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January 15, 2011

The Winter of My Content

Last week the coastal storm here in Connecticut matched the 24-hourly total of the Blizzard of 1888, (although not its total snowfall). For an old guy with a problem, I shoveled a lot of snow. Sig, especially, understands. Snowblowers are ineffective in high wind. Garden-tractor plows are useless in places with angles and grades. Shoveling is the only way, but you still have that big problem of great snowfalls: where to put the snow when you run out of places for it, and the snow mountains are so high, you can’t toss your shovel-full over the pile to the far side.

The best solution to this problem is to dispatch a little boy to the top of the mound (he's less apt to sink, than an adult) with his starter shovel and have him lower the summit by skimming and shovelling the snow to the far side.

Because chimney-sweeping with a kid on the end of a rope is illegal now, the only useful winter employment for a youngster is snow-removal. Sledding is unproductive, and teaches nothing.

The last time I had little boys to press into this arduous, but eduational, task, was during the ferocious winter of 93-94, and as adolescents in the raging winter of 96-97. By the time of the blizzards of 2006, they had left home, but I don't hold that against them. Now they're settled in life, and all of them are combat veterans.

I take responsibility for the last credential. Maybe I just pissed them off, or the snow shoveling hardened them for jumping out of airplanes, Rangering and SF-ing in Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t have to thank me. They don’t; not yet. Blowing snow, steel-gray skies, and wind like razors is better than water and heat for tempering a boy. I only ordered them outside and gave them something to do.

Having no little boys now, I lowered the mounds myself, and went inside for coffee, to loop Collective Soul’s She Said, and to finish Paul Theroux’s ‘95 book "The Pillars of Hercules". Off the subject of snow for a moment, the book is about Theroux’s foot and boat journey around the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Morocco.

Theroux is mildly liberal, but he’s no fantasist, especially about Europe, the ghastly Mediterreanean "states" and the decay of Middle East. He’s a realist, like we are at Nickie's. Today I feel really good, with an overdose of smug. When you do something hard and read something good; listen to good music, and miss your kids - and can tell someone about it - you love life and love America. God blessed America, and me. I hope your week was as good as mine.



13 comments:

Opus #6 said...

Rhod, I am glad to hear that you are doing well. They say the secret to happiness is being content with what one has.

Rhod said...

Opie, getting my mind right is the problem. I have a failure to communicates...with myself.

LL said...

A Lion in Winter...

Nickie Goomba said...

LL, that's one opinion. DC refers to him as "An Aardvark in Tweed".

The_Kid said...

I like Aardvarks. Especially the baby ones.

Nickie Goomba said...

Rhod... Opie will tell you that it's much the same in California. When at the pool, I am often forced to fold a few pesos into a pool boy's fist. These nimble teens can smear the SPF30 onto those places I can no longer reach.

Nickie Goomba said...

Kid... two words: "braise slowly"

Rhod said...

LL, thank you. It's getting harder to lick my tummy, though.

Nick, I recall how you defrosted those windshields at the Newport valet park in the bitter September of '57. A hound in houndstooth, then, a sybaritic shell of a man now. I weep for you.

Kid, it looks like something that graduated from Radcliffe.

Another Dinosaur from Years Past said...

Your philosophy is only half-right. It's not about the snow. Really. It's all about the shovel.

I raised my boys in a much more teperate climate. One where snow is not an option. We routinely had digging projects where I never failed to proclaim that digging builds character. I, as a younger man along with my two early teen boys even hand dug (as in picks and shovels) a rather sizeable swimming pool in 28 straight days of character building. As young adults, one in the military, the other my partner in my remodel business, they both thank me for the outstanding character they developed on the end of a shovel.

It's not about the snow. It's the shovel, stupid

Rhod said...

ADFYP, I didn't mean to demean your boys' character development by pick and shovel.

Next time I opine on child-rearing I'll avoid hyperbole and snark and touch every base.

sig94 said...

Rhod - my cardiologist just brought my snow shovel career, and my character building, to an abrupt end. I taught two of my girls how to use the blower. I have been told that I am enough of a character as it is, so I think I'm good...

My Dad also used shovels, picks, rakes, hoes and various other garden implements to forge my formative years on Long Island. Snow, not so much. My first winter in upstate NY in 1967 was quite an eye opener. I had never had to walk through mid-thigh snow before in order to get to work.

I had missed the blizzard of 1966 where 6 feet of snow fell in 36 hours. Old Forge, NY, is about two hours NE of me - they had 472" of snow that season. Lots and lots of upstate character that year.

The blizzard of 1993 hit us pretty hard. The drift in front of the house was over my head. I had to start shoveling above shoulder height and that was standing on my front porch. Walking down the street was like walking down a snow tunnel, you could only see roofs. So far this season we have had over 100". We average 120" a year.

I look at the various shovels hanging on the wall in my garage and I do not have the slightest twinge of nostalgia. They are used to build the foundations of buildings and souls and as such, they are replaced when something else is needed to do the finish work.

sig94 said...

Nickie - The Puritan in me gasped in horror at your casual mention of a pool boy's fist and SPF30.

We just don't get to see the Sun very often around here and SPF30 is like trying to kill a mosquito with a cruise missile. Upstate women just don't shave their legs in the summer and the shade it provides is more than ample protection from the Sun.

DC said...

Good stuff, Rhod. And that shoveling is hard in a tweed jacket, I hear.