Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

April 27, 2014

Nathan Payne: Winter's lessons aren't lost on me

One famous Benjamin Franklin quote bounced side-to-side between my ears while the umpteenth round of snow flakes splattered on my windshield.

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” he said.

“I wonder if Old Man Winter missed the message?” I said aloud, staring at the snow accumulating Tuesday morning along Hammond Road. “You’re not supposed to see your breath after Easter.”

Hold-over optimism from a sunny weekend downstate leaked away the day prior while I hurtled north on U.S. 131 toward Cadillac — a return to winter.

A wall of clouds marched across the highway, an army stomping out the warm sun. The siege began 100 miles north of where I passed the last Traverse City Tourism billboard. It’s difficult not to find irony in the signs touting idyllic photos of sun, sand and water.

The white-knuckle end to the three-hour commute gave me plenty of time to mull lessons learned during my first winter living north of the palm on the mitten.

Mitten probably is a deserved label this year since they’ll probably sell better than T-shirts when the tourists arrive next month.

First — Running a snow blower is a chore, nothing more.

I bought mine in August. It’s the biggest, tank-tracked, 9-horsepower monstrosity I could heave into our pickup. It was a great deal since I was the only guy in northern Michigan naive enough to look forward to winter in summer’s fleeting days.

I waited anxiously for the first snowfall deep enough to light-up that one-cylinder bad boy. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t bellow a few Tim Allen-style grunts the first time snow erupted from its chute.

Yet, sometime during the fifth-straight week of after-work driveway clearing, the chore lost its luster.

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