The Saratoga Sun -

Flurries, blizzards & whiteouts

A snowstorm by any other name still needs a shovel

 


It’s winter in Wyoming and I feel I would be remiss if, at some point, I did not write something about snow.

There are several directions that can be taken with this subject. I could write about the serenity of snowfall, the poetic beautify of a pristine snowscape, the thrill of skiing through fresh powder, the fun of getting out and seeing white vistas on snowshoes or the value in moisture snowpack brings to the Valley.

Maybe I’ll put these down on paper eventually.

It’s not the direction I took today.

Snow has an irritating tendency to pile up. Yeah, it’s fine when it forms mounds on the prairie or the mountains. Turns out that’s pretty useful.

The heaps that bother me are the ones that tend to accumulate on my sidewalk.

The only reason that bothers me is that when I am inclined to look like a good neighbor and upstanding citizen, I have to shovel it.

We all know how to get around on snow. If you live here, it’s a skill you will learn whether you want to or not.

When I leave my house in the morning to find crystalline water stacked up all over the place, I am immediately struck by two disparate thoughts. On the one hand, I am glad that the Valley is getting some much-needed moisture. On the other, I am probably late and will have to just stomp my way through it.

The trudging across it is not the part that irks me.

If you can immediately shovel the powdery accumulation from your walkway, while still work, it is at least fairly easy work. At this stage, any plastic snow shovel will get under your problem and make short work of removal.

Shovel management is important. At some point, your shovel will get caught in a crack or a break in the sidewalk (especially if your sidewalk is as uneven as mine). If you are going slow, you get an unpleasant jarring. If you get up to speed, there is a real danger of upending yourself (trust me, I know).

If you procrastinate and tread upon your sidewalk tundra a few times, the snow starts to pack down ...

... and pack down ...

... and melt ...

... and freeze.

This cycle repeats indefinitely during the winter.

Eventually, what was once a flowing and pretty snowscape has now become an uneven and hard-to-navigate mess consisting of small cliffs of crunchy snow and mini-mounds of slippery ice.

I finally have time to shovel.

In the time that I have neglected to start the task, the snow has undergone a miraculous bonding process and become one with the concrete at what is likely a molecular level.

A plastic snow shovel is now a completely useless tool.

I go in search of my steel squarehead shovel.

Starting in, I find that sometimes I can get to concrete and sometimes I can’t. It doesn’t matter how hard I jam the shovel into the frozen mess.

I grudgingly recall that ice won out against the Titanic.

I continue, scraping up what bits I can.

Occasionally, I am rewarded by large chunks of ice and crunchy snow that have decided to release their death grip on my cement.

I make sure to take breaks while I am working on this task because I have been told (more than once), that shoveling snow raises your risk of a heart attack1.

Finally, the job is complete (or as finished as it is going to get) and I head into the house.

I sit on the couch and realize that my small battles with snowfall are fairly insignificant when compared with someone who has to battle the frozen stuff on a daily basis—including the cowboy who rides through drifts daily (what about the horse for that matter) or the guy that drives the snowplow in icy conditions for your ease and safety.

Additionally, we are ALL thankful that the snow has been shoveled and ice melt has been put out on walking surfaces at the Post Office by the friendly folks there. (let’s at least try to keep those postal people happy).

Morning comes again and locals will be familiar with the sights that always seem to greet me the day after I have shoveled snow2.

Either I open my door to find that a Wyoming “breeze” has blown snow right back onto my sidewalk to the extent that I can’t even make out its outline or it has snowed again and the sidewalk is marked only by a slight depression in the snowscape.

It makes little difference which disheartening option has occurred.

I pack it all down as I trudge to work again.

1. Apparently, this is true. Check out http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/health/9483280-423/shoveling-raises-heart-attack-risk.html

2. Just checking to see if you are reading these.

 

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