The very word sent tremors though the community on Saturday. First reports were for a mixture of snow and rain that would turn all to rain. Then there was a change in the report and we were really going to get snow, maybe as much as five inches. By Sunday morning, my trusty weatherman – my son Ted, who stays plugged into the forecast because of his love for windsurfing – was saying it wasn’t going to amount to much and we’d be in for mostly rain.
I wasn’t going to get caught flat-footed, no matter what. It was time to fire up the snowblower and see that she was fit for another round of winter. As I’ve written in this column, my snowblower and I have a special relationship. Ever since I bought it at Sears in Rhode Island Mall, which should give you a clue how long it’s been around, it hasn’t failed me. I used the company van to pick it up, as it came in a gigantic box that wasn’t close to fitting in a car. Once at home, I cut away the cardboard to reveal its sparkling red frame, gnarly tires designed for traction in the snow, gear lever, chute control and handles to disengage one wheel or another allowing you to spin around with the slightest of effort. To top it off, it came with an electric starter – I wasn’t going to get caught even on the coldest of days with a temperamental snowblower.
I needn’t have worried.
Fresh out of the box and with gas in the tank, I gave a single pull and she came to life. It’s been that way ever since. A few pumps on the primer, choke setting at half and a yank and she’s ready to work.
But would she work after sitting for months? I wasn’t going to wait for five inches of snow to find out. I made the snowblower one of my Sunday projects. It was time she had some TLC, so I made an oil change part of the plan. It’s been at least three years. She was due.
There’s a kind of expectation that comes with the first snow of the season that’s hard to explain. There are those who don’t care for snow no matter if it’s a dusting that can brighten the drab cold of winter or six inches or more that can transform the landscape. They should head for Florida on Thanksgiving and stay there until late April.
For me, the first snow starts the winter clock. It’s time to find the cross-country skies stuffed in the back of the closet somewhere, get out the Russian hat with its fury earflaps, gloves and boots. In one way I look forward to a respectable snow – none of this slushy stuff – to start everything off. Yet from another vantage, it seems too early to get a legitimate storm that portends to a drawn out winter and many more occasions to use the snowblower than appreciated. Then it’s a chore.
Whatever we would get – and the snow slush thing played out Sunday although “real” snow was in the forecast for Monday night – the snowblower was going to be prepared. The oil seeped from the drain plug like black molasses, pooling in the container that one of these days would be emptied at the oil recycling facility at the DPW yard. I poured in fresh 5-30 oil, wiped everything clean and filled the gas tank.
Then it was the moment of truth. I primed her and set the choke, just as I had done those years ago when she came out of the box. I planted my feet, pulled the cord until I felt it engage and gave a forceful yank. Nothing. Not even a sputter.
I went through the procedure a second time, and then on the third pull she sprung to life.
Maybe I should listen to her.
It’s too early for some “real” snow, but she’s ready.