It was about 9:15 on a recent Saturday morning. We had received three inches of snow the night before, the outside temp was 12-above and I was working up the ambition to go outside to remove snow from our driveway.
Comfortably (and warmly) ensconced in my recliner I was watching Iowa Outdoors on Iowa Public Television. Ironically, the Iowa Outdoors episode had been recorded during balmy weather.
Suddenly and unexpectedly I heard the sound of a pick-up truck and a blade scraping snow from our driveway. I got up and watched from inside the front door.
When the young man operating the truck stepped out and began shoveling snow from our deck I opened the door and asked why he was clearing away our snow.
“Aren’t you on my list?” the tall, slender fellow asked.
“Not that I know of,” I replied.
The young man laughed and said, “Well, that’s the fourth one I got wrong today.”
He continued shoveling snow off our deck and I offered to pay him. He refused payment. “It’s my fault,” he said.
I am healthy enough and young enough to remove our own snow. I have a snow blower that relieves most of the misery and besides I’m a frugal guy and don’t like paying for something I can do well myself.
All of that said it was enjoyable watching someone else taking care of that task. After offering to pay him at least three times and his refusal to take money three times, I asked what he normally charges for removing snow from our size property. “Twenty-bucks,” he said. I took his cell number for future consideration.
Unlike my brothers, I’m not very handy around the house. Snow removal is the one thing I can do with some skill. Besides, I’m fussy and want it done right.
I can remember two instances when I paid for snow removal in the past. Both were when I was much younger.
In the early ’70s we had a snowstorm that left a three-foot (at least) drift across our driveway in Webster City. I had been shoveling for some time when an area farmer on a John Deere tractor with a front-end loader cleaned our neighbor’s drive in a matter of minutes.
We were on a tight budget but I was already worn out. I asked the farmer what he would charge to clean my driveway. “Five dollars,” he said. He had a deal.
A few years later, now living in Sioux City, a snowstorm had left a similar drift across our driveway. I had been shoveling for a while when I began experiencing a strong discomfort in my chest. Not yet 30 years old I had read about young men having heart attacks while shoveling snow.
Leaving my shovel behind, I went back into our house, took off my heavy coat and lay down on the living room floor. After the pain subsided I looked out the door to see how much snow was left. A lot!
Just then I saw something we don’t often see these days. Two teenage boys were walking down the street with shovels over their shoulders.
“Hey, fellas,” I shouted, “come here!”
They walked to our door. “You looking for work?” I asked.
They assured me they were.
“What will you charge to finish cleaning my driveway and the sidewalk?”
They looked over the huge drift. “Is 10 dollars okay?” one boy asked.
I remembered all the snow I shoveled for 50-cents to a buck when I was a kid but hastily agreed to their price.
Bright young men they were. They already knew the path to wealth is to find a need and fill it. They did an excellent job.
A few years later I bought a used snow blower which was subsequently stolen from our garage. With the insurance money I bought a brand new, two-stage snow blower with an electric starter and chains on the tires. That was 35 years ago and I have updated a couple times since.
The only thing better in winter than a good snow blower is a pick-up truck with a blade and a young driver who gets confused with addresses.
Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.