Many of you know that I am not at all handy. I struggle with the maintenance here, laboring with great efforts to keep the lodge from falling into the lake - literally. A simple chore of say, changing a door knob fixture, might take you just ten minutes. With me, it takes two hours. Some of you have heard stories about the disasters: broken pipes, warped floors, trees across vehicles, the wedding tent that blew away, suicide squirrels nailing our power (twice in a week), the baby goose, the grinder pump, the Jonestown wedding, and the list goes on and on. It is safe to say that I do remain relatively calm when disaster strikes. I take it in stride, usually thinking to myself, "hmmmmmm, this is a new one I haven't dealt with ever before...lovely."
Last Tuesday was no different. Chef Lukas was holding down the fort that afternoon. Outside was miserable - 48 degrees, pouring rain, visibility about 200 feet, wind blowing and mud everywhere. I arrived late from Missoula, walking in about 5:30 p.m. The fireplace was roaring in the Great Room. We had five tables reserved for dinner and Amber is attempting to lite the wood stove in the chilly dining room. To no avail, the damper seems stuck or jammed, smoke pouring out of the stove in huge amounts. The smoke smells toxic and I ask her what she has used to start the fire. Nothing out of the ordinary - just our customary newspaper and bacon grease from the kitchen. I whack at the damper screw, even pulling it all the way out at one point. After ten minutes of this, and opening windows and doors to suck the smoke out, I realize that the stove pipe must be jammed by the "broken" damper. I bang on the stove pipe, as if it might help, and then make the call to evacuate the tables from the dining room and move them out in the bar area. Hurriedly, Amber and I shove couches back from the Great Room fireplace and haul the five tables from the smokey restaurant. We shut the french doors as I turn to seat our first guests, explaining the dilemma. Alas, a broken damper is something new that I've not encountered in my twelve years at the lodge.
Guests are happy that evening, one couple even says that they prefer their table out in the Great Room as they can dine and view the waterfall at the same time. Throughout the night, as we work, Amber and I keep commenting about the lingering toxic smell in the dining room. It's not a good sign, and I tell her that I'll have Chuck, our courageous maintenance man, pull the stove pipe apart when he comes on Thursday morning.
So today rolls around, I get a call from Nancy. Chuck has pulled apart the stove pipe in the dining room. And just above the damper mechanism, he has removed the carcass of a large Grebe or Wood Duck. The bird is completely black from soot and about half the feathers are singed. The poor guy must have somehow managed to get in from the top of the chimney, and slid down as he struggled to go back up. Mystery and problem solved....and now I have to climb on the roof tomorrow, to reattach the screen around the chimney opening. And no, Chef Lukas is not adding roast duck to the menu just yet!