Snow Problem

For generations we hearty New Englanders endured winter with stoicism, not to mention cellars full of potatoes and barrels full of cider. And we made sure our snow shovels were handy.

That was then. This is now, the era of hyped weather, when a hint of snow flurries finds our best and brightest TV reporters falling over one another to chronicle our desperate collective need to be ready for the coming ordeal.

Before a flake falls, we descend en masse on stores to prepare for the horrifying prospect of 10 or even 20 hours of grueling deprivation. We lay in oceans of milk and water, enough bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a battalion of first graders and sufficient batteries to power the next rocket to Mars. We stock up on essential food groups — beer, Doritos and Little Debbie Snack Cakes — and above all we clamor for snow shovels.

Snow shovels? What, we’ve lost the ones we stampeded for last year?

Let me be clear. I am in total sympathy with hoarders. My grandmother amassed a splendid collection of canned cling peach halves and waxed paper. My parents kept what some might call unseemly quantities of paper towels and vermouth. And we are still using the rice and lamp oil we put by during the great Y2K scare five years ago. Such behavior, however odd, can be justified because all these, like milk and bread and even batteries, are ultimately consumable. But snow shovels? How can you use up — or wear out — a show shovel?

More than 30 years ago we got our first snow shovel, a cheap blue thing. It was followed by a cheesy gold-colored number. Today we rely on a sleek shovel with a crooked handle touted by the folks at Blue Seal as a back saver, with the crummy old ones as backup because, well, you never know. Our snow shovel consumption adds up to about one a decade. That should be par, particularly here in the Cheapskate State. Yet every winter we see peculiar, panicked runs on snow shovels.

Who are the desperate seekers? Most newcomers are from Massachusetts, where (we hear) it has also been known to snow.

Are Granite Staters in a collective state of denial? In order to continue to survive winter after snowy winter without going insane, do we contract amnesia each spring, so that the following first winter snowfall — look, Mabel, there’s odd white stuff outside! — comes as a shock?

Maybe we’ve become so convinced that global warming is upon us that we can’t resist acting on it. Hey, Horace, let’s take that old snow shovel to the dump on our way to the garden center to buy a couple of palm trees!

Or — a distinct possibility to those of us with garages and barns and sheds stuffed to the rafters with important stuff like three-legged chairs, Halloween decorations and broken rakes we really, really are going to fix — maybe we simply can’t find the dratted shovels.

This will not do. We are a proud, capable people. We tamed the wilderness, we sent men to the moon, we unseated a vile dictator and beamed photos of him in his skivvies around the globe. The least we can do is hang onto our lousy snow shovels from one year to the next.

Then, just maybe, all those reporters would be forced to cover real news, such as dealing with the statewide glut of soon-to-be-useless highway tokens. NH

Author and Concord Monitor columnist Katy Burns is holed up in her well-stocked home in Bow with her cats, husband and word processor and, no, you can’t borrow her snow shovels.