Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ready for Winter

The yellow caution that winter is coming... missed it.

What a funny lot we Alaskans are. It matters not how long we’ve lived here, we merrily fritter away the last days of fall, seemingly oblivious to what is steamrolling right at us. When the first hard frosts are quickly followed by the first few inches of snow, there is a general attitude of total disbelief.

“Good lord! I didn’t see that coming! Who’d have thought: SNOW! I can’t believe it.” 

“New to the area?”

“Nope. Lived here all my life; about sixty years.” 

It doesn’t take a doctorate in meteorology to have a fair suspicion that winter is coming, particularly when all the plants lay over and die, leaves carpet the lawn, and the geese have passed through honking like so many aerial warning horns. Although I can see how the completely dead plant thing might fake a person out as we spend a great deal of time watching plants die around our yard throughout the summer months. However, the geese should be a dead giveaway.

Missed the geese, can't miss the creeping snow

“Lookee there, Zeke. Them crazy geese are flying in a V-formation, and honking for all they’s worth.” 

“Which way they headed?”

“In a general south direction.” 

“Think it means anything?”

“Dunno. I’m tryin’ to figure out why one side of the V is longer than the other.” 

“Well, that’s simple, ya dummy! There’s more of ‘em on that side!”


Missing those obvious signs of winter’s impending arrival is like walking into the business end of a garbage truck that’s backing up. Yet every year, there are a number of things I can just plan on doing in an after-the-fact mode.

The number one item on my after-the-fact list is cleaning out the rain gutters. Although, to be fair, there is sound reasoning behind my annual assault on the leafy slush and ice in my gutters. It simply doesn’t make sense to clean out gutters when there are leaves still clinging stubbornly to the trees, just waiting to settle into the gutters right after I’ve wasted a beautiful autumn day cleaning them out. In an effort to avoid that aggravating situation, I wait patiently for the last few stragglers to make the leap. Without fail, those last few leaves are not sent drifting down by a playful wind, but are ripped from the limbs under the crushing weight of a heavy, wet snow. 

To be frank about the matter, I can’t imagine cleaning out gutters without the use of a screwdriver as an ice pick. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it’s legal.

Another perennial member on the list is storing the garden hose. This has become a bone of contention with Mrs. Poynor. 

"Dude, you can put up the hose and change the oil, now."
“A.E., have you put up the hose yet?”

“No, there’s still time to wash the truck.” 

“How many times have you washed the truck over the past twelve months?”

“All together? Umm... none.” 

“Put up the hose.”

“We’ve got plenty of time. I’ll get to it.”

That conversation repeats itself several times until the hose is dragged to the garage for thawing out. I imagine it looks to the neighbors as if I’ve been attacked by a pack of rabid Hula-Hoops as I stumble across the lawn carrying 130 feet of rigid, coiled garden hose. Come spring, as usual, I suppose there will be a few more splits that will need judicious application of duct tape. Not only is the hose beginning to look like a well-fed anaconda in spots, it’s almost too heavy to drag around the yard.  

While the gutters and the hose are freezing up, the snow thrower is begging for maintenance. That’s another thing that will wait, no doubt, well beyond the time a prudent man would take action. The time frame, according to the average Alaskan, for such things is after there are eight inches of heavy, crusty snow coating the driveway. Only then will the need to change the oil on the snow thrower become an absolute necessity. Only then will it be possible to experience the thrill of dropping the little drain plug in eight inches of snow due to frozen fingers. Only then will hours be spent groping around in the snow with numbed stubs, picking up every piece of gravel in a four-foot radius because each one feels just like the lost little drain plug. 

I guess being ready for winter really means just knowing what misery to expect.

Shameless plug: If you enjoyed this taste of Alaska, you ought to check out my books that are available on Amazon in the U.S. or on Amazon in the UK.