Anyone who knows me is well aware by now that me and old man winter are not on speaking terms. There’s no joy in this season of slush and salt and skidoo tracks for me.
Granted, growing up in rural Newfoundland, things were different. There were snowball fights, rips on the bog on the Bravo short-track, and proper places to dump the contents of your messy driveway. But not here, no sir.
If you’ve read this magazine through the course of the last five years, no doubt you’ll have heard me rant on the sorry state of snow-clearing in the capital city – how there’s just nowhere to put the unapologetically gross amount of snow, how there’s little reprieve from the ice slips and sogged-to-the-bone rain.
So my curses to the heavens with each approaching and passing snowfall go largely unnoticed this time of the year. I get it. The big man upstairs has enough things to worry about in the Christmas season and New Year, what with things like famine, war, genocide and the rest. The rantings and ravings of a young feller so salty his steps could clear a skating rink should be no concern to the big cheese.
So winter is here again, set in early by my taste. We’ve been dumped by 50-60 cm (uneducated guess) of snow already on the Avalon, and each flake is an insult that I’ll never get revenge for. Out I’d tramp – rubber boots that chew up and spit out socks, two shovels, a winter coat with a split in the side I’m too lazy to repair, and my trusty scoop that has seen one too many winters.
Second snowfall – after ‘the big one’ – crack goes the scoop. Big red was done, here in the year of our lord 2018. She had seen many a snowfall and blizzard and served me well in her old age.
But now I still had a driveway to clear, a narrow two car driveway in the east end of St. John’s that was big enough to store mine and the wife’s vehicles, but too narrow to accommodate a snowblower – a poor design in hindsight.
It’s a pickle, and a backbreaking one this time of year. So the scoop was out, the snow was turning to ice boulders, and I had to get to work. The curses were coming Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift style. What to do? To the rescue comes my neighbour, as if he were John Wayne in an old time Spaghetti Western.
“You looks like you could use some help,” he says with a grin, knowing full well my disdain for the season. “I’d love ya for it,” I reply, clearly flustered and in needing of a saviour. And save he did, with a snowblower that was passed down from a family member. Nothing fancy or extravagant, but it got the job done.
Paying it Forward
When it was done and the driveway was presentable enough, I approached my nameless neighbour with thanks and appreciations, offering to buy gas or gifts of repayment. I was half embarrassed and not overly comfortable or experienced in accepting help.
“I’m just paying it forward he said,” explaining that, for years, he was one of the lone no-snowblower holdouts on the block. It was his turn to give back for all the years someone gave to him the gift of a clear driveway.
And there it is, good natured holiday spirit, Newfoundland giving and hospitality all wrapped up into one. The perfect package, I’d say.
I’ll go on hating winter, despising “snow days” and waiting patiently for my skyward curses to be answered.
But it’s good to know that there’s still Good Samaritans out there, paying it forward for the old salts like me.
Dillon Collins, The Herald’s Staff Writer, can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org