Those of us who have lived in the New England climate all of our lives have earned the right to complain when winter seems too harsh or too long. Complaining makes for predictable conversation on snowy or frigid days and it has the potential to make life a little more bearable, if only for a few brief moments.
Of course, there are those of us who think that complaining about the weather is a useless activity that is only for whiners. Talking about the weather never changes the weather, and the less tolerant among those who accept winter as an inevitable fact of life, tell people like me to suck it up and shut up.
Their answer to my complaints is usually something like, "If you don't like it you can always move." But it is not that simple when this is your home and this is where you have grown roots. Some find a way to leave the area for the harshest winter months and move to places like Florida or the Caribbean.
There is no way to predict who will embrace winter and who will grow weary of it. It may also be true that many people do both, meaning they still don't like winter very much but they find a way to enjoy it while it lasts.
That means doing things like ice skating, playing hockey and skiing in all of its variations. As long as there is snow there are ways to make the best of winter and as long as a person has a home to go home to, winter can be almost enjoyable.
(Having a home may be no guarantee of comfort when winter temperatures remain bitterly cold for long periods of time. The price of fuel continues to rise at a rate that is nowhere the rate of increase of wages and that means a lot of northern climate people are going home to places where they can never afford to keep the thermostat above 60 degrees.)
Back to the snow. Although its occurrence may be hard to predict, it is a safe bet that we will experience at least a few snow storms of a foot or more of the white stuff. Snow is something that reminds us of our age. Snow is something that has the potential to cause pain and suffering. Young people have bodies that allow them to shovel snow and then sleep well at night.
After a certain age, shoveling snow is just a self-destructive activity. A person can easily strain muscles, aggravate an already time-ravaged back or put such a strain on their cardiovascular system that a heart attack or sudden death results. After a certain age, the arrival of a snow storm might be looked upon with the same kind of fear stirred up by the arrival of the grim reaper.
This is where Arthur Sicard, my hero, enters the scene. According to a snowblower web site, "Canadian inventor, Arthur Sicard invented the snowblower in 1925. The Montreal based inventor sold his first, 'Sicard Snow Remover Snowblower' to the nearby town of Outremont in 1927. The invention consisted of three sections; a four-wheel drive truck chassis and truck motor, the snow scooping section, and the snow blower with two adjustable chutes and separate motor. The snowblower allowed the driver to clear and throw snow over 90 feet away from the truck or directly into the back of the truck and it worked on hard, soft or packed snow."
It is the snowblower that allows me to uncouple the bodily decline of aging from the fear of the next snowstorm. As far as I am concerned, the snowblower is one of the greatest inventions of all time, right up there with the light bulb, the refrigerator and the chainsaw.
There were refinements to Sicard's invention and according to the web site Snowblower.com, "In the 1970s the first personal two-stroke snowblowers emerged, which were a boon to home and business owners living in areas that received significant snowfalls. The first models were developed by Gibsons and were called ‘Snow-Cannons.'" The largest engines in the '70s produced EIGHT horsepower, and grew to 11 horsepower in 80s. Today 13 horsepower is common."
Every time I use my snowblower I thank the machine, almost the way a religious person would thank God. Now that I know about Arthur Sicard he will become my winter God.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.