Today, I Shoveled Snow

Here’s another story that I first wrote several years ago. I thought it was worth reposting in view of this winter’s weather. Enjoy!

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow…” RW Emerson

Today, I shoveled snow. Yesterday, I shoveled snow. And the day before that, I shoveled snow. It’s winter in western New York and we live with a steady diet of snow

Along the winter shores of Lake Ontario, steady snowfalls are the norm and removing it is more than a daily ritual. It’s a right of passage for youngsters and an absolute necessity for adults who get up, get out and get to work. Commerce doesn’t stop for weather, here.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, where measureable snowfalls also were a common occurrence, kids there learned to shovel at an early age, too. It was not an option in a blue collar neighborhood where dads had to be at work early and on-time.

All able bodied males in the house, young or old, manned shovels, clearing driveways and walks to help get workers on their way. Plow service and snow blowers were an unaffordable luxury for most families.

All that was heard on eerily quiet, ‘three decker’ lined streets the morning after a nor’easter, was the scraping of metal shovels over frozen pavement, and dry, fluffy snow squeaking underfoot with each twist of our black buckled boots. The task of finishing a job fell to the young school boys with nothing but time on their hands. Time and energy.

Snow shoveling is a low skill task, even the tools are simple and aptly named, ‘shovels’.  Bend, scoop, lift, toss, use your legs not your back. But those weren’t instructions my dad gave. He was more direct, knowing that I could figure out the mechanics, myself.

“I expect this driveway and sidewalk shoveled by the time I come home from work”, he announced, without mentioning my name or even looking at me. It was understood whom he was addressing, the skinny kid and the only one left home after he and big brothers went to work.

My dad’s directives were always clear and concise. The fewer the words, the stronger the message. Besides, mother always made sure the work got done, as prescribed.

And when the jobs were done, the neighborhood became a bevy of street hustlers, as I and other like-minded junior entrepreneurs with shovels slung over our shoulders, eagerly slipped and slid through heavy snowdrifts, knocking on doors with wet mittens, competing for whatever snow removal opportunities were left at neighboring houses.

We had no business plan or even understood the value of our labor. Regardless, we would shovel walks clean to the pavement, keeping tempo to imaginary cash registers ringing in our collective heads, totally dependent on the client’s generosity. Sometimes it was good and other times, not so good. But the greater lesson of work and reward was invaluable.

Now, I still find myself taking on the task of snow removal. It rekindles frigid memories of finger and face freezing days under the watchful eyes of my father and the lessons he ‘taught’ me.

One thing is certain…I can’t wait for the return of summer in western New York!


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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

43 thoughts on “Today, I Shoveled Snow”

  1. Growing up in Detroit, I had the same experiences. Mrs. Koski never paid a dime, but my mom would remind me that good deeds are payment unto themselves. Mrs. Koski was the one who put little stakes around the grass in her front yard to remind you to stay the hell off her grass. Super post, Steve.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good deeds only go so far, eh, John. Some cold hard cash would have been rewarding. Old Man Gibson was my neighbor and he had a huge paved backyard. $5 Didn’t seem enough after a big storm. But, he did give me a good memory…and I gave him a pear from his pear tree right through his back window. Strictly unintentional, of course.


  2. Hi Steve,
    You’re right. Shovels have been in use for a long time. Growing up on a farm I was allowed to use the tractor and plow- from the age of 5 the family story goes. But we did shovel too. Not always snow.
    Ours was a dairy farm.
    Shovels are good, and snow too!
    Jim Murdock

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve seen your manure shovel, Jim, and it would take a lot of shoveling to move the snow because if its narrow size. Perfect for manure, though, eh? That must have been heavy stuff to shovel.


    1. Nice memory. All if us who grew up like that learned the shovel at an early age. Thank goodness aluminum shovels came along. The old coal shovels were way too heavy. Thanks for contributing, Liz.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Liz, I take it that you’re not in Vermont now. Such a beautiful state. We used to hunt at my aunt’s (pron. ‘ahhnt’😉) camp in Tunbridge. Are you still in New Eng? By the way, ill let you know when I write it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Shoveling snow was a family affair in southern Maine, when our girls were growing up. The girls and I shoveled the walkway while hubby (Dad) plowed the quarter mile road… No wonder we were always praying for an early spring! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ohhhh, what you have missed😉. My back still feels the ‘experience’ to this day…or, maybe it’s my age. It did teach great lessons about the relationship between work and money. Thanks, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Steve ,
    “Cast your mind back” as an old colleague used to say. After reading your fine shoveling report my mind went way back to our farm days in Argyle, NY.
    I didn’t use a shovel. It had another use. Cleaning the drop.
    I cleaned our driveway with an Ford 8N with a blade on the back. So long ago.
    I tried to do a good job for us and the milk trucks too. Driving backward was a fun challenge.
    Now to the snowblower!
    Jim Murdock

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim, great story. I’m glad that I tickled your memory and that you shared it. I can picture it all. What a fun time for a young man. Thanks for commenting, Jim.


  5. We’ve been in a drought in California five out of the last six years, but we’re sure making up for it this year. We had the exact expectations in our house growing up in the Dakotas. I’m the youngest of four boys, so my parents had many recruits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yep, same experiences. That was in the era when people donated what they thought was a fair price rather than charging by the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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