My reflections of snow shoveling take me back to when I was a little boy. I spent most of my life on a farm in the Midwestern United States. Those old farm houses had bedrooms upstairs, you slept under quilts six inches deep. Almost every year snow would become more than plentiful. This is one of the windiest area on the globe, the snow just keeps moving.
Those living in a rural community have a more personal relationship with snow and their trusty snow shovel than city dwellers. The wind always brings new snow to shovel when you live out of the country.
In the quiet peaceful past, winter travelers used the sleigh or cutter. They traveled quietly over the snow. There was not much need for them to carry snow shovels in the northern states in those early days. That all changed when sleighs and cutters went the way of the One-hoss shay. Automobiles brought an end to those magical days of gliding across snow. The snow shovel became a tool that everyone had to have if they ever left their house in winter and traveled by car.
My grandpa would sometimes take out the big old grain shovel to move snow faster. He would dig the sleigh part way from the snowdrift, and break the runners free. After he gets the horses hitched to the sleigh, he was ready to travel just about anywhere, roads or no roads.
I remember the first time I tried to move snow with that big old grain scoop, That old steel scoop shovel was heavier than the snow you could get into it. I couldn’t even lift the shovel with no snow in it, I had to drag it away to a different location and dump the snow out. If the temperature was just right, snow would stick to that shovel, you had to whack it on the frozen ground to loosen the snow from it. I remember grandpa saying, “you best go get the little shovel out of the coal shed.”
I don’t think he wanted me to lose any interest in what could become a lifetime of snow shoveling. We kids were taught to pitch in and help at an early age. My grandpa might have been faking his appreciation for my help but he made me feel good being right beside him anyhow.
Most of the people here in the Great Plains have had snow shovels in the hands of one time or the other. During the blizzard of 1888 people even had to shovel the trains out of huge snowdrifts. Some towns were running out food and fuel. Everyone felt obliged to volunteer their services to get the trains free to move again. Shoveling a train out of snowdrifts would certainly have been a very memorable experience for those involved.
There was a time when automobile numbers were growing faster than area roads could be improved. Those who traveled by car in winter spent just about as much snow shoveling time, as driving time. When the ice was safe grandpa and grandma always took a shortcut across the lake with the sleigh when they went to town. The lake was also much smoother ride than the road full of snowdrifts.
It was impossible to find enough snow shovels or people to use them in the whole county to keep the roads open. Many hours were spent shoveling before snow removal equipment became adequate to keep the roads clear. Neighbors got together and planned for a day of snow shoveling, just so they could take the cream and eggs to town to trade for basic groceries that they needed.
It had to be maddening, very discouraging, after shoveling snow all day and not manage to get the road open enough to make that needed trip to town. They would all go to bed exhausted and sore from shoveling snow all day and being out of the cold. Many would pray not to be awakened by the usual wind blowing outside. Wind from any direction would tell them that all of their shoveling the day before had been done in vane. The wind would not have to blow for very long before it drifted all of the roads closed again and they all had to start over with their shovels