Let The Chips Fall

Audio | March 15, 2017

Ann Lusch

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When the snow is mostly gone and the days start to feel longer, there’s one part of winter that tends to stubbornly hang on. Mike Paulus tells us about his – and our – battle with our icy foe.

Right now, I can hear it. Echoing down the chilly streets. Bouncing off the backyard fences. The chipping. The sharp, staccato hammering. It would appear as though the people of our city have made their decision:

The ice must go.

There is no snow to shovel from the walkway, no windshield to scrape. Only the ice, crusty and thick, sealing the sidewalks away from the rubbery soles of our boots. Speed-bumping the end of our driveways. Transforming our front steps into terrifying, dilapidated luge tracks. It’s been waiting for us all season long, looming beneath Mother Nature’s thick winter chill. Never moving, patient. And now here, in the middle of March, it has revealed itself.

“I’m still here,” it whispers in the dead of night. “What are you gonna do about it?”

The city wakes up one day to blazing sunlight. Parts of the street out front are dry as a bone, and water sparkles down the gutters. We go outside – without a jacket – to check on the ice.

And what’s this? There are lines in the ice. Fissures are forming – cracks in the armor. Today, we think, Today we’re going to smash this ice ... to oblivion.

We race to the garage and retrieve our weapon of choice – the big, long ice chipper thingy we bought on sale last Spring. Where our plastic snow shovels have failed, this will succeed.

But we are idiots. We get a few good thwacks in, and ice chips fly gloriously through the air. In slow motion. Then, confident in our strength and skill, we raise up our fearsome ice chipper thingies, and bring them roaring down upon the ice – and that ... is when things get real.

It’s a funny thing, ice. It just sits there all winter long, doing ... nothing. Right?

Wrong. For months beneath the dark, dark snow, the ice has drawn into itself, absorbing The Cold. Like a black hole. Make no mistake, dear friends, the ice is doing something. It’s getting harder.

So ... confident in our strength and skill, we raise up our fearsome ice chipper thingies, and bring them roaring down upon the ice assuming, nay, knowing it will simply shatter against the fabulous force of our blow. But our blades connect with the ice, only to bounce back, the tremendous energy of our strike recoiling right back up the shaft and into our hands, up our arms, and into our shoulders.

And. It. Hurts.

The ice just waits for us to try again. So we try. Over and over we try, sending blow after glancing blow into the ice, taking off small chunks here and there, but nothing ... nothing of consequence.

We’ve curled up the corners of the ice chipper thingy’s not-so-mighty blade, so we fling it aside, drop to our knees, and hammer against the ice with our bare fists. We slump down onto it, weeping.

“I’m still here,” the ice whispers into our naked ear. “Having fun, yet?”

Tags: ice / winter / chipper / ice scraper / March / wisconsin winter

Mike Paulus is the online editor for Volume One Magazine in Eau Claire, where he's been writing his "The Rear End" column for over a decade.