In the Virginia exurbs there is a man who got into the wood-stove business before the first oil crisis because he saw it coming. He weathered the drop in demand after the opening surge of the back-to-wood movement passed, and was sitting pretty when the current oil crisis came -- although the huge inventory he had built up vanished like a drop of water in a hot skillet.

Now he is thinking of shutting up shop. "I have sold almost a thousand stoves since June," he said. "They are all good stoves, all sold with instruction booklets, most of them installed and tested by me or my men or subcontractors I trust. But come the first cold night this season, about 950 of those customers are going to call me up and cuss me because they can't get their stoves going.

These are smart people, most of them, smart enough to see that the price of oil has made wood heat cost-effective, but they don't know how to build a fire.

"For weeks my men and I are going to be driving all over the damn area, taking kindling and seasoned hardwood around to these people to show them what it looks like, how to put it in the stove, how to light it, and how to keep it burning right. Then they are going to start calling about how they can't get firewood, and I am going to have to become a broker between my customers and a lot of stubbly-faced guys in Culpeper who never show up with the wood when they say they will. I don't think I can face it."