A Peek Behind the Cook Stove
By Peggy Hindal
On a chilly day, if you were looking for my younger sister Mary or me, in our home in rural Iowa, a good place to look was behind the wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen.
In the cozy warmth and shelter of the big black stove we worked on puzzles together, drew pictures, played dominoes, checkers, or Old Maid, hour after contented hour
Here we’d come to dress on cold mornings. Here we’d spread a blanket on the worn linoleum and create a magical kingdom for just the two of us. Here we’d whisper our secrets and dreams.
I remember vividly when I was seven and then again at ten, when I was sick with Rheumatic Fever. Mother even had to hold the spoon to feed me. A cot was placed behind the stove. Mother kept a close eye as she bustled around our big country home, but it was the boys she asked to move my cot closer or further from the stove. They did all the heaviest work..
Mother needed the help of my two older brothers when our father was away at his job as a conductor on the Rock Island Railway. I can still hear her call out, “George, you help Charles shovel a path to the wood box before school. I’m going to need a heap of wood today, it’s nearly zero.”
Sometimes, after bath time, Mary and I would curl up with our books behind the stove and drift off to sleep. How sweet it was when Father was home and scooped us up and carried us up to bed.
When my daughter asked me about our kitchen when I was growing up, I really couldn’t recall anything, it was too far back. But as I began to describe the wood-burning cook stove, so different than any she’d seen, a flood-gate lifted and memories poured forth as clearly as if I were there again today. It’s surprising to discover the details that unravel from a single everyday object.
The space behind the stove, a perfect private play room for children when I was growing up, lives on today only in the realm of fading memories.
–As told to Joanne Klassen by my mother, Peggy Hindal 2016