Winter Follies

It had to happen sooner or later: winter has finally come to my corner of the Midwest.  Earlier this week I went running in a t-shirt.  Tonight I went out in a wool overcoat, boots, and a hat. We recently moved.  Our street is hilly, our house at the top.  When we first looked at the house (in the summer) the forty-five degree grade of the driveway (with a little jog at the end) didn’t seem so imposing.  Today, with a scant half-inch of snow on the ground, everything has changed.  The weeping cherry trees, caked in snow, lean over the front walk.  It’s stunning in the moonlight.

MrsPal pulled out the car this morning—and didn’t stop.  She ended up at the edge of our neighbor’s lawn.  Getting up the driveway is equally challenging, but MrsPal is hard to stop.  After dinner out, we pulled into the neighbor’s circular drive, got a running start, and shot up into the garage (thankfully stopping before hitting the back wall).  Figuring a good spread of Midwestern salt might help, I put on my boots and grabbed a bag, and stepped out of the garage.  My feet felt disconcertingly light on the snowy asphalt.  I started scattering the salt lightly, walking slowly and carefully, until hitting the steepest part of the drive—and slid the rest of the way down on my ass. The salt came to a rest next to me, mockingly.  I tried to climb back up, but it was a no-go.  I rolled over to the grass and hiked back to the house, snow clinging to the wool of my overcoat, hands bruised, wife and daughter giggling lightly.

They warned, I ignored.


  1. Tsu Dho Nimh

     /  January 13, 2012


    For traction, instead of salt, use coarse sand and thise hand-cranked fertilizer spreaders.

    And walk down the snowy part of the lawn as you scatter the sand, not the icy part of the driveway.

    • D. C. Sessions

       /  January 17, 2012

      Up until this last week, we had more snow in Arizona than the Midwest had. Keep reading after y’all stop laughing.

      Anyway, hereabouts the snowy parts are also conveniently volcanic, which is good since we don’t have sand (popular ideas about deserts notwithstanding) and salt is not a good thing to spread around in a region where there isn’t a lot of water to dilute it — it kills vegetation.

      So we use cinders. Cinder cones all over the place which make for convenient and inexpensive sources of cinders, which are easy to “mine” with a basic digging equipment and spread on icy roads. The lovely thing about them is that they get embedded into the ice and make for truly great traction, and they last until the snow melts — unlike salt, for instance.

      The fool things are probably a bit expensive in Michigan, but if you can get them it doesn’t take much to improve the traction on private property for months. Hereabouts a lot of people don’t even pave drives, they just use packed cinders (which drain nicely when the thaw comes.)

  2. Shirah

     /  January 14, 2012

    Interesting balancing act at my workplace: Animal paws can be badly damaged by high salt content on the ground and de-icing agents carried in from roadways. (Worse troubles if they try licking their paws “clean”.) Sand helps, somewhat. On the other hand, humans and cars can be badly damaged by an ABSENCE of salt.

    So far since it’s just been ice, the answer has been salt the parking areas and sand for the outside areas were patients are likely to be on the ground.

    I’m waiting for the paw covers and post-walk rinses to come back when snow starts. Oh, winter.

  3. Karen

     /  January 20, 2012


    I live in lowland California, which never gets snow — and most years, but not this year, gets winter rain. (I’m not looking forward to the inevitable water rationing this summer.) But we go up to our cottage in the Eastern Sierra several times a year, and in the winter that means negotiating snow and ice over a pass. In 2010, a sunny February day, husband was driving, and he slowed down for a suspicious-looking dark patch on the road… and he didn’t slow enough,. It was like a carnival ride, when you don’t know where it will go. We ended up facing backwards in a pile of snow that kept us from falling over a cliff. It was really scary to watch the car behind us do the same maneuver, and end up crashing into us.

    Nobody was seriously hurt (I had a bruised rib from the seat belt, and the other folks drove away with people and car mostly intact) and insurance paid for the repairs to our pickup. But the expression “it’s just ice”… it’s never JUST ice.

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