There is so little to remember. He taught me how to play chess and how to fly a Piper Cub airplane. I taught him how to ski -- he was not very good at it. He taught me to drive and made me change a flat tire -- I was not at all good at that.
For some reason I remember in detail how he taught me to build a fire in a fireplace. Paper, kindling, prime the flue, and stack the logs in threes -- one horizontal and two angled like a tepee. That's what I remember.
This is how it's done.
It got cold here in Santa Fe finally. After a too warm winter, we had some cold weather and a snow dusting, and on February 20, in the middle of the week, we had a cozy fire.
Jim struggled mightily to get the thing going. Our first attempt last fall smoked us out, and then using fake Duraflame logs after that was too smelly. The former owners left us a small stack of ancient dried wood by the side of the garage, and so on this late February day we tried again, with a wood fire.
After about an hour and 40 minutes of tending, poking, opening doors, using the fan and employing some cuss words, he got a smoky smolder going. The firebox is too small, and the two-way see through opening makes containing the smoke a challenge. But mostly I think the problem is that Jim does not build a fire the way I was taught. His method seems . . . unproductive.
After he went around the corner to the kitchen to start dinner, I rearranged the logs, built a wood tepee, and got it going the way I was taught. It caught.
I pulled the old wood telephone chair around, plunked myself in front of the hearth and it was good. It was hot. It was perfect.
I love the idea of a fire in winter and I like this two way fireplace. But I'm not crazy about the way the fireplace looks. I like the raised hearth and the bookcases flanking it. The tiles surrounding the black metal firebox and topping the hearth are okay I guess -- they're neutral enough.
But the mantels are so dinky.
On both sides, the living room and the dining room, they are just thin shelves, with a board under, and knot holes showing through the paint.
Changing the whole look will be more expensive than just replacing the wood mantels, so at most I think we'll just check out barn beam mantels. They are pretty easy to get and simple to install. So that's our next house project.
I think that's all that is needed -- a rustic wooden beam over each fireplace to replace the skimpy painted wood shelving. Some cold weather. A glass of wine. A good man cooking dinner around the corner, and a few toasty moments by a hot tepee-built fire to remember some of what my father taught me over 50 years ago.