Making Peace with Snow 

 

You can’t live in Ottawa and not learn to contend with snow.  I used to sit in my room and just watch the first snowflakes waft their way to the ground and wonder how many of those would accumulate to the depth of one inch.  Or fill a shovel, or a snow plough for that matter. I just sat and watched them fall, the first flurries of late October not completely captured by gravity.  By the time they had morphed into the thick, heavy snowfalls of January and February of course, I had had enough of watching.  

Nevertheless, my first act of wrestling with snow came during my first Ottawa Christmas in 1964. On leaving a party hosted at his home by Stuart McKinnon, the lead singer of the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church choir, I got back to my trusty Volkswagen, only to find that it was not going anywhere; snow had accumulated above the hubcaps.  

What to do?  

A few years before, I had been confronted in Morant Bay, eastern Jamaica, with a broken clutch cable in my uncle’s Volkswagen and had managed nevertheless to drive all 32 miles over hill and dale and observing stop signs and stop lights back to Kingston, by timing the gear changes. That feat also required me to turn the engine off at stop signs, put the car into first gear and then turn the ignition key which would get us moving again. So, I employed this trick again – at least in part.  

The problem this time was traction. The wheels would turn but no matter what I did, the car would not move. Leaving the engine running with the first gear engaged and the wheels spinning, I got behind the car and pushed. The car rolled! Reluctantly, but it rolled. And then I had to run after it and spring into the seat before it went too far without a driver. Fortunately, the snow was acting as a bit of a brake so the car did not escape.  

 

Ewart Walters, From his book: “To Follow Right – A Journalist’s Journey” 

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