As if my glasses had been epoxied to my face, my tears froze at the junction of metal frames and cheeks. The dog, at first ridiculously joyous at the prospect of a walk and having no memory of her frigid outing in the yard moments before, sat still on the frozen pavement, licking her feet in an effort to warm them. Now, halfway through the planned exercise, her feet were too cold to continue. We had tried dog booties with as much success as we had trimming the cat’s nails. Luckily, she is a small dog, easily carried.
Overnight, a short freezing rain squall left an icy layer on everything. Expecting visitors later in the morning, I retrieved the sealed bucket of salt I use for such times and found the contents to be frozen into one salty lump. Not willing to spend the morning breaking large lumps of salt into small lumps of the same salt, I called my friends and told them that my lawyer — the well-known ambulance chaser who advertises his expertise on television — advised me to advise them that they are advised to avoid my driveway in order to avoid injury and, by the way, I’ve already called Joe just in case.
I changed my focus to the dog yard, which I knew to hold at least four piles of evidence of our mutts’ healthy digestive systems. As most know, frozen dog poop can be easier and cleaner to manage than the warm, mushy kind. But there is a downside that has to do with physics, specifically thermodynamics and gravity. You see, a pile of poop exiting a healthy mutt hits the ice-covered snow at about 101.5 degrees and immediately begins to melt its way out of sight. Later, chipping it out for disposal requires proper tools and safety equipment, starting with and most especially, OSHA-approved eye protection. A fast-moving, jagged shard of frozen dog poop launched off the poop-chipper at approximately the speed of light can undo all the work and money you invested in LASIK surgery as well as ruin your day. Also, a hazmat suit of the sort used by Servpro and Clean Harbors for tidying up after teenage sleepovers is advised for this project.
I learned — again — that removing the snow shovel from the truck bed is a sure way to summon a snowstorm. It works every year and every year I swear I’ll keep the shovel in the truck until Memorial Day. But there comes a time late in the winter when I’ve had enough. I want it to be over. I want the sound of small gas engines to come from mowers, not snowblowers. So I do the one thing that, to me, signals the end of cold and mud season: I put the shovels away. Wishful thinking gets in the way of the calendar’s reality every year and every year I get caught. It never surprises me, but neither is it welcome.
One of these years, in the very early spring, I’m going to be right. I’ll give all the shovels and scoops a good coat of silicone and put them up in the garage rafters, where they will stay, ignored, until the next fall. Then, after I’ve put away the rakes, trimmers and summer tools, the shovels can again take their places along the garage wall and by the porch, ready to do the job that this old man tires of.
Butch Lawson is an observer of life. He lives on Bailey Island.