Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
First Fire of the Season
by Dean S. Blissman

Let us set the scene: It is late September in Western Pennsylvania. The leaves are beginning to change color and Autumn is on the way. We join the protagonist in late afternoon as he considers his day so far.

“It’s only a dentist appointment, but I do have to drag into town. I’ll leave the car at home and take the bus. No worries about parking that way.” The trip is about 25 miles, one way.

"The weather is getting a little chilly but a light jacket should be enough. I want to travel light and fast."

" As is common, the dentist had an emergency, which changed all the appointments for the day. Finally the appointment is over. Minor discomfort but a late start for the return trip. The bus is unusually crowded and the trip home seems longer than usual. At last, the final distance to his stop, the man is on his feet and well ready to exit the bus. Feet on the ground he comes to some realizations:

"Hey", he thinks to himself, "it has gotten colder. It must be 40 degrees out here. And I have seven blocks to walk to get home."

Actually, it is in the low 50 degrees but with the wind and the difference between the bus and outdoors it seems colder.

"And what terrific luck, now it wants to start to rain."

The sky is darkening, a slight mist is threatening to become a light shower, and the wind is picking up. He turns up the collar of his jacket and presses on.

"Seven blocks of this and the last two are uphill. If I had taken the car the odds are that I would already be home. Oh well, that will not help me now. Gotta put one foot in front of the other and get home."

Home. Yes, that comforting thought is foremost in his mind. A small basement apartment, reasonable rent, quiet neighborhood, a good place to study, think, and contemplate. Yet it has one special feature: a small fireplace. He originally thought the fireplace was only decorative. But the older couple, who are his landlords, assured him that the fireplace was very operational. He filed what they said away in the back of his mind. The spring and summer weather put the fireplace far out of mind. However, it is now almost Autumn and the weather today is turning foul. The man trudges on, one block, two, three, half way, and onward. Now the last two blocks lay before him and the mist is threatening to become a drizzle. At last, the door to the apartment is in sight. As he closes in, key in hand, the drizzle commences.

"Boy, that was close. Just made it before the real rain and wind start."

He takes off his jacket, hangs it on the coat tree near the door and realizes that the jacket is wet and his shirt is more than a little damp.

"You know, this might be a good time to try out that little fireplace. Yes, a nice little fire would go a long way towards brightening up the place and may even help dry me out."

He crumples a sheet of old newspaper and tosses it onto the hearth. Taking the poker he opens the damper with one short thrust. To his right he reaches a bucket that is full of small sticks and other kindling that had been waiting for this day for quite a while.

"Okay, now all I need is a match. A match, a match, where can I find a match?"

Then he remembers a small tin box on the mantle above.

"Aha, just what I need"

He carefully extracts a wooden match from the box and kneels down on the hearth. A scratch of the match and a small spark of a flame comes forth. He touches the match to the paper and, at first the flame seems to die. Slowly it re-appears and starts to grow. He adds some more kindling, a little larger this time. Then he rises and steps back to take in his handy work. The little fire is growing energetically.

"Hey, that looks good. And no smoke. I can already feel a little heat radiating out. This could be a real bit of 'alright.'"

He sinks down into the large overstuffed chair that is in front of the hearth. When the damp shirt is clamped against his back, he is startled and sits upright. He did not realize how wet his shirt was and it has become cold.

"Okay little fire, help me out" he says to himself, as he hunkers down, now with his back to the fire. It is not long before the now steaming shirt is much more comfortable. The little fire is growing larger, more enthusiastic, tongues of flame wrapping around the kindling. The man adds some more wood to the fire, larger, sturdier, pieces to help the little fire sustain itself. As he leans back in the chair, now with the warm shirt to comfort him, he tries to remember all that the landlords told him about the little fireplace. The first thing he noticed was that the fireplace is not very deep. And the opening seemed too wide. These were the observations that made him think the fireplace was only decorative. However, the landlords told him that the design of the fireplace was based on concepts from a transplanted Tory who fled to England when the Revolutionary War started. He went on to study and refine his observations in Europe where he was granted the honorary title of “Count Rumford”. His findings led to design changes in fireplaces to increase the amount of heat radiated and diminish the chance of smoke being leaked into the room. Something about a rounded breast and a straight back that almost hurries the smoke up the chimney and the higher, wider opening lets more heat radiate into the room. Fine, well and good, but now the man is feeling very comfortable. The little fire is now a medium sized fire and is sustaining itself very well. As he thinks about the fireplace and how it has cheered his day he thinks to himself:"

"This may be the First Fire of the Season but I know it will not be the last."

The little fireplace has almost become a friend, an additional asset.

And so be it.


Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
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