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Woster: Shovel, shovel and shovel some more

Some places, Mitchell and Winner, for example, had a couple of feet of snow, maybe more, in the last big storm.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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Weather specialists should study how quickly packed snow turns to solid ice on an unshoveled sidewalk or driveway.

I don’t need to know the answer. It’s just a question I mull over as I hack into at least four inches of ice on most of my driveway. I managed to clear a walking path to my front door, but even with a liberal sprinkling of de-icing stuff, the driveway is being stubborn this winter.

If you are thinking, “Well, Terry, you should have jumped on the shoveling sooner,’’ I agree. But it was the holidays. We had guests. We had meals. We had present openings. And, during one of the biggest snows – I forget which one - the wind whipped around the side of the house like it was coming straight from the North Pole. I pride myself on being an old farm boy, but these days I am mostly old. Fierce, frigid winds tear right through me these days.

I can’t be the only one. After the recent storms heaped snow in record or near-record piles over parts of South Dakota, a lot of people must be chilled to the bone and wondering why they thought South Dakota would be a good place to live.

An unchangeable fact about life in the northern Plains is that winter lasts for several months so if you don't want to be cooped up for the duration, you have to dress warm and head outside.

I shouldn’t complain. Compared to many places in the state, I have had it pretty good so far this winter. We didn’t get the total snow some communities did. Besides, Nancy and I are retired. We have no set schedule. We have few obligations we need to brave a blizzard to fulfill. We can ride things out.

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I feel guilty when I look at the half-cleared driveway. We have few visitors, but what if? At my age, each time I visit my doctor, one of the first questions is, “Have you fallen in the last year?’’ I can usually say I have not. That makes my doctor smile.

When we lived in the townhouse in Fort Pierre five or six years ago, I slipped on the ice as I carried out the trash. I never knew the human skull could make such an explosive noise loud when it struck a patch of ice-covered concrete. Perhaps the noise was inside my head. I lay there a while, mentally considering whether I was alive. Deciding I must be, I gingerly began moving one limb after another. Everything worked. I was lucky.

Some places, Mitchell and Winner, for example, had a couple of feet of snow, maybe more, in the last big storm. Only a kid on a snow day wants to be out in that much snow, right?

Back in 1968 and 1969, Nancy and I lived in Sioux Falls. We had a modest two-bedroom rental place on Conklin just off 10th Street near the I-229 exchange. National Weather Service reports say Sioux Falls had 94.7 inches of snow that season. I always say 100 inches.

The greatest snow depth at any one time was 34 inches, measured on Dec. 31, 1968, and again on Feb. 28, 1969.

Our second child, Scott, was born the first week of March in 1969. Mountains of snow were everywhere. Our house had an attached garage with a long driveway. Snow fell nearly every day. As the due date for our son neared, I felt an urgency to keep the driveway clear in case we had to make a midnight dash across town to McKennan Hospital. I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled some more, a couple of times a day.

I worked downtown at the newspaper, often reporting for a shift at 6 a.m. I shoveled the driveway in the pre-dawn dark, spent the day at the paper and came home to shovel fresh snow, again in the dark. We lived on a bus route. Plows hit our street regularly, shoving snow into the mouth of the driveway a couple of times a day. I wanted to like the plow drivers. Some days I struggled.

The morning our son arrived, I had just finished clearing the drive. We made it to the hospital in plenty of time. It was worth every bit of shoveling.

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I can’t seem to work up that kind of enthusiasm these days.

Read more of Terry Woster's column's here ...
As things were, once we had paychecks in hand, we carved out money for rent, groceries, the laundromat and the Sunday collection plate.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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