LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — When we first moved to Charlie Brown Road, here in the Lowell Branch suburb of Paint Lick in ’97, I could walk out on the front porch this time of year and smell wood and coal smoke on the air because several of my neighbors heated their homes with either one or a mixture of both fuels.
Step out late in the day and the wonderful aromas of chicken and/or pork chops frying and cornbread or biscuits turning brown would be mingled with or carried along on the smoke because someone had let the kitchen get so hot she had to crack a window open. I say she because I don’t believe there’s a man living within five miles of Charlie Brown Road who can fry or bake stuff and make it smell that good.
Well actually, Charlie Gruen could probably pull it off, but he lives too far downwind for me to ever be able to smell his cooking.
I guess a few of my neighbors still heat with wood now and then but not enough to notice. And all the cooks must be keeping their windows closed these days as well. It’s a change that’s taken place in just the last few years. What used to be an absolute necessity is now considered a luxury for those with fireplaces or a bow to nostalgia for folks who still have a wood burner stove.
Loretta and I heated with wood and coal until we bought this place. Our last rental had a Fischer Mama Bear in the basement and most weekends this time of year saw me and Junior Helton in the woods armed with chain saws. We’d do a load of hickory and oak for me and one for him and we’d often make stacks of wood to haul later. It was impossible to saw too much wood because sooner or later it was gonna get hauled.