Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

January 12, 2014

Garret Leiva: Time for shovels full of machismo

Archimedes boasted that he could move the world with a lengthy lever and well-placed fulcrum. The Greek mathematical genius obviously never shoveled snow with a roof rake.

Winter in northern Michigan comes with a few foregone conclusions: gloves, hats and whether to shovel the roof. Words like snow load, ice dams and structural integrity pile up with each round of falling flakes.

You eventually cave in before the roof does.

This winter looks like a roof topper. I’ll soon haul out the extension ladder and my size-10 boots will dance across the shingles. I might even remember the shovel on my first trip up.

I’ll spend hours shoveling 4-foot-high snowdrifts 20 feet above the ground. The practice has more to do with man-logic than 40-pound-per-square-foot of snow engineering requirements.

Men theorize that shoveling snow prevents ice dams and leaky roofs. They also point out the danger of a roof collapse, ignoring the fact that a 175-pound man standing on said overloaded roof doesn’t seem structurally or logically sound.

Under all that snow are vent stacks that must be cleared, lest you suffer dire circumstances or a disapproving father-in-law.

The real reason is less pragmatic and more Cro-Male. Humorist Garrison Keillor said shoveling a roof is “one more way to inspire awe and terror in women; right up there with driving fast and cleaning your shotgun in the kitchen.”

I don’t drive a Corvette, so it’s up to the rooftop for me.

Some people put a price on sanity; about $30 per hour or a flat-rate charge per roof. Two things prevent me from outsourcing this thankless job: cheapness and a shovel.

Like most men, I overestimate my stamina. And I’m ready to suck on my sweat-soaked wool socks after 30 minutes of fierce shoveling. An hour into the job and I’m at the edge of reason — and the garage gable.

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