Stories of rooves collapsing under weight of snow give caretakers the shivers. Last week, the rush was on to find people willing to trek on snowshoes into regions where snowplows don’t go, carrying ladder and shovel. I don’t have to do that anymore, but I’ve done my share of it over the years. When heavy storms come fast on the heels of other big storms, demand for shovelers goes through roof, so to speak, and those willing to do it can almost name their price.
|One of the properties I manage|
As a teacher who had week a off in February, it was often a good way to pick up some quick cash. Driving from Lovell to South Portland last Thursday, I noticed the few other vehicles on the road with me were pickup trucks, either with plows on the front or ladders tied on the top. Those were guys heading somewhere to shovel a roof.
It’s exhausting work, better suited for young men but I still do a small roof of my own, much to my wife’s consternation. “Why don’t you just hire someone?” she says, but it’s an aging guy thing. If I stop doing that, what else will I stop doing? I intend to keep it up as long as I can. I hire people to shovel the properties I manage though. I call myself a property manager instead of a caretaker because I do very little of the physical work anymore.
|Another property I manage|
I take care to find good people to do it and make sure it gets done properly. That’s my stock in trade now. Guys with shovels in their hands sometimes resent the managers who hired them, thinking managers don’t have to work as hard for their money as they do. Those thoughts passed through my mind more than once when I was starting off, but now I know that managers earn their pay too.
Roof shoveling is an entry-level position. Not a lot of skill is required, mostly just a strong back and a willingness to use it. There is some thinking required though because each roof is different. Most of the remote camps on the back side of the lake are small with shallow-pitched rooves. A small ladder reaches them and they’re not dangerous if you should fall off. The job is done quickly and most of the work is getting there and back. Some, however, are larger with two or even three stories and steep-pitched rooves. For those, it’s best to start at the ridge line and work downward because the danger of falling off is greater near the eave. If you started at the top, then by the time you get to the eave there’s a deep pile to cushion you where you’re likely to hit bottom.
Several times snow gave way under my feet near the eave. Down I went feet first into the pile up to my shoulders. I was grateful to be unhurt, but it took enormous effort to get myself out. It’s a helpless feeling being stuck in deep snow. Last week, for example, I was on snowshoes packing down a path for the delivery man to my oil fill pipe in Lovell, which is on the other end of my house from the driveway.
|Snowcraft Snowshoes from Norway, Maine|
The first forty feet or so was easy because it was already packed by snow that had slid from the metal roof, but when I got to the gable end and stepped down, one snowshoe slipped off I fell backward into about four feet of loose snow, some of which had gotten up onto the bare skin of my back. When I tried to right myself, I discovered my arms weren’t long enough to find solid ground. I felt around for the lost snowshoe then used it to pack snow around me enough to push off and get vertical again.
|From Norway, Maine Historical Society|
I bought those snowshoes at a yard sale and thought I’d gotten a good deal. I changed my mind while trying to get the snow out from under my sweater that was melting against my skin. The bindings were poorly designed and the shoes themselves were too small. I think they were meant for following behind someone on bigger snowshoes breaking trail. I have some bigger ones I used for many years but they’re older than me.
|From Norway, Maine Historical Society|
They were made in Norway, Maine by Snowcraft, Inc. sometime between the 1920s and 1940s back when Norway called itself the “Snowshoe Town of America.” They have curved ash frames and netting of shellacked cat gut. Leather bindings have dried out and are tearing in a couple of spots. I’d been meaning to have them repaired but kept putting it off. For that, I’d have kicked myself in the butt but the snow was too deep to accomplish that maneuver.
Labels: caretaking, Lovell, Maine, winter, winter writing