Ode to Snow-blower Man, hero of winter

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The Washington Post creates a new folk hero for the Blizzard of 2010: That Guy Who Owns a Snowblower. Frankly, he already held an honored place in the Minnesota pantheon, but its nice to see his legend spread.

He arrives in a cloud of hissing white flakes with an unmistakable whine, leaving a trail of clear pavement in his wake. He accepts no money for his work. He moves so fast and is so bundled up against the cold you might not recognize him -- or even catch his name.

In snow-weary cul-de-sacs and buried hamlets across the region, Snowblower Guy has been the man of the hour, working for days not only to clear his driveway but also to help neighbors. He has cleared sidewalks and even carved out routes in roads still untouched by municipal snowplows. After so many mild winters, Snowblower Guy is finally having his moment.

Image courtesy Flickr user bossco, via CC

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  1. I’m a recent transplant to St. Paul, and I will add one bit of culture to this: plow guilt. I have a snow blower, a little electrical one that requires a huge extension cord, but my super nice neighbor has a huge gas powered one.

    My neighbor is also an early riser, and several times now has plowed my whole damn sidewalk before I could get to it. The result, for me, is plow guilt.

    1. I have that, too. Only I get mine when my neighbor who owns a plow cuts a path for the mailman. I only own a shovel and by this point in the year, that’s work!

  2. Snowblowers suck. They’re only marginally less offensive than leaf-blowers (Satan’s trumpets), because the manual labor they replace is more strenuous.

    But it’s not all that difficult to wield a snow shovel, either. Gives you a good work-out, gets you out of the house. And we get a lot more snow here in Michigan than those beltway light-weights. And stay off my lawn, or I’ll wave my cane at you.

    1. You need a snowblower if you’re a Yooper though!! My grandpa had at least two. After spending a winter up there, snow down here in the south is nothing, laughable even!

    2. Smoobly, what part of the state do you live in? Here in Lansing, we seem to be in some sort of snow-free zone. It’s annoying! The rest of the state gets pummeled and we get 6 inches. Sheesh.

      We live about 700ft off the road and my husband uses a lawn tractor with a snow blower attachment, unless the farmer comes and plows us out (we let him cultivate about 2.5 of our acreage). If it’s early morning, I’ll get out into the driveway and shovel out the deepest drifts. Hubby only plows after work, and I kind of like the shoveling. Good exercise, dark and quite and cold. Nothing but the shussss of the shovel moving in the snow and the wind blowing.

    3. Michigan does not routinely get 4.5 feet of snow. It sure does get a lot, though! I was impressed by the snow clearing abilities of suburban Detroit. From the individuals clearing their sidewalks promptly and thoroughly to the earth moving equipment that the malls and such employ.

  3. Here in Pittsburgh I was thrilled today when the nextdoor land lord came by with his snow blower and cleared off the street. If I wasn’t in my slippers I would have run out and hugged him.

  4. My Snowblower Man lives across the street. I didn’t know he was there until I went out in blizzard conditions, dreading cold feet on my walk, to find my sidewalk cleared and a bundled figure putting away the snowblower. “Was this you?” I called, and he said yes. “Thanks!” A month later, he cleared after the next snowstorm, and this time I dashed out in my slippers and robe to thank him. He mentioned that he doesn’t do his neighbor’s walk because they have never thanked him.
    He got brownies a few weeks ago.
    A few days ago, he did my sidewalk, driveway, a path to the back gate, and then the sidewalk again in the afternoon.

    Hail Snowblower Man!

  5. When I was a lad, one of the neighborhood teenagers saved up and bought a SnoBlower. He then charged a small fee per driveway. Paid for his college education.

    As to the shovel Puritans, enjoy your ambulance ride in a few decades.

    1. Dammit.. been trying to think of some sorta bought-a-SnoBlower euphemism for 10 minutes.. Something about pimping his way through college..

      Got nothing.

    2. Dress right, take breaks, and don’t over-work yourself. Just because people don’t do it smartly doesn’t mean it’s an inherently lethal activity for *everyone.* I can understand using a snowblower if you have some kind of medical condition and you just don’t have anyone to help you, but jeez, let’s not make picking up a shovel sound like a death sentence.

      And … why are we talking about an ambulance ride so far down the road? Maybe relying so often on that that snowblower *now* is what leads to those ambulance rides decades later? Exercise!

  6. I live in the Australian tropics so don’t have a clue about snow blowers (or snow for that matter) but it’s heartnening to see that there are good people everywhere

  7. I love being the “Snow-blower Man” on my street and helping neighbors out is just a by-product of me getting to have some fun with a power tool. I inherited a very large 2-stage John Deere from my father that would be wasted just clearing my drive and sidewalks.

    I just started clearing the route for the mail person this year as I saw her footsteps on top of the 3′ Minnesota snow bank between my neighbor’s drive and mine. Kind of ashamed I had not thought of that one before.

  8. Three days after the first big snow, the city plows still hadn’t come into my neighborhood, so a bunch of us with shovels and two guys with snow blowers attacked the street. It looked like we were building a railroad. We cleared a channel up to the main road, which had been plowed.

    Later, some “neighbor” with a Bobcat offered to clear all the streets…for $30 per house. There was all kinds of enthusiasm on our neighborhood email list, until about message number thirty, in which someone did some math (200 houses, $30 each…) I think $30 to clear a driveway and sidewalk in three feet of snow is a pretty decent price. $30 per house to have someone drive by in a Bobcat…not so much.

  9. I’m trying to talk my buddy into buying one of those propane flamethrower attachments.

    Burns to 3000°F
    Turbo blast trigger

    how can you not own a 3000F flamethrower with a TURBO BLAST TRIGGER

  10. Snowblowers are, in my mind, the electric razors of the shoveling world. I am a shovel die hard. Not only is it quiet and it allows me to put the snow exactly where I want it, but snowblowers have a tendency to not be very thorough. They leave just a bit of snow on the driveway, but that thin layer is very compact, and is easily converted to ice. The result is often worse than a driveway covered in snow and impossible to remove. With a shovel, you can get every last bit and have a nice, clean, dry driveway.

    It doesn’t help matters that for years my neighbor was a snow blower guy, and he was very nice and well intentioned, clearing my driveway for me without asking and without expecting anything in return. I can’t NOT thank him for the gesture, but I’d rather do it myself, and he never seemed to understand that despite my stating it as explicitly as possible. His aim with the blower wasn’t so great either, and the result was snow plastered against my siding.

    These situations can be sticky, and I wasn’t about to be a jerk about the whole thing, especially to someone who was about as nice a neighbor as you could ask for in all other respects, so I developed the habit of shoveling in the early morning or late at night, and I gotta say, this is really the way to go. Carving your path through the virgin snow in silence, alone in the brisk air with only the excess ambient light that comes with a snowfall to light the surroundings. What a way to start or end a day.

  11. Snowblowers certainly do leave a little bit behind, including little trails off of the sides if you have too much snow for your blow.

    However, you can easily go behind them with a shovel and clean up the leftovers to get your nice, clean driveway.

    Shoveling is great exercise, sure, but it’s also a source of many cardiac incidents in the winter months, as people did into their driveways in a fit of atypical activity. It also takes a lot longer that snowblowing, in most cases, and some folks don’t have the luxury of time.

    I’d never tell my parents (I have a surly, chore-hating reputation to maintain), but I enjoy getting outside with the shovel and a podcast or two. I hate the noise and wrangling of the snowblower. But it has its place, for sure. If I can’t help, I’d much rather have my getting-older dad using it than a shovel, especially when he’s in a hurry.

  12. Snowblower guy who helps his neighbors? I’ll believe it when I see it. Not only does my local snowblower guy do me the favor of waking me up with his snowblower at 7:30 AM on a Sunday, he has the amazing ability to see the property line on the sidewalk under 16 inches of snow, and stop accordingly.

    I mean, okay, it’s not like he owes me anything. I can shovel. But do you have to steer it repeatedly past my car with the blower pointed at my windshield? I could have done without that extra few inches of half-melted snow.

  13. My Snowblower Man lives two houses down and purchased his first snow blower this year. While I do enjoy getting out and shoveling, and love the satisfaction of a bone-dry driveway, his doing my driveway and sidewalks is greatly appreciated, especially after the record snowfalls here in the Washington, DC area. My wife and I sent he and his family a nice basket of fruit and goodies as a small token of appreciation. Thanks Tom!

  14. As a longtime player of the role-playing game “Unknown Armies,” I recognize this man as a Godwalker. May he soon ascend to the Statosphere.

  15. So snowblower man is a… hmm, meme, for lack of a better word? I have wondered why these two guys in my neighborhood (on a cul-de-sac) are always out plowing the sidewalks and driveways besides their own. I kind of thought they were a little touched in the head, to be honest!

    I work at home and have my own snowblower so doing my driveway is no big deal but I found it a little perplexing that these guys would often come along and start plowing my driveway while I’m sitting in my office watching them. Made me feel like I had to drop everything and go take over the task. I never realized this was a “thing”. Interesting.

    I wish they liked mowing lawns.

  16. It is saddening to me that the response this evokes from some people is criticism. Really? I am glad I don’t know who you are — I would definitely skip your house. My neighbors seem to genuinely appreciate that my good fortune (inheriting a big two-stage snowblower like an earlier commenter) is shared with them. I also never accept payment because I do it simply for the joy of being nice. If you want to shovel your own drive — more power to you. I say, long live the mysterious, generous snowblower man. Generosity and kindness are *not* negative traits.

  17. Our neighbors have a Snowblower Friend who came a few days ago and cleared out our shared driveway. We’re in DC, and that dude is MY HERO.

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