as soon as he icing had become firm.
On Christmas Day, our house seemed blessed by the grace of our merry tree. Festive aromas followed us from room to room. The presence of Santa's midnight visit was still felt. Outside the snow knew the day and seemed to hug the house on all four sides.
Christmas found the Cook Family next to their "wood burning kitchen stove" eating their holiday dinner.
Renewal is born each Christmas, a reminder of the Light of Bethlehem.
May this season bring renewal to your heart.
In Memory of the Cook Family
Bates, Oregon 1930's - 1950's
Verna (Cook) Weatherly
Golden, Colorado 1994