Joe Bastardi warned his listeners that the January Thaw might be, to the north, what he calls a “Heck-of-a-way-to-run-a-thaw Thaw”, and Joe was right. I awoke this morning to five inches of the sort of wet snow that sticks to everything in sight, and which settles right before your eyes, becoming ever denser and harder to move. Therefore it it best to move, though your body may not want to budge from bed.
It is better to snowblow five inches of sticky fluff than it is to snowblow three inches of crud that can clog a snowblower. So, before daylight, I was clearing the drive and parking lots of the Farm-childcare, feeling very grateful that the local small-engine-repair fellow did such a fine job repairing the blades of the snowblower the day before.
(I’d hit a fair number of Tonka Trucks with the blower; and bound the blades in miles of kite string, and so and so forth, until the blades were so badly distorted that two actually moved the snow the wrong way, and only a feeble stream got thrown from the blower. My repairman had to heat one blade with a torch, to bend it back to the correct position, but this morning was a hallelujah moment, as the heavy snow arched to a landing twenty yards away.)
By the time I was finishing the night was giving way to the slate blue of a snowy dawn, with the world completely plastered. The wires coming into the Childcare were made, by snow, as thick as my arm:
And every tree was transformed to poetry:
But I was having a bit of a hard time being poetic. The main roads were well treated and merely wet tar, but the side roads were what is best described as “slithery”, with packed snow surfaces, and school was cancelled, which makes for a madness at my Childcare.
It takes a while to figure out who is coming and who is not. Parents who are teachers get to stay home, but nurses have to show up at work at hospitals, and some Dad’s make extra money plowing, so Childcare remains important even when school is cancelled. (In ten years we have only been been closed once, by an ice-storm that knocked out power for ten days and, the first day, made roads completely impassable due to fallen trees.)
One member of the staff texted me from a well-earned vacation in Florida to tell me she missed the beauty of snow. I bit my tongue. For me what is most poetic (at times) is not snow, but rather is the help of my fellow men and women. However I suppose that just makes me a crass capitalist. So be it. I’ve held a lot of jobs in my time, and “crass capitalist” is just one more feather in my bonnet.
After a brief panic, when I feared we’d have too many children, we started getting phone calls from parents in neighboring towns, where two-hour-delays were turning into all-day-cancellations of school, and heard more and more children would be staying home. In the end we only had eight. I decided I’d put them to work rolling snowballs, and we’d build an igloo.
But wouldn’t you just know it? As sticky as the snow was, it simply refused to roll good snowballs. Heck if I can figure out the science involved, but they crumbled to pieces, and it put me in a bad position. As a crass capitalist I’d plotted to put the innocent children to work as serfs, but, as I had foolishly promised them an igloo, it turned out I had to do all the work, with a snow shovel. Apparently I am not only a crass capitalist, but also a stupid capitalist, because, if there was a serf in the situation, it was me.
In any case, when offered a shovel-ready-job I actually know how to handle a shovel, (unlike an outgoing president I will not flatter by naming, who made a hilarity of a “photo-op” where he actually held a shovel, and made it painfully obvious he was uncertain of which end to use.) Also my creative juices get flowing when building any sort of sand castle, though tides (and thaws) have erased all my majestic artworks. I had to deal with an interruption or two, but was getting exercise better than any gym can provide. The interruptions were two distractions.
The first was the kids. I sort of forgot my job was not building an igloo, and rather was caring for kids, so the children felt it was only incumbent on them to dent my consciousness by knocking down the igloo as fast as I could build it. This forced me to pause, and be a guru giving a spiritual discourse on the difference between “Makers” and “Breakers.” Even after this highly spiritual lecture I faced a problem, because the children then knocked the walls down being “helpful”, and then trampled the bits of fallen wall down inside the igloo to such a degree that the floor of the igloo was rising nearly as fast as the walls. My solution was to kick the children out as I went in, and, by cutting sections of the inner floor and using then as blocks for the wall, we soon had a lower floor, and a higher wall, and a nearly completed igloo.
The second distraction had nothing to to do with snow or winter, but instead had to do with a subject important to children, namely “being first.”
Of course, we have long attempted to teach children it isn’t always best to be first, but kids tend to jam the doorways irregardless, rather than being prim and proper gentlemen and gentleladies, saying, “After you, Alphonse.” In fact, when the roof of the igloo was nearly closed, there was such a battle about who was going to be first to stick their head out the small, remaining hole in the roof, they collapsed part of the roof.
My muscles were starting to ache at that point, so I hope I can be forgiven for not giving any sort of spiritual discourse beyond this one: “Grrrrr.” The kids caught my drift, and gave me some space to finish the roof, but I was thinking maybe I should have been more articulate and poetic than “Grrrr.” Lord Jesus would have said something far more profound than “Grrrr,” something like, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” and I confess I was feeling a bit guilty that the best I could manage was, “Grrrr.” And just then a member of my staff pointed out an amazing, second distraction.
One of the most awful and greedy pests in my springtime garden is a worm called the “cutworm.” It is especially annoying because it is so wasteful. All it takes of your plant is one bite, but it is at the very bottom of the stem, and then, “timber!” The entire plant topples over and dies. What a waste!
In actual fact the cutworm is not seen at the surface after committing his crime, as is shown in the wonderful picture above. (Photo credit: The University of Rhode Island.) You have to dig about in the dirt around your destroyed plant to find the culprit. And, after you locate the worm, you are glad to crush the %#@&, *%@#% @*%$$@.
I suppose cutworms have their place in the bigger picture of the Creator’s scheme, (called “ecology”,) but, begging the Creator’s pardon, I am not fond of them or their “place in ecology”. They are in some ways the epitome of an attitude that thinks, “The first will be first.” They are in such an immoral hurry they only take one bite, before they duck back down to hide in the dirt. There is some sort of ecological niche for this wasteful strategy. It must pay off, if you are a worm, but, most of the time, I am not a worm.
In any case, I am glad to be able to tell you that sometimes it does not pay for a greedy cutworm, eager to be first, to be first. They can get fooled by a January Thaw. They think they are climbing up through April’s chilled soil, but actually it is January’s wet snow. Then, when they arrive at the surface, they look around for green shoots to bite, but there is nothing to eat. They have made a mistake, and are doomed.
I suppose I should feel sorry for the poor, itty bitty cutworms. I should curse Global Warming, caused by crass capitalists, for depleting the population of cutworms by awaking them too early. Indeed, cutworms perhaps should now be called an “endangered species” and protected.
However, as a crass capitalist, when a member of my staff pointed out that, on the surface of the new-fallen snow, there were cutworms, my response was not politically correct. Rather it was, “Bwah-ha-ha-ha! It serves you right, you stupid, little, selfish cutworms!” And, to confess how sinful I am, I was glad, exceedingly GLAD, that the desire-to-be-first killed those greedy cutworms, and next spring’s garden may be an be ecology devoid of such stinking, little killers.
Of course, I did not mention this to the children. They should be protected from the rabid foaming of a crass capitalist. Instead I merely competed the igloo by lunchtime.
At this point I figured my shift was done. I went indoors as the children ate lunch, and was amazed (as I usually am) by the trickery of my staff, who had the place completely silent, by instituting a who-can-be-quiet-the-longest competition. Then, as the children settled down to nap, I eyed the clock and, at exactly 12:30, headed home for chicken noodle soup and a nap of my own.
However my siesta was interrupted by the fact a close and elderly friend chose just then to drop dead shoveling a path to his woodpile. My wife, and other loving and caring women, hustled to console the man’s beautiful wife, and I went back to the Childcare to watch the kids. As I watched them I did not oppress them with my grief. For, though I will surely miss my good friend, I was wryly congratulating him on an excellent exit, and didn’t feel all that much grief.
Just last Sunday, after church, I was prodding the old fellow with questions, hoping for a good tale, and I got one. He spoke of days when the population of the town was not 5500, but 800, and everyone, even the chief of police, was in bed by nine. This meant a young hotrodder could drive his vehicle at politically-incorrect speeds without much worry of hurting anyone but himself, testing his reflexes and ability. While coming through the center of town at an unspecified speed he had noted that there is a slight rise in the road, which one usually does not notice, but which, under certain conditions, can allow a car to be briefly airborne.
I crossed the same stretch of highway tonight, with temperatures dropping below freezing and in a drizzle of freezing mist, at around fifteen miles an hour. To me it seems incredible one could be airborne at such a place, but I did note there is a slight rise in the highway. I will take my old friend at his word: It is possible to be airborne through the center of town.
In the case of this sort of scientific experiment, “peer review” would involve me replicating the experiments of a hotrodder of the 1950’s. I might be persuaded to try it, but unfortunately our police chief doesn’t go to bed at nine any more.
In like manner, my old friend did all sorts of other experiments that amazed me. In like manner, they cannot be scientifically replicated. He was one of a kind, as unique as a snowflake.
A day will come when we all must depart, and political correctness will not matter a hill of beans. Accepting that grim fact, where would you chose to die? Grunting during sex? Grunting on a toilet? In a hospital bed with tubes in your arms?
I’d rather die like my old friend. I want my boots on. I want to be out doors, in my own driveway, holding a shovel, looking at plastered trees: