More Ice And Snow

I published this post by error the other night.  I immediately removed it and posted the correct one.  The next morning, I found that it was not deleted from those of you who get my posts by email.  If you’ve already read this one, I apologise.

Even for those of you who live where ice and snow are a normal winter occurrence, I have a few more observations, suggestions and idiosyncrasies.

I wrote of cleaning off windshields, side and back windows, and mentioned about being able to see where you’re going.  Cleaning off your entire vehicle is also important because it make you visible to other drivers.  If someone wishes to pull out, and looks up the street and sees nothing but white, they assume you’re an unmoving snow bank, and pull out. You may have the legal right-of-way, but you’re still the cause of an accident.

When you clear your car, clean off the headlights and tail-lights so that others notice you.  Clean off the grille so that the engine breathes better.  With today’s computer-controlled cars, yours will still start and run, but will use less fuel, produce less air pollution, and warm up faster (and so will you) if it inhales better.

Clean out the recessed wiper trough, or air-intake vent near the windshield.  If you don’t do this, the snow will melt as the engine warms, get sucked into the cabin, and re-deposit as frost on the inside of the glass.  You’ll either spend extra time scraping it off the inside, or extra time in hospital when you don’t see the truck.

How to shovel snow: Be rich enough to pay someone else to do it for you.  Failing that, when you begin shovelling snow early in the winter, throw it as far back as you can.  More snow will accrue, and if the first lot is piled at the edge of your lawn or driveway, not only will you have to throw subsequent lots back, you’ll have to do it over the piles at the edge, making it that much harder.

As I was digging out after our most recent storm, I watched the teen-age boy across the street.  He dumped his first shovelfuls only as far as he had to.  By the time he was finishing the job, he was carrying them over and struggling to toss them over a pile as tall as he was.

We don’t use salt to melt ice on sidewalks or driveways.  It kills grass, and flowers in the wife’s gardens, and doesn’t do cars, clothing or footwear any good.  We use crystal urea.  It melts like salt, but is itself a fertiliser.  It means I have to mow or weed more often, but that’s a lot easier and warmer than shovelling snow or chopping ice.  We buy it in fifty-pound bags at an agricultural-supply store near the farmers’ market.  Because it’s a fertiliser, they sell it during the summer.  We forgot to get a bag last summer, and I’ve barely got enough to get through the winter.

With a dog in the house, I have to shovel not only out the front, but out the back too.  We own the left side of a semi-detached house.  The builder didn’t bother to purchase left-hand French doors for deck access.  When we moved in, the sliding portion did so on the outside.  If we had a heavy snow or ice storm, the door was almost impossible to move.  Our four cats have learned to use two kitty-litter boxes, but the dog insists on going outside.

I have to shovel a couple of paths across the deck, and an 18 inch tall dog has trouble with two-foot piles of snow in the back yard.  A couple of times each winter, I have to shovel/tramp down, a big looping path through the back yard, and a landing area, so that he has someplace to leave his buried treasure. It keeps the odor away from the house, till I can get out and scoop it up in the spring.

Several years ago, we went from cable TV to satellite.  Fortunately, the dish is only mounted on my front porch roof.  Last night I had to take a broom, to the end of which another broom-handle is taped, wade across my hip-deep front yard, and reach up to clean off ¾ of an inch of wet, clingy snow.

When there’s no snow, the daughter can at least make short runs in her power wheelchair.  When winter closes in and sidewalks are not shoveled, it can range from difficult to impossible to get certain places.  She lives in one of two wheelchair accessible units in a housing complex right off a community trail.  The sidewalk plows the city uses sometimes have the trail clear before the street in front of the complex is done.  The biggest barricade is often the sidewalk from her unit to the trail.  The neighbor shovels as far as his van, in front of the units, for his wife’s wheelchair, but it’s about another two-hundred feet to the trail, and heavily used by many of the school-children and non-car-owning low-income residents.  It gets packed down quickly and thickly after a storm.

The grandson is now 20, and a great help, but it’s not unusual, a couple of times a winter, for me to stop in and use her shovel, and a chopper or scraper to clear back enough of a track that she can roll out to the nearest supermarket or the postal outlet when she needs to, to prevent cabin fever.

Not much humor or trivia in today’s post, just the rants and rambles I promised you above.  The only thing you may have learned is to sit a little farther from the computer screen when the curmudgeon is on a tear.  I’m having a wonderful winter.  How has yours been?

 

My First Car(s)

Most young males just can’t wait until they turn 16, and get their driver’s licence.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  Perhaps it was that I didn’t think that my father would relinquish the family car to me.  My birthday is in late September, and had already passed when my Dad told me that he had found a car for me.  This was October, 1960.   Dad knew a lot of people, some of whom owed him a favor or two.  A man he worked with had a 1952 Morris he was willing to give to me, well, actually to Dad.

A Morris is a small English car.  The Morris Garage was the builder of the well-known MG cars.   Because of the Second World War, there was still a shortage of North American built cars, and the first of the imports were arriving.  I was told that this little car was not in running order, but Dad, the only person I knew, who knew less, mechanically, about cars than I did, airily declared, “Oh, we’ll have her running in no time.”  The owner lived on a farm with several other vehicles available to him, and probably just hadn’t driven this car for a year, or maybe two.  The battery would be dead and the gasoline jellied, but Dad was probably right.

We drove ten or twelve miles out concession roads, put a length of stout rope from bumper to bumper (remember those?), and towed it home.  I steered the Morris, and applied brakes when necessary, to keep from over-running the tow car.  The owner of a local garage was a bit of a snake-oil, wheeler-dealer.  It seemed like we barely got the Morris home when he called to say that he had someone interested in it and offered me a trade.  I told him it wasn’t running but was assured he could fix that.  He would send a truck with a tow-bar to bring it back to the garage, and I should ride along to see what he was offering.

He was willing to give me a 1939 Pontiac touring car, in running condition.  I think that was the first year that they changed the old, three-foot long, floor-shift for the shorter, easier three-on-the-tree column shift.  An old farmer had bought it new and seldom drove it.  A couple of years later he got a newer car, but because of the weight and traction, kept the ‘39 as a winter car.  Back then they used almost no salt on the highways, and he seldom drove on them.  The body was amazing, two tiny holes, the size of a fingertip.

I still didn’t have my licence and wanted to fix up the car for when I did.  My sister had moved into a house directly across the street.  They had a two-car garage they never used, so I wintered my car there, one space for the car and the rest for work area.  With some friends, I filled the holes and some edges, and then thought about painting it.  It came black; most of them did.  A guy in the same grade, in the next town, had one that he had painted a dark blue.  I decided on Coca-Cola red.  A cousin had got into construction and had spray-painting equipment.  We sanded, cleaned and masked it, and he sprayed it red!  I sent away for some fake bullet-hole decals from a comic book, and we put them on the passenger-side windows.

As spring progressed, I first got my learner’s licence, an adventure for another blog, and felt I should have the car ready to go when I passed my driver’s exam.  I borrowed a trickle charger, and had the battery up to full strength, but nobody had told me about gasoline jelling when it sits over a winter.  I tried to start it, and tried to start it….and tried to start it, and recharged the battery.  I gave up temporarily, thinking I needed to enlist some auto-mechanic assistance.

A couple of days later, Mr. Wheeler-Dealer called me again.  He’s got somebody who’s interested in the Pontiac, and would like to trade me a fully working 1956 Austin A-30.  I told him that I’d painted it red, and couldn’t get it started.  Not a problem, he’d get it started.  He towed it to the garage, we signed some papers, and I owned the Austin, which was a four-year newer, upscale cousin to the Morris.

I drove it all day, but when it started to get dark, I couldn’t find the light switch.  Three of us in the car and we couldn’t find it.  I quickly drove back to the garage and explained the problem.  He reached into the car and turned the lights on for me.  The ignition key went into the center of the dash, just above the ashtray.  Around the lock was a decorative little chrome ring.  All you had to do was give it a quarter turn, which I might have done, had it been marked “lights”.

It was a wonderful little car which I put a lot of miles and a lot of MPHs on.  It had a hydraulic clutch which leaked a drop of (brake) fluid each time a shift was made.  Under the hood, there were two master cylinders, one for brakes, one for the clutch.  Despite disassembling it twice, we could not locate the leak.  I learned to drive it with a couple of paper towels under the clutch pedal and a can of hydraulic fluid in the glove compartment.  The air filter was an empty Johnson’s floor-wax can filled with fine steel wool, dipped in oil.

These were rough-and-ready cars, with none of the smooth sophistication of modern automobiles.  They were fun to own and drive though.  If something went wrong, there were cheap and easy ways to fix them that didn’t involve a recalcitrant computer.

Perhaps ten years later, in our late twenties, my brother and I were reminiscing about the “good old days”.  I wondered out loud what might have happened if I had managed to get the big Pontiac up and running and never traded for the Austin.  There was a strange look on his face.  What!??  He went to a trade school, although he didn’t take auto-mechanics.  During the winter, he thought he’d do me a favor and clean my carburetor.  He took it apart, soaked and brushed it and reassembled it….and had a part left over.  You saw that joke coming, didn’t you?

He took it apart again and put it back together, and found the home for the lost part….but had two different ones left over.  Are you laughing yet?….and he threw them away!  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  He pumped gas on the weekends for Snake-Oil Guy.  After wasting hours of his labor and causing him to have to obtain and install a different carb, he never told him why it happened.