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Snow Wars


Guest columnist John Spencer is the mayor of Channel-Port aux Basques.

Winter has arrived. Let the snow wars begin. No, not Star Wars. Snow Wars. Whose snow is it anyway?

This reminds one of the play written by the late Newfoundland humorist, Ted Russell, ‘The Hangashore’. Although, it was in a completely reversed context, it did end up in a court of law. There was little doubt this was a skirmish started by the cold of a winter season. Who owned a hole in the ice? Holes in the ice for fishing in the middle of winter were as prized back then as holes in the ice are today. Fishing is always a little easier using another man’s hole.

Back to today’s dilemma. It revolves around the white stuff and where do you put it without upsetting your neighbour, or the town, as far as that goes. Even for towns, it is a troubling concern. Remember last winter during SNOWMAGEDDON (How could we forget? CBC St. John’s won’t shut up about it.) when the City of St. John’s had to get special permission from the ‘green sweepers’ to dump the mountains of snow into the harbour. The same snow, one might add, would end up there in spring run off. Best kept secret all across NL towns. No dumping in the harbour. So, our towns are as troubled as residents are about where to put the snow. Not even going there on the cost to rid ourselves of something nature will take away with time.

For those who remember a world before cell phones, winter in Port aux Basques (PAB), was always interesting. United Church administrators, at the school where Home Hardware in PAB is today, pleading with the Church of England flock – who not only had the geographic advantage of being higher up the hill, but the numbers of students to boot – to stop pelting thousands of snowballs in the direction of the UC academy. It was as if the good students at St. James were always starting things. Good luck with that. Normally, truces came quickly when the towering figure of a man, the vice-principal at St. James, would move through his flock seeking ring leaders. Of course, there was never anyone from the fish plant area bearing the righteous, Pleasant Street sign. The Boys from the Brook, or more likely the Channellers, were always in the thick of things regardless of religious persuasion.

The love of a great snowball fight brought the best of us to look the other way – all for the love of winter, when simpler things dominated cultural goings-on in town, all before PAB ended separate schools based on religion, and a stadium was built in the 60s that turned everyone’s attention to the love of hockey, broom ball, bowling, curling, and figure skating. The midnight skates at the Bruce are still cherished in memory closets.

Now, back to the question at hand. What to do with the snow? Can’t push it on the road. That is not allowed. Can’t push it on the sidewalk. That is not allowed. Can’t blow it on your neighbours lot. Well, you can with permission, and as long as it is not directed at the fragile plastic siding. Can’t…Can’t…Can’t…That is a whole lot of can’ts. So just what is a person to do with the snow?

One would guess the answer lies somewhere in the term, ‘satisficing’. Do the best that you can and try not to upset too many in the process. In plain English, try not become the topic of the morning at the local Java shop. Whatever the outcome, a person has to ensure not to have a reputation tarnished. You never know. Talk of a ‘Hangashore’ in a neighbourhood certainly won’t sit well. (Dictionary of Newfoundland English might help you with this term).

Remember Ted Russell’s story of someone stealing another person’s hole?

The circuit court judge threw the case out. Lack of evidence. By the time the boys had their day in court, spring had arrived, and the ice was gone. There was no proof of a hole in the first place. Without proof there was no case. On the upside, spring is a little more than a month away.

Kindness and patience, please.

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