The Snow Blower

The following is one of my favorite stories from my “Laments of the Gardener’s Husband” series.  I wrote the series several years ago to document the life of a man who hates gardening himself but by a twist of fate managed to fall in love with a woman who loves it.

I wrote the articles, thinking to sell them to a gardening magazine at some point, only to realize that there were absolutely no magazines that met the necessary criteria.  In other words, there was simply no market for them.

This particular article is not deeply about gardening per se, but it does fit the season and it did fit the spirit of the other articles.  Everything from the series are based on true experiences, with only a little poetic license thrown in.

Anyway, read and enjoy


The Snow Blower

Snow is beautiful, magical thing. When I awoke one morning last December after our first significant snowfall of the season, I stood at the window, mesmerized by it. It covered all of the ugly, brown death of autumn with the cleanest possible white coat. The neighborhood sparkled with white crystals. It was captivating, and the windy game the weather played with the still falling flakes was entrancing.

“Time to try out your new snow blower,” exclaimed my wife enthusiastically.


I immensely enjoy the spectacle of the great outdoors of winter so long as I can enjoy it from within the warm confines of the great indoors. Going outside, you see, rather spoils the effect, as it is invariably cold out there. As far as I am concerned, going outdoors in the wintertime is one of those unavoidable evils–a kind of a chilly channel through which one must travel to get from one furnace-embraced haven to another.

As a corollary to this, which probably does not require any further elaboration, I have never been big on shoveling snow. Thus, that autumn my wife and I had researched and purchased the best snow blower we could afford. It was an impressive thing, with horsepower that would be the envy of the neighborhood. Its most important feature, however, was that it would considerably cut down on the amount of time that I would have to spend outside.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t really exuberant about having to try the thing out that morning because it looked, as I said before, cold out there.

Still, it had to be done, so I went out, did the job, came in, and hung my wet clothes down the basement.

“So, how’d it go?” asked my wife.

“Great,” I replied. “Much better than shoveling.”

And it had been much better than shoveling. It got me inside in half the time that shoveling would have taken, and that had to be a good thing.

Calling it “great” however may have been a bit of a stretch, as I had experienced a couple of small difficulties with the process.

The first problem I had was a failure to realize that snow blowers, in fact, blow snow. While this seems obvious, what wasn’t obvious to me is the snow blowers are not always very particular about where all of the snow goes.

On a windy day in the middle of a storm, the snow tended to blow everywhere, including, unfortunately, my face.

It was singularly uncomfortable experience, and not one that I had anticipated in any way. Snow blowers have a directional nozzle that ostensibly directs the snow in the path that you want it to go. Snow, for those in the South lucky enough to be ignorant of its basic properties, is composed of all kinds of icy, bitter-cold little flakes. These flakes are not designed by nature to be aerodynamic, and while the snow blower suggested that most of them go in one direction, a strong wind can be quite persuasive and will ultimately convince a significant number of them to go in a direction totally other.

And when the direction in which the wind is blowing is toward yourself, the result is that your face will instantly be covered with wave upon wave of miserably bitter, wet, cold, white powder. You breathe it. You spit it out. You squint into it and try to keep your eyeballs from freezing. It is so cold that it causes your forehead to throb and pulsate in pain.

And there isn’t any way to avoid it. Driveways tend to go in only one of two directions, and, as the space between homes in a small suburban neighborhood can be narrow, a little wind tunnel invariably forms between them.

This means that, no matter what I did, half of the time I felt like someone was dumping gallon upon gallon of Slurpee onto my face.

This was only the first difficulty I encountered. Another difficulty arose from the very nature of powerful snow blowers. Much of the snow that the blower does manage persuade to go in the desired direction tends to go into that direction with a single-minded force. This can be a good thing if you know how to direct the flow. Should, however, you foolishly choose to direct the flow at your neighbor’s house (a natural enough inclination as there are areas where there really isn’t too many other spots to direct it), the snow tends to stick and clump upon your neighbor’s vinyl siding.

After I was finished, the neighbor’s house looked like someone had taken a giant tube of white toothpaste and gobbed it up along the side.

A third difficulty was that, for various reasons (mostly lack of foresight), I ended up directing the snow blower’s snow stream over regions that I had previously cleared. I did this simply because there was no other direction for me to target the stuff. This required me to go over some areas twice, and was thus counter-productive to my goal of getting back inside as quickly as possible.

By the time I was done, however, the driveway was beautifully free of snow.

When I reentered the house, my wife, who was waiting for me at the door, took one look at me, started to laugh, and sent me down the basement next to the cat litter to change out of my clothes. I was so coated with snow that I looked, she explained, like the Abominable Snowman. I think abominable is something of an exaggeration, but I could certainly accept that I looked like the Very Disgruntled and Uncomfortable Snowman.

And because it was still snowing, and because I am a very slow learner, I had the exact same experience a couple of hours later.

So, as a public service, I pass along the following lessons to those who are in that infinitesimally small percentage of people who will actually read these words at a time when they can actually do them some good.

First, when you use a snow blower, wear a ski mask. Yes, I know that they look stupid. Trust me on this.

Second, wear a nylon or leather coat. Cloth coats may be warm but they are snow magnets and will subject you to ridicule.

Third, when you are between two houses, aim your snow nozzle just “slightly” toward the nearest driveway edge. The snow will land safely on where the grass would be if it weren’t covered by snow, and your neighbor’s house will not look like it was spat upon by a giant with deficient oral hygiene.

Fourth, start from the center of the driveway and work outward. It’s counterintuitive, but it gets you back inside faster.

Fifth, move to Florida, so you can relax and not have to worry about the first four lessons.