Here are some things for which I am most grateful this year:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Faith
  • Health
  • A pickup thermostat that works right
  • Not having to burn creosote posts in the fireplace

Pickup thermostats

On those mornings when the thermometer is frozen solid at -20 degrees, I’m thankful that the engine thermostat on my pickup isn’t stuck open. For those of you who have never had that experience, a thermostat is supposed to let water flow out of the radiator only after the water temperature reaches close to 200 degrees. If the thermostat is stuck open, however, the pickup heater will never get warm enough to thaw your frozen feet and hands. The windshield may also refuse to clear enough for you to see that new corner post before you hit it. A working engine thermostat is a very good thing.

Creosote logs

One winter night at Boy Scout camp, it began to sleet. We novice scouts had not brought up enough firewood for life on the frozen tundra, so in the freezing rain, we began to frantically search near our campsite for any wood dry enough to burn. Our canvas tents were sagging under the weight of the ice as we stumbled around in the dark looking for firewood.

One of my fellow scouts found a 3-foot section of railroad crosstie buried in the brush near our campsite. We thought that crosstie was manna from heaven. Not only was the log large enough to burn much of the night, it caught fire immediately! With the crosstie merrily crackling and blazing away, we dived for our sleeping bags satisfied we would be only mildly frostbitten by the next morning.

Then the wind shifted.


What we tenderfoot scouts quickly discovered was how badly a burning creosote log stinks. Did I mention how much acrid smoke a creosote log puts off? Gagging from the creosote oil smoke as we stumbled from our tents, we held a high-level discussion on how to deal with the problem. We jointly decided the first option was to use water and the second was to apply dirt. Pouring water on the creosote log only made it smoke more while extinguishing the small amount of good wood in our firepit. At that point, we realized the outside of the crosstie was smoking, but the oil inside the log still burned. Heaping dirt on the crosstie only finished putting out the rest of our firewood, while the creosote log just kept smoking. That was a cold, miserable and memorable night.

Where was our scoutmaster in all this, you ask? Smirking to himself in his warm sleeping bag upwind of the creosote log. He obviously decided we boys needed some education, so he left us to figure it out for ourselves in the freezing rain. That was a lesson well learned, and every time I start a fire in the fireplace, I am grateful that I don’t have to burn creosote posts.

Join me this season in being thankful for mundane things: pickups that will warm up and not having to burn creosote posts.  end mark

James Beckham
  • James Beckham

  • Writer
  • Commercial Angus Producer
  • Amarillo, Texas