The Mrs and I were having afternoon coffee. A tradition from her farming family and something very familiar to me as a tradesman. A cuppa joe and a small bit of something to tide you over till the next meal. She had just delivered my cup, and was heading back to her side of the table, when she paused, gazing out the kitchen window. The pause lasted long enough that it caused me to recall an Ole and Lena joke. It went something like – Ole noticed it was snowing again and Lena was looking through the kitchen window. A bit later, and Ole saw the snow was piling up and Lena was still looking through the kitchen window. Ole thought if the snow gets any deeper he was gonna haveta open the door and let Lena in.
Anyway, my wife turns to me and says, “It kinda makes you hungry just looking at them.”
We’re in a new and strange place and I kinda like it.
So winter finally shows up and it’s getting a little chilly in the house. This time last year, the wood stove was cherry red and I was spending my days splitting wood. These days, new and strange that they are, the wood stove is cold and lonely, brooding in the corner, and we are in between heaters, as it were, for the moment.
We had to take the wood stove out to get the living room and dining room sheet rocked. And, up to that point, it was warm, very warm for December and we got by with a Mr Heater Buddy. A cute little guy, runs off a 5 gallon propane cylinder. I’ll pause now while you safety Nazis shriek about having a vent-less gas heater that uses a super dooper dangerous propane cylinder IN THE HOUSE. Lets just say it’s all cool cause we don’t cook up Meth in the same room with all that dangerous stuff. Okay?
From here on out, when I say gas, I mean propane, so it if bothers you that I bandy about incorrect nomenclature, ah, please accept my micro apologies for any micro aggression I may incur.
Our gas furnace, that was purchased well in advance of all this other activity, is still sitting in its box. I need to replace the entire gas service as it currently exists, and then put in a tankless gas water heater before the furnace gets put it. Why, because the tankless gas water heater is very adamant that it has its own chimney and will not share with any other device. I think I detect a little California attitude with this guy. Our current gas water heater (very easy to get along with) is using the house’s brick chimney and is in the spot were the furnace is going to be installed. The Mrs has strongly indicated the desire for hot water at all times, so the work schedule gets a bit complicated.
As such, I will take an intermediary step of installing a portable gas heater in the kitchen, that will be connected to our big propane tank. This will give us reliable heat, without the need of propane tanks in the house. Not because of them being scary, it is just such a royal pain in the butt to have them refilled every 4 days.
Of course, trying to get parts for this project, over the Christmas holiday with an ice storm thrown in, was problematic. Meaning we had to wait to get to town and then refill the propane tanks again. When we finally got to town, we headed over to our favorite farm supply store. They handle a lot of hardware and we found ourselves in the black pipe isle, fondling nipples and unions and such.
That’s plumbing talk in case you’re wondering. I had an idea of what I wanted, but as the old saying goes, “you can’t get there from here.” Luckily, while we were handling parts and grumbling to ourselves, a guy, who was in the same isle as us, leans over and asks what we are looking for. This kind of thing can put a wad in your undies if you are not absolutely confident of your ignorance. Not me, I am good with normal parts of plumbing. However when it comes to connecting small appliances to normal plumbing, mysteries occur. I looked at the guy and told him what I was trying to achieve. He pointed to his hat, which said Kansas Gas Company, indicating he knew about this stuff and he proceeded to spend about 15 minutes with us coming up with a solution to our black pipe needs. What are the odds of you coming into a hardware isle with a specific problem and having a friendly knowledgeable Pro help you out. If you live in small town, rural America, pretty dang good.
Got home, and in spite of the Gas guy’s help, my ignorance proceeded to be my undoing. I was missing a 1/4 inch nipple and a female 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch reducer to get my portable gas heater to connect to my bulk propane tank. My learning curve required that I go to town one more time. We decided to go where we should have gone in the first place. Winfield Industrial Supply Company. WISCO for short. The boys there are the salt of the earth. Helpful, skilled and love solving problems, plus a whole lot closer than the long drive to the farm store. I came in with the regulator to my gas heater, told them I needed to connect this part to my supply line. They grabbed my part and proceeded to get me where I needed to be. Along with that, impart some education to my noggin, so that now it all made sense.
Turns out, I did not even need the regulator and since we were having such a good time, I told him I needed a few more parts for this other heater project, and that’s when we hit a snag. They searched their parts bin and came up dry. It seems they sold that part to Mr So and So and mused if So and So was using that part. I became mildly incredulous that they would possibly call So and So, ask him if he was using the part he was sold and if not, trot it on over here, cause we’ve got a customer that needs it. The 2 guys went into prime problem solving mode. Digging here, looking there, one of them paused a moment and smiled. He announces we can go another way. He grabs a 1/2 inch brass flare to 1/2 inch pipe thread. I needed to have a 3/8 inch nipple connect to a 1/2 inch flare and what they did was take that brass fitting and tap the 3/8 pipe thread into it. In short, they created a Unicorn. One that never exists in the wild, but can be brought to life under certain circumstances. Like needing a part they did not have but could create. And looking at the invoice, we did not get charged for tapping a thread into that brass fitting. That’s the world I was brought up in. Nice to see it still survives in small town, rural American.
Wife’s note: Another interesting thing we see in small town rural America, the WISCO guy knew the families who homesteaded this area. The propane guy knew not only the area, but our neighbors and the people who sold us this place, and had been in the house many years ago. He was even familiar with the pile of old iron junk up on the hill behind the house.
Authors note: I tore down the gas system early this morning (Dec 31st). There were sad faces being made by the Mrs and the dog, but I soldiered on. It was just like putting together legos, with the minor exception of these legos will kill you if you do it wrong. Got the whole thing back together and happy by 11:30AM. Now the Mrs can make my Birthday pie, and I can kick back and have a brew or 2. The dog brought me a squirrel as a birthday present. It was just what I wanted.