History

A Conversation About a Chimney

Welcome to the January 2012 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire. A Conversation About a Chimney Getting something fixed in a small New England town simply requires patience… I’ve had my successes and failures in this […]

By Yankee Magazine

Jan 01 2012

Welcome to the January 2012 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

A Conversation About a Chimney

Getting something fixed in a small New England town simply requires patience…

I’ve had my successes and failures in this regard. To illustrate the former, I can recall a certain conversation about my new chimney which didn’t draw properly. The person I wanted to hire was a very-much-in-demand Jack-of-all-trades by the name of Bill. Bill could fix anything.

My first instinct was to call him, but then I remembered that Bill hardly ever answered his phone. He didn’t have voice mail either. So I decided to bide my time until a chance meeting at the post office. I often ran into him there. Maybe about a week later our “chance” meeting took place. I remember it had been raining but the sky was clearing.

“Morning, Bill,” I said casually. “Looks like it’ll turn out to be a pretty nice day after all.”

“It will, Jud, if it don’t rain again,” said Bill with a smile.

We stood near our parked cars and talked a bit more about the weather.

“Too bad about the young Arnold girl,” I said during a pause. I was desperate to keep him talking.

“Well, these young people today…” he said with a shrug. “They’ve just got no sense.”

We discussed the Arnold girl, young people and, as I recall, the Arnold girl’s father and uncle who, Bill suggested, “weren’t much good either.”

“Well, Bill,” I said finally, “we’ve all got our problems, right?”

“If we didn’t, Jud, we just wouldn’t be happy.”

Laughter. And I knew a good summarizing laugh was the signal that the serious part of our conversation could now commence.

“Say, Bill,” I began, “I was wondering whether you might know of somebody who could come over to my place sometime and take a look at that new chimney of mine. The fireplace smokes something awful. I know how busy you are, but…”

“How high does that chimney extend over the roofline, Jud?”

Some back-and-forth conversation ensued about the chimney, the damper, the fireplace and the young contractor who had built my house, including the chimney.

“I knew it wasn’t right when you put it in,” Bill said, ” but I didn’t want to say anything. T’was none of my business.”

“Well, Bill, you were right,” I replied, happy for the easy opportunity for a compliment. Then “Do you think there’s any possible way it can be fixed?”

“Oh, sure. It can be fixed, all right. Cost you some money. But, oh sure, it can be fixed.”

There was a long pause. I knew I was at the critical juncture that would decide whether I win or lose.

“Well,” Bill said at last, “I’ve got to go up your way tomorrow afternoon and I’ll stop by and take a look.”

“Thanks, Bill. I’d appreciate it.”

I win. I knew he probably wouldn’t stop by the next afternoon and maybe not even within the following week. But Bill was now committed. My chimney problem would be fixed.

Eventually.