With the arrival of autumn, there is a decided chill in the evening air and with it, the reminder to hurry and get wood for winter heating. Every day now we see and hear great logs of wood being delivered, chopped up, stacked—everyone racing to get done to beat the coming rainy season.
Modern machinery to cut and split logs
These sights, sounds, and smells remind me of our first autumn experience of preparing for winter….
Coming from Southern California, we had rarely needed to use heat in the winter and when we did, a simple turn of the dial on the gas heater did the trick. Upon our arrival in Niksic, we soon discovered that wood logs were the main source of fuel. The vast majority of households—homes and apartments alike—have two stoves, a wood-burning one and an electric one, with each being used in the season most conducive to maximizing (winter) or minimizing (summer) heat output.
Stacked wood for apartment dwellers
These stoves heat the main living space, usually a connected or one-room kitchen/dining/living room area. Bedrooms are often unheated (remember our first night at Stanojka’s with the windows purposely opened while snow lay on the ground?) or selectively heated with a plug-in electric radiator.
It was a day of great excitement for us when our first truckload of wood arrived. Instant climbing fun for the kids! A moment of awe with a pinch of dread for us adults when we saw that HUGE pile.
Let the fun begin!
Fortunately, Stan’s nephew Vlado, the one who picked us up from the airport the night of our arrival, kindly helped us that first season. (No modern cut-and-split machines back then!) Although on the scrawny side, he was a mighty expert with the axe, splitting the larger pieces into usable firewood. He soon got his rhythm going: setting up a log, lifting the axe, smashing it down, tossing the neat wedges into a pile. Our giant heap of jumbled wood slowly transformed into just-right-sized chunks for laying a fire.
When meal time arrived, we invited Vlado to join us and he gladly accepted. Knowing how much a hungry young man can eat, especially with the energy he had been expending, I wanted to make sure that Vlado had plenty to fuel him up. Holding out the platter of meat, I racked my brain for the right words, and triumphantly came up with “Hočes li miše?” (Would you like more?)
Much to my surprise, everyone burst out laughing. For the want of one correct letter, I had mixed up the word for more (više) with mouse (miše). Oops. But, since I wasn’t really offering up a mouse on a platter, Vlado did help himself to više.
We saw much of Vlado that first year before his departure to the coast in search of better employment. Along with splitting our wood, he helped stack it which is an art unto itself. He often came over to play “uncle” to the kids, the boys especially loving Montenegrin roughhousing. He joined us for many a meal. And though we hadn’t yet started any kind of regular bible studies or meetings, by God’s grace and work, Vlado heard the gospel and came to faith. He was the first to be baptized.
Baptism in the Adriatic Sea Vlado, a happy man in Christ
Soli Deo Gloria!