Kyle Eller: When the pile is higher than the roof you're standing on, you know we've had enough snow

Up on the garage roof with a shovel in my hand, looking at the nearby house roof, I thought to myself: "Wouldn't it be funny if you were over there and found hoofprints or maybe some reindeer droppings buried under all that snow?"...

Up on the garage roof with a shovel in my hand, looking at the nearby house roof, I thought to myself: "Wouldn't it be funny if you were over there and found hoofprints or maybe some reindeer droppings buried under all that snow?"

My guess is they look like regular deer droppings, of the sort frequently dropped in my backyard. Come to think of it, I could have played a great joke on my neighbor.

I didn't find any, reindeer or whitetail, on the garage but it's been a great winter for shovelers. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like a real Minnesotan again, sore back and all.

It's early yet, and the snow could taper off. I know there's been some controversy over shoveling and not shoveling and how the latter gets punished and publicized. (Can you imagine what someone from, say, California would make of our bickering about how sidewalk shoveling ordinances are enforced? Their loss, I say.)

I know many people, even those who do shovel, are not Shovelers in the capital-letter sense, by which I mean people who both shovel and at least occasionally enjoy it. Even among shoveling enthusiasts, the last week or so of heat wave has been something of a damper, literally.


But still, it's been great.

Possibly you are wondering why anyone would be a Shoveler. The truth is, I'm less of one than I used to be, since I've grown older and busier and, um, fatter. But enough shoveling can actually help with that last part. In fact, I think it's part of God's grand plan to help me with my weight problem that he's given us so much snow. (Sorry about that. He apparently would rather I didn't end up looking like the dude with the flying reindeer.)

What I like is not so much the shoveling, although it does give a sense of accomplishment once you're finished. I like to get out and play in the snow, like a kid. And yes, I could probably do it even better with more power tools.

A couple of Saturdays ago we had that foot to dig out from, and the day for it was just ideal, a perfect January day. I was taking one of my frequent huff-and-puff breaks in the driveway and looked up at the big pine tree in the front yard, the sun glinting through its branches highlighted against that deep blue sky.

In the deep silence came this hint of breeze that blew a few chunks of snow off from the top branches and sent them fluttering -- right toward my clean driveway.

I didn't care. Much. It was one of those peaceful moments you live here for. That -- and laughing at pansified cities that climb into fallout shelters and call in FEMA when two inches of snow hit the ground -- is what makes winter here worthwhile. I should mention, while I'm at it: I think the mayor should look into that FEMA thing the next time we get a big snowfall. It's not like we don't pay to move New York City's snow every other year.

That sunny Saturday a couple of weeks ago involved not only the driveway but also cleaning off a deck that had grown waist-deep and shoveling a way to the gas meter. We have a snow-loving dog, too. Since she's a Pomeranian about three inches tall, she requires a path be shoveled for her. (For doing that, I'd better be her best friend.)

Fortunately, I'd already made a way for the meter reader, the perfect puppy path.


I should add, before some city councilor gets an idea for his next nutty ordinance, that we do "doo" patrol. Plus, puny Pom poo freezes fast anyway.

The next Saturday, last weekend, was even more fun, since we finally got a roof rake. We needed it.

I was too, er, busy to actually drag a ladder through the snowbanks along the front of the house. I just cleared the parts I could reach from the ground. That still meant shoveling out the gas meter path, the deck and part of the driveway again.

But I'm young, sorta.

The back of the house was a bigger challenge. I hadn't been in the backyard since the bulk of the snow fell, and this was before things started melting, so the snow was hip-high in places. I ventured into the "wilds" on snowshoes, carrying that long metal rake.

The back side of the roof was deeper, too, a good challenge, especially maneuvering on snowshoes. There were a few obstacles like power lines and chimneys to avoid. Fun stuff.

It was less fun when I got to the back side of the garage. It has an almost flat pitch and no heat, so virtually none of the snow had melted or fallen away. It was like a waist-high history of winter, peeling back in layers from warm days and snow squalls past.

It was the sort of thing that, like sedimentary rock, one might have examined for fossils.


The roof rake was not the right tool for this job. I needed ... a shovel! And a ladder. I got up on the garage.

There, I worked hard enough to steam through two hats and two pairs of gloves and every other thing I was wearing, but it was fun, a nice view. I found myself wondering what it would be like to have a chair up there in the summer.

I didn't even worry about falling, since in short order the pile behind the garage was as tall as the garage.

Only when I finished did I realize I had left the roof rake on the ground, where a third of it was now buried under part of that roof-high pile of snow.

I grabbed my nearby shovel ....

Everything was ducky until Sunday. I was not worried about falling down my well-shoveled steps. Now I'm on injured reserve, hoping I won't be called in for duty this weekend.

That's OK, though. Even Shovelers need breaks. They say there's some sort of football game on.

Kyle Eller is Budgeteer features editor. He may be reached at 723-1207 or by e-mail at .

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