Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for December 2009


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Video courtesy of Peter McNeice as posted on The Saugeen Times

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A few months back I received an invitation to join the Organizing Committee for the Saugeen Shores Olympic Torch Relay. I hesitated. But then I realized that the Olympic Flame would probably never pass this way again in my lifetime. So, I said yes. Good thing. I got to work with some wonderful, resourceful people and local media, all of whom gave their time and talent to all aspects of the task.

On a typical Saugeen Shores squall-filled night the Flame started at one end of Port Elgin and made its way down the highway to Southhampton, on to Saugeen First Nations and then to Owen Sound. Our trademark ‘horizontal snow’ did its worst. But the community didn’t care. They braved the winds and cold to line the streets and cheer the Torchbearers on. The flame went out a couple of times. The road was slippery. But the runners prevailed.

Afterwards they came back to the Plex for our after-party. As they entered the Green Room prior to their introduction, the looks on their smiling faces were priceless. And this is the thing…they were cold, tired, exhilarated and excited and so happy to be part of our local history. The squalls didn’t bother them a bit.

Noted broadcaster and Olympic Commentator Brian Williams was one of the Torchbearers. Between interviews with CTV and the local press, he was selfless and unselfish, posing for multiple photos with local dignitaries and anybody else that happened to be in the room. And he did this in spite of his worry about getting back to Toronto to make a morning flight to Saskatoon for the announcement of the men’s Olympic Hockey Team. There was rumour that they were closing the highway behind the Relay.

And they did. When I left the Plex to head home down Highway 21…the barriers were up. I knew all the alternate routes. Even though the squalls were coming directly off the lake, the Shore Road was open. It took me home.

I’m not sure what everyone else did that night…but the pubs were full. And I did see Brian on TV like he said he would be.

The Snow Blower Brotherhood.

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The snow blows horizontally here in Southampton. That’s one of the first things we noticed during the first days of our first winter in our new hometown. The squalls come in off Lake Huron and blow down the Saugeen River behind our house, sculpting drifts that shift with the wind leaving my driveway sometimes clean and most times buried.

Having lived in Sault Ste. Marie and Montreal, I’m no stranger to snow, deep or drifted. But living in Toronto spoiled me with those once-or-twice-a-winter storms. So, I had to get used to shoveling all over again. And it hurt. It hurt my back. It hurt my knees. It hurt my self-image of having the never-ending strength of someone use to hard, physical work.

Finally, after four years of digging out after the snowplow passed…after enviously watching my neighbours effortlessly clear their snow with mechanical ease…after a continually aching back, I realized that joining them was the only way my aging body would survive future winters.

So, I bought a snow blower.

And, it’s a beauty. I got me a red, Honda HS724 with Hydrostatic Transmission and electric everything. It has tracks instead of wheels. I can control the angle and height of the chute with a video game type toggle, no manual cranking, no manual anything. Just set it and go, forward or reverse. Twenty minutes and I’m done. I’ve never been happier.

Right now, there are cleaning patterns to work out, wind direction and speeds to content with, all of which are proving to be a pleasant learning curve.

My neighbours have all been by to inspect and comment on my new machine. And they approve.

Now, after the squalls have had their fun, I don my lined Kamicks, my Tough Duck bib overalls, my Honda Red Parka, pull on my toque, take up my position behind my machine and turn the key. It starts first time, every time. Then I set her in gear and follow her to the driveway. I raise my hand to my neighbours – the sign of the brotherhood – and then I blow snow…with a smile on my face.