Six years later, the driveway still needs plowing
In the summer, my neighbor, Dan, has the perfect lawn.
Manicured, uniformly green, a tasteful arrangement of flowers around the towering pine in the center of the yard.
Mower tracks that remind you of a major league infield.
In the winter, Dan’s driveway is the envy of the neighborhood.
After years of driving past it on the way to my house I still marvel at how the walls of snow on either side of his driveway look like expertly hung drywall. He is careful to make certain his snowblower leaves evenly spaced parallel snow lines on the asphalt. Absent are mounds of ice or snow. He has never known the agony of a berm.
I’ve watched Dan operate his red snowblower. He moves quickly and confidently, deftly working the controls, cranking the gizmo to position the auger just so – its like watching River Dance performed with a snowthrower.
Last weekend, with the cold rain soaking through my coat, through my sweatshirt and through my T-shirt, I stood up, took a break from my work and looked over at Dan’s driveway.
I put down my channel lock pliers, the kitchen shears and the steak knife. I put the screwdrivers on the railing of the deck and stretched my back, which was now stiff and sore from being hunched over for a full hour.
I’ve lived in the Tahoe-Truckee area for six years this week, it occurred to me.
That’s a long time in the mountains.
Long enough to see quite a few fair-weather people come and go.
Long enough to figure out how to avoid ski or summer traffic.
Long enough to be on my second snowblower.
I looked down at the new (used) stalled Snapper; the one Rebecca and I had just purchased a few weeks ago. It’s so much better than the last one.
For example, this one doesn’t shoot fire out the side. Nor does the left wheel fall off when you make a right turn. You don’t have to simultaneously operate the throttle and choke on this one with a gasoline-soaked glove.
Six years is about long enough to have given up on wood chopping and splitter renting. Now it’s wood delivery and the first wave of pellet stove brochures.
But I’ll tell you how long six years isn’t.
Not quite long enough for a person to learn not to leave the smelly dog blanket on the front porch (instead of putting it in the washer as he fully intended to do) where it can be snowed upon.
Not long enough at all.
It’s amazing how tightly the 10-horsepower Snapper, despite its advancing age, wrapped that damn blanket around the snowblower blades.
When I looked up, I saw the bluish glow coming from Dan’s living room. Watching the game, no doubt. Probably looking out his window once in a while and smiling proudly at the sight of his exquisitely shaped snowless driveway.
I returned to the task at hand, rasping knuckles and wishing I’d bought sharper steak knives.
Today, a week or so later, it is snowing mightily.
I look out at the deepening layer on my driveway and wince, like a seared moth, trying not to think about what surprises lay in wait.
Eric Henry is publisher of the Tahoe World and Sierra Sun. His writing gets jammed, like a smelly, wet, dog-fur covered sleeping bag in the business end of a snowblower, on these pages from time to time.
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