Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Indispensable Teakettle

We took for granted the old and dented teakettle that sat on a back corner of the wood burning cook stove in the kitchen on the home farm. From early morning until long after we crawled up the frigid stairway to our bedroom, a thread of steam poured from its spout. Without indoor plumbing, the teakettle was our source of hot water. I remember but once or twice when a persnickety city relative appeared and insisted on tea that the teakettle was used for that purpose.

True, the cook stove had a warm water reservoir attached to its right side, which provided warm water for hand and face washing. But the only hot water source was the teakettle, dull aluminum in color, holding about four quarts of water.

Hot water was especially important when winter illnesses came our way. Hot water mixed with salt for a sore throat. A glass of hot water mixed with a jigger of “medicinal” whiskey became a whiskey sling that would kill most any cold from the sniffles to much more. The standard cold remedy in our house, in addition to the whiskey sling, was a goodly amount of skunk grease (it is odorless) rubbed on your chest and covered with a piece of red flannel pinned to your long underwear. It worked, I’m still here.

For bruises, sprains and aches of assorted origin, Ma filled the rubber hot water bottle with hot water from the teakettle. She wrapped a towel around it and the hot water bottle became a cozy warm friend on a cold winter night.

I have many fond memories of that old teakettle and its source of hot water that we used for so many purposes, both outside and inside the house.

CHECK THIS OUT: Look for CAMPFIRES AND LOON CALLS, my newest book, available February 1. It is about 25 years of canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. Steve’s photos are throughout. Go to: for more information.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Winter is a time for warm memories.


February 12, 2:00 p.m., Richland Center City Auditorium. Film: County Schools—One Room—One Nation, followed by panel discussion.

March 11-13. Canoecopia, Alliant Center, Madison. Campfires and Loon Calls (two presentations)

March 15, 10:30 a.m. Eager Free Library, Evansville, WI.

March 15, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble, Madison West. Launch for Campfires and Loon Calls.

March 17, 2:00-4:00. Monroe Arts Center, Monroe. Memories into Memoirs—Writers Workshop.

March 17, 7:00 p.m. Monroe Arts Center. Our Rural Heritage.

March 20, 7:00 p.m. Lebanon Historical Society, Fire Station, New Lebanon. Horse Drawn Days,


michele said...

Love your story about using the tea kettle for hot water and not really for tea.

Vicki Martin said...

Jerry: this is not related to your January notes, but a question from "Horse Drawn Days". You mentioned that to get homestead land, one could not have fought against the United States. Do you know if that means that Confederates could not get homestead land but freed slaves could??