It's April in New Jersey, keep the snow blower handy
By Anthony Buccino
When cherry blossoms bloom in Belleville Park, it’s time to put away the snow blower. But this year, things have changed.
When cherry blossoms bloom in Belleville Park, it’s time to put away the snow blower. Usually by this time of April, in Belleville and Nutley, we watch the falling cherry blossoms and think, oh, they’re like little pink snowflakes. But this year, things have changed. We predict snow falling just once more.
Can anyone blame us? It seems like we’ve endured the winter of “Dr. Zhivago” here in the Northeast. Don’t bother me with the old, “We’ve had worse winters with more snow.”
That’s all ancient history. What matters is right here, right now. Will it snow again before the May flowers bloom?
This was the winter we finally made up our mind that we were going to do it. Yup, this was going to be the year of the snow blower for us. Too bad we dallied when we should have dillied. We got hit with the first snow storm before we made it to the store. As soon as we recovered from shoveling, and clearing our driveway apron a few times, we headed to the nearby big box store.
It was easy to spot the snow blower section. It was the rows of empty racks with little picture cards of what snow blowers would look like if they had any in stock. Stealthily, we eavesdropped as the man in the orange apron explained to a befuddled snow-shoveler the subtle differences between the petite, sissy snow throwers, and the humongous, super-charged blowers that will toss snow over your rooftop onto the path of that annoying neighbor so he’ll think it’s still snowing.
As soon as that dolt shuffled off, it was our turn to be tutored. The man in the orange apron patiently went through the differences between the wimpy and the walloping snow movers.
You got your sizes: 21-inches, 24-inches, 28-inches, 30-inches. You got your stages: Single-stage, gas-quick, chute snow blower; two-stage, electric-start gas, and three-stage, electric-start gas. You got your accessories: heated handle, shear pin kit, clean-out spade tool, silicone lubricant, snow blower cover, engine additive – fuel stabilizer, oil – synthetic, gasoline, and a heavy-duty, floor-protective mat.
And while we actually began to understand what he was saying, in the end, there were none in the store. He suggested we order online.
We hadn’t been that excited tracking a delivery in 33 years. This time they delivered it to our door. The crates go to a local service shop for assembly, and then delivery to eager new parents, er, owners. We have to say the guy was thorough explaining everything from the forward speeds, reverse, chute direction, on-off switch, pump-primer, pull cord, and where the extra shear pins were for when our big blade tries to throw the ice block of our newspaper.
Dang. We couldn’t wait for it to snow. And so it snowed.
Dang. We couldn’t wait for it to stop snowing.
For years, whenever it snowed, we’d wait until our neighbor finished snow blowing his walks, then he’d hand it off, still running. He moved down the Shore last year, and we couldn’t really expect him to bring his snow blower up, and clear the snow for the new owner, now, could we? They were nice neighbors, but, apparently, not that nice.
The perception is that a snow blower makes clearing snow easy and fun. And you’ll be so popular with your neighbors when you do their walks because, no, you’re not a nice guy, you haven’t figured how to stop, and turn around, so you go all the way around the block.
The reality is that it’s more like plowing the south 40 acres behind an ornery mule. It’s great on a straight run, but try turning that baby, or backing up, or squeaking past the cars parked in the driveway. Not to mention the trudge across the deep snow to the storage shed to get out a shovel to clear out the doorway to get the snow blower out to start it. Yikes.
And don’t forget the fun clearing the driveway apron over and over with each pass of the town plow. We’re sure the plows carry an additive that makes apron snow heavier, colder and wetter than real snow anywhere else.
After several snow falls, we’d worn a path through the snow to the shed. Our technique in clearing apron snow has been nominated for an award for our precision directing the chute to toss across our cleared walk, and create a four-foot decorative berm on our lawn.
Sure, we’ve had worse winters. One winter started so early the autumn leaves weren’t cleared until March along with the wooden-stick deer and Santa ornaments on our lawn. That was then. This is now. When this last spring snow falls, we’ll be right over to do your walk. As soon as we remember how to start this thing.
First published April 2014, in Write Side of 50 as Hold the Flowers. It Might Snow.
Copyright © 2014 by Anthony Buccino
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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