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Wood Cookstove

by Laura L. Snyder


Bread rises on the old linoleum counter. A spill of ground coffee escapes the grinder.

The percolator tap, tap, taps in the glass lid. The scent of coffee begins to bloom.

On the drying rack above the stove hang dish towels, work gloves, mittens, darned

socks, kids muddy overalls and one apron in the ocean of dry warm air. Creased

boots with loose laces and tongues dry beside the stove on a kindling pile. Steam

rises from the nickel-plated tea kettle. A pot of beans and onions simmers.


Canned condensed milk pours a column from the nail-opened hole. Spoons clink

against chipped mugs. Thick fingers, dirt-grimed, are swollen on the mugs. The men

wear dirty loose trousers adorned with bits of straw, spots of motor oil. Their coats

on the wall hang on nails pounded straight through the butcher paper covered walls.

Their gray corded work shirts are button to the throat. Some have pulled on hand-knit

cardigans for inside. In the light of the window, one wrinkled face is half-lighted,

wattles under his chin make a shadowed crevasse.


In the background is the sweet crack of birch. Through the vents in the stove,

there's a glow as the oven comes to temperature for the bread. Talk is of cows,

the blacksmithing to be done, a broken gate. A man with neatly darned shirt pulls

part of a harness out of a wooden box, chases up a spool of linen, beeswax and

a needle--there's a buckle that's dangling loose, a line of stitching to be repaired.

He listens, doesn't enter the conversations.


The oil cloth covered table top bears each spoon with its coffee colored pool

beneath. Sugar trails from the bowl. The condensed can of milk sits bald on

the table with torn elbows, pouches of tobacco, a book of papers for cigarettes.

A wire-mended chair scrapes closer. The fire crackles, the gasoline lamp hisses,

snow piles outside. "Conversations of old men are the best of all," I think.

One of them ruffles my hair.





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