It was a nice sunny afternoon Saturday.

Kathy and I were sitting on the front porch watching the skydivers.

“The great room fireplace is broken, by the way,” Kathy said.

My history with fireplaces over the years has been somewhat imbroglio.

(Left over from last week’s column on words only Merriam-Webster knows.)

One would think remembering to open the flue before lighting the fire wouldn’t be that difficult.

“Just testing the fire alarms to make sure they are in working condition,” I would bluff, not very convincingly.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked on this particular day.

“Here’s your sign!” was the comment probably on her mind in reference to Bill Engvall’s comedy routine about stupid people.

I waited.

“It doesn’t work,” she said.

Just what I wanted to do on my Saturday afternoon celebrating the K-State victory over Oklahoma in Big 12 football: mess with the fireplace.

Growing up, we didn’t have a fireplace. We had a woodburning stove.

Dad cut hedge trees because he thought that wood burned the hottest.

He was right.

Environmental Chimney Service ranks the Osage orange tree the hottest burning at 32.9 BTUs per cord.

We never complained about it being cold in the house when the mercury was often bubbling at 90 degrees.

The first fireplace I ever used was in our rental house on 6th Street in Baxter Springs.

The house was built in 1920 and it looked like the last time the fireplace was used was at the end of WW II.

The owner allowed me to fix it with bricks and mortar and I got the fireplace in working order, thanks to the lessons from Leonard Harzman in general shop at AHS.

We only used the fireplace for a couple months since we left Baxter Springs in February and moved to Abilene.

Our first Abilene home on Wildcat didn’t have a fireplace. However, the residence on Jayhawk had a fireplace in the living room.

I think it was a tossup as to whether the fireplace actually saved us money.

According to a New York Times article, 85 percent of the heat produced by the fireplace ends up going up the chimney. A fireplace actually has a negative efficiency rate if the fireplace damper is left open after the fire goes out.

Sometimes I would get up at 3 a.m. and add wood thinking, just maybe, I was saving on the electric bill.

I did find a good source for firewood and we enjoyed cooking hotdogs and smores.

We now have two fireplaces.

A gas fireplace is in the basement and works well in heating the house when we are watching movies or the power goes out because, as we all know, hot air rises. The heat goes right up the stairs into the living area and kitchen.

There is a fireplace in the living/kitchen/dining/sunroom area and that was the one that was broken.

I started taking it apart.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Kathy said.

It took a trip to RHV to find the right parts but before the sun went down, the fireplace was glowing.

The parts?

Two 60 watt light bulbs.

Since we only use the fireplace in that area on special occasions for ambience, occasionally turning on the blower for heat, that fireplace is electric.


Guests don’t know it’s not a real flame.

Contact Tim Horan at

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