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The Snow Blower

As I was clearing the driveway of our house during our first snowfall, I got to thinking about when we had to do this as kids.

My brother and I took turns shovelling or mowing the lawn, along with other house-related tasks. We had recently purchased a snowblower during a recent sale right after a huge snowfall. In 1979, everyone was buying snowblowers, attaching plows to their cars, becoming part seal... anything to master the force of a Chicago winter. But snowplows and snowblowers were the big sellers. We had a red Toro.

I loved using this machine, much more than the lawnmower. It was horribly loud, screaming red and smelled of gasoline and oil. I loved using it and showing that snow who was boss. I enjoyed painting the side of the house with a coating of white snow like a huge airbrush. I even enjoyed those slightly embarassing moments when you had "hit earth" and coated your fresh white landscape with a dark dusting of dirt and frozen grass.

I detested starting it. Even though it had an electric start along with the pull-cord, I couldn't always get it running. I also held a healthy respect and fear of combining electricity, melted snow and gasoline. Yet with my small, squat stature, even more encumbered by a bulky coat, I usually had a slim chance of starting it.

Failure was not an option, even though I imagined getting out of the chore because I couldn't start it. If we had to shovel it manually, that's darn well what we did. You never, ever tried to explain to Dad that a chore wasn't done because you couldn't start the tool. Better to explain why your arm wasn't working. We also knew that if you broke the news to Dad that a tool was not working you also landed the chance of Helping Dad Fix It. This second, even longer chore, was dreaded even more than the first chore could have been. There would also be no help on Earth if you were the one who broke the tool or had lied and the tool started up immediate when Dad pulled the cord.

As I was finishing the driveway, I had an inspiration. I would not only shovel the sidewalk, stairs and the driveway, but I would also finish the cement apron that our camper sat upon. Wouldn't my Dad be surprised?

I imagined him coming home from work and seeing that some magical team of elves had removed every shred of snow from the cement on his property. Who hired this vast team of workers? Whatever did he owe them? I could see him walking in and not even having to wipe off his boots! I could see it all happening.

So real was my vision as I grinned, that I didn't see how close I was to the camper. In front of our camper are a few items that were buried in a comfortable looking mound of snow. I thought I had skirted away from most of them, however I heard a deafening clatter even above the noise of the snowblower. This went on for a second or two and then all noise abruptly stopped. Completely.

I heard nothing but silence as is common after a snowfall. Occasionally I heard the passing of a car, but that was it. Dead silence. I leaned over to see what I had done.

An involuntary squawk exited my mufflered mouth as I saw the huge chain from the camper wrapped around the blades of the snowblower about seven revolutions. This chain, over 10 feet long, had been neatly rolled up in front of the camper. Now it was holding the snowblower captive as neatly as a dog on a leash.

I tried to fiddle with it in my inexperienced way, however I didn't want to make it any worse than it already was. I knew that there had to be a switch or something to release the blade and allow the chain to be unravelled, however I didn't know where that was. I figured it had to be out of the way so that it didn't release while the snowblower was in operation. I was at least that insightful.

No amount of tugging, pulling or grunting would budge that chain. The snowblower itself wasn't going anywhere, either. I was at a loss as to what I should do. So I went inside the house to get warm.

Some time later my father arrived home. I think he was more confused than angry and he ended up asking one of his favorite questions with me. "How?" ("Why?" would be his second favorite, followed by the all purpose "Dan?") I didn't have a proper reason, but I did explain that I just got too close to the camper with the snowblower.

"I can see that!" he responded. I could see that any more input from me would only make him more upset, so I just stood by, ready to help. I knew that I had won the chance to do so and I was obscurely proud that I had made this father-son bonding moment possible. We had a nice moment with me handing him the correct tools and existing as an outlet for his anger and cursing. He of course managed to remove the chain from the jaws of the beast. Thankfully he did this quickly, as I think he began repeating curses and that can get embarassing if you are a professional curser, like my father.

Oh yes, I did finish the driveway after that, keeping well away from problem areas. I'm sure that my Dad was annoyed when I left huge parts untouched after I was through with it, but I never heard him say anything after that.

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