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June 2013 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on June 1, 2013
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Contributors: Jp ArchivesDr. Vern
Photographers: Jp Archives

Blame it on the hippies. This latest turn of events started with the best of intentions, as they always seem to do. I haven’t gotten much done lately on my Jeep projects, but naturally it’s not my fault. The blame lies not just with any hippies, mind you. These were Vermont hippies, which makes them professional grade, which I realize is something of an oxymoron.

This latest debacle started when my wife and I wanted to lower the heating bills for our old farmhouse. Thankfully, we don’t suffer through industrial-strength, booger-freezing winters such as they have in Minnesota and other frigid “from” states. We live in a lovely “to” state, with correspondingly mild winters. Snow is not very common in my neck of the woods, but at least when flakes do fall, people don’t panic. (This means grocery stores shelves aren’t stripped of milk and toilet paper.) While not too chilly around here, it’s not exactly year-round four-wheeling territory with an open Jeep. I am, without shame, a fair-weather Jeeper.

Back to trimming those pesky heating bills—we considered different options, such as tapping into our neighbor’s natural gas supply. However, my conscience eventually said that wasn’t right. Furthermore, my neighbor sometimes comes home from work at lunch, so I couldn’t count on having enough time to do the job right. Safety is always paramount, so the decision was made to go with Plan B: the wood stove.

…national debt and boy bands

If allowed to list my many mistakes (Editor’s note: Sorry, you’re only allowed one page per issue), getting a wood stove would rank near the top. The darn thing works great and our heating bills have dropped big time. What’s the problem? It makes the living room so nice and cozy on cold winter nights. That lovely radiant heat just soaks into your bones. Meanwhile, out in the garage where the Jeeps reside, it’s cold, damp, and far from inviting. It’s a detached garage, so even if a portable heater could keep up, you’d still have a mad dash through the cold to get there. It’s much nicer to hold down an easy chair by the fire. I can read a fine Jeep magazine (Editor’s note: Don’t forget Jp, too!) and my toes never get cold.

Dealing with old Jeeps has helped me when purchasing firewood. Before you ask, yes, I’ve tried cutting my own. Oy vey, it was a lot of work. For little more than I’d spend on gas money, there are plenty of unemployed loggers more than willing to cut, split, and deliver firewood. Much like buying old Jeep parts, the trick is finding a trustworthy seller. For example, I learned that “seasoned” doesn’t always mean “dry.” One seller had apparently been a professional chef, thinking the word meant “marinated.” On the bright side, this sopping wet batch, which we came to call “safety wood,” would be handy if a raging wildfire threatened our home. We’d simply stack this wood in harm’s way to stop the flames. A year later, it finally did dry out enough to burn, so all was not lost.

I’m not trying to blame the wood stove alone for keeping me from my Jeeps, because hippies are primarily at fault. We had a lot of choices when shopping for a stove. I’m not sure if I’ve accidentally entered a bizarre alternate universe, but I didn’t skimp out and buy an inexpensive model. Yeah, I know, this is so unlike me. I’ve been around cheap stoves that roast you out of the room when wood is first added, then freeze you as the fire dies back down. No, this beauty is made from thick soapstone for smooth, steady heat output. As a kicker to seal the deal, it was made in the good old U.S. of A., in Vermont to be exact.

Other than national debt and boy bands, it seems there isn’t much produced in this country anymore. By selecting a stove made in Vermont, I could even be part of a great social experiment: providing gainful employment for hippies. Just think how their lives could be enriched with the satisfaction that comes from actually working for a living. I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it. (Hum “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” for maximum effect while reading.) If enough concerned citizens acted, the lives of countless hippies could be dramatically improved. Sales of Subaru wagons and hemp clothing would plummet, but is that really a bad thing? Other developments would also occur, such as booming business for barbers. These are the kind of warm, fuzzy thoughts one tends to have while relaxing by a toasty fire, as opposed to cold thoughts about chilly Jeep repairs.

It’s mid-winter as I write this, but by the time this issue hits the newsstands, spring will be in full bloom. It will be time for four-wheeling, not wrenching. As you’re reading, I’ll be hanging my head in shame, having remembered my summertime promises to tackle those much-needed projects over the winter. Curse you, reliable wood heat and your amazing winter-defying comfort! Without you, my ’63 wagon would finally have a functioning gas gauge. Thanks to you, Mr. Wood Stove, my ’48 CJ-2A continues to willfully leak gear oil from the transfer case. I could go on and on, but notice how most Jeep work involves crawling on a cold, cement floor. Come spring, I’ll be paying the price for not resisting the siren call of the wood stove. And for being nice to hippies.

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