Winter sports

Farm Forum

I’d just gotten my cheese dip container balanced on my knee for a well-earned afternoon of watching winter sports contests.

My remote control was tightly attached to my right hand with a thick rubber band so I wouldn’t lose it during brief naps. The furnace was turned up to snub the blowing snow scratching at the door.

I was ready.

Then the house Olympic Torch Bearer appeared, waving a smoldering, long-handled spatula over her head and announced that our own snow games were about to begin.

It was time, the little wife with the big spatula said, to venture outside and display my winter prowess on our roof sewer vent and the ice banks spilling over our eave troughs.

So, as the trumpets blared and the corny introductions by the television announcer kicked in, Team Stubble Mulch out here on the frozen tundra reluctantly overshoed-up to compete in the annual Sewer Vent and Overhanging Ice Whack Olympics.

I was disappointed, of course. I don’t know why these winter sports events hold my interest. They’ve been televising them for maybe three or four decades, now. Shucks, I have ice on my roof overhang older than that.

But I left the cat in charge of my chip dip and headed for the roof dressed in my official uniform, along with a small ax tucked into my belt, a crowbar on a strong lanyard around my neck and a wood chisel tucked into my pocket.

Some of my wife’s old panty hose was tied around my pant legs at the ankles to keep the snow out of my socks, and I wore my best Elmer Fudd ear flap hat. I took along our son’s plastic goggles from his high school chemistry class.

I had undergone the transition from couch potato to a well muscled, alert, perfectly conditioned Ice Whack athlete, thirty feet in the air on an old, slippery aluminum ladder slightly bent from an summer-time confrontation with the garbage truck.

At the sound of an imagined gun I started chipping away. Neatness in ice whacking doesn’t count. Points are awarded for speed and the tonnage of ice chipped. Points are deducted for shingle nicks and missing fingers.

I had one leg on a ladder rung and the other slung over the glacier of ice cascading down off the roof. One arm was wrapped around the steam-spewing sewer vent and the other guided the ax sharply as it bit into centuries-old ice that had built up since the last Ice Age.

My ax hit the ice with solid whacks. It calved into bread loaf sizes and fell noisily onto my air conditioner down below. Pieces of frozen ox flesh and fur flew into my face and on to my goggles. Strange looking bugs were freed from what had been their tomb for millions of years. An ancient fern leaf kicked up out of the ice and stuck briefly to me my rosy cheek.

I freed a migrating mallard duck that had stopped to rest weeks before and become mired in what had been roof slush.

It was all darn hard work. I finished in time for the TV show’s luge race. Watching those guys careening down the mountain on their backs, feet first on skinny sleds, I came to realize that I wasn’t the only bimbo in the box.

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