Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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Moaning ’Til the Plows Come Home

there’s no good alternative to a snow plow ... or is there?

Mike Paulus

Those of us who grew up here in Wisconsin know the legends by heart. And we know that they are true. 

Each winter, after the holidays, after the haze of family gatherings and poor eating habits has worn away, once we’ve awoken from our nog-based stupor to find ourselves in January ... it happens. A magical, dark combination of winter weather and social media swirls down upon us – and suddenly – we become experts on municipal snow removal. Each of us, in our own special way, becomes a certified genius in the mystical field of urban road plowing. 

It is our birthright as Wisconsinites. It is a legacy we are obsessed with preserving. And of course, it is a subject most of us know absolutely nothing about. But who cares about experience and expertise when you’ve got Facebook and a healthy dose of unearned confidence? Not us. 

We complain about our street not getting cleared, and then we complain after the plow goes by and ... clears our street. And usually, it comes down to the dreaded snowbank at the end of the driveway.

People who get upset by this particular snowbank need to ratchet it down a notch or ten. We live in a place where snow falls from the sky each and every year, and there isn’t much we can do about it until I invent my weather control machine and start charging you for Mike’s Wintertime Sunshine.

Listen, I understand how hard it is to remove this blockade of snow at the end of your driveway. On a non-hilarious note, if you are physically unable to clear all that snow on your own, and your car is trapped, it can seriously hobble your ability to do important activities like “getting to work” or “getting to the hospital” or “getting to Kwik Trip to buy a cheddar-filled corndog and eat it in the parking lot while listening to old mix CDs from college.”

However, I’m not sure how much we can expect a snowplow to do. There isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room in basic street-plowing strategies, and the physics involved is kind of stubborn. Let’s resolve to be more reasonable. 

That said, and hear me out, I think the city should sell all of its snowplow attachments and buy (or build) dump truck-mounted flamethrowers. Then we can simply vaporize our unwanted snow, allowing it to gently float away on a soft winter breeze only to refreeze into sleet and fall on some other city, hopefully in Michigan. 

Think of it: No more snowbanks. No more trapped cars. And no more armchair snowplow experts. 

I’m not crazy, here. On Jan. 22, 1948, the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts (a large and perfectly legitimate US city) wrote a letter to the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (a large and perfectly legitimate technical college), asking him to task MIT scientists with building anti-snow flamethrowers.* Allow me to quote Bostonian mayor of the past James Curley:

“I am very desirous that the Institute of Technology have a competent group of engineers make an immediate study as to the ways and means of removing the huge accumulation [of snow] not only in Boston, but throughout the entire state, whether it by the use of flame throwers or chemicals or otherwise ...”

Now, the fact that the City of Eau Claire is NOT currently blasting snow into a fiery oblivion with government-issue flamethrowers – sixty years after this letter was typed by a mayoral aid – can only mean one thing. 

They are still working it. 

Though it saddens me to see so much snow just sitting there un-vaporized, I am not discouraged. Snow-busting technology is a crucial area of research, and I can only assume the smarties at MIT are busy perfecting it. I applaud their silent diligence. And I hope they are also developing snow-destroying lasers for both home and municipal use.

In the meantime, short of this kick-ass technology becoming a reality, you people need to plug your talkin’ hole and just deal with the damn snow. If you see snow-locked neighbors in need of shoveling assistance, by all means, assist. If we stand together – with or without flamethrowers – surely we can overcome the Frosty Menace. 

Surely, we can prevail.


*And I know this letter is real because I saw a picture of it on the internet. Here it is in Popular Science (a large and perfectly legitimate magazine).

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.