The Wellen Man by
50
(75 Stories)

Prompted By Snowy Days

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I have already shared what I think is my best (at least most salacious) snowy day story; https://www.myretrospect.com/stories/snowbound/ but I do recall another one. It’s set on a snowy night, though!

I had always been fascinated by the ideas of working at night, working outside and working alone.

It wasn’t the sort of snow that you use to build snowmen or snow forts. Nor was it the kind that packs into good snowballs or falls on slopes to sled down. This was a mix of snow and sleet, snain, graupel, whatever the weather people like to call it. Uncle Weatherbee* on Eyewitness News that night would draw a funny cartoon to go with the storm.

Most kids love snow, but no one loves what was falling that night. I leaned against the warm old cast-iron radiator and stared morosely out my living room window, watching the street outside become a white, wet, slick and frozen mess. The room was dark. Around me,  the Christmas lights tacked to the frame of the window blinked red, green and gold. These and the street light directly across from my house provided the only illumination.

A green truck pulled up, parking in front of the fire hydrant directly outside the window. An oil tanker. The Wellen Oil Man had come to deliver fuel oil. I loved it when the oil man came.

I had always been fascinated by the ideas of working at night, working outside and working alone. As a kid I thought that people like night watchmen, milk delivery drivers and, of course, the Wellen Oil Man, had the best jobs ever.

I watched as the driver swept the snow and ice from the sidewalk around the cap of our oil tank in the basement. He used a big cross-shaped wrench with various attachments that fit the caps he encountered to open the filler pipe. He looked up and waved at me as he used a long stick to gauge how much oil we would need. I waved back. Then the driver went to the back of his truck and pulled the thick gray hose with its bulky nozzle over to the open pipe, inserted the end of the nozzle into the opening, and turned on the oil. I could see the numbers on the gauge on the side of the truck as they rolled upward, counting out the gallons in decades; ones, tens and hundreds if needed. He seemed cold as he stamped his feet and waited for the tank to fill.

Finally the surge valve on the nozzle turned off with an audible metallic click. The Wellen Oil Man slid the nozzle up from the hole, tapping it against the filler pipe to avoid getting drops of slippery #2 fuel oil on the sidewalk. He rolled up the hose, made out our bill on his thick aluminum clipboard, and headed up the stairs and into the hallway.

I opened up our door before he knocked. He said hello, icy drops melting on his uniform jacket shoulders and green cap with the Wellen Oil logo. “Give this to your parents,” he said, handing me the invoice. I assured him that I would. He said good night and walked out into the storm, back to his truck and his deliveries. As always, he smelled like fuel oil.

I still love that smell.

* See the Wikipedia entry on Tex Antoine

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.


Tags: snow, sleet, night, work, job, oil, weather
Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Fascinating that you liked people who worked at night, Dave. You must have found some romance in that. I love the way you describe this sort of snow – not good for children to frolic in, so of no use to you.

    Very vivid description of the Wellen Man and how he went about his job. I could picture it exactly, and you, with your nose pressed against the window, waving at him, and he waved back – good company during the storm.

    Interesting take on this prompt. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Your description of the oil man was spot on. Not sure that exists anymore, which is probably good for the environment.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    “Wintry mix” is the worst. Thanks to all those who brave it and other weather to fix our electricity, clear the roads, resupply the oil, and keep our support systems going—unsung heroes. My roommate freshman year’s dad was a heating oil delivery and service guy—and was often out at odd hours. I hadn’t appreciated the work before.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    What an evocative story, Dave, both of the weather and the Wellen man and his duties. You really created a tremendous (and snowy) picture for us, not only of that night, but of your broader curiosity as to all-night jobs.

    And I sure remember Uncle Weatherbee and Tex A. I think everyone growing up in the greater New York area got his/her weather reports from them — or from the “weathergirl,” Carol Reed on WCBS.

  5. Suzy says:

    Wow, looking at the Wikipedia entry for Tex Antoine, as you suggested, sure brought back memories of my childhood, so thanks for that! I never knew of people getting heating oil delivered, but our next-door neighbors had coal heat, and the coal truck would come and unload coal down a chute that went in their basement window. That was very noisy, and also fun to watch, and it happened during the day, not at night. It’s surprising to me that the Wellen Oil Man made his deliveries at night.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      We had one house on our block that still used coal. Whenever they got a delivery, some small bits would be left on the sidewalk. Us kids used them as chalk on the light gray sidewalks. I have a picture of me drawing what appears to be a diagram of the solar system on the sidewalk when I was (by the looks of it) maybe eight. The nerd runs deep in this one!

  6. I love this story Dave, it’s wonderful how we we remember smells. I’ve written about how the smell of cigar smoke concurs a very happy childhood memory watching my mother – not a cigar smoker herself – the only women in a men’s Pinocle game.

    We have oil heat too, and our guy delivers it during the day. If I’m home when he comes to the door with the paper slip I ply him with cookies!

  7. Marian says:

    I’m so grateful that you wrote this story, Dave, because I’d forgotten about the oil man, who did come occasionally to our house. Like the milkman and other delivery people (except the likes of Amazon), they are gone. In our California town we have natural gas, which comes noiselessly through pipes on its own.

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