Blizzards bring out the best -- in some

February 14, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

With all this snow, we could have used Eddie Kenneally, God rest his soul and that of his old horse, too. When I was growing up in a small Massachusetts town of 8,000 -- please pardon the snow-induced nostalgia -- Eddie Kenneally, a stout teamster from way back, rose in the dark hours of winter mornings, hitched Pete, one of his exquisite Belgians, to a block sled with a plow front and cleared the sidewalks of the overnight snow.

Mr. Kenneally stood on the block, leather reins in hands, and commanded Pete to cut a path through the center of town to the elementary, junior and senior high schools.

From the horse's yoke, Mr. Kenneally hung a cowbell. When you heard Mr. Kenneally barking at his workhorse, the cowbell clanging and the horse's hooves thudding through the snow, you knew there would be school; everyone was expected in homeroom by 8 a.m.

OK, nostalgia over.

Back to Maryland 2010, and all this snow, and all the efforts people -- at least some of us -- are making to get their sidewalks open with shovels and muscle. As I mentioned in Thursday's column, there has been evidence of limited snow-blower activity in my neighborhood. Someone on my block has one. The thing is, he's limited his snow blowing, and I don't understand how you do that under these conditions.

We do not live in a socialist commune, but if there's anything one should be required to share -- at least to get the sidewalks cleared -- it's a rarely used snow blower after two major storms in less than a week in snow-naive Baltimore. Our new mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, pointedly implored the snow-blower-endowed among us to do this.

While it hasn't happened in my part of town, it's happened elsewhere.

Indeed, men with snow blowers are sharing that wealth.

First story: A woman in Timonium, who didn't want me to use her full name because she wasn't sure her neighbor, Bob the Firefighter, would approve of the telling of this tale, relates the following:

"Every time it snows a lot, Bob takes his snow blower and goes up both sides of the street -- about 30 houses or so -- and clears the sidewalks. He never expects anything in return. He just does it. There are quite a few elderly people, and without Bob most of them would have to take care of their own sidewalks. "This time, we pretty much assumed the sidewalks wouldn't be cleared because we noticed that Bob had his foot in a cast -- a broken ankle or foot. Well, we looked out the window on Thursday morning and all of the sidewalks were cleared on both sides of the street. ... We asked Bob who cleared the sidewalks, and he said that he had cleared them on Wednesday night -- with his broken ankle!

"Bob was hobbling around all day with his broken ankle, helping all the neighbors dig out their cars, never asking for or expecting a cent for his snow blowing services. ... Now that's an awesome neighbor."

Second story comes from Aberdeen and Ellen Cutler, an art history teacher at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She's also a native New Englander, very snow-savvy and maybe a little too proud to ask for help from a guy with a snow blower.

But that's what she did last Sunday, after our first big storm. She approached Joe Smith, from across Beards Hill Road, with this:

"I would never be so presumptuous, but I am getting married this afternoon. In fact, we were supposed to get married yesterday but were snowed out." Indeed, after 25 years of significant-otherness, Ms. Cutler and Daniel Tamkus had decided to become wife and husband, just as the Storm of the Century approached. James Reilly, clerk of the Harford County Circuit Court, was due at their home, along with eight guests, Sunday afternoon. Ms. Cutler needed space for cars and a limousine.

Joe Smith got busy with the snow blower and opened wide sections of the driveway, the sidewalk and the footpaths around Ms. Cutler's house. Everyone expected for the matrimonial showed up -- except for the limousine driver.

The wedding party had reservations for dinner at the B&O American Brasserie in downtown Baltimore, and they were supposed to get there by limo. "So we just piled into an array of cars and drove ourselves," Ms. Cutler says. "I think we were the only people that came to the restaurant that night. Food was great, spirits were joyous."

Dan Rodricks' column appears Thursdays and Sundays in print and online, and Tuesdays online-only. He is host of the Midday talk show on WYPR-FM.

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