Shopping for kerosene on a winter night

Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

I bought a kerosene heater the other year and used it on rare occasions when I was living by myself and too tight to pay high gas bills.

I eventually ran out of clear kerosene and bought some of the red stuff at a gas station. I don’t think my heater liked it. It smoked when I tried the colored kerosene. Made a mess and as a result I hadn’t used the heater in a couple of years.

But with a winter storm and the threat of ice fast approaching, I drug the heater out of the garage Friday afternoon, set it on the deck  and fooled with it until it fired to life. Sure enough, the heater was still smoking.

I syphoned most of the red kerosene and let the rest burn itself out. Meg and I drove about a mile to the Country Cupboard to see what type kerosene they sold.

It was red, but a guy who was buying a couple of gallons told me that the Hess station on East Innes Street across from Wendy’s in Salisbury sold clear kerosene. So Meg and I drove over there.

The parking lot was packed. At first we couldn’t figure out what the excitement was. Then we realized: It was a clear kerosene shopping frenzy.

People were waiting in line to buy the stuff. One guy said the Hess station was the only place in town that sold the clear fuel.

Meg stood outside and talked to the other customers while I went inside to pre-pay (it was required) for my kerosene. There was a line of customers. I had to wait at least five minutes. The guy behind me said he was taking care of some of homeless people and needed kerosene to keep them warm Friday night.

I’ve long admired Meg because she has that rare ability to talk to people of virtually any socio-economic background. I realized as much again when I stepped from the Hess store and returned to the kerosene pump.

Meg was laughing and carrying on with a number of people who (how to put this politely?) probably don’t reside in Salisbury’s country club section.

One guy told her it was his birthday and pulled out a driver’s license as proof. He was glad it was snowing on his birthday, he said.

Meg wished him a happy birthday, then, noting he was born in 1962, said, “You’re just a young fellow.”

“I’m 48,” he replied, laughing. “I’m two years away from 50.”

Then he eyed Meg and asked where her husband was.

“I think he thought I was flirting with him,” she said.

I bought $15 worth of kerosene (the stuff was $3.50 a gallon), then we drove back to Spencer.

The adventure was fun, and we’re all set to stay warm should the power go out as a result of the storm.

And now we're married

Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

Meg and I got married Saturday. I was trying to come up with a more eloquent means of delivering the news, but decided to just go ahead and put it out there.

So, there you have it.

Meg is wonderful, Meg is beautiful, Meg is funny.

Meg is also my wife.

Saying so still makes me pause.

We got married in the living room here at Stately Huffman Manor. It was a simple ceremony with just a few members of our family and a handful of friends. Ross O’Neal, the preacher from the Methodist church up the street, officiated.

This is my second marriage. I got married in 1982 and stayed married for almost 20 years before divorcing. Meg’s husband, Tom, died in a car accident in 1996. I’ve got two sons, Zachary and Will. Meg has a pair of daughters, Jeanette and Lori, and a 4-year-old granddaughter, Mia.

Put us all together and I think we make a nice-looking family though I’m still having a bit of a problem coming to grips with this whole grandfather thing.

I remember little about my first wedding, which was a fairly elaborate affair staged in a church. I remember being a little nervous about the whole thing, but that’s about it.

Maybe it’s part of the whole aging process, but I was much more emotional during Saturday’s wedding. My voice cracked and I had to stop to collect myself. We finally got through the whole thing.

Meg is a nurse and had to be back at work Monday, so we’re going to wait a bit before taking a honeymoon. We’re talking about a cross-country drive in late spring, maybe even spending a few nights camping in Montana.

For the time being, we are (as the Society section of newspapers used to say) “making our home” here in Spencer. We’re having a good time of it.

Meg is my wife.

Lucky's first night

Steve Huffman
Steve Huffman

By Steve Huffman

The trouble with Lucky the Basset Hound is that he never stops whining. I’m told he spent the first 10 years of his life basically alone in a fenced yard, so moving inside with people has to be a switch.

Which brings me to his first night at our house.

Meg made him a bed of blankets in the living room. He ignored it. We tried to get him to lie down at the foot of our bed. He didn’t seem interested, choosing instead to stand beside our bed and whine.

Meg and I finally decided to put him in the laundry room at the back of the house. We moved his bed in there, pulled him in by his collar, then shut the door behind him. There’s no heat vent in the laundry room, but it has to be warmer than what he’s used to.

Lucky whined a bit, but the plan worked well for several hours. However, at 3:30 a.m., I awoke to the sound of Lucky’s nails clicking across the kitchen floor. He’d figured a way to push open the bi-fold doors.

I put him back in the laundry room, put a chair against the doors, then returned to bed.

Lucky proceeded to wail (something he hadn’t done hours earlier).

basset hound picture -- looks just like Lucky
basset hound picture -- looks just like Lucky

I listened for 15 minutes, then climbed from the bed and let Lucky out. He followed me into the bedroom. I shut the door so he couldn’t roam (and pee about) the rest of the house, then ordered him to behave.

Lucky declined. He stood by Meg’s side of the bed and whined, then wandered to my side and repeated the process to make sure I was also aware of his discontent.

By 4 a.m., (having had it up to here!) I became the bad pet owner. I slipped on my bedroom shoes, pulled on a coat and took Lucky outside. Several years ago I built a clubhouse at the back of my property. Lucky followed me across the snow and ice to the clubhouse.

I went inside, made him a bed of blankets and noted the temperature (I have a thermometer inside the clubhouse) was above 40 degrees. Again, warmer than he’d have had it had Meg and I not rescued him 12 hours earlier.

Then I went back to the house and returned to bed. When I woke up about 8 a.m., Meg had already gone out to fetch Lucky (the clicking of his toenails on the kitchen floor again awakened me).

We have since fed Lucky and taken him for a walk. He’s old, but very friendly, appreciative of any rub to the head. Better still, I have finally found a creature that walks even slower than me.

As I write this, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, Lucky has finally fallen asleep on his blanket in front of the Christmas tree. It makes me (temporarily, at least) glad that Meg and I chose to try and make his final years good ones.

Adopting a 10 year old basset hound

Steve Huffman
Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

In the midst of our first winter storm in years, Meg and I did did what any sane adults would do: We rescued a 10-year-old basset hound.

OK, to say we “rescued” Lucky might be a bit of a stretch. He belonged to a neighbor a couple of blocks down the street. But the neighbor has apparently moved into an apartment, so Lucky has been patrolling his fenced backyard alone for … well, years, or so we’re told.

Someone would stop by to feed Lucky on occasion, but other than that he was on his own. When I walked past, I’d often hear him wailing, begging for attention.
I leaned over the fence and petted Lucky a time or two while on my strolls. He seemed sweet. And lonesome.

So with the storm approaching, I left a note on the down-the-street neighbor’s porch offering to take Lucky. Phone calls were exchanged this afternoon.

a basset hound (not Lucky)
a basset hound (not Lucky)

Meg bought Lucky a collar on her way home from work. We walked down the street in the snow to bring Lucky home.

We had to do a bit of coaxing to get him out of his house, which is understandable. It was cold. But once Lucky stepped out and saw we were taking him somewhere, he seemed excited.

Well, as excited as an overweight 10-year-old basset hound can appear.

Lucky peed on every telephone pole on the walk home. He apparently hadn’t been outside his fence or inside a house for years. Did I mention he’s not housebroken?

He was also filthy. One of the first things Meg and I did was put him in the bathtub and wash him. He whined, but that seems to be Lucky’s way. He hasn’t stopped whining since we brought him inside.

His nails are also in terrible need of being trimmed. If he’s not deaf, he’s not missing it by much. I’ve learned all this within the first couple of hours of Lucky being ours.
Remind me again what a wonderful thing we’re doing.