"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Snow Shoveling As Outdoor Recreation
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

Aside from the fact that snow creates some banner days outdoors, it is one of the most cussed and discussed features of a Hoosier winter.

When the snow flies, folks come down with a terrible case of the miseries, and it may be justifiable. True, when the north wind blows and we have snows all kinds of bad things can/do happen.

But I always do a sly smirk when the media offers the stern warning that snow shovels are the scourge of the universe.

You can't deny the stories they dish out. Every year--perhaps even every snow of consequence--someone dies of a show-shovel induced heart problem.

The Indiana Department of Public Health does not keep statistics on snow-shove heart attacks/deaths.

Snow shoveling, an art form of its own, is a fine form of outdoor recreation . . . if done in accordance with prevailing conditions, and with easily attainable goals. Don't overdo it!

On the Saturday after the Wednesday-night blizzard of 1978, I arrived home on 111th Street at 2 p.m. to discover that I could not even get my car off the street and into my driveway.

Knowing that I should shovel enough snow to get the car off the road, I struggled through deep snow (five feet deep in places) to get to the house. There I changed to warmer clothing, grabbed my snow shovel and made it back to my car.

My immediate goal was to uncover a strip of driveway large enough to get my car off the street. To accomplish this I worked slowly, but deliberately, and when my initial objective was achieved, I realized that I was having some fun. I wasn't throwing the snow in all directions, just moving it off to the sides of the driveway.

Not bad for a guy in his mid 50s with a ticker that sported a natural flutter--an offbeat heartbeat, so to speak.

Bob Knight and his Hoosiers would be involved with Michigan in an important Big Ten basketball game at 4 p.m. I figured to move snow off the driveway until game time, then watch the proceedings on TV and await the arrival of one of the pickup truck/snow plow entrepreneurs to finish the job.

Unfortunately, I was having so much fun moving snow (and was feeling so great), that when darkness came (a bit past 5 p.m.) I was just clearing the big turn-around area in front of the garage door. It was a sight to behold--a 300-foot, crushed-stone driveway clean enough for a picnic with high walls of snow on either side.

Incidentally, Knight's visiting Hoosiers won the game.

The key to my snow-shoveling success hinges on the notion that I am not even remotely interested in getting rid of the cold stuff. As noted previously, I like snow; it gives me a chance to do some things outdoors that I can't do without it. All I want to do is move it away from areas where I want to do some living, then let warm winds from the south do the work.

Some snow must be lifted to get it where I want it, but I try to keep this to a minimum. I just scoot it around to places where it is out of my way.

In addition to my long driveway on that 111th Street house, there was a natural pond that must have covered a quarter of an acre. My kids--and others from the neighborhood--ice skated endless hours on the pond, reason enough for me to keep the ice free of snow.

Sure it was work, but I likened it more or less to eating a 1,500- pound black Angus. I would tackle it one section at a time . . . somewhat like ignoring the whole bull while tackling a 12-ounce sirloin (well done, thank you).

By creating designs in the snow, the "shoveling" became even more fun. At times I was reluctant to finish the job by destroying the designs, but my objective of giving the kids a place to skate always prevailed.

All of this may sound as though I am pooh-poohing the advice of the medical profession and others who are concerned with the well being of individuals. Far from it, I would say the snow shovel can be a lethal weapon for those who allow it to be so.

But the snow shovel probably is no worse than any other form of exertion if it is used in accordance with the physical limitations of the wielder. Sure, if one has a heart problem or is otherwise not in good physical condition, going at shoveling snow like killing snakes could be a problem. But such a person would be a poor life insurance risk in any other form of exertion.

Shoveling snow can be risky in other ways. Those who shovel snow must dress to protect the body from low temperatures, but they should remember that too much protection can also be a factor in discomfort. Dressing for sitting a deer stand or duck blind on a raw winter day differs greatly from shoveling snow or rabbit hunting. A good bet is to dress in layers of clothing. This will make it possible to remove layers of clothing not needed for comfort. 

The thing to remember in shoveling snow--or any other form of exertion--is that it should be done in small doses. If there is the slightest hint of fatigue or discomfort, the best prescription is rest . . . and a checkup.
Removing snow from small areas or making games of your work, tends to make it easier and introduces the element of fun. When the job is done it is time to celebrate. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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