For nearly 25 years now, the snowplow has been trying to kill me. There were times it just sat waiting for me at the street corner, its engine humming in anticipation, watching me clean the snow from my driveway.
Then as I wearily limped back to the garage, back bent, shovel dragging in one hand, snow blower in tow in the other, I could hear the revving of the beast, the scrapping of its giant claw against the pavement, the growl as it lurched into action.
Surrounded by a cloud of churning snow the plow sped forward, faster and faster as I watched in stunned horror.
I have seen that mighty monster throw up a pile of slush, mush, and snow four feet high and five feet deep onto my driveway apron.
Left overnight, rutted by car tires, it becomes the hardest material known to man.
“Don’t do it,” doctors have told me about shoveling.
“You’re crazy,” say loved ones.
A man has to do what a man has to do, especially if he wants to get his car out of the garage and onto the street at some point before St. Patrick’s Day.
As my own neighbors have noted staring in awe at the giant mess, “If that stuff freezes, it ain’t ever going to melt.”
They have pitched in to help over the years, bless their hearts. But that was when they were younger and did not fully comprehend the evil we faced.
It is like something out of a Stephen King novel, that plow.
I gave in to age and reality this year and hired a service. A fellow with a small truck with a plow attached who I saw clearing some driveways in the neighborhood.
And then came the big snow a week or so ago. Close to a foot of the stuff. And my guy cleared it in a matter of minutes. I smiled. Should have done this years ago. And then…
I heard the monster’s roar.
“No, no, no,” I shouted, running to the front door.
I swear the blade of that enormous snowplow smiled as it smashed its way down the street.
Onto my driveway it tossed a glacier-sized pile of gray matter. It’s difficult to describe the consistency of such stuff to the uninitiated, but it starts out wet as it leaves the street but begins to glomp together and solidify, sometimes into pumpkin-sized chunks of ice, in mid-flight on its way back down to the pavement. Within hours, it becomes a cratered surface harder than diamonds.
“Geez, that stuff is just awful,” said my snow guy upon consultation. “It’s hard as hell to scrape up. I just got a small truck. We’re not coming back out just for that. I mean, that street plow’s going to return later tonight, or early tomorrow morning anyway you know.”
I could hear the fear in his voice. I understood. And so, I put on my under armor, my heaviest sweatshirt, my coat and ski cap and grabbed an ice chopper with my left hand and snow shovel with the right.
Younger, inexperienced men have tried using a snow blower on the icy muck and watched their machines choke and die. Only muscle and grit will get the job done.
Hours later, I returned to the house, wet with sweat, back aching, and looked outside to admire the work I had done. The driveway entrance was perfectly dry. On either side of the apron were piles of snow nearly five feet high.
And then it began snowing again and somewhere in the night I thought I heard the street plow growling.
I thought of Hemingway’s old man, the one who battled the great fish, only to see it eaten by sharks as he rowed back to shore. I feel I understand him now.
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