Going out in snow and warming near the potbellied stove

Randall Franks

By Randall Franks

As I placed the log into the black cast iron stove, I watched the orange sparks rise up from the burning embers within its belly in grandma’s parlor.

I often stood at its front hopeful that it would make me feel warmer. It usually did at least on the one side until I turned and let the other warm.

Of course, I was usually one in a line of young cousins who had just come in from playing in the snow wishing to take their turn at the fire.

Snows could be beautiful as a child as you looked out the frosted pane as it gently drifted up against the cracks in the side of the house.

I remember my first snowman like it was yesterday, rolling those balls into a nearly perfect sphere and stacking them on top of each other until it resembled Burl Ive’s character in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

No matter how hard I tried though, I never got mine to sing, dance or tell any stories, but it was fun trying.

Going out in the snow wasn’t an easy task though from our home because it always involved being covered in full winter wear. For my mother that meant a blue shiny coat that made you resemble the Michelin man, and layers upon layers below that.

First, some white-waffled long johns, then your regular clothes – shirt and pants, then a pull-over sweater that if seen by any hungry wolf would send it running for its life; finally that puffy blue coat. But that wasn’t everything; you still needed the itchy sweater pullover hat and the hand-knitted scarf from our neighbor. The coats hood came up over that of course.

So usually when you walked outside, you resembled the girl in Willy Wonka that ate the blueberry candy. If you fell down you would roll until you hit something to stop you.

This approach to dressing was always a drawback should you get in a snowball battle because you couldn’t see anything that wasn’t directly in front of you.

Despite the drawbacks of the dressing experience, when you did get the chance for a snowball victory, it was all worth it. Besides, in that outfit, no matter how hard they threw, you barely felt it unless they hit you in the face.

The adventure would end when I heard my mother or grandmother calling my name from the porch. I knew then that it was time to head in and I stopped by and picked up some wood off the pile as I came in. Before I could stick it in the stove, I would have to get out of those now wet clothes.

Once deflated, I would pick up the wood by the door, and into the parlor I went picking up the glove we used on the hot door handle and stuck the wood inside watching the glow of the warmth as I warmed my hands in front of the open door.

Around me were my mom and dad seated on the couch, my grandmother in her rocker, two of my aunts resting on kitchen chairs near the stove, and a couple of cousins playing board games on the floor. The laughter rose as gently in that room as the snow fell outside, sometimes seeming to cover over the howling winds that passed us.

I always hated to see the evening end and it was time for laughter to turn to sleep as we traded the stove for a stack of handmade quilts keeping us warm on an old iron bed as we watched our breath rise as the snow fell outside our window pane.

Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest 2019 # 1 CD release, “Americana Youth of Southern Appalachia,” is by the Share America Foundation. He is a member of the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “A Badge or an Old Guitar: A Music City Murder Mystery.” He is a syndicated columnist for and can be reached at