Hot grits for frozen pipes

Photo by Ruvim Miksanskiy on

The recent flurry of ice and snow reminded me of an ice storm from the not-so-distant past.

As the snow drifted in on Wednesday night our house was crammed with anticipation. Tax Deduction #1 was 13 at the time, but she was just as excited to see some snow as Tax Deduction #2, age 7. The Wife harbored no great love for the snow but enjoyed the TD’s excitement. As for me – and this may be the midlife crisis talking – I was looking forward to the snow as if it was the night before final exams.

I was so happy to see the snow roll in that night that I bundled up, grabbed a flashlight, and headed out on a walk with our faithful dog Lucille. Lucille is 80% black lab, 20% garbage disposal. On a daily basis, she is fed as well if not better than the average human but still feels the need to hunt as if the entire village is counting on her for sustenance.

During a 40-minute walk through a few empty fields at 10 p.m. in the snow, the dog that would be Saxton Pope caught two mice and one sparrow. If the grid ever shuts down and the grocery stores run out of food, Lucille has my back – although her shenanigans have landed me on a PETA watch list.

The next morning the living room window looked like a portal to the North Pole. TD#2 went around the yard spreading birdseed for the sparrows and cardinals that inhabit the woods that bump up against our yard. Feeding birds during the winter is nice, but we had to constantly keep the dog from eating the birdseed and/or the birds. By this point, a PETA van was cruising back and forth in front of the house.

Avoid the box store blues with a visit to Blizzard Building Supply at 405 Walston Avenue, Kinston.

For several days in a row, the temperature hovered between 1 and 15. Not since 1918 had it been that cold around here for that long. Our pipes are insulated so we didn’t worry, which turned out to be a mistake. Our house is equipped with a tankless hot water heater, which uses around 30% less electricity than a conventional system. At first, we tried the waterless hot water heater – which knocked our water bill down considerably – but made taking a shower rather tedious.

Turns out there is about one foot of pipe between the water heater and the house that is exposed to the elements, and on Saturday morning that pipe was frozen solid. I thought back to my childhood when my grandfather lit a rolled-up newspaper and held it close to a frozen pipe at the hog pen. I shared this memory with two family members who promptly reminded me that the gas line was next to the water heater. I already knew this, but that they felt the need to tell me is troubling.

Bannister’s Fine Gifts is located at 106 West Railroad Street in La Grange.

The solution? The Wife’s hairdryer. It wasn’t exactly rugged frontier ingenuity, but it worked.

To prevent the pipe from freezing again we wrapped an 8-inch hunk of rubber foam around the pipe. I went to bed that night in the knowledge that we’d all have hot water when we woke up the next day. As it turns out, we did have hot water the next day thanks to The Wife boiling it on the stove. The pipe was frozen on Sunday morning to the point that the hairdryer wouldn’t thaw it out. I added a heat lamp which did no good, and when I coated the pipe with hot grits The Wife and The TDs gently led me into the house and encouraged me to take a nap.

I woke up three days later. It was 70 degrees and the concrete under our carport was sweating. The Farmers’ Almanac – which correctly predicted the snowstorm – is calling for more snow in about a week. I’m not one to read ahead, but my money is on locusts by March.

Jon Dawson’s books are available at

You can hear Jon weekdays from 7 to 9 a.m. on The Bryan Hanks Show with Jonathan Massey:

The Bryan Hanks Show airs on 960-AM in Kinston, and daily at 7 a.m. & 3 p.m. It also airs on the suite of stations in New Bern and Greenville (107.5-FM) at 6 p.m. Archived shows are available at

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