Boomer Grandpa: I gave a lesson in Snow-shoveling 101

February 21, 2019

My white picket fence on the south side of my driveway has disappeared. It nicely blends in with the mounds of snow.

I no longer can glance out my front window and see my mailbox. Even if my mailbox flag is up, I have to guess if the mail carrier has come. The snow is above it.

It’s been a brutal month around here, winter-wise. I know one thing. I picked the right year to buy a new snow blower. My new machine had some issues right off the bat when a cable broke a minute into its first use. I guess they don’t make them like they used to, but it has been great to have.

When you are semi-retired, you don’t have to work to get your driveway and sidewalk clear of snow immediately before or after work. You can have that cup of coffee, plan your attack and take time to dress warmly for the impending battle. I enjoy the challenge of winter.

One day last week after snow blowing, there was still follow-up detail work needed. As I was finishing shoveling my sidewalk, I saw a young lad knocking on my neighbor’s door. When he saw me he walked over and told me he was looking for work.

Now this kid had no gloves, no hat, no coat, and tennis shoes on. He did have a pullover hoodie on. He said he was not cold and you know what, the kid didn’t look cold. He told me he was bored and didn’t want to sit home and play computer games all day. School had been cancelled.

He introduced himself confidently and said he was a fifth-grader. I was impressed. However, as we stood there getting to know each other, it was 23 degrees with an 8-degree wind chill factor as the wind had a neighbor’s flag blowing straight out.

I knew my neighbor was gone so I told him we would go across the street and do some work, but first I needed to get him some gloves. I asked him to come with me and we walked up the deck stairs to my sliding door.

I asked him to step in and he was hesitant. Smart kid. I told him I would get him a pair of gloves to use and then we would head back outside. I suggested he step in briefly to warm up, so he did.

My wife greeted me and my new hired hand. We talked briefly, outfitted him with a pair of gloves and went back into the elements. He asked me if I had an extra snow shovel and I think he was a little surprised I did.

I have two shovels in the back of my truck and two in my garage along with two ice chippers. Over the years you prepare yourself for the winter fight. Having enough equipment is important.

I asked him if his parents knew he was out and about. He told me that he had told his mom he was going to look for snow-shoveling work. Of course, this fifth-grader did have a phone. That is a safe thing when you are wandering around in the midst of a cold Minnesota winter day.

We walked over to work on my neighbor’s sidewalk and driveway, and I could tell immediately that this young man did not know how to shovel snow. A few shots of snow blowing back in his face made him realize he needed to make some adjustments.

He listened and took my snow shoveling 101 instructions well. Soon he was doing a good job clearing the full width of the sidewalk. However, I was apprehensive with this youngster not really being dressed for the weather. I called a halt to our work after 10 to 15 minutes. This kid was tough and never complained about the work or the cold.

I thanked him, paid him a few bucks and told him to stop and see me again. He asked if he could come back tomorrow. I told him to come back when we have another heavy snow, but did tell him to dress appropriately. He said that he had a coat.

The kid had initiative. Just the way he carried himself at this age gives me the impression that this young man will do well. You never know when an opportunity arises to teach a young man some work habits, give him some advice, be kind and thank him for a job well done. I told him to keep the gloves.

As Humphrey Bogart said in the 1942 classic “Casablanca,” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”