The Shovel and Coming of Age

Yesterday, I saw my first piece of trash floating down the Oneida River. I hadn’t noticed that our portion of the river has been completely without trash of any sort since we moved here. But there it came. Floating down the river. Bright orange and moving at a pretty good clip. A snow shovel.

I had decided the light drizzle and warmer temperatures made it worth my while to try shoveling the snow off of our deck and into the river. I hadn’t really counted on light drizzle and warmer temperatures making the (now) 2 feet of snow heavy with a nice base of ice beneath it just to make footing an adventure. I was in a pretty good rhythm – chopping the snow into 2 x 2 x 2 cubes and heaving them over the deck railing to land in tGolden Eyeshe river with a very satisfying ker-WOOSH sound. Ten minutes of chopping, scooping, and heaving, and my back and shoulder conspired to remind me that I was born in the 50’s.  The all-to-familiar ache settled in. I tried to ease it a bit by stretching in that way all men that are watching middle age retreat in the rearview mirror have done since time began. It made me look like some mime acting out a person in the middle of a Grand Mal seizure who also happened to have severe scoliosis.  It didn’t help much. Glancing up the river I saw it. It wasn’t bobbing or anything. It was just floating along coming toward me.

I wondered about the shovel and where it came from. How did a snow shovel end up in a river that was so obviously well taken care of? Perhaps some kid upriver, after being tasked with shoveling his dock, just couldn’t take the injustice. This was winter break! A time to relax! It just isn’t fair and he wasn’t taking it anymore. It was at that point that he chose to test the Old Man’s authority. To let him know that there were two men in the house now! Rebellion! The Old Man opened the backdoor to check on the kid’s progress. “How’s it going?” The kid looked him in the eye, grabbed the snow shovel with both hands and flung it into the river. “Fine,” he answered.

Or maybe it just slipped off the deck and into the river. I went back to shoveling.