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