SUMMER 2004 STARTED OFF WITH A BANG - followed by a
"crunch, whirr, sproing, ka-chunka-chunka," and "plink."
Amidst this earsplitting, metal-shearing cacophony, it was the
"plink" that had the note of finality about it. That and the
accompanying plume of blue smoke signalling the last moments of my trusty Co-op
Sitting there in the saddle, head bowed, hands resting on
that weather-beaten steering wheel, I almost felt obliged to pull out the
peacemaker and put old Turfy out of its misery. I'd picked up the vintage
riding mower at an auction the year we moved to the acreage. With the snow
blower attachment, those tired 16 horses had been doing double duty, cutting
grass in summer and clearing the driveway in winter. Now I had a problem. Winter
was coming, and I would need some help with the fluffy white stuff.
One bright fall morning, while sipping coffee and drooling
over the new dealer catalogues, I turned to my wife, Jackie, and thrust a
magazine under her nose.
"Which model do you prefer, Hon? The Mega Blaster 5000?
Or my personal favourite, the Tundra Titan XL with turbo boost?"
There was a slight pause. Without taking her eyes off mine,
she pursed her lips every so slightly, then moved the magazine away with the
tip of an index finger.
"You know we both need more exercise, Mark."
"Ahhh...yeah, I guess."
"And you know how little snow we've had the past few
I took another sip of coffee, slowly swishing it around in
my mouth. I had a bad feeling about this.
"Well, I propose that this year we save money and
shovel snow by hand."
What I wanted to say was, "Are you completely nuts?
It's over 300 feet to the road!" Instead, I gulped, inhaled, wheezed and
then exploded, sending a shower of coffee out of my nose and across the
After mopping up the floor, table and walls, Jackie passed
me a tissue and smiled.
"Right, it's settled then. No machines.
No noise. Just muscle and bone and all that fresh air. We're going to get fit
One chilly November morning at 5 a.m., winter came knocking.
Dressed for action in snowmobile suit and red scarf, Jackie stood by the bed,
prodding the big lump under the covers gently with the business end of a
"Ouch! OK, I'm up already," I croaked, stumbling
bleary-eyed into my winter clothes.
Outside, the wind cut like a knife. Snow glued our eyelashes
shut as we fought to make a dent in the sea of white. I turned and looked at
Jackie, expecting defeat. I should have known better. She thrives on physical
"Isn't this exhilarating?" she yelled over the
Gritting my teeth, I shoveled on. Hours later, weary and
frozen to the bone, we'd cleared a ragged path to the road, just wide enough
for one car to scrape by.
At that moment, the glare of lights flooded the driveway. I
shielded my eyes for a better look. It was handy Andy, the neighbourhood Good
Samaritan. Over the din of his diesel tractor, he signaled to us, asking
whether we'd like him to clear out the drive. Jackie looked at our handiwork,
and then at the Kubota's industrial-sized snow blower. It was an easy decision.
Within minutes, Andy had rearranged mountains of snow into
neat little piles, extricated the garbage trailer from its wintry grave, and
widened the lane enough to accommodate a couple of semis. He finished up,
cracked a big smile and pulled out of the yard. I made a mental note to buy Andy
a bottle of his favourite libation.
Somewhere on the way back to the house, I heard a familiar
voice. "So, what does the turbo boost do, exactly?"