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Significances

          Well we finally had our first significant snowfall of the season, so I decided to ride my bike to work. Its not as though I haven’t been riding to work all along, but given that the forecast had been for accumulations of a half an inch, and there was already six or more on the ground, I figured it would just melt over the course of the day. I was wrong about that so not only the ride to work exciting, but the ride back was just as engrossing. Riding a bike in the snow is not that bad if you look at it as a completely new sport, rather than as a particularly trying ride. For one thing, the brakes don’t work much, and when they do, they’re grabby, which sends you into a skid like no other; its rather more like a ballroom dancing maneuver, really, only you don’t have a partner to hang on to. My friend Chris was the one who emboldened me to this new sport, since the first time I saw him riding through the snow I categorized the activity as a sort of reckless abandonment of reason. Shortly thereafter I gave it a try.

          Chris went skiing on the new snow, and reports that there is two and a half feet on the top, and fourteen inches at the bottom of the ski runs at Showdown. Its uncommonly good snow for skiing, having a wet and sticky base layer topped over with dry powder. At my house there was about eight inches, and most of my neighbors reported the same, except of course, for Sonny. He lives a quarter mile up the road, and said he had fourteen inches of snow. Even more surprising is that his neighbor had only eight inches of snow. Oh, not that surprising, I guess, since it is usually ten inches deeper and ten degrees colder at Sonny’s house. Up at Crazy Gary’s shack in the mountains, the disparities are even more startling. One year I was skiing past his place, and he happened to have just finished shoveling a path to the bush he liked to pee on while admiring the stars. He stood there in his path, and I stood atop the snow on my skis. My ski tips pointed directly at his knee caps, which I remember distinctly because he stood there and told me that he had three feet of snow. Wow! That means his knees are three feet off the ground – even Yao Ming can’t boast of gams that long, I think. Imagine being so unfulfilled that the only way to feel significant is through the accident of inches of snow and degrees of cold. Well, maybe that’s too depressing a use for our imaginations. Let’s move on.

          It being a heavy, wet snow, all the trees, powerlines, eaves and rocky outcrops are flocked with postcard-perfect, winter-wonderland, gingerbread-worthy white. Everyone is just as pleased as punch * with our accidental bounty. The ski hill is scheduled to open in a scant three weeks, and until now the slopes have been perfectly bare. This is a start. The hunters are pleased because they can track animals more easily in the snow – though I’ve heard from my hunter friend Scott that most of the hunters up there are spending less time tracking than digging their pick ups out of snowdrifts. Farmers and ranchers are tickled to have the moisture and insulating snow cover over their wheat and barley. Plow drivers are happy to have the work – or at least you would think they’d be, wouldn’t you?

          Apparently not, as our local plow driver saw in the new snowfall an opportunity to go hunting, rather than to make money. Anyone in town with a two-wheel drive car got to stay home that day, until our man came down out of the mountains. See how the younger generation is? Sheesh. No work ethic. I’ll tell you, back when I was a lass…. Golly, I think I’m starting to fit in here in this crusty old town! Pretty soon I’ll start telling people stories about my younger days when the snow banks were so high I had to leave the house via the second-story windows. And that not only didn’t we complain about having to go to school as youngsters, but we stood outside in a snowbank in our underwear wishing we had a school to go to. Oh, yeah, and everyone drank whiskey and smoked cigarettes and lived to be a hundred.

          On that note, I think I’ll go shovel some snow. My back isn’t in enough pain yet.

     * From the Punch and Judy puppet character. Punch’s name derives from Polichinello (spelled various ways, including Punchinello), an Italian puppet with similar characteristics. In Punch and Judy performances the grotesque Punch character is depicted as self-satisfied and pleased with his evil deeds. 

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