Chippewa Herald * February 18, 2004

Who needs a snowblower when you have the amazing scoop shovel?

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

"Well, for thirty bucks, it had BETTER be a good shovel!"

Those were the words of a surprised checkout clerk a few weeks ago when I finally found another "scoop shovel" to add to my collection. I can't remember if it was at Farm & Fleet, Shopko, or Menard's, but I do know that I was excited to find it. I had been looking for a fifth such shovel for several years now, with no luck. Price was no object.

I bought the last Suncast "Big Scoop" they had in stock that day. (Good thing they didn't have more, or I might've taken them all, risking the wrath of my lovely wife, who claims I collect too many things.)

I've never gotten into the snowblower fad. At first it was due to circumstances: When Beth and I started our married life in Minneapolis, we lived in an apartment and then a duplex, neither of which had a driveway we had to shovel.

We did have a house when we moved to Colorado, but we also discovered that, at an altitude of 8700 feet, the snow is more like fluffed-up confetti than like the snow we grew up with in Minnesota. We literally swept it away with a broom! I remember thinking it would've been fun clearing our "driveway in the clouds" with a leaf-blower.

We spent the next three years in Oregon, and, despite a latitude similar to that of Chippewa Falls, there is no snow in Portland. (Actually, we did occasionally get a half inch of snow, but it always prompted immediate shut-downs of all businesses and schools until it melted -- still no shoveling.)

After moving to Chippewa Falls in June 1991, we had a great summer back in the Midwest, totally unaware of impending doom. I remember having three cords of firewood delivered in late October of that year. I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to have it dumped on the driveway, since there would be "plenty of time" to move it before the first snowfall.

Some of you may remember what happened next: the Great Halloween Storm of '91. My firewood was covered with TWO FEET of snow! Welcome to Wisconsin, indeed.

That was my sudden inauguration into Real Snow-Shoveling. I was too cheap to buy a snowblower, and had too little garage space to store one anyway. So I grudgingly stuck to brute force during those first few Wisconin winters.

Shoveling is hard, back-breaking work, though, and I often wondered if I should take the plunge and buy a machine. Then one day around 1995, a neighbor, Andy Majorins, lent me a weird new type of shovel. That was the beginning of my obsession with the scoop shovel.

A scoop shovel is no ordinary snow shovel. Its greatest feature is that you never have to lift it! Good thing, too -- with a 5-inch deep basin spanning 22x28 inches, it holds the same amount of snow as five or six regular shovels. You simply push it forward, gathering up snow, until you hit the edge of the driveway. Once there, you push down on the handle to raise the front end of the scoop, which allows the whole shovel to ride up OVER the snow bank. Then you give it a jerk and pull it back quickly, so that all the snow is left up there.

Using the scoop shovel was so much easier than using a regular shovel that I vowed never to do it the bad old way again. Unfortunately, stores were sold out for the season. For the rest of that winter, I had to wait until my neighbor was done shoveling his driveway, then I'd go borrow his scoop shovel and do mine.

When stores started stocking shovels again the next August, I bought a scoop shovel. There was no going back -- we soon had two, then three, then four scoop shovels, since the kids wanted to get in on the fun.

In 1998, we moved to a new house with a much bigger driveway -- at least twice the area of our old driveway. Despite this increased size, I haven't even thought about buying a snowblower for years now, thanks to the amazing scoop shovel. In fact, I knew my condition had become permanent when I even turned down a FREE snowblower last winter!

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy the quiet serenity of a fleet of snow scoops gliding across a driveway in unison, pursuing a common goal with my kids in good old manual labor. I don't miss the noise, fumes, maintenance, danger, and storage problems of a snowblower.

Besides, I always ask, why would I use a machine to make this job easier, and then go to the YMCA to lift weights?

Just to be safe, though, I no longer have firewood dumped on my driveway.


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