~The "Majestic" Wood
Our kitchen was one of those places God must have made for a memory
of all time. The setting sun filtered through the red and white
checked gingham curtains and cast a sharp shadow on the clean scrubbed
floor. Pungent odors of a bubbling beef stew floated throughout the
room to remind us that the tasty substance would soon surround fluffy
saleratus biscuits at the supper table. Mamma glanced at the clock,
added a stick of wood to the fire, and the scene was set for another
cozy winter evening around the kitchen range, the heart of our country
I remember when the "Majestic" range had long been Mamma's dream.
After years of waiting, it finally was ordered from the Sears and
Roebuck catalog and in a few weeks arrived at the railroad station.
Papa hitched the team of horses to the bobsled, drove three miles to
town, and with the help of the hired man and the station agent,
loaded up the magnificent piece of equipment. It was installed that
same afternoon. Papa grumbled about the extra expense of the new
stovepipes and wires used to secure them to the ceiling, and predicted
the huge monster would devour great amounts of firewood.
Mamma pretended not to
hear his complaints, busied herself, and moved around the kitchen
like a queen in her castle. When the installation was complete, she
laid a fire and brewed a fresh pot of coffee to serve with
doughnuts. My sister and I rushed
home from school, burst into the kitchen, and stared at the new stove.
What a beauty! It sat upon a black metal stove base at a safe distance
from the wall. The stove-picker, fire shovel, and clean-out rod used
for removal of ashes, hung on wooden pegs on one side of it, and a
salt holder and a tin matchbox on the other, all conveniently located
within easy reach of the cook. Above the pegs hung calendars,
annual gifts from the local grocery store, the creamery, or the
funeral home, handed out in appreciation of patronage. A rectangular,
hand-loomed rag rug lay in front of the stove and caught wood chips,
ashes and drippings of spills from cooking procedures.
Grandpa's old clock on
the shelf chimed five times. My sister took a match, raised the chimney,
turned up the wick, and lit the bracket lamp. In its silver reflector
the pictures of beautiful maidens and scenes on the calendars seemed
to come alive to the eyes of children.
Everything in the room
seemed to feel the need of being near the kitchen range: the three
prong wooden rack holding dishtowels, the wall pegs on which hung
coats, caps, and scarves, and on the floor a row of boots, rubbers
and overshoes, all lined up in military fashion. Papa's boots had
the first spot in the row, always ready for a hurried trip to the
barn or down to the neighbors if an emergency arose.
Like a tour director Mamma
carefully explained the various parts of the stove. She was especially
proud of the warming closet at the back above the range top. When
the two doors were lowered we noticed she had already moved the sad
irons inside to have them partially warmed to press clothes. These
compartments would keep apple and mince pies at the proper temperature
for serving, act as a steam table for goods ready for the dinner table,
and keep our cereal warm for breakfast. The warming closet would
later prove to be a wonderful place to dry wet mittens.
At either end of the warming
closets two nickel plated shelves extended sideways. One held the
coffee pot and the other the teapot.
We always remembered those shelves
for it was under each of those utensils that our great uncle, a
Civil War Veteran, secretly hid a dollar bill for us after his
A reservoir on the right
side of the oven was lined with copper and held thirty quarts of water
to be kept warm for washing dishes and Saturday night baths. The cooking
top of the range had 8 9-inch lids or griddles. One was divided into
three sizes to accommodate kettles of different shapes. The stove
handles, or lid lifters, were oval shaped, and were used to remove
the iron lids to feed corn cobs, kindling or stove wood into the
After explaining the functions
of the various parts of the stove, Mamma informed us that it would
be our duty to carry in baskets of corncobs, fill the wood box with
kindling, carry out the ashes, and pump water from the well to keep
the reservoir filled at all times. With that announcement some of the
joy of meeting the new range disappeared.
When Mamma opened the
20-inch oven door, and we kneeled on the floor to peer into its depths,
we could visualize all the events that would revolve around that part
of the range. There would be baked goods for family gatherings, barn
raisings, butchering, threshing, and many other happenings prepared
in that oven.
At Christmas time the
scents of anise and yeast breads would permeate the entire house as
Mamma made Sprengerle (picture cookies), stollen, Gingerbread Men, and
many other different kinds of cookies.
We especially appreciated
the kitchen range during the cold winter months when ice and snow
kept the family indoors. After stomping through the deepest snow banks
on the way home from school, our damp, soggy clothing was draped over
chairs beside the range to dry while we sat with our feet propped on
the open oven door. In that position we studied our lessons while nibbling
on snow apples or popcorn.
At bedtime Mamma warmed
the soapstone in the oven and placed it between between the cotton
sheets on our beds and its warmth was transmitted to our shivering
bodies. On Sunday mornings the hot soapstone was tucked under the
blankets to keep our feet warm in the sleigh which took us on the
four mile drive to church.
When the 13th piglet of
a large litter was rejected by its mother and required bottle feeding
and warmth to survive, Mamma became the nurse and the kitchen range
replaced the warmth of the mother pig. At times a clutch of baby chicks
or ducks were removed from the crowded pen, placed in a cardboard box,
covered with a gunny sack, and survived in the shelter of the
I never picture our old
"Majestic" without one of its favorite accessories - Tabby, the mother
cat. We pushed a saucer of warm milk under the range many times and
watched her lap the milk and then curl up contentedly like a furry
pillow on the rag rug in front of it.
After more than seventy
years, the pages of time were turned back when I visited my oldest
grandson's newly constructed log home in California. As I stepped
over the threshold, a feeling of warmth and love crept over me, for
my eyes fell on an antique beige and green enameled six-burner range,
the center of interest in the kitchen. In the following weeks I relived
the scenes of my childhood working around the kitchen range, the heart
of that mountain home, another place God must have meant for a memory
of all time.
Copyright © 2000 Bruce DeBoer
Used with permission of the composer