We Use Shovels Here

snowblowers are for people with no sense of place

Mike Paulus, design by Serena Wagner

Well, it took a while, but the Chippewa Valley has finally gotten what I consider to be real shovelin’ snow. That is to say, we’ve finally gotten snow that probably won’t melt on its own within a day or two, excusing me from having to physically remove it from my driveway. The most recent “snow event,” as the city is fond of saying, even involved multiple shovelings in one day. And thus, as far as I’m concerned, the winter of 2016 is officially Winter.

Before I go much further with the wittily constructed sentences, let’s reflect for a moment on something many of you readers probably don’t realize. I have horrendous posture. It’s pretty bad. Unspeakably bad. I’m the hideous example your grade school teachers warned you about. When I walk down the street, mothers whack their slouching sons and daughters between the shoulder blades and point at me, saying, “Is that how you want to end up looking? Like Mike Paulus? Incredible hair but a bad back? No? Then stand up straight, Short Stack!”

Traditionally, outside of my wedding photos, this hasn’t been much of a problem. Sure, I get headaches from time to time as I try to hold aloft my giant head. Sometimes I need to lie down on the hard floor to stretch out my spine and mutter desperate prayers that my increasingly heavy son won’t think it’s a-body-slammin’ time. But I don’t plan on really worrying about my posture until I “throw my back out,” whatever that means. What’s the worst that could happen?

Anyway, poor joint and muscle health aside, I honestly feel like my, um, outside-of-the-box posture has made me an effective snow shoveler because it’s allowed me to hone some fantastic techniques – my own shovel-fu, if you will. Usually, after a blustery night of snowfall, I leap from bed in the morning, and the following shenanigans ensue.

I fling open the front door and dive through it, headfirst, grabbing my shovel off the front step as I fly by, screaming Hyaaaaaaah! with a mingled mix of lust and rage blasting from my shining eyes. Once I clear the step (in midair), I tuck into a forward summersault then straighten out, thrusting my trusty shovel frontwards. The metal hits the concrete, and my momentum pushes the shovel down the length of the front walk, spraying sparks, clearing the entire thing in a single, Cirque du Soleil-esque swoop, ending in a nimble forward flip onto the sidewalk.

Yes, when it comes to snow removal, I prefer to go big.

I believe the biggest obstacle between me and mechanical snow-moving is Wisconsin pride. And the price tag. But mostly the pride thing.

Why have I developed such thrilling and imaginary antics? Because in my mind, a true Wisconsinite shovels. My dad once offered me a little snowblower, but I refused it on principle. While snowblowers are truly wonderful machinery, they’re just not manly enough. Not Midwestern enough. Plus, the exercise and the satisfaction of a clean sidewalk is hard to beat, am I right? Stop laughing.

It’s true. I believe the biggest obstacle between me and mechanical snow-moving is Wisconsin pride. And the price tag. But mostly the pride thing.

I’m not sure why, but I seem to hear more and more people complaining about the cold weather and the snow. What used to be a pretty snowfall is now a pain in the ass. Over the past five years or so, Eau Claire seemed to be embracing winter with gusto. But now I’m wondering if that embrace has become more of an awkward hug out of obligation.

I’m sorry, but if you live around here, you should have a favorite kind of snow shovel. Seriously, you should have a preferred style of handle and a preference for the shape and size of the, you know ... that part that shovels the snow. I’m sure some people have certain limitations preventing them from shoveling, opting instead for some of the fine options provided by the consumer snowblowing industry. For instance, people without arms. But in general, if you haven’t spent much time with a snow shovel out there in the fluffy, frozen trenches, you really haven’t earned your Sconnie stripes.

Sure, there are plenty of quintessential experiences out there capable of converting you into a true Wisconsin native, but it snows here, and the hands-on dealing with that snow is important. It keeps you connected to the land. It makes you stronger.

It makes you one of us.

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