giant furnace groans ~ haibun

giant furnace groans.jpg

giant furnace groans

We lived in the old house for seven months, and I remember the dimly lit cellar clearly, even though I went into it just once. I was six years old, and I pestered my father about what was down there so much that he took me to the cellar to show me. I had never seen a coal fired furnace before, and, as he pointed to the massive beast that seemed to glow in the corner, he said, “Never come down here. You’ll burn yourself badly if you touch that.” Then he touched a wooden wall just a few feet away and said, “And the little room behind this wall may seem like the perfect place to hide, but you would be buried alive by coal if it ever came down that chute while you were in there.” Believe me, I was duly impressed. That furnace was pretty scary, and I stayed away from the cellar.

giant furnace groans
world seen through frosted windows –
hanging icicles

The challenge from Lillian for Haibun Monday at dVerse is to “Go back in time to one of the very first houses you remember living in. Try to recall a room or place in that house,” and use this for inspiration in writing a haibun that includes a traditional haiku.

Photo found here.

34 thoughts on “giant furnace groans ~ haibun

  1. Love your story Ken, and the photo is great! Her really did put the fear of God into you back then. We had one in our basement as well. It had a big steel handle that you moved back and forth to shake down the coal ash to the pit below. Love the haiku!

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  2. My grandparents had one. A remember the amazement I felt at seeing a room full of coal and being told the same thing as you (I was about 5) though I desperately wanted a piece of the shiny coal. I spent a lot of time searching outside for a stray piece.

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    • We had a gas furnace every other time, so this was a one-time experience for me. For a while, I had a piece of coal I found in the driveway, next to the door for the coal chute. As a teen, I used it as a paperweight, but it’s long gone, now.

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  3. Oh my — the detail here has me feeling the fear that this place impressed upon you — even only seeing it once. It is a vivid memory and your word “beast” really tells the impression this place made on you. It’s a very revealing word. The warning of your father, remembered in detail all these years later. The prose “sticks” with the reader…we are there with you.
    The haiku is indeed a traditional one and places the giant furnace within the season of winter. There is a power of nature that surrounds the necessity of the furnace. Your kigo of “frosted windows” and “icicles” tells us the season without saying the word “winter.” And the kireji with the hyphen signals the shift – the insight. To me the hanging icicles are the hanging threat of your father.
    Thank you so much for posting to the prompt. This was a wonderful write!

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  4. We never had a furnace in our house, but your description reminds me of the movie, “Home Alone 1”. You dad sounds like a very wise man. It sounds like it could be a very dangerous place. Your Haibun was very descriptive

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  5. The only furnace I’ve ever known was at school when I was little. I think that story would have scared me too.I love the evocative description, especially ‘the massive beast that seemed to glow in the corner’ and the thought of being buried alive by coal. I also love the haiku and the sound of the furnace groaning.

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  6. Such a vivid memory. Well done, Ken. I like the furnace groaning, like an actual beast.
    I think when my mom was little, they had a coal furnace in the basement. She has a memory of her father roasting hot dogs in it as a special treat. 🙂

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  7. I married into a farmhouse with an old wood burning stove and a coal bin. My husband’s parents had burned coal in it, we burned cobs and wood. I learned to fire it but urged children to stay away from hot surfaces! Glad you heeded the warning.


  8. I’m afraid I can’t relate as I grew up in a warm climate. I loved the way your dad took the time to explain the dangers in a way you fully understood. Clearly made an impression.


  9. We have a friend who lives in an old farm house in the middle of a built up area. – He gave us a tour of everything but the attic. The house had and addition and for a time the two basements didn’t connect.
    But there was the one room just with the meat hook in the wall…

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  10. Ken…I don’t blame you!!! And what great foresight your dad had by warning you not to go in the bin. I rented an old home when I was young and the laundry was in the basement. They no longer had the old furnace but the coal room was there…I swear one time I was walking past it and something touched me!! Never moved faster (except when I encountered a shark swimming in the Bahamas) and never went back down there!!
    Hope you are well!

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