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Snow Use

March 7, 2010

(This essay was broadcast on WUWM’s Lake Effect program, Milwaukee’s NPR affiliate on March 12, 2010.)

As I sat poolside, shivering in the pale cold sun, trying to make like I was really enjoying the 50 degree early March cold of southern Florida, having escaped at the last minute from grey Wisconsin on a crazy-cheap flight out of Mitchell, flying with the wife and sainted mother-in-law to some sunny place—any sunny place—far away from the driveway and the never-ending battle where shovels and snow-blowers are the weapons of choice—a fat grey-bearded man on the other side of the pool with a Green Bay Packers hat tipped at a jaunty angle and tanned the color of a cigar that had been hand-rolled on the supple thigh of a black-haired Cuban beauty, regarded me skeptically and said, “It’s all about Western Civilization, son.  It’s the snow…or us.”

I said, “Excuse me, sir?”

He said, “I can see by your, er, color that you’re not from around here, my friend.”

My ghostly pale spindly legs resembled chicken parts, like the cooked flesh of fowls, the stringy inside of McNuggets or Frank Perdue’s hairless head.  I was very sensitive to this and did not wish attention called to it.

The big man lifted a tall glass that contained an iced bluish beverage topped by a tiny yellow parasol—he took a sip and went on.  “Young man, it is the imperative of Western Man to impose order on chaos, to make what is in disarray right, to do what needs to be done.”  I raised an eyebrow and listened more closely.  He said, “This country was built by snow shovelers, hard-working men and yes, women—why, the toughest snow shoveler I ever seen was a woman and she’d laugh you to scorn if she ever caught you with a candy-ass snow-blower in anything less than a foot of snow, I tell you—but I digress.”  The man shifted in his chaise lounge and adjusted his old-school sunglasses.  “Yes sir, like Mason and Dixon drawing the arrow-straight east-west line that demarked and defined early America, like the vast Jeffersonian perfectly square farm-ready grids of townships laid out by our forefathers across this land, you and I shovel our driveways and sidewalks in that same All-American tradition—where there is disorder, we snow shovelers bring straight lines, crisply clean surfaces and finely tuned edges where no snow is allowed to accumulate on working surfaces in unsightly and messy piles. No sir.”

Despite the Florida chill, I warmed to his analysis and saw the logic and solid corn-fed Midwestern horse sense of his thinking and I thought of the cold calculations that must be made as one faces the morning’s daunting solid white blanket of snow that has been dumped overnight and I ventured to ask him, “Sir, are you a horizontal or vertical man?”

He looked at me evenly and bade me go on.

“Do you work up the driveway or across?  Do you split the line and work from the middle out?  Do you run your shovel in long unbroken pushes like an interstate plow or are you more the dogged steam-shoveler John Henry-type who works six inches—toss, six inches—toss until the end of the day, ‘til the end of the driveway?”

And he replied. “Young sir, those are questions that only a serious shoveler would know to ask.”  A thin smile rippled across his face like a snow-blower starter cord.  He asked, “Have you been known to retrace your work, snaring the stray lines of snow that have inadvertently leaked from the sides of your shovel? Eh?”

It was clear that he and I were secret sharers of the brotherhood of shovelers.

There was a wordless silence of communion as we both nodded grimly.

Like Fred and Barney, like Yogi and Boo Boo, like Fred and Ethel—we knew that deep down, we were keepers of a snowy flame.  We shared responsibility for the care and maintenance of American order and the elimination of chaos, combating the dark downward spiral of cultural entropy—we were Shovelers and as he again raised his blue glass—this time in toast to me and our kind, I felt stirred, ready to return to Wisconsin, ready to do my duty come whatever snows the lions of March might throw at us, ready to do my bit for the sidewalk, for the driveway—to do my best for Western Man and Western Civilization.

(I read this on Milwaukee’s WUWM Public Radio’s Lake Effect Program on 3/12/10.  Here’s the clip.)

Snow Use

  1. Pappas permalink

    Way too funny…and not bad for a long haired f***ing f***.

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