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!

srbottch

To Adie, With Love…

A young lady will ‘meet’ her great grandfather for the first time, thanks to a small tin box of flies and a good story teller. She has the story teller, her grandmother, my sister, and soon will have the flies, a small metal box of fishing flies, tied by the skilled hands of her great grandfather, four generations earlier.

Imagine, a family heirloom, of sorts, being passed down, not to a daughter, nor a granddaughter, but to a great granddaughter. Not a fancy piece of furniture, nor a sparkling broach, but flies. From one long-passed outdoorsman to a young vibrant outdoors woman, three generations removed.

My dad was an avid fisherman who enjoyed making his own lures. He turned wood dowels into ‘plugs’* on a lathe, and strung eels for surf fishing in the rough waters off the duned beaches of Cape Cod. He tied flies, lures that mimicked real flies, to attract trout in the placid ponds populating the rural countryside of central Massachusetts. He was proficient, passionate and a perfectionist about both skills, making the lures and catching the fish.

I kept his tin of flies, and other lures, upon his passing, some 40 years ago, as a reminder of the man. But these feathered and fuzzy creations go back even further in time, at least twenty years prior to his death. Hunched over a folding metal table, squinting through bifocals balanced on the end of his nose, and surrounded with the tools of his ‘art’, he meticulously hand crafted faux bugs to the smallest detail.

Supplied with an array of brightly covered feathers, buck tails, various size hooks, a vise to hold them and thread to join all the components tightly together, he would produce stunning replicas of the local insects that he hoped would help him land the next ‘big one’. A reference book of flies always lay open next to him as he meticulously tied them to the exact specifications, as outlined.

This story isn’t about catching fish, though. It’s not about about tying flies, it’s about a man, his passion and preserving his love of the outdoors by gifting an ‘heirloom’. It’s about connecting with following generations to keep his story alive. And, it’s about love.

It’s very likely that if my dad was here today, then he, Adie and her dad would be at the closest fishing hole, enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company, maybe spinning yarns of ‘the one that got away’.

“Adie, I want you to have these flies. Use them to catch the big one!”

Love,

Great Grandpa Bottcher

Steve (srbottch.com)

February 2021

To Adie and avid young outdoors lovers, everywhere. ‘Keep a tight line’ and keep making memories.

And, to June, my big sister, Adie’s grandma


*Plug (Swimming Plug) – A hard plastic or wood artificial lure that is usually cast and retrieved or sometimes trolled.

The ‘Nest Keepers’

Warning: a sentimental story 

mother-1951 Growing up, our household had a dishwasher in the kitchen.  It was the ‘mother’ brand and came with two strong hands for scrubbing and two strong legs for moving from table to counter to sink. The original model came with a towel for drying but later ones added a special feature, ‘children’, which, amazingly, dried dishes on command.

We were fortunate in our neighborhood of blue-collar workers to have a handyman available 24-7 to build, fix, remodel and paint. It was the ‘father’ brand and came with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.   I learned a few things about fixing stuff from that man by watching him work and being a good person by listening to his unsolicited advice.

My older sister and I were the youngest of seven siblings and by the time we came along, the first five were leaving the nest, giving our folks a bit more leisure time for us. We were spoiled and loved every minute of it.

dad-1957  She and I were driven places by our own ‘chauffeur’, an older, kindly and dedicated gentleman from the ‘daddy’ livery service. He lived with us and knew our likes and dislikes like the back-of-his-hand, which he only used to steer the car.

And did we ever go places, generally not far from home, but so special that I still see them clearly in my mind these many years later.

We’ll never forget the delicious ‘dawgs’ at ‘Hot Dog Annies’ somewhere in the country. On hot summer nights, we were treated to the  area’s best ice cream variety from ‘Pinecroft Dairy’. Mother Nature showed off her splendor during our slow drives by the pristine ‘Wachusett reservoir’ or at local ponds where our ‘chauffeur’ taught us to fish and appreciate the evening sound of a whippoorwill.

I would be remiss not to mention the support we received from the financiers of the ‘Mom & Pop’ bank for our higher education needs.  In return, the only interest we paid was our interest in them as they expected nothing from us but our best efforts. We tried.

Yes, we were lucky, some would say blessed to have those special amenities while growing up and learning to take our place at Life’s table. The ‘dishwasher’, the ‘handyman’, the ‘chauffeur’ and the ‘bankers’ have long since gone, but their lessons endure and influence who we are today. I’m sure we have passed on some of their wisdom and values to our own children.  How simply happy they would be knowing that this is their legacy.  Maybe they do.

MomDad

Steve
srbottch.com

To my beautiful sister, June, and our precious parents, bless their souls.