Bob Mitchell: Thanksgiving from a wood-burning stove

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

There might never again be a Thanksgiving dinner prepared entirely on a wood-burning, Home Comfort stove like the one that stood for generations in the kitchen of the Ray house at Ninth and Townsend in Cassville.

More than likely, if one were to appear somewhere again, it's doubtful those operating it would be as proficient as Aunt Missie, Aunt Bland and my mother.

This huge giant of a metal contraption had all the trimmings needed to perform all sorts of cooking chores required for a large family, which at times -- especially on holidays -- would include the large, round table in the main dining room, a couple of card tables in my grandmother Jenney's bedroom, and a cleared table in the kitchen that had been used to assemble the holiday feast.

The Home Comfort used "shekin" wood, which meant "she can" fire it up early in the morning, get the water reservoir hot, get heat to the oven and put plenty of cooking space scattered around over the top of the range.

Aunt Missie Pearl was the cook in charge for these family gatherings that always included her specialty, "Sunday biscuits," which were actually yeast rolls that were a must for our family gathering meals. Although in later years, there was an electric stove and oven on a wall to the right of the wood cook stove, those rolls always came out of the oven heated by the cut wood.

The older boys were in charge of keeping a supply of wood split and ready for carrying out of the backyard whenever the cooks determined that the temperature needed rising to meet the food-serving schedule.

That kitchen table

Just getting preparations for the oven and cook-top ready was a real production in those days. So much mixing and measuring had to be done to reach the point of perfection that this cooking staff demanded used the pretty large table space to a maximum. It had to be cleared at just the right time, when food would go to other tables to be served, and then this space would be for the older youngsters. This usually met with their approval, since their table was located closer to the cook stove, which always permitted seconds.

Since the turkey was the first to come out of the oven, next to occupy this space were the pies -- usually pumpkin -- to complete the holiday menu.

An oddity of this meal was the fact that some of the older kids chose to have their dessert first, which was permitted on special occasions, as long as it didn't interfere with the meal process of the other tables.

Delicious and on time

There was always great anticipation on how the meal would come out of the Home Comfort, and there was some sort of sadness the day that monster was hauled off to the junk pile. There wasn't any scrap drives in process at that time, and when the decision was made to rely entirely on that an electric stove for meals to be shared, there were some of us around that was present to watch as the monster went out the kitchen door and out into the yard.

It had to happen

Try as hard as it might have been over the years to not forget anyone when a list of names were being published, it had to happen, and it did, just recently in naming Democrats who had held office in Barry County. To the late probate-magistrate judge James E. Sater goes my sincere apology.

Judge Sater served the county well in the post after his appointment. He had practiced law in Monett for decades and loved to tell the story about his first run for office.

He ran for state representative before there were many vehicle in the county. It didn't matter, because I don't think he ever had a driver's license. His countywide campaign was in a buggy, most of the time with a driver. Unable to return home at night because of the distance, he would bunk with those on his route, and never did he explain whether they were Democrats or Republicans.

Judge Sater was could be especially stern on game violators, since he considered this type of pastime a waste of time. He was always glad these fines went to the schools of the county

His son-in-law, Monett Postmaster John Hunt, frequently drove him to the county seat, unless he hired a taxi. Ironically, it was an accident on the north edge of Cassville as he returned home in a cab that took his life.

His cherished clerk, Marjorie Land, was killed with her husband, Paul, with Bill and Ruth Sellers, in an airplane crash in Oklahoma. Karen Hudson replaced her as clerk for several years.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.