Snowthrower chronicles

A couple of us were sitting around swapping tales of winter and keeping our coffee from getting cold. We all had seen snowy mornings, though not lately.

Our first snowfall of the year had left about an inch on the ground. The resident Keeper of Order In the Home gave her permission to not even shovel.

The second “snow event” blanketed our portion of the planet with a little more – about an inch and three-quarters – and the KPH decided I should take the machine out of the barn. It had not been run since last year. I pulled on the starter cord and nothing happened. I plugged in the electric starter and it cranked just fine, but would not fire. I filled the tank with new gasoline. After about two days, the snow was gone, but I tried again with the machine.

It started.

There’s been no snow since, though as I set down these thoughts, the evening news warns of a severe storm coming up from Texas.

The past several days have seen excellent maple syrup weather. Daytimes sunny and in the 60s, nights at or below freezing. Not much for making snowmen, but hot syrup poured on snow – or shaved ice – can make one forget most disappointments.

It was about this time of year in 1980 when I was living in Norfolk, Va., assigned to the U.S.S. America, an aircraft carrier in the Portsmouth shipyard for overhaul. A friend and I drove to his home in western Tennessee for the weekend. We woke Sunday morning to six inches of new snow where there should not have been nearly as much.

A couple of phone calls let us know Interstate 40 was closed. Back in Norfolk, a crowd has attended the circus Saturday night – and stayed the night. Sunday morning, the audience discovered two feet of new snow, blown into huge drifts.

We drove home Monday, past miles of trucks waiting their turn to pass through the Cumberland Gap weigh station. On the way into the Norfolk area, we passed National Guard bulldozers working to make roads passable.

Nearing home, I found a snowdrift tunnel blocked by an ambulance. In another place, a Greyhound bus had jumped a curb and turned sideways across the roadway. The bus was running, its passengers warm, well and safe. I drove around and resumed my trek.

About a half-mile from my home, a Volkswagen “bug” was mired in an unplowed street. The driver had dug himself nearly free, but he lamented that he could not deliver the day’s newspapers to the local 7-Eleven stores. He said he was going to go home, but he let me take his papers for the two stores on my route home. He headed for his home and I for mine, along the way dropping those bundles of newspapers.

A few years later, I was reminded of that storm by the 1993 blizzard that locked down the area I did not yet know was about to become my new home in Adams County, Pennsylvania. A friend had lived here long enough to know that blizzard was worse than most people alive at the time could recall.

Then there came 2010. I was here when three storms in tandem buried the county, not as bad as 1993, and a mere shadow of the 1980 event in Virginia, but still heavy enough to make for some neat video a week later.

I have to admit telling stories about such snow events is way more fun than shoveling out from under them. But even the “big storms” are getting smaller and the snowthrower an artifact of winters past. Maybe next year.

Thanks for coming with me on this ride. Please take a moment to share it and spread the word to as many readers as possible.

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