The Curmudgeon Gets The Gift of the Magi: Part 4

The kid was completely shocked. Obviously, he didn’t expect to find his old man, dressed in sweatpants and a Jayne hat, clutching a battering ram sized flashlight (which was off), and mumbling something about giant floating space babies. I didn’t expect to find my kid, bundled up like the Michelin man, carrying firewood.

Let me repeat that: carrying firewood.

Holy shit!

The kid decided to get up at 2:00 am and venture into the dark night of a -20 winter to haul firewood. He’d already made a zillion trips back and forth from the dark woodshed to the woodrack by the stove. All this while everyone (even the dog) slept. Hauling heavy oak, in blistering cold weather, in the dark, for his dad.

He did this because he wanted to surprise me with a full rack of wood and a toasty fire when I got up Christmas morning. It was all his idea. Entirely of his own initiative. Because he knows I like a warm fire.

There are times when you’re raising a kid and you think; “surely I’ve fucked up”. It feels like everything has gone wrong. Your precocious and delightful child is now a surly teenager and he’s listening to shitty music and dressing like a derelict and doing all the stupid shit you did when you were a teenager and it’s just as dumb now as it ever was. You’re afraid your contribution to the next generation is going to be a serial killer who’s unemployed and possibly even lazy. What a nightmare! A goddamn lazy ass unemployed serial killer and it’s all going to be your fault because you’re a shitty dad. If you’re a father you’ve had this fear. We’ve all had it. But at 2:30 am on Christmas morning, like a light shining through the clouds, I saw that my kid’s got a heart of gold and an iron will. Everything is going to be OK.

It’s goddamn hard to haul wood. I use force multipliers to make it happen, an ATV, a trailer, a big rack by the woodstove, strategic placement of the woodshed, teamwork, a hydraulic splitter, etc… In the dark, in blistering cold temperatures, working alone, it’s almost dangerously hard. Yet here he was; sweating from the work and covered in snow; clutching 40 pounds of oak.

Such a gracious and thoughtful gesture. I teared up and gave him a big snowy bearhug. Then I said something sweet and loving. I think it was “jumpin’ Moses boy, youre gonna’ freeze your balls off out there”. It was a real Hallmark moment!

He explained that he was planning on starting a fire in the woodstove after he’d loaded the full woodrack. He’d been at it for quite a while and had another half hour of backbreaking work planned. He expected to start the fire around 3:00 am and sit by it until Mrs. Curmudgeon and I woke up many hours later.

The kid had a noble heart and a generous spirit so I felt like the Grinch explaining that the chimney was still kaput. (He was dimly aware of me having loud and smoky issues with the woodstove. He’d assumed, like all teenagers since the beginning of time, that his dad’s blathering was some sort of adult bullshit that had nothing to do with reality.)

If he’d started a fire, the smoke would’ve bumped into the ice in the chimney, backed up, and flooded the house. We’d have wound up airing out the house in the coldest night (so far) of the year. Plus there’s the low but not impossible chance of an embarrassing call to the local VFD to put out a chimney fire. Boy wouldn’t that be memorable! I almost hated to rob him of what would surely be an awesome story to tell in the distant future. “Did I tell you about the time I almost burned down the house on Christmas?”

I needn’t worry. He didn’t fret in the least about his failed attempt at a Christmas surprise. He quickly stripped off his jacket and winter gear while I thanked him over and over and was asleep before I was done telling him all about the Gift of the Magi and how thankful I was. Then I woke up Mrs. Curmudgeon and told her all about it too. (I left out the Stanley Kubrick dreams. She’d have made fun of me and the pickles. I HAVE NO REGRETS ABOUT THE PICKLES.)

This year, the stupid goofy year that is 2017, is the year that I had the best Christmas present ever. (Also, the house didn’t get filled with smoke or burn down and that’s cool too.)

Merry Christmas y’all!


P.S. Shortly after Christmas day, the chimney was cleaned and ready to go. “Christmas firewood” is heating the house even as I type this story.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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8 Responses to The Curmudgeon Gets The Gift of the Magi: Part 4

  1. Mark Matis says:

    Ya know, if you gets you some bottle rockets, the next time your chimbley ices up you can use them to unfroze it! Just set a bottle in the bottom of the stove with the neck pointin’ at dat chimbley. Stick a bottle rocket innit and light it. Watch it shoot up dat chimbley and go splodey! Ice chippies be comin’ down, man. And sure, youse might haveta do it a few times, but what’s not to like about “BOOM” reverbrating down a chimbley? Expecially if you have an eighteenpack or a keg to enjoy during the process…

    Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, and here’s to a Happy New Year! With meatloaf this time. Instead of a steenkin’ cheeburger…

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Someday I’m driving back to that little dive (which is hundreds of miles out of the way) just so I can eat the meatloaf. Speaking of celestial (or at least atmospheric) events, dawn on Christmas had the biggest most glorious sundog I’ve ever seen.

  2. Phil B says:

    You haven’t realised that he’s lost his virginity.

    (To get the background of just how awkward Kevin the teenager was beforehand, click on some of the links to the right).


  3. terrapod says:

    Congratulations on surviving another year and the near disaster that may have ensued. I note you glossed over the chimney cleaning process, which implies you did break down and pay a professional (who showed up). If your son had done the job there would have resulted another 3000 word hallelujah chorus.

    All the best for 2018, may we all survive this winter, global warming? Piffle!

    Edward the Terrapod of SW Michigan

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Yes in a very rare bout of human frailty I hired someone to do a job I’ve always done myself. In a Christmas miracle second only to the birth of Christ, they actually showed up, competently did the job, and didn’t set fire to my tractor. I had to wait several weeks for them to arrive but I’m still giddy with joy that they actually came. This is literally less common for me than encountering wolves. I paid up promptly and threw in a decent tip and begged them to come back in a year. I’ve had the woodstove professionally serviced only once (in 2013) and that guy has since vanished. (Lucky for me, my stove isn’t high maintenance. I burn dry wood and burn it properly. I usually keep the chimney whistle clean and only need a couple trips on the roof per year.)

      A note bout living in the hinterlands, you must do everything on your own. It’s not “inconvenient” it’s fucking Mad Max but with decent hardware stores. I mean that in a very real way. I can’t hire much of anything done.* I can buy parts and wing it myself but when I can’t handle things I’m doomed. I’ve already realized that I’ll have to move out when I get too old to do most of my own work. I don’t know how 80 year old people live in this area. I assume they have either 35 kin who took a blood oath to care for them… or die. I can count on one hand the number of “professionals” who’ve actually come to my house in the last decade and of the ones that showed up (and were sober) about a third don’t actually do the job. (That’s why I almost died before pulling the plug on a job where a carpenter was coming to my house. He does good work and if I cut off the money spigot he may never return. Also I like the guy.) Once I had a deal to drop well over $1000 on an electrician to do some pretty simple shit. Mostly to wire a transfer switch for a whole house generator. Just. The. Switch. Dude just bailed on it. Who turns down a grand for a day or two’s work? I had to give up and plan for a portable with some extension cords. I don’t think I could get a plumber to do work here even if I kidnapped him from a city somewhere, chained him to the hot water heater, and stuffed six Krugerrands in his pocket. “I’ll give you the keys to the handcuffs as soon as you swap the hot water heater. The gold is for payment. When you’re done I’ve hired a limo to drive you home and there’s a hooker in the limo to keep you entertained. Please fix the fucking hot water heater.” Nope… I’ll have to do that myself too.

      Wow. I think I’ve got issues. I’ve bee triggered y’all!

      Anyway the chimney is fixed and I didn’t have to to it. First time in decades.


      * I once contacted “a Mennonite dude” to cut some firewood. It took weeks to “score” a “connection”. Then I made an “appointment half a year in advance”. After a 5-6 month wait, two dudes showed up with chainsaws and mauls with an old cowboy to drive them around. The two of them cut wood like madmen. The cowboy and I hung out working at geezer speed and talking about God. It was awe inspiring how fast the two guys worked.. I paid and thanked them and practically groveled at their feet (and also tried to haul wood at a tenth their speed just avoid embarrassing myself). Then they left. Apparently you get one day’s labor per year. I’ve never seen ’em since. Those dudes were heroes!

  4. nemo paradise says:

    The best Chistmas story I have read this year.

  5. MaxDamage says:

    I hear your pain and astonishment. Can’t quite comprehend the astonishment yet, but my kids are only 7 and 10 so they do cute stuff instead of actually working. When they graduate to work I will be astonished. Heck, when they clean their rooms by placing items where they belong instead of in the closet or under the bed I’ll be astonished!

    On the chimney, I have a piece of advice and a confession. First the advice: at the hardware store buy lengths of flexible 1/4″ threaded stock, get some double-female couplers like on a turnbuckle to attach each length, build yourself a flexible rod you screw together like the barrel-cleaning rod in your rifle cleaning kit. Buy enough lengths that you can worm through the stove and chimney and just keep adding and attack that plug from the bottom. If the rod won’t fit you can get coils of wire, basically springs about 3′ long, those will bend around the pipe curves. Some heavy wire to attach the pieces together, maybe a bit of wire on the end to flop around, get it to the plug and punch through it or chuck it into a drill and let it flay the snow plug out. If it’s solid ice you’re in trouble, but if it’s just packed snow you can get a hole through it. Then a small fire and close the door, the heat will slowly melt it away. Heck, a hair dryer in the stove will slowly melt it away, as will a pan of boiling water. The draft on your stove works the same way, the warm air will rise as surely as taxes.

    Now the confession. I did this once (and it worked!) on my own chimney because I remembered doing it before, only the other way around… Dad and I once dug a well, 120′ deep, using 4′ lengths of 3/4″ pipe and a post-hole digger. We (ok, mostly he, as I was sort of a kid and my job was to keep him supplied with tools and parts and otherwise be helpful) erected a 40′ windmill frame over the spot, ran a rope through a pulley on the top, attached one end of the rope to the bare rim on a mini-bike (1948 Cushman scooter, for those of you into such things), and dug. When we got down 4′ we’d screw another length of pipe onto the shaft, turn until the bit was full, and haul it up. After about 20′ we’d throw the hook on the end of the rope around the post-hole digger, twist the grip on the Cushman and haul up the load. When we hit 40′ we had to take the shaft apart and re-attach a handle to continue pulling. By the end of it we were taking about 5 minutes to haul up every foot of dirt. Took us just under three months to dig that well, working in the evening after supper until about 9pm when we’d have to knock off to get showered and into bed for work the next morning.

    Some day My Good Wife is going to call me a cheap bastard for doing something myself instead of hiring it done. I’m saving this story for just the right time, just the right not-quite-up-to-her-expectations project I’m working on, and then I will spring it on her. Being a clever person she will at once realize that she hasn’t yet seen the depths of cheap-bastard-ness I proudly hail from and can plumb willingly, and will hopefully let that argument lie.

    Yeah. And maybe that lottery ticket I bought will hit the jackpot. But a man can dream.

    Oh, incidently, on your transfer switch, there is a solution. Run your generator into a separate load center (breaker box), and run from that center into your main load center onto two breakers, sized appropriately, one on each bus. Put them at the very bottom, so you don’t get heat between adjacent breakers on the bus (placing two 50-amp breakers next to each other causes the bus to get hot between them, so gap them with some 20-amp or 15-amp loads or place on opposite busses). Now all you gotta do is throw the main breaker in your main load center to off, throw the two aux breakers to on, and fire up the generator. You’re isolated from the electric grid and running on generator! If you have to start the generator manually, why not switch to it manually and save some coin for a bigger generator? Additionally, if you put a 240vac outlet outside the house, say one that might be used to plug in a camper, then this all looks like an addition for when the folks come to visit in their Winnebago and would certainly not be in violation of electrical code. That your generator perhaps sits outside the house and makes use of a custom cord to plug into that camper outlet and feed power back in? Why, don’t be silly — who could have foreseen somebody doing that?

    – Max

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