Melting snow reveals close score in the battle between man and winter

Saturday's Hero

January 27, 1996|By ROB KASPER

ALTHOUGH I HAVE been looking around for the biggest remaining mound of snow in the metropolitan area -- so far the mountain in front of Caldor in Timonium seems to be the leading candidate for the last mound to melt -- I have to admit that the bulk of the blizzard has pretty much disappeared. That means it is time to figure out who won that go-round in early January, Ol' Man Winter, or cagey, veteran homeowners.

For a while, this homeowner thought he had come out ahead. The furnace had not broken. The power had not failed. The basement had not filled with water and begun to look like a trout hatchery. The plumbing had functioned, if not perfectly, at least normally. It says something about your mental state, when you begin to have nightmares about plumbing. I used to have nightmares about being chased by bad guys. Once I dreamed that the Commendatore, a character from the opera "Don Giovanni," was lurking in my bedroom closet. Now I have nightmares about wastewater treatment. The other night I dreamed the sewage line to our house had backed up, and guys from the water department were in the alley.

Then I woke up. It was just a bad dream. Once again I was feeling pretty smug about how few apparent casualties the home front had taken. But as the snow began to melt, damage from the blizzard began to appear. The first sign of meltdown was the jarring appearance of the pieces of furniture used as as parking-space holders on neighborhood streets. There were ugly lawn chairs with missing legs, chaise lounges that lounged no more, and old, mangy Christmas trees. When the snows were high, these parking-space holders blended into the landscape. But as the snows receded they looked like rubble on a battlefield. And it looked like a battle that had been lost.

Then there were the felled branches from trees and bushes that littered the yard and sidewalks. Some had been knocked down by heavy snow and high winds. Other branches, like the ones snapped off my wife's favorite backyard bushes, had probably been knocked loose by the sheets of snow I had pushed off the back porch roof. Behaving like a veteran spouse, I quickly hid these branches, evidence of my screw-up. Maybe she won't notice.

The next hits to the household were the bills that came in the mail for the kids' boots. Like many families, ours has approximately 6,000 boots. Most are "single" -- boots without partners. Many of these boots don't fit our kids. Or when they did, they fit for about one week in November. In the winter, just before a big storm, kids' feet grow just enough to make sure the boots that were going to be handed down from a big brother no longer fit.

For a time the only boots that fit our two kids were the ones that belonged to me and my wife. One day the kids walked out the door wearing our boots, and my wife and I were stuck in the house, bootless.

Like many fathers, I am accustomed to having my offspring take the shirts from my back. But I wasn't ready to give them the boots off my feet. So, shortly after the blizzard hit, my wife took our boys out to a clothing store, and the kids came back with boots that they considered to be "cool." To me the bulky footwear looked like what we used to call "clodhoppers," boots worn by guys who stomped in fields. In my day, clodhoppers were not cool.

But as my 15-year-old and 10-year-old are constantly telling me, this is not my day. This is their day. And in their eyes, wearing boots that make them look like lumberjacks makes sense even if these new, high-tech clodhoppers cost more than the oxfords worn by their father.

Ol' Man Winter struck another blow when the fig tree snapped off the radio antenna of my car. Some time ago, I had wrapped our fig trees in burlap to protect them from the cold. Apparently I had put too much burlap at the top of one tree, and the tree leaned. At first it wasn't much of a lean. But when the heavy snow landed on the burlap, the lean became serious. After the blizzard, the fig tree looked like a drunk trying to hold onto a lamppost. One night I finished shoveling out the parking pad behind the house. Feeling victorious, I maneuvered a car into the cleared-out space which was near the figs. The bent-over fig tree snagged the car's antenna, and snapped it like a pretzel.

Without an antenna, my radio reception has suffered. Basically I can only pick up broadcasts from radio stations that I am driving past. Even then reception is fuzzy. I called some antenna repair guys yesterday and they said I was looking at $100 to fix the power antenna.

I have to get the antenna fixed so I can hear the weather forecasts. If Ol' Man Winter should want a return bout, I want early warning.

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