Improvise, darn it!

Charlie & Me, Sketch

I wake up at 2 am to a freezing cold house. What the heck? We just had fuel oil delivered and what can I do now?
I jump out of bed and check the lights. Yes, we still have power, so that isn’t the problem. I pull on a winter coat, some mittens, a heavy hat and head downstairs to see what is wrong with the furnace.
Two weeks ago, I took and passed a State of Alaska Boiler Operators test so according to them, I was a qualified Boiler Operator and our furnace is a hot water baseboard heater. I should be able to figure this out. I can do it.
I look at the large black lump in the corner of the basement. It doesn’t make a sound although at least the circulating pumps still have to rapidly cooling water moving through the pipes. If not for that, I would already have a worse problem as it is a balmy 56 degrees below zero outside.
I click the reset button which usually fixes everything. Nothing. I click it a few more times in frustration and because kicking a many hundred pound chunk of cooling iron is really hard on toes. Yes, that was my first attempt at repair. Quit laughing.
Finally desperation sets in. Yesterday was Sunday. My husband is hundreds of miles away working on the Slope. I don’t want to think about what a furnace repair man would charge to come out in this temperature at this time of day.
Finally the shivering gets bad enough and I am worried about the water pipes and baseboard water lines so I stop acting like an idiot and start thinking. I pull the burner unit out of the furnace. Yes, it leaves a good sized opening. I shine my light around the inside of the firebox. Just maybe there is hope.
I manage to drag a 100 pound propane bottle over to the furnace from the garage. I put the weed burner on the bottle and fire it off. After I adjust the flame down a bit, I stick the flame into the opening left into the firebox and find the balance center to keep it going without it flopping out on the floor and burning down the house. Yes, that would warm the house up, but there are limits.
I stay by the furnace for an hour or so, to make sure it really is going to work and the pipes have started feeling warm, both the lines from the furnace and the return lines. Soon I can even feel a bit of warmth seeping through all the layers of clothes I have piled on. My breath is no longer making a cloud in front of my face and my nose has thawed quite well.
I check the thermostat and the temperature has started inching up a bit. I gently lower the flame a bit more on the weed burner, I don’t want to end up making steam and blowing the house up, either.
I fasten the weed burner to the furnace with stovepipe wire and go back upstairs to bed. I don’t think I slept much as I really was worried I was either going to burn or blow the place up. I wait until 8 a.m. and call a furnace repair man someone had recommended to me.
As soon as he heard I was Charlie’s wife, he almost hung up on me. He thought I was the other one. Then he said I didn’t sound like ——-. I said no, my name is Rosalyn. Then he became friendly and asked how he could help.
I told him the furnace had stopped during the night and he immediately had visions of a frozen up house and the mess associated with that at the temperatures we were having.
He must have broken a few speed limits getting there and was surprised when he walked in and the house was not really cold, just a bit cooler than most people keep their homes.
When he saw the weed burner set up, he scratched his head and asked whatever made me think of that. Desperation, pure and simple.
He repaired the electrodes and the furnace worked fine with no frozen pipes at all. Charlie called that night to see how I was doing. It was my first winter by myself in this house. I told him about the furnace, a moment of silence then laughter. “I knew you could handle my kids. I never expected you to have to deal with something like this, also. Wait until I tell the guys about this one.”
Just one more reason why I loved him so much. He was always proud of me and let me know it.

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