'There's no neighbor like a Minnesotan'
The Biker's Diary
Monday, December 31, 2012 2:42 AM
My favorite holidays are not the typical ones, such as Christmas or New Year's or birthdays. What I consider my favorite of all time are snowstorm days. And we had a great one this last week in the run-up to Christmas.
I consider a snowstorm day as an unexpected free-from-"must-do" day: anything that happened to be on the schedule for that day is cancelled. There is nothing for which I have to be accountable on a snowstorm day. Just like a school kid, I love it!
This time, I was paging through the new Minnesota magazine (from Minnesota Public Radio) that had just arrived and a full-page ad from the Minnesota Community Foundation caught my eye. It was a large photograph of a person behind a snowblower, moving through what looked like several inches of new-fallen snow. It looked just like Spouse Roger who at the time was outside doing that very thing. The very large caption was "There's no neighbor like a Minnesotan."
That caught my eye first because of our experiences with snow when we lived in Nebraska. When we shoveled our own driveway early in the morning, we also did our next-door neighbor's. I wrote about it in my Feb. 11, 2002, "Biker's Diary," an excerpt follows.
"As the morning (of the first big snowfall) started to shape up, I asked my spouse, 'Are we Nebraskans yet?' Roger asked, 'Why would you ask that?'
"'Well, I said, 'do we ignore the snow, expecting it to melt by afternoon?' Roger replied, 'I suppose we could shovel just to keep in practice.'
"We enjoy the process of snow shoveling, but it doesn't seem to be such a popular activity here in Lincoln. The first time it had snowed after we moved here, we did what came naturally; we were out there shortly after 6 a.m., cleaning off the long driveway and the sidewalk. We wondered why we were the only ones doing any shoveling. By afternoon, we found out: the locals wait for the sun to come out and melt the snow, which it did. We were not yet accustomed to the balmy Nebraska winters, so we were doing what we had always done in Minnesota.
"Our neighbors got a chuckle out of our enthusiasm, but some didn't. One time as a 'community columnist,' I wrote an article for the local newspaper about missing the snow, and it triggered a few negative responses from readers about how people shouldn't wish for snow. After we got to know our immediate neighbors a bit better, they teased us about snow shoveling. They said a friend of theirs had lived in Minnesota, and when they told him about us and our apparently compulsive snow-clearing, he said that that is the way Minnesotans are; they shovel all the time. He told our neighbor that in Minnesota they like to shovel so much that they don't even wait for the snow to stop falling. I had always thought it was normal: 'shovel early and often.'"
The ad in the magazine that caught my eye about Minnesota neighbors is how we hope our next door neighbors viewed us, even though we didn't have a snowblower there: "....When we are out there at 6 a.m. doing our own driveway and sidewalks, we always go next door and clear theirs too. We like the fresh air and the exercise, and we do need to stay in practice." We really did enjoy both the exercise and the sense of task accomplishment that comes with having clean sidewalks and driveways.
I must admit that I still get a good feeling about it, even though we have to do it more often here than we did when living in Nebraska. Spouse Roger does most of it, using the big snowblower that has been sitting poised in the barn for awhile, all ready for just such an opportunity to strut its stuff up and down the driveway. I often help out by clearing the deck, porch and front sidewalk, which, because of steps, does not lend itself well to the snowblower.
And here, we have Minnesota neighbors just like the one in the ad: we got an early call during the storm asking if we wanted neighbor Duane Benson to come over and plow the driveway. If we're not here, he or Charles Ruen get it done, with their tractors, just like great Minnesota neighbors.
Today, as I write this, it is sleeting. Neither the neighbors nor the snowblower can do anything to make that better. I was going to run an errand, but in the short distance from here to the highway, the windshield iced over twice. I decided it was not a good idea to be out and about, so headed back home where maybe I can pretend it is a snowstorm day.
That would actually be nice. I have a few long-untouched cartons in our storage areas that are labeled "snowstorm day project." But it seems on those days when I really don't have to do the usual things, I still don't get to those long-awaited activities. I think we just need more snowstorm days!