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The Right Man at the Right Time

A repairman’s business card appears just when a shivering homeowner needs it most.

A pressure gauge on an old furnace

Brrr, it was cold. So cold it took an act of supreme will for me to crawl out of bed. I shivered as I made my way down to the basement, though why I was bothering to try and get the furnace going again I couldn’t tell you. I already knew it was hopeless.

My wife and I had finally bought our first home, a 1905 farmhouse just outside of Mansfield, Illinois. It needed work, for sure, but it beat the shoebox we’d been renting from a relative. We moved in the summer of 1970 and started fixing the place up with what little savings we had left.

Then fall came and the weather got brisk. One night I went down to the basement to fire up the furnace. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to work. I called every heating company in the book.

They said the same thing. “That type of furnace has been obsolete for years. You need a new system.” No way could we afford that. For weeks, my wife and I wore coats around the house and huddled by the oven, worrying about what to do. Our dream house had turned into a nightmare.

So I didn’t know why I was bothering to go down to the basement this morning. Maybe I just wanted to glare at the old furnace. “Lord, what are we going to do?” I cried out, sitting on a cinder block to think.

Just then, something slid off the joist above and fluttered to the ground. A dusty, yellowed card. I picked it up. There was the date of installation for the furnace…many decades ago. Below the date was “Mr. Doss.” The installer.

Mr. Doss. I puzzled over the name. In my small town, everyone knows everyone. I seemed to recall a Mr. Doss once worked at the appliance store. But that was long ago. Was he still around? I looked the name up in the phone book and found a listing. I dialed the number. “Hello?” a man answered.

“Is this Mr. Doss, the furnace installer?” I asked.

Mr. Doss told me he was more or less retired now. But he still lived nearby and he agreed to take a look.

He got our furnace running in minutes—and only charged a minimal fee. “It’s just good I had the parts lying around,” he said. “I’m probably the only person in the world who would.”

And good too that his business card was lying around just when I needed it.

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