Cousin Shad’s Hanging Heater

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It was a beautiful Tennessee spring afternoon when I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. This time of year, the hills behind their house become bathed in pastel colors with hues of green, yellow and pink – a sure sign that spring has finally arrived. Their white-frame house located among the landscape of the spring-colored hillsides seemed to be part of an artist’s painting hanging in a gallery on the strip in Gatlinburg. Springtime on a Tennessee farm is something to behold!

Aunt Sadie met me at the front door, wiping her hands on her apron as usual, and led me to the back portion of their house where the old couple spends most of their time. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid. After exchanging pleasantries and taking my seat at the table, Aunt Sadie put a plate of cookies in front of me, along with a cup of her hot cider. The aroma from the cider and the smell of ginger coming from the white porcelain cookstove in the kitchen were enough to make this old country boy feel like he had died and gone to heaven.

As we sat there enjoying our early spring treats, Uncle Sid told me a story he had read in a letter from one of his cousins. Some college professors had come over to visit one of our other cousins named Shad. Uncle Sid always said we had cousins that kept their houses too close to power lines, and this group was from that lineage. Shad is sort of strange in a reclusive-like way and has always been one to keep to himself. He never married and lives in a one-room cabin out in the woods on the very back of his farm. It seems the professors were coming out to talk to Shad about using some of his land for a test plot of some sort.

“This story was told on Shad, and I wonder how much of it is true,” Uncle Sid began. “You know how those boys like to stretch the truth.

“It seems when the professors got to Shad’s place, he was inside fixing breakfast,” said Uncle Sid. “They knocked on his door and walked right inside.

“Shad doesn’t have much furniture,” Uncle Sid explained. “He says he really only needs a bed, a cookstove, something to keep him warm and a chair.”

I was wondering where this story was going. And I soon found out over my second cup of cider.

“Those college professors noticed right off he had an Ashley wood heater hanging from the ceiling,” Uncle Sid said with a grin. “As soon as they saw that, they started to try to figure out just why he had it hanging up there like that.

“One of them figured he hung it up there so it would give off more heat,” he continued. “Another one said he probably put it up there to conserve fuel, and the other one reasoned he did it to allow more space in the cabin.”

After another cookie, the old man leaned back in his chair. “All three of those guys were really giving Shad more credit for his intelligence than most of us who know him best would have ever done,” he said.

“What was Shad’s reason for hanging the stove from the ceiling?” I asked.

“They all started to ask him his reasoning and telling him what a great idea it was,” Uncle Sid said. “Shad, not being one of many words, only grunted and answered them by saying, ‘Not much reason at all. I had a whole lot of baling wire and not much stovepipe.’ ”

I really don’t know where Uncle Sid got that story and would bet it wasn’t original, as most aren’t. However, it does a great job in explaining that often we try to make things a lot more involved than what they really are.

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