The Little Engine That Almost Could

At our house, we shovel snow the old-fashioned way—with shovels. That is, when we shovel at all. We don’t really have any sidewalks, just a short path of flat slate rocks from the front steps to the driveway. Tossing snow off the path is easy enough, though the unevenness of the stones tends to be frustrating for an obsessive, edge-to-edge sidewalk shoveler like myself. I’m never quite sure where to stop.

The driveway is a different matter. It’s long, sloping, and gravel. Clearing snow off a gravel driveway, while wonderful exercise, is a challenging endeavor. Dig too deep, and you’re tossing gravel off to the side along with the snow. Don’t dig deep enough, and you might as well not bother.

As a result, our primary method of snow removal for the driveway is even more old-fashioned: solar energy. This is also known as the “just wait till it melts” approach. It works best when combined with the "we have four-wheel-drive vehicles" technique.

This is all well and good for us, but it can present problems for visitors. My parents and one of my sisters were here recently, in my parents’ car. It has front wheel drive and is small and light—great for fuel economy, but not so great for driving up a snow-packed driveway, as we discovered when it came time for them to leave.

My sister—with years of experience driving in snow—tried first, with no success. My father—with even more years of experience driving in snow—tried several more times but still didn’t quite make it. Then my spouse took his turn. He was the resident expert, after all—he’s coped with this driveway for over 25 years. Finally, with my father in the car with him to add just a bit more weight, they made it nearly to the top.

My sister and I dug out loose gravel (with our bare hands, I must point out) to put under the wheels. Then, with the two men in the front seat, and with my sister and me pushing, we persuaded the car up and forward, inch by inch, until the front wheels finally crept up over the last little ridge of gravel and onto the street.

Which proves, once again, that behind every successful man is a good woman. And sometimes, she has to do a lot of pushing.

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