Still Life With Shovel

Feb 16, 2015

As we dig out from yet another winter storm, NHPR's Sean Hurley reflects on his life so far as a snow shoveler.  

The snow falls.  The storm ends and starts again.  I plant my shovel in the snow pile like a flag on the moon of winter.  Take my boots off, put them back on again. The plows shudder by and shudder by...on snow chained tires and spitting sand and I have no plans to lean the shovel in its summer spot behind the house.

The shovel plant.
Credit Lois Hurley

I remember shoveling the family driveway in the blizzard of 78.  I was 11 years old and knew I was shoveling legendary snow.

In 4th grade we had to learn to spell the word Samaritan.  The teacher told us what a Good Samaritan was and I wondered about the existence of such a peculiar and helpful person. Was I a Good Samaritan?  Early one morning in the snow, I was 10, I went down the street and shoveled the walkways of my older neighbors. "Good Samaritan" - that great pair of too good words ran in circles around my head like a halo in the making.  But this was also the countermagic to a summertime habit I regularly indulged.  The Bad Samaritan game of ding dong ditch.

I hoped as I shoveled that someone would catch me being so good.  They would smile from a window, or come down and try to give me something.  I would accept an English muffin or hot chocolate, but I would refuse all offers of money. I would brush off any thanks, disappear as quickly as possible, late for my next appointment with utter goodness.  

But no one noticed and later I waited to hear the powerful rumors of the mysterious shoveler. But there was nothing.  Apparently, Good Samaritans can go unseen, unspoken of.  It must be too late, but I still want to tell them, It was me, you fools, who shoveled your walk in the late 70's! And also, by the way, it was me ringing your doorbell. All those times there was no one there?  I'm sorry about that and yes, I'll take an English muffin.

I've always shoveled where I've lived.  But when we moved to Thornton a decade ago, there was already a neighbor long used to plowing out our horseshoe driveway so I let it go.  But we had our walkway, four feet wide by ten feet long and I had my Samaritan's history with walkways.

I make a big deal of what I've got left.  The shoveler's equivalent of a comb-over. A postage stamp I can clear in a single minute. But I am still a shoveler, a veteran of the great blizzard of 78, unrecognized walkway Samaritan of the year before.

The plows shudder by and shudder by. I plant my shovel in the snow pile like a flag on the moon of winter.  Boots off and on. The storm ends and starts again.  And I have no plans to lean the shovel in its summer spot behind the house.