2018-03-12 / Opinion

Again with the Snow


Douglas McIntire Douglas McIntire I wanted to write something brimming with adjectives — rich descriptive words and phrases to match the faint glint of spring we all enjoyed. The varying shades of brown in the grasses and mud, the heavy buds forming on branch tips, the new singing of birds around my house — all of which dripped of spring and new life springing forth from the jaws of indifferent winter. But now there’s just snow and once again, nature is muted in its white death shroud.

I’ve said it before and I genuinely hate, hating winter and living where I do it feels all the more like I enjoy wallowing in my own misery. I wasn’t always so jaded when it came to the dark side of the year, in fact I was one of the dying breed of young entrepreneurs who took to the road, shovel in hand, ready to make a quick buck whenever Mother Nature had a tantrum.

I also have to say, living in Navy housing made my particular market area more than willing to throw money at me to make the frozen precipitation go away. I could see them from many doors down; the young family who just transferred here from Pensacola, Florida or Patuxent River, Maryland. There was always a man or woman, sometimes both of them, standing under-dressed and shivering on their concrete steps, gaping toward the seemingly insurmountable mess before them. Sometimes it would be a young officer, steaming coffee in hand, just staring with one mittened hand on his head.

I saw their distress but this was not time for empathy, my friend. These were good paying customers in the making and if I could get them cleared and off to muster on time for five dollars, we were all going to have a good day.

It’s not like it wasn’t hard work either. I had to use what I could find in the garage and that sometimes meant choosing between the flat, orange, plastic shovel that may get broken and therefore, severely dip into my profits, or the garden spade. It didn’t clear much snow per throw but it was a beast at busting through the frozen wall at the end of the drive. Besides, I was all of about 13 years old and had an inexhaustible supply of energy to keep me moving. At five dollars a pop and the occasional tip, it would be nothing for me to return home with $30 to $45 in my pocket by just after lunch time.

There were exceptions to the rule and one winter stands out in particular. There was a nasty storm and many of the dads on Emmanuel Drive were on deployment. I remember my summer time briefing on how to run our beast of a Sears snowblower. From priming to choke to throttle settings and listening for the change in idle, it was about five minutes well spent as I opened up the garage door and hoped for the best.

After a few misfires, getting my knuckles slapped by the pull-cord and one unfortunate flooding, I got the beast rolling. My first lesson was to let the machine do the work. In other words, just because it has five gears doesn’t mean you can clear a driveway faster in fifth — especially when you reach the wall at the end of the drive. No, upon reaching said end of the road, the snowblower was more than happy to become an off road vehicle, climbing the hill with amazing speed before falling backwards and crushing me beneath it.

Now, I would like to say I was a fast learner of life’s natural consequences but chances are, you’ve read too many of my stories to buy that. I was rolled over at least four times that morning before I learned the magic of first gear.

I made it up the block and back, clearing many driveways for our squadron families. The gratitude felt better than the pocket of cash I usually garnered. There would be other storms — other times taking the cash would be more proper. Soon, there would be lawns to mow, yards to rake and the cycle would return to snow. The bruised stubbornness that caused me to be crushed like a bug still persists and is a lesson I still struggle with.

Douglas McIntire is an educator and writer in the Midcoast. If you know any kid who is still willing to shovel driveways for cash, contact him at broughtupbrunswick@gmail.com.

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