April 08, 2020

Ice-chipping tips of a dubious nature

I realize that in polite circles it is not considered good form to guffaw, chortle, giggle, snigger or snicker when faced with a story such as the one in Monday’s newspaper about the frustrated Fairfield chap who chose a .357 Magnum handgun as his weapon of choice to remove a massive ice buildup from the eaves of the roof of his home. (“Go ahead, ice ridge: Make my day…”)

I am fully aware that reckless conduct with a firearm and discharging a firearm within city limits is a stunt that demands swift intervention by officers of the law. And I readily acknowledge that innocent bystanders, including young children at play, and even Fairfield’s Quick Draw McGraw himself, could have been seriously injured in the caper.

So why, then, do I risk the eternal condemnation of responsible adults everywhere by unabashedly laughing whenever I think about this guy hauling out his gun and plugging away at the damnable all-encompassing ice? I’ll tell you why: Because after 10 days of chipping ice off everything from my driveway to my dormers I feel the man’s pain and can appreciate the back-to-the-wall desperation that fueled the shootout. And I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that you, my fellow — and fellowette — ice chippers, appreciate from whence the shooter cometh, as well.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised that one of us hadn’t thought of it first, since nothing else in our dubious battle plans — including short-lived flirtations with blowtorch, pickax and pots of boiling water — seems to have worked worth a damn. It has occurred to me that the job may ultimately call for a chainsaw, although I am hesitant to be the first wing nut in my neighborhood to resort to this radical approach. And plastic explosives, I suppose, are probably out, as well. (See .357 Magnum, above.)

The Fairfield Incident, like the Auburn Incident a couple of weeks previous in which Vice President Al Gore grabbed a downed power line in a photo-op designed to reassure us that our leaders may be fearless but they sure are dumb, is living proof of what can happen to the human brain when it becomes encased in ice.

Both stunts, of course, should have come with ample warning to little kids against trying such things at home. But whereas the vice-presidential faux pas evoked a derisive snicker, at best, from the proletariat, the Fairfield adventure drew an understanding smile from homeowners in the frozen trenches. We’ve been there. And although we’ve not done that, we might have. So let he who is without ice cast the first aspersion.

Meanwhile, area hospitals report that they have treated an unusually large number of people who have injured themselves trying to shovel the heavy snow and ice off their roofs. “A lot of people aren’t using their prudence,” Sister Mary Norberta, who heads Bangor’s St. Joseph Hospital, told a BDN reporter. As they say down at the nunnery, we’ve gotten out of the habit. And faced with this relentless snow/sleet/rain/ice cycle we’ve glommed our way into, who wouldn’t have?

Looking roofward, one may witness all manner of lashups as the natives and their hired troubleshooters (or, in Fairfield, their hired gunslingers) labor against the moment when the ice and snow get the upper hand and buildings collapse inward with an unsettling giant sucking sound, like some galactic black hole swallowing up the celestial neighborhood.

Big and tall, short and small they’re up there balancing on ladders, splayed across ridgepoles or simply seated on their butts employing snowscoop, barn shovel, hatchet, pickpole and sledge hammer ruining shingles and punching holes in drainpipes while locked in mortal combat with our newest worst enemy, the godforsaken ice.

Some roof liberators are overdressed and some are in various stages of undress, such as the stalwart pictured in Wednesday’s newspaper, stripped to his Fruit of the Loom undershirt in 18-degree weather as he hacked at ice on a Bangor rooftop. (I was some old impressed, and I figured that the folks up at Eastern Maine Medical Center would be, as well, when the paramedics wheeled the hypothermic dude in to the pneumonia ward later.)

Some free spirits, possessed with a great sense of balance to compensate for an IQ roughly equivalent to their hat size, skitter hither and yon with no thought of mis-step and no backup for error; and some more conservative warriors — Republicans would be my guess — are tethered to the chimney as insurance against plummeting off the deep end and winding up in intimate caress with the sidewalk.

The umbilical-cord-to-the-chimney crowd reminds me of an old joke about a roofer attached to a rope tied to a pickup truck parked on the other side of the building, and his chum’s untimely decision to borrow the truck. I’ll be damned if I can remember the punchline, although I do recall that the end result was not pretty.

Perhaps if I secure myself by rope hooked to my pickup’s rear bumper and begin flailing away at the monumental ice dam on the yonder side of my roof the details will come to me shortly after I hear my loyal assistant fire up the truck’s engine…

NEWS columnist Kent Ward lives in Winterport.

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