The old farmhouse wasn't large by any means. A small enclosed front porch, a small enclosed back porch. Kitchen, pantry, bathroom, living room and Dad and Mom's bedroom downstairs. Upstairs, 2 bedrooms. And that was it, that was the old farmhouse.

In the wintertime, of course, no one could stay in the upstairs north bedroom. Sure, in the summertime my brother would call that his bedroom and it was fine. But in the winter? Well, you could almost hang meat in there. After all, it was the north bedroom. And to just be plain and simple, it was flat out too cold.

You see, the stovepipe didn't run up through the north bedroom.

Now, that south upstairs bedroom, that was a different story, a whole different story. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was warm, but it wasn't as cold. And it wasn't because it was on the south side. Nope.

It was because it had the magic pipe. The stove pipe. And so in those cold winter months, my brother would move his bed into the south bedroom and there were, both of us in that small bedroom. How was it?

Cozy.

You see, the south bedroom was directly above the living room. And the living room had that big 'ol oil burner in it. Huge and hot, that oil burner seemed to heat up the downstairs just fine (with the help of the wood burner in the kitchen, of course). Open up them front metal doors and watch the flame do its heat dance behind that glass. Just looking at it made you feel a little bit warmer.

Well, up from the back of that oil burner ran a pipe, up, up, up through the ceiling, through the south bedroom, through the roof.

Me and my brother, we became friends with that warm black stove pipe. Really good friends.

Getting up in the morning for school, our feet would hit the chilly linoleum floor. First thing was, wrap our jeans and shirt around that good friend of ours, that stove pipe. Socks too, snuggled up against the magic warm pipe.

That long black tube? It was invaluable to two young boys on a southern Minnesota 80 acre rented farmstead.

A bowl of Wheaties at the kitchen table, bundle up and off to that orange school bus at the end of the driveway. Down the snow-covered gravel road we'd go.

We didn't think much at all about that stovepipe back then. It was just...there. But looking back now through that prism called memory and that black tube going up, up, up through our bedroom. Well, that pipe isn't the only thing that's warm.

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