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I have made FIRE

For about 15 years, we heated our house using an outside wood boiler to supplement the furnace in the basement. Over the past couple of years, some health issues made hauling wood more bother than it was worth. But I’m back in the saddle again, the grandchildren stacked a massive pile of firewood, and the price of propane is up. So, I spent a couple days bringing the old boiler back online.

When I first flipped the ON switch nothing happened. I sighed, deeply, and went to the shop to retrieve the ELECTRICAL toolbox - I prefer the CARPENTRY toolbox and yearn to avoid the one labeled PLUMBING - and started testing things. As it turns out, an expensive circuit board runs everything. Unfortunately, it no longer works, and my knowledge of circuit boards ends there. The board controls a fan and some solenoids and some other things I don’t understand. I suppose I’ll get it replaced, but in the end, the boiler is just a big box full of fire, surrounded by another big box of water that gets hot. Scientists say humanity has been using fire to get warm for 1.7 million years. It’s not that complicated. I’m not saying a cave dweller could have fixed the boiler, I ended up having to hotwire a pump and a fan, but the old beast is functioning again.

And just in time.

The cooperative I’ve been buying propane for the last half century is scheduled to keep my house tank full, using some sort of computer model. I don’t know how it works, but evidently, it’s not perfect. Last week when I checked the tank, it was low. I called and told them, then called two days later and told them again. On Saturday, we ran out of propane.

I didn’t call a third time, because I had the wood boiler working. Also, I was pretty sure that whoever had screwed up wouldn’t be the person who’d have to come in to work on a Saturday to deliver propane to me.

This is one of the basic problems in the universe: when you pick up the phone to make an angry call, you very seldom get to yell at the person responsible. Particularly when it quite often isn’t a person, but a policy that screws things up.

We were safe and warm without propane. We had twelve people to feed for Sunday dinner and getting it done without using a burner was kind of a challenge. Coffee and dessert were prolonged because of having to make one cup of coffee at a time in the espresso maker, but it all worked out. As they say, first world problems.

I see my propane issue as just another example of the world we’re living in. For most of my adult life, I could dial the co-op's number from memory. If I called to say I was running out of propane, the person I’d be talking to would not only worry about my kids getting cold, but they’d also know their names and ages.

That ship has sailed. There was a merger, a name change, another merger and now I don’t know the phone number and don’t know the person on the other end of the line when I do get through. The same thing is happening everywhere.

Oh, well. I’m calling it a win. I was able to make things work, to take care of my family without asking anyone for favors. The older I get, the fewer times that happens. Too often, I’m trapped in a complicated world looking for guidance, or my mind writes checks my body can’t cash. But not this weekend. This time I came through.

Although, I’d still like some propane.

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson

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