Each year, my wife and I join son, Jeff, and my niece and her husband for our Christmas celebration.
This past year we found that impossible because of various complications. In fact, it was the weekend before Lent when we were finally able to get together.
We christened our new holiday as “MardiGrasmas.”
There was snow on the ground, which we haven’t been able to claim on many past Christmas Days. Some of us wore festive Christmas clothing, Jeff brought a decorated tree, and the candles in our windows were brightly shining.
We exchanged gifts — the presents had been wrapped and ready for almost three months. Some of them were a surprise to the giver, as well as to the givee.
Some of our Christmas traditions might have been tweaked a little, but were still there. It wasn’t exactly the usual Christmas Day menu. The roast beef was replaced by lasagna; some of the Christmas Day delicacies were missing; egg nog was pushed aside for a cold beer.
The Christmas cookie tray was on the table and was loaded as usual, but instead of Santas, Christmas trees, bells, angels, and gingerbread men, there were cookies shaped as hot peppers, alligators, maps of the state of New Orleans and the fleur de lis.
We are the same family group that gets together at the end of June in many years to celebrate Leon Day,* and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if our recent celebration was the first of a new observance for our little family circle.
* (In case you didn’t remember, Leon is Noel spelled backwards, and Leon Day is observed each year to remind those who want the rest of the world to remember that Christmas Day is only six months away).
Getting Rid of All That Snow!
Last week I wrote about listening to my grandparents’ and my father’s stories of the winters they remembered, but one thing I don’t remember discussing with them was snowplows.
Looking into the history of snowplows, I discovered that there was a stretch of time in American history when getting rid of snow was no great concern.
In winter, horse-drawn carts and coaches traded in their wheels for runners — the more packed the snow the better. To keep the roads in optimal snowy condition, snow was packed and flattened with huge, horse-drawn “snow-rollers”.
The first patents for snowplows were issued in the 1840s. The earliest versions of snowplows were powered by horses, and the wedge-type blades were made of wood.
One of the first uses of snowplows on city streets was in Milwaukee in 1862. The plow was attached to a cart pulled by a team of horses through snow-clogged streets.
One early inventor of snowplows was Carl Frink of Clayton, N.Y. His company, Frink Snowplows, was founded in 1920 and still exists today.
I suspect the wooden snow pushers that my grandfather made when my brother, sister and I were growing up in the ‘40s were inspired by those wooden plows attached to horse-drawn wagons and sleighs around the turn of the century.
The snow removal tool that most of us are most familiar with — the “Get out there and clear off the sidewalk” folks — is the snow shovel.
More than 100 patents have been issued for snow shovel designs since the 1870s.
One of the first designs that hit upon the “scrape and scoop” combination was invented in 1889 by a woman named Lydia Fairweather – and that was her real name. The first patent for a lighter, plastic snow shovel was granted in 1939 to Robert A. Smith.
If you want to do some shoveling and think that a snow shovel is a snow shovel — think again. There are scoopers, and pushers, metal and plastic; and shovels that both scoop and push. There are wide shovels, extra-wide shovels and narrow shovels.
There are shovels with sharp, jagged teeth, and big he-man shovels; coal shovels, barn shovels, folding shovels and car snow shovels. You can find snow shovels with wheels, rolling snow shovels and yes, electric snow shovels.
Some snow shovels come with ergonomic shafts. The shaft is the part of the shovel between the blade — which scoops or pushes — and the handle, which is where you grip the shovel.
The word ergonomic, which may be unfamiliar to you, in this use means that the shaft is strategically bent for easier lifting. If the shaft of your shovel is long and straight it is called a dog-leg shaft.
When I was searching for information on snow shovels, I discovered the Wovel. This contraption is a large, wide snow shovel/scraper which is attached to the shaft, handle and one large wheel, and may be the ultimate in the snow shoveler’s world.
This is how the Wovel works — As you push, the shovel gathers the snow, lifts it, and then throws it where you want it. And there’s no lifting on your part — and, best of all, no backache.
There’s plenty of snow out there, and just reading all that information you just read probably won’t move a flake of it. So go grab your shovel, whether it’s a scooper or a pusher, and get out there.
And remember, shovel frequently before the snow gets too deep and too heavy; dress warmly and bend your knees; don’t twist your back; lift small quantities and throw only as far as necessary; rest frequently and stop when you get tired.
Or better yet, let a much younger person do the shoveling, and watch from inside the window.
Meanwhile, enjoy watching it snow.
Here’s What They Said:
Groucho: “She got her good looks from her father — he’s a plastic surgeon.” And, “Whoever named it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.”
Calvin Coolidge: “Whenever I indulge my sense of humor, it gets me in trouble.”
Have a good week.
… Roy Hodge