Lots of Laughs

When the tank ran dry one cold night, this coun­try life new­bie learned a valu­able les­son.


This coun­try les­son is best served cold.

Liv­ing in the coun­try suc­cess­fully re­quires ex­pe­ri­ence, of­ten gained by mak­ing mis­takes. My big­gest mis­take so far as a city girl who grew up to be a coun­try woman was as­sum­ing I was on au­to­matic fuel oil ser­vice when I wasn’t.

One of my first clues that some­thing had gone awry that mid­win­ter night was the chill in the air when I awoke. Still, I went back to sleep. It was just cold.

My sec­ond clue was the si­lence. Even though it was cold, I still did not hear the boiler kick on. That was enough to get me out of bed. The ther­mo­stat’s nee­dle had sunk to its low­est num­ber. I checked the boiler. Even a city girl knows what that is, but when she ob­serves the flash­ing red er­ror sig­nal, pushes the restart but­ton and noth­ing hap­pens, this is when she be­comes a pan­icked coun­try woman.

The ele­phant in the room was the rusty fuel oil tank that sat six feet away. But it did not be­come vis­i­ble to me un­til some­one with more ex­pe­ri­ence pointed it out. For­tu­nately, fate has con­nected me with a coun­try-born-andraised man and, when I called him, he kindly di­rected me to the grimy gi­ant.

“Read the gauge. On top.”

The plas­tic was yel­lowed with age. “It says ‘E,’ ” I said.

“You have run out of fuel oil.” Vi­sions of pi­o­neers freez­ing to death along the Ore­gon Trail flashed through my mind.

“Aren’t you on an au­to­matic ser­vice?” he asked.

You have to re­quest that? He had a so­lu­tion: Call the emer­gency fuel ser­vice num­ber.

It was Satur­day, though, and the driver on call re­ported that he couldn’t come un­til Mon­day.

Would my daugh­ter and I have to eat our cats to sur­vive?

My boyfriend had a plan. He would come with kerosene. I didn’t ask why kerosene, since I needed fuel oil. But it car­ried me over un­til the truck ar­rived on Mon­day. I called the of­fice first thing that morn­ing and asked to be put on au­to­matic ser­vice. Mis­take made, les­son learned.

The con­se­quences lin­gered, though. My boyfriend spent a few week­ends clean­ing out the gunk that trav­eled from the bot­tom of the oil tank into parts of the fur­nace I didn’t know ex­isted.

I was proud of my hard-earned new wis­dom un­til next sum­mer, when my well ran dry as I did the laun­dry, wa­tered the gar­den and let the kids run through the sprin­kler, all at the same time.

Becky Sernett lives in cen­tral New York on a small home­stead where she and her daugh­ter learn many coun­try lessons.

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