Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snow Wars

One winter in Southern Arizona, and you won't want to return to the midwest, the plains, the northeast, or any place with the potential of snow. However, if you have kids, you can make it. They get to shovel the driveway.

So my brother Michael and I have to deal with the Charge of the White Brigade. The typical battle is against six inches of snow over a sheet of ice.

KMBZ-AM Kanasas City, January 1979:
"Hello, you're on the Walt Bodine show."

"Yes. A lot of people out there shovel snow, and it's like they're fighting a war."
We have no way to flank. We have no heavy artillery, just hand weapons. That snow is relentless. It's packed and it's stubborn. We can't push it or scrape it. We have to attack it in layers.

Once that's gone, we have that sheet of ice underneath, and it just won't break, as much as we stab at it. It's too cold. We might as well be trying to shovel the concrete underneath.

Many families would spring for a snowblower. Crikey, Grandma and Grandpa Lawson have one. But they have one because they don't have kids to shovel the driveway. In the old days, you had kids to work the fields. History repeats and adapts.

We do have a tool called the "snow-throw," a large angled shovel on wheels. You push it, and it's supposed to throw the snow to your side, but mostly it just packs the snow in tighter or rolls over the top of it, taking the easy way out.

Some years later, my folks get a Toro electric power shovel, a poor man's snowblower with a rotating plastic blade. Between the cold and the mess of an extension cord, it rarely works properly. The plastic blade isn't wasn't powerful enough to chop through that six inches. Occasionally, Grandpa Lawson comes over with the snowblower, showing mercy on his grandkids. He blasts through enemy lines and celebrates at Officers' Quarters inside our house with a shot of Jack Daniels to get his heart started.

I wish we could have borrowed a flamethrower and melted that snow down in five minutes. Not only would it get the job done quickly, it would avoid the other problem: anything that takes up mass like snow will continue to take up mass once it's clear of the driveway. Much of that mass goes to the sides of the drive, but a lot of it goes out in front. That means any car pulling out is going to hit a redoubt of the conquered enemy and perhaps get stuck, rendering the driveway campaign a lost cause.

The Royal Father gets around the issue by loading old saved magazines in the back of the car to give it more traction. This is about the only time my Queen Mother is glad he has them.

"Your father is a magazine saver," she grumbles.

It works more times than she wants to acknowledge.

Back then, as now, people end up in the Emergency Room for shoveling snow. We were kids, and we were fortunate. And we got paid for it. I think.

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