October 14, 2005

State 29: Corn Burning Stoves

With winter coming soon, the old feeder's thoughts turn to wood stoves. Oh, I've had to live in a house in town with 'forced air' central heat. Fate has also landed me in big cities for years at a time, with noisy, leaky steam radiators. I could stand it when I was younger, but I just don't have time to waste on it any more. I like rural , even rustic life. I like wood stoves. Fireplaces just aren't the same.

Not only are they homey things, but feeding them is as good for you as having a treadmill or a bow-flex. And they appeal to the old feeder's penny pinching nature. I've never had a modern one, though. The fanciest one was an enormous old Monarch cook stove, complete with numerous lids, warming ovens and a hot water reservoir. The most humble was an old 'trash burner', pictured here, and which I think DadGum still has.

The fall smell of other wood stoves in the air inspired these fond remembrances like Proust's madeleine. Now comes State 29 with a post titled Corn Burning Stoves to add interest to my nostalgia. The feeder has burned wagon loads of cobs, but never corn itself. These modern contraptions are made by Even-Temp Incorporated of Waco, Nebraska, and are apparently so popular this winter as to be almost unavailable.

It isn't the first time Great Plains folk have burned corn to keep warm. The Great Depression was the last time the practice was widespread. The Buffalo County Nebraska Historical Society web site has this story that describes Depression corn burning in Nebraska: The Plow That Broke The Plains by Michael W. Schuyler.
The first major shock waves of the depression did not strike the farm belt until 1931 but, by 1932, had destroyed nearly all that was left of the farmers' foreign markets and had driven farm prices down to disastrously low levels. By 1933 farm income was less than half of what it had been only a year earlier. Many farmers in the County burned corn for fuel when the price fell to only nine cents per bushel.
I hope this renewed interest in burning corn is merely a reaction to the high cost of traditional fuels this winter, and not a sign that 'hard times' are again upon us. Its a good thing the Feedlot bought a propane contract for this winter.
Reposted to stay on top today- because it's such a nice warm fuzzy post - ptg

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